Conference USA East Preview

MARSHALL, WESTERN KENTUCKY THE TEAMS TO BEAT IN CONFERENCE USA'S EAST DIVISION

Last year the Marshall Thundering Herd went undefeated in regulation on the way to a fantastic 13-1 campaign. Their only loss was in overtime to Western Kentucky. They bounced back from that with victories over Louisiana Tech in the CUSA Championship game...and then Northern Illinois in the Boca Raton Bowl to finish out the Rakeem Cato era.

Now, a new quarterback will have to lead the way for Coach Doc Holliday. And Marshall may now be the team that has to play spoiler for more experienced Western Kentucky. We continue our summer series of college football conference previews with the top-loaded CUSA-East!

Western Kentucky
2014 Record: 8-5
2014 Rankings: 4 on offense, 120 on defense
Returning Starters: 7 on offense, 7 on defense
Head Coach: Jeff Brohm
Notebook: Brandon Doughty is back at quarterback for a team that ranked #4 nationally on offense last season. That upset of Marshall ended 67-66...so you know these CUSA East powers will put points on the board! Western gets the nod for divisional favorite because of the QB position and the higher number of overall returning starters. A run at 10 wins is certainly possible thanks to a manageable September non-conference slate (road games at Vanderbilt and Indiana, at home vs. Miami OH). But, a late October trip to LSU is a likely loss...though possible statement-maker if the Hilltoppers can catch an SEC power napping. Definitely a team that will be putting on an entertaining show.

Marshall
2014 Record: 13-1
2014 Rankings: 2 on offense, 31 on defense
Returning Starters: 6 on offense, 5 on defense
Head Coach: Doc Holliday
Notebook: There's just no way to know how 2015 will unfold for this team until we see how new quarterback Michael Birdsong performs. He's a transfer from James Madison, which doesn't tell handicappers much. Be sure you pay close attention to the season openers vs. Purdue and at Ohio. Luckily, the Herd has all season to prepare for Western Kentucky...as that's set for the season finale in late November. Definitely a bowl caliber team. If Birdsong can perform...possibly a mid-major superpower once again.

Middle Tennessee
2014 Record: 6-6
2014 Rankings: 43 on offense, 105 on defense
Returning Starters: 6 on offense, 7 on defense
Head Coach: Rick Stockstill
Notebook: The teams above MTSU today are definitely going to be good...and the teams below them are very likely to be mediocre or worse. The Blue Raiders are a tweener that will either create a "big three" at the top, or sink down with the rest of the also-rans. Austin Grammer returns at quarterback...but he wasn't anything special when facing real opposition last year. The coach's son Brent Stockstill may end up earning the job as a freshman. We can tell you this...BOTH contenders for the QB position would love to play the opener vs. Jackson State to run up some stats, but would then dread game two at Alabama! A three-game sequence at Illinois, vs. Vanderbilt, then at Western Kentucky will likely dictate the flow of the season. Watch those closely.

Florida Atlantic
2014 Record: 3-9
2014 Rankings: 101 on offense, 110 on defense
Returning Starters: 6 on offense, 5 on defense
Head Coach: Charlie Patridge
Notebook: The numbers tell most of the story. The Owls couldn't crack the top 100 on either side of the ball despite playing in a weak conference. They return a middling amount of talent. What's to like? Well, the team did lose four games by a field goal or less last season...which means they just missed being a five or six win team. And, they did upset Western Kentucky. So, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. That's why they sit at the head of the pack of the cellar-dwellers. Quarterback Jacquez Johnson is a senior, which gives the team a chance to impress out of the gate against Tulsa (road), Miami, and Buffalo. Might be a nice value team, so keep an eye on them.

Florida International
2014 Record: 4-8
2014 Rankings: 120 on offense, 35 on defense
Returning Starters: 6 on offense, 8 on defense
Head Coach: Ron Turner
Notebook: You have to respect mid majors that play stingy defense. And, eight starters are back on that side of the ball. There's hope for improvement on offense because returning quarterback Alex McGough is only a sophomore. He'll have to prove he's ready to step forward in road openers at Central Florida and Indiana. Definitely some shocker potential for this team in spots. And, who knows...if McGough finds himself...things could get very interesting quickly because of that stout defense.

Old Dominion
2014 Record: 6-6
2014 Rankings: 37 on offense, 107 on defense
Returning Starters: 7 on offense, 4 on defense
Head Coach: Bobby Wilder
Notebook: The Monarchs certainly passed their test last season. They played .500 ball after making the jump to big time college football. They did have to sweep their last three games to get there (two wins over the Florida schools). But, who can argue with a road win at Rice and a home win over CUSA West champ Louisiana Tech? This year's team is likely to fall backward because they have to replace their quarterback and the bulk of defenders. Still, Coach Wilder earned respect last season...and may be the kind of leader who can rebuild on the fly. The only real September test is vs. NC State...so watch that game closely. If ODU struggles vs. Eastern Michigan, Norfolk State, and/or Appalachian State...you can probably write them off.

Charlotte
2014 Record: 5-6 vs. lesser competition
2014 Rankings: played in the FCS last season
Returning Starters: 7 on offense, 6 on defense
Head Coach: Brad Lambert
Notebook: This year it's Charlotte who's making the jump. They couldn't manage a winning record last season vs. small college competition...so it's hard to be optimistic. Assume the worst until there's reason to do otherwise.

Always remember that some of the best Las Vegas betting value in college football comes in these mid-major conferences that don't get much TV exposure. Oddsmakers are really making soft guesses in the first half of the season.

Though, there have been so many baseball surprises in 2015 that oddsmakers are still posting beatable numbers in that sport RIGHT NOW! Build your bankrolls for college football with great daily baseball. Purchase BEST BETS right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about baseball or football packages, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453 Saturday or Sunday before the early baseball begins.

Tomorrow brings Louisiana Tech, Rice, and the rest of CUSA in our Sunday report on the "West" Division. Here's what's on tap over the next several days...

Sunday: College Football Preview...Conference USA "West"
Monday: MLB Notes
Wednesday: MLB TV Preview
Thursday: MLB Series Preview...St. Louis Cardinals at Pittsburgh Pirates
Friday: MLB Series Preview...Washington Nationals at Baltimore Orioles
Saturday: College Football Preview...Mid American "East"
Sunday July 12: College Football Preview...Mid American "West"
Monday July 13: College Football Preview...Sun Belt
Tuesday July 14: MLB All-Star Break Report Card

Look for football every weekend through the summer...and BIG, JUICY WINNERS every day here at JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!

21
Nov

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