Let’s get down to business. I asked a few respected folks to vote on the power rankings. Let us first present CUSA’s vote and then reveal the results.
1. Florida Atlantic
Lane Kiffin has a league title and a bowl win in his first attempt in CUSA. He has to follow that up with a visit to Norman. He had to change coordinators — welcome to G5! — but he should be good enough to win the league. Everyone is gunning for the Owls of Florida.
The Next Best
2. North Texas
Seth Littrell’s bunch is the story of the West and that is good until they fall on their faces the first time. Mason Fine is a great story and a great kid, but the defense is shaky and at least three wins came by the skin of their teeth. The offense should be explosive but there are questions: What happens if Fine goes down? Can Nic Smith replace Jeff Wilson’s explosion? Can the defense defend?
3. Louisiana Tech
The smirk on Skip Holtz’s face during CUSA Media Days was telling: He believes in his squad and so does CR. Tech had the talent last year but did not have the luck or enough experience. Holtz enters 2018 with a returning starter at QB and depth across the board.
Marshall gets some love because everyone thinks they are going to challenge. That defense was the only squad to give the Kiffins trouble, but it was not enough. The Herd lost a QB but it is possible they have upgraded. The bookies believe in the Herd but CR does not.
Bill Clark chafes at the notion that last year was a fluke. The case could be made that no one believed in the Blazers beyond being a good story … until they got hit in the mouth. The bowl game was a disaster but things are looking up. The style and the philosophy are there to challenge if NT or LT falter.
Last season was not supposed to be a rebuild, but it was. The QB was a 17-year old kid. Everyone should be healthier and some of those close games are in Virginia this time around. Lest you forget, Bobby Wilder had the Monarchs at 10-wins just two seasons ago.
Butch Davis is quietly doing a nice job in Miami. Sure, Lane Kiffin has the early praise and most of the attention, but Davis will do some good things at FIU — he has everywhere he has been.
Brent Stockstill is healthy and that means the Blue Raiders are good. The squad is inconsistent without the 4th-year signal caller and that raises concerns. For now, he is healthy and at least one national publication thinks MTSU can pull the upset against Vandy.
9. Southern Miss
Jack Abraham gets the start after beginning his challenge at the third string. Southern Miss always has some talent, but last year was probably the peak of the cycle. Jay Hopson loaded up on JUCO guys to replace a couple of NFLers in the secondary and on defense, but there is probably too much turnover to expect good things.
Frank Wilson has a good defense, lots of talent, and a new QB after a 4-way battle. He is not nearly in the spot he was two seasons ago, when everyone thought he was ready to leave to a P5 job. No one expects UTSA to do too much, but it would not surprising to see them challenge. Such is CUSA.
Mike Sanford had an NFL QB and no run game last year. Mike White was sacked 40+ times and carried the offense to an anemic season. After a streak of hitting on head coaches, have the Hilltoppers struck out?
Brad Lambert is on the hot seat. He had to change his staff and so there are no excuses remaining. Things do not look good in Charlotte.
Mike Bloomgren is rebuilding Rice and nearly was upset by Prairie View A&M at home in the opener in Week ‘0’. This will be a long road but you can see the outlines of progress in that loss.
Dana Dimel has a tough challenge ahead of him. There is too much to do and too many decent teams in this division for any upsets to happen.
The Preseason Power Ranking
By post time, we had only 9 votes of something like 20 requests. It was short notice.
- FAU (9 First place votes)
- North Texas
- Louisiana Tech