College Football Betting: 2020 Conference USA East Championship Odds
The coming college football season is going to be different in many ways, but it is not going to be different in one specific way: The Conference USA champion will not be part of the Group of Five or go to a prestigious New Year’s Day bowl. This conference doesn’t confer a great enough strength of schedule and resume to catapult its champion to a big bowl game. However, winning the conference would be reward enough for these schools vying for the C-USA East Division title:
The Owls lost coach Lane Kiffin to Ole Miss. Willie Taggart, who was released by Florida State, now comes aboard to lead a team which has won two of the last three C-USA East Division championships. He got former colleague Jim Leavitt – who worked with him at Oregon – to be his defensive coordinator, a huge plus. The other plus is that FAU returns its starting quarterback, its best running back, and most of its offense. Most of the defense has to be replaced, but if the offense lives up to the billing, it won’t matter. The Owls’ offense and Western Kentucky’s defense will wage the ultimate battle of the 2020 C-USA East season. The winner should take the division title.
The Hilltoppers have lots of senior leadership on offense and defense. This is the veteran-heavy team which enters a season knowing this is make-or-break, a chance to win big which is accompanied by a lot of pressure. The defense was elite last year, foiling most of its opponents but more precisely shutting down teams which passed the ball a lot (Arkansas) and ran the ball from a triple option formation (Army). Western Kentucky game-planned successfully for various offensive styles, and that defense is almost entirely intact this season. The offense won’t have its best receiver and offensive lineman, but most starters return. If the passing game can be reasonably competent, it could all come together for WKU in 2020.
The Thundering Herd have an experienced lineup, with nearly all of their projected starters on offense and defense being upperclassmen. There are few freshmen expected to start for this team, which has pulled in a number of junior college transfers who are expected to perform well. The one huge question mark for this team is wide receiver. Marshall relies a lot on the tight end in its offense, but finding downfield receiving targets in the passing game has been a noticeable problem for the Thundering Herd. The defense is mostly intact. The offensive line returns in its entirety. Getting a good passing game is what will determine if this team can win the division. It has many pieces, but it has to get enough from its receivers to climb to the top.
The Panthers bring back most of their defense, but lose starters at all three levels of their defense: defensive line, linebacker, and secondary. They have to replace last year’s starting quarterback and were never especially potent on offense to begin with. Head coach Butch Davis has a track record of being a defense-oriented coach who gets great results on that side of the ball but doesn’t always maximize his resources on offense. The Panthers should be able to finish in the top four of the division, but being able to climb any higher than third will be a tough ask.
The Blue Raiders look like a typical half-a-loaf team: Nearly everyone on a good offense is coming back this season, and a majority of last year’s 11 starters from a subpar defense are gone. Great offense and bad defense should create a fun-to-watch team which will play a lot of high-scoring games, but it is not a formula for a team likely to contend for the division title.
The 49ers are coached by 35-year-old Will Healy, who is showing signs of becoming a valued commodity in the coaching marketplace, but who still needs to prove that he can take a fragile program and build something sustainable. If he can do that, he will become a coach at an AAC or Power Five program before too long. The 49ers watched two defensive starters get injured last season. Those starters return this year, which offers the possibility of a significant improvement but ultimately leaves more questions than sure answers. Charlotte loses three starting offensive linemen and a running back who rushed for over 1,000 yards last season. The Niners could have a really strong defense but will be too limited on offense to win the division championship.
The Monarchs return almost their entire starting defensive front seven from last year, but they never did have an answer at quarterback last season, which makes their 2020 offensive outlook unsettled. They have a first-year head coach, Ricky Rahne, which adds to their uncertainty rather than pointing to a stable year. This is a transition year for ODU, not a season in which to make a legitimate push for a division title.