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2021 CUSA Report Power Rankings: Week 0/1

Welcome to another season of college football. Just when we thought we were out of COVID, Delta pulled us back in. That puts a damper on any enthusiasm I had a couple of months ago when things looked like they would return to something approaching normal. Now, it is important to consider what we mean when we say normal because everything has and will always change. A hundred years ago college football looked nothing like it does today, let alone the media and entertainment landscape it was and is in competition with.

So we must not measure anything against anything painted nostalgic colors and take it for what it is today: a massively lucrative entertainment spectacle that relies on amateur-in-name-only talent associated with public and private organizations. It is quite unique in its place in the world and the history and that unique character give the sport some of its entertainment value.

This league is not nearly as powerful, lucrative, or widely followed as the SEC but just about no conference is anymore. Still, there are the passionate fans and this site, and post, is for you. Enjoy!

I will warn you that the original plans for this site and this season’s coverage have been compromised by life and world events. This work does not pay enough to cover the bills (by far!) and the work that does has required more of my time and energy 1 and resources have been allocated accordingly.

The plan was to do a massive season preview. Reality sees me typing this on my sofa while eating a pizza and drinking a whisky. All-in-all not a bad set of circumstances but still a compromise.


On the podcast, I guesstimated that FAU wins this thing. I like their talent, the coaching staff, and their schedule. The league is as wide-open as it has ever been, with no team being so clear a favorite or having such an advantage that it cannot be beaten. Yes, that even means reigning champion UAB, a team with lots of talent and a good coaching staff but one that was a couple of first downs away from being eliminated by Rice.

That is the nature of this game — a game of inches — and why it will be fun to watch.

One for each team:

  • WKU’s offense should be good and fun
  • UNT’s offense should be good and fun
  • Marshall will be frustratingly different than what we are used to
  • Louisiana Tech will have one good game followed by one terrible game
  • UTSA will lose a head-scratcher
  • UAB will be frustratingly similar to what we are used to
  • Middle will get an upset even though they are penned to lose just about every week
  • ODU is going to be non-good
  • UTEP will surprise in a game or two but not impress overall
  • Rice will look formidable but not challenge for much
  • Southern Miss will look formidable and challenge
  • FAU will score easier this season
  • FIU will be not

A note about the power rankings: This is not where I think anyone will finish but where they rank in my proprietary formula for ranking momentum, talent, mojo, and other factors. Generally speaking, I think the teams are in rough order of who would beat who right now in a neutral site but that’s not necessarily the case every time.

1. UAB 1-0

The defending champions beat Jacksonville State 31-0 in Montgomery, AL in the midweek matchup. The short and sweet analysis is this: the offense did not put up an easy 50 points which indicates that they are the same UAB squad we have seen in the past: take what is available but make their living with running the ball and playing good defense. Lest you think that is not enough, consider the two league titles.

There are a lot of Super Seniors on the roster and this fact combined with the depth of talent should carry the team through the rough early schedule. I do not think UAB has enough to challenge for a G5 undefeated run, but if that happens it means an early win over Georgia. Morel likely is that UAB picks up an early win vs UNT two games from now and continues its title defense throughout.

Next up: at Georgia Sept 11

2. FAU 0-0

  • N’Kosi Perry won the QB job and head coach Willie Taggart is excited about his progress and the Spring camp. Having the preparation time means that this year is more of his first year than last year was, a year with many challenges that saw this team nearly get a shot late to sneak into the title game. There is a lot of talent here and the outline of a good offense.

Next up: at Florida Sept 4

3. UTSA 0-0

The Runners are deeper and talented and bring back a squad that had a good argument for representing the west division last season. The question, as ever, is if the QB position will be an ensemble cast of characters to compliment Sincere McCormick. UTSA will try to run it, and play good, clever, prepared defense. The teams that will compete with them this season (in division or in the final) are better, and UTSA lost straight up or barely escaped (L to UAB, FAU, 1pt win vs Tech at home, 3 pt win vs USM away) and those are concerning. It is not a perfect set up, but this is the best shot for UTSA to compete since about 2017.

