Conference USA Futures & Win Totals | Action Analytics Betting Preview
Lee Coleman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: The Conference USA logo.
Yesterday, my Mountain West preseason bets article went live, and I want to keep the good vibes and good bets rolling. So, with that in mind, let's take a look at Conference USA today.
Last year CUSA sent six teams bowling: UTSA, North Texas, Middle Tennessee, Rice, UAB and Western Kentucky. However, this conference looks extremely different this season than it did two seasons ago.
Before the 2022 season, Marshall, Old Dominion and Southern Miss bolted for the Sun Belt and (takes deep breath) UAB, UTSA, Rice, North Texas, Charlotte and Florida Atlantic are departing before the 2023 season.
This is a huge blow to the CUSA, which is picking up the pieces by adding Jacksonville State, Sam Houston, New Mexico State and Liberty.
For those keeping track at home, that's four of their six bowl-eligible programs gone. Out of all the Group of Five conferences, Conference USA was hit the hardest by realignment.
However, there should still be some fun football to watch this season. In Jacksonville State and Sam Houston, we have two brand new FBS programs to keep an eye on.
In addition, the conference championship race should be fun to watch between newcomer Liberty and always-entertaining Western Kentucky.
So, let's dive into the league with some bets to look at before the season kicks off.
Staying Away From Louisiana Tech Futures
I'm going to start this article off by saying I will be avoiding Louisiana Tech futures like the plague.
There are too many question marks surrounding this program after Hank Bachmeier transferred in. The senior had a puzzling four years at Boise State. He improved his PFF grade every year until his last before cutting his last season at Boise State short to retain some eligibility before transferring to the Bulldogs.
What made Louisiana Tech so attractive to him? No doubt the quarterback-friendly scheme of Sonny Cumbie. In fact, Bachmeier told ESPN that this is what attracted him to Ruston.
"I wanted to play in the Air Raid and in a pass-friendly offense," Bachmeier told ESPN. "I think Coach Cumbie and his track record are a great fit. It's an offense that any quarterback would want to play in."
I just don't trust Bachmeier enough to elevate this program above 4.5 wins. But I also don't know enough about his transition to Ruston to write him off either. Because of that, I'll be staying neutral on the Bulldogs.
While I don't know how he'll elevate this team, this is probably the best buy-low opportunity on LA Tech this year if you really believe in Bachmeier.
Liberty to Win Conference USA +250 (FanDuel)
As mentioned, this conference appears to be a two-horse race between Liberty and Western Kentucky. Therefore, I am more than happy to snag the better value of the two before the season starts.
New head coach Jamey Chadwell will replace Hugh Freeze, and I'm tentatively optimistic in thinking that the Flames actually upgraded here. Chadwell led Coastal Carolina from 2017-22, taking it from a first-year FBS program that went 3-9 to a perennial G5 powerhouse by finishing 11-1, 11-2 and 9-4 in his last three years.
However, quarterback is a huge question mark in camp this summer. Returners Johnathan Bennett, Kaidon Salter, and Nate Hampton are duking it out with Southern Miss transfer Trey Lowe.
Regardless of who comes out on top, the Flames will be led through this schedule by their defense, which performed well in the Five Factors metrics. If they can limit explosive plays, this should be the best unit in the conference.
If this offense can find a quarterback to successfully lead it, the Flames should sleepwalk through their schedule. We have them favored significantly (at least 6.5 points) in every game with the exception of their showdown against Western Kentucky.
This should be no surprise, as Liberty's strength of schedule ranks 127th in the country. I'm more than happy to bet this because a WKU-Liberty matchup in the CUSA Championship seems inevitable.
Middle Tennessee Under 6.5 Wins (+115 · FanDuel)
Middle Tennessee opens its season with a tough two-game road trip for any G5 program. The Blue Raiders open the season in Tuscaloosa against Alabama before traveling to Columbia to take on Missouri.
Finally, to cap off the nonconference schedule, it takes on Colorado State in Week 4. If you read our Mountain West preview, you know that's going to be a tough matchup.
This opening sequence of games likely puts the Blue Raiders in a 1-3 hole before even entering conference play against Western Kentucky. Assuming a loss there, Middle Tennessee is sitting 1-4 before it enters its stretch of winnable games.
That means the Raiders will have to win six out of seven to hit their win total.
We have Middle Tennessee favored in five of those games, but one of those — New Mexico State — is essentially a pick'em. I just don't see this squad being consistent enough to win six out of its seven last games.
Another metric killing MTSU is its lack of returning production, which ranks 112th in the country.
Jacksonville State Over 4.5 Wins (+112 · FanDuel)
And for our final bet, I'm sprinkling a little bit on Jacksonville State.
I tend to agree with him, and I think this offense may catch some teams by surprise, especially when looking at its schedule.
With the exception of Coastal Carolina, the Gamecocks' first six games are very, very winnable. It's possible they're rolling into Week 6 with four wins and need only one more to cover the rest of the year.
I would hit this number before the books move it to 5.5.
I think there's a lot of value behind this wager, but I'm also looking for an excuse to keep up with these new teams.