Jason Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Lane Kiffin
- Conference USA has lacked a brand for a long time with so many teams shuffling in and out.
- Lane Kiffin’s Florida Atlantic is the odds-on favorite in 2018.
- But look at resurrected UAB to build on 2017 and win the CUSA West.
Title odds for the remaining Group of 5 conferences have been posted. This includes the Sun Belt, MAC and
the Lane Kiffin show Conference USA. It’s Lane’s league for now, but the Owls don’t have much value when it comes to futures odds.
2018 Conference USA futures odds
With teams moving from one conference to another so frequently, Conference USA has always lacked an identity. The new television contract is a first step to creating a brand, but getting hashtags like #MeepMeep and #WeAre trending will be a challenge. Kiffin brings interest and ratings, and has already proven himself the biggest troll of gambling Twitter.
Any CUSA future talk begins with Kiffin’s Florida Atlantic, as it ranks eighth nationally in returning production on defense. Running back Devin Singletary (1,920 rushing yards, 32 touchdowns in 2017) and wide receiver Willie Wright (82 targets) round out a very dynamic offense that has yet to determine a quarterback. The pedigree is certainly there between junior De’Andre Johnson (Florida State transfer) and redshirt freshman Chris Robison (Oklahoma transfer). Both were 4-star quarterbacks out of high school.
FAU’s price of -150 does not leave much room for value on the Owls. They must visit competent divisional foes Marshall and Middle Tennessee. The Thundering Herd gave Florida Atlantic all it could handle in 2017, outgaining the Owls 381-353. But Marshall threw four interceptions and lost 30-25.
I will be looking for division futures — particularly at recently resurrected UAB. Bill Clark was CUSA Coach of the Year in 2017, and the Blazers are 10th overall in returning production for 2018. The scheduling also favors the Blazers over Conference USA West opponents North Texas and Louisiana Tech. The Mean Green and Blue Raiders must face Florida Atlantic from the East, while the Blazers were gifted with lowly Charlotte.
UAB also plays Rice and UTEP on the road — not exactly murderers’ row. The Blazers are 10-1 to win the conference, but that would include a championship game, likely against FAU. I will wait and look for UAB Conference USA West odds to make a wager.