Next up: at Illinois Sept 4

4. Marshall 0-0

The Herd are far down here and that may be odd considering they competed in the title game (and hosted!) last season. Well, consider all the changes. Charles Huff is the new guy and the roster had a lot of turnover. The touchstones for Marshall over the last decade have been defense and at least a good run game for half of that. The guess is that Huff brings some Alabama-style stuff but what exactly does that mean? Nick Saban is one of the greatest of all times and has a unique ability to adapt and teach and recruit at the highest of levels. Huff does not have the same reputation and we simply do not know how good he will be. Call this start hedging against a learning curve.

Next up: at Navy Sept 4

5. WKU 0-0

The Tops have had a solid defense in the two years under Tyson Helton but the offense has been wildly mediocre. Enter Zach Kittley and his Air Raid offense that impressed at Houston Baptist last year. Oh, he brought along his QB and two WRs from that squad as well. It should be a relatively easy transition to get the offense scoring points and reports from camp are that is the case. If the defense can be decently stout this squad should challenge for the division. That is not to say there are no holes or that it the plan is foolproof.

Next up: vs UT Martin Sept 2

6. La Tech 0-0

The dawgs are always good and always competitive but they are breaking in a lot of new players early. Like most of the league (read: all) there is little likelihood that the non-conference will be competitive. Tech is working on gelling its roster and acclimating Austin Kendall to the squad so they can compete in conference.

Next up: at MSST Sept 4

7. Rice 0-0

I have overhanded Rice for about all of Mike Bloomgren’s tenure. I like his philosophy and I think he is making progress. It finally shown through last season as the team was tough and challenging late. The defense largely returns but the offense lacks a little stability. Coach is going with a two-QB system which means … non-good things. Rice does not rely on the QB to do a ton — they want to run the ball — and so that is not as dire.

Next up: at Arkansas Sept 4

8. Southern Miss 0-0

There is a lot of talent here and my general impression is that a year of prep under Will Hall — who gets USM a little better than the last set of coaches — will bring out good things. USM has been real close in recent seasons and it can happen again. They were competitive with UTSA and Tech last year despite all the turmoil and head coaching changes.

Next up: at South Alabama Sept 4

9. North Texas 0-0

Familiarity breeds contempt. We have seen Seth Littrell manage the Mean Green for a while, and have also seen this same QB story for two seasons. Austin Aune and Jace Ruder are the co-starters. Last year NT had a lot of big counting stats with the dual-QB system featuring Aune and the departed Jason Bean, but the defense was godawful. Usually I say we cannot learn too much from the first game against an FCS opponent but we had the first inklings the defense was going to be terrible in game one in 2020. New defensive coach Phil Bennett is the man tasked with turning NT from worst-to-not-worst. If he can do this, NT might just compete in this division.

Next up: vs Northwestern State Sept 4

10. Charlotte 0-0

Will Healy has been saying the right things after a somewhat disappointing season last campaign. QB Chris Reynolds, WR Victor Tucker are back and a clever offense should have the tools to compete. The roster is deeper and the next hurdle for Charlotte is competing mentally in the big games vs division squads. There is enough talent to compete.

Next up: vs Duke Sept 3

11. FIU 0-0

Is this high? It feels high. Seriously, FIU was bombarded by COVID and we can believe one of two things: Butch Davis has fell off and is past it, or this team will continue to be scrappy and find talent and have enough to compete. Still feels a bit high.

Next up: vs Long Island, Sept 2

12. UTEP 1-0

Hey how about those Miners? UTEP won a game, their rivalry vs New Mexico State on Aug 28 and Dana Dimel has something like his best squad even if no one is happy about the progress or anything.

Next up: Bethune-Cookman, Sept 4

13. Middle Tennessee 0-0

The Blue Raiders have an accomplished coach who has been in a long skid. The squad lost their running QB and that hopefully makes it more of a balanced quad where “running backs run”. I don’t know that this team is ready or capable of competing to much here, but should be good for an upset.

Next up: vs Monmouth, Sept 4

14. ODU 0-0

Ricky Rahne has been the coach here for two years but will step on the sideline for his first at the help of ODU vs Wake Forest. The Monarchs are just about a complete unknown as is possible. The program needed a refresh and got one in the form of a break. Rahne has coached most of his career from the booth and even rarely visited with the other coaches on the other team. Everything is new to just about everyone in this game and this season. There will be hiccups.

Next up: at Wake, Sept 3

  1. A thing that happens when one climbs up the ladder is that there’s less time to do anything else

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