Cleat Geeks

2017 College Football C-USA (East Division) Preview

Every College Football season, each team from each conference has a major question that circles around the preseason progress of their potential success. The C-USA is one of the non-power 5 conferences that is generally overlooked because of their status as a conference and how little of an impact they leave against higher established programs. In the 3 years of the College Football Playoffs, no team from a non-power 5 school has made the playoffs. Teams from the C-USA are at a slight disadvantage but they are not ruled out from the beginning. A portion of the teams in the East Division of the C-USA are new to the conference as well as a football program with Charlotte 49ers being in their 5th year as a program and Old Dominion Monarchs in their 9th season after 69 years of not playing competitive football. For the past three seasons, a team from the East division has won the conference championship with Western Kentucky winning the title in 2015 & 2016 and Marshall winning in 2014. With the Hilltoppers possibly on a rebuilding season, this could be a great opportunity for overshadowed teams like Old Dominion, Florida Atlantic, and Middle Tennessee to go into the 2017 season and win the East. The winner of the conference (depending on their record) could earn an invitation to the New Year’s six Bowl games.

Here are the biggest questions that each team will be facing in the upcoming 2017 College Football season.

 

Charlotte 49ers“When will the 49ers get their first taste of success as a young program?”
4-8; 3-5 in C-USA in 2016

This will be the 5th year for the Charlotte 49ers as a football program as well as the 3rd year at the FBS level. During their time as a program, the 49ers have never had a season where they have won at least 50% of their games on the schedule. Head Coach Brad Lambert has a chance to bring in some big wins and build on success for this upcoming season. After a long off-season, QB Hasaan Klugh should be more comfortable leading the 49ers offense to be more dominant as opposed to their ranking 94th in points per game (25.2) last season. With more experience and better recruiting on their team, the 49ers can build a team that can actually be competitive in the C-USA conference championship this season.

Florida Atlantic Owls“Will the Owls be an immediate Offensive powerhouse this season?”
3-9; 2-6 in C-USA in 2016

In one off-season, the Florida Atlantic Owls may have become one of the most dangerous and efficient offenses in the C-USA. Former Tennessee and USC Head Coach and Alabama Offensive Coordinator Lane Kiffin will take another shot as a Head Coach with Florida Atlantic. Joining him is former Baylor Bears OC Kendal Briles at the same position. In 2015, Briles led the Bears to be the most high-power offense in the nation (1st in PPG – 48.1). With former Florida State Quarterback De’Andre Johnson predicted to take over as the starting QB, the Owls can be an immediate offensive powerhouse in the C-USA and possibly the nation.

Florida International Panthers “Will Butch Davis’ return to College Football be impactful for FIU?”
4-8; 4-4 in C-USA in 2016

After several years of being a College Football analyst, Butch Davis is back as a Head Coach after being fired from a successful stint with North Carolina due to academic misconducts. This will be his first Head Coaching job in 7 years. Coach Davis will have a lot on his plate including a likely rebuilding season. The Panthers return 9 defensive starters from last year as well as 6 Offensive stars. There is potential for the Panthers with their roster but a lack of experienced coaching will likely derail a successful season. A lot of the defensive starters are young so they will need to build on experience as well.

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Marshall Thundering Herd“Will Marshall fix their internal flaws to fix their program?”
3-9; 2-6 in C-USA in 2016

From 2013 to 2015, the Thundering Herd have accounted for 10 win seasons with two of them winning the East (2013 & 2014) and winning the conference in (2014). Last season, the Thundering Herd had too much talent to account for a 3-9 season. There have been talks that the team had been experiencing internal problems. After an off-season to recover, Coach Holliday and Marshall are hoping to look past their growing pains and become threats in the C-USA. Quarterback Chase Litton (Jr.) will be starting in his 3rd year season with Marshall and will look make the offense more efficient than their 80th ranked scoring offense (26.4 points per game) last season.

Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders – “Can the Blue Raiders beat out the Hilltoppers as kings of the East?”
8-5; 5-3 in C-USA in 2016

The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers are the favorites to win the East Division of the C-USA but many seemed to have overlooked Middle Tennessee. Not only do the Blue Raiders have much more upside than WKU but they have more starters returning. On Offense, they have QB Brent Stockstill, who led the Blue Raiders to the 12th ranked scoring offense (39.7) and 8th ranked passing offense (325.8 PYPG) last season. On defense, they have 8 returning starters and they bring in former Syracuse Defensive Coordinator and Head Coach Scott Shafer as their DC. Joining the Blue Raiders as well is Missouri transfer DE Walter Brady, who accounted for 7 sacks his freshman year.

Old Dominion Monarchs “How will the Monarchs handle their team after a 10 win season in 2016?”
10-3; 7-1 in C-USA in 2016

This will the 9th year of the Monarchs as a program back from a 69 year hiatus and their 4th year in the conference. Last year was their 2nd year that the Monarchs accounted for a winning season with a 10-3 season in the FBS. It will not be easy for Old Dominion to go for another 10 win season with them having to replace a Quarterback in David Washington who passed for 2,836 yards and 31 touchdowns. The Monarchs do return RB Ray Lawry, who rushed for 1,255 yards last season. Head Coach Bobby Wilder and Offensive Coordinator Brian Scott are entering their 9th season together with Old Dominion so their experience with the team will be steady and should be able to create a high-power offensive performance each game.

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers “Will the Hilltoppers win again or sink with QB Mike White back?”
11-3; 7-1 in C-USA in 2016

Last season, the Hilltoppers were one of the most dynamic and explosive offenses in the nation by being ranked 1st in points per game (45.5) and 5th in total yards per game (523.1). Quarterback Mike White is one of the most established, high-velocity passer in the nation and is expected to lead the Hilltoppers to another C-USA conference championship. White does lose his two top Wide Receivers in Taywan Taylor (1,730 yards and 17 touchdowns) and Nicholas Norris (1,318 yards and 14 touchdowns). WKU also lost RB Anthony Wales (1,621 rushing yards and 27 rushing touchdowns). This season will be a challenge for White and the Hilltoppers offense. The loss of so much talent could slow down Western Kentucky for a 3rd consecutive East Division title.

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