2015 sees UAB out of the conference after its program was shut down by the university. UNC-Charlotte enters for its first season in the FBS ranks after just two seasons as a FCS program.
UAB changed course and announced on June 1st that the school will return a program to the field in 2016, and become the 14th football-playing member of Conference USA.
The UAB saga is synonymous with the up-and-down nature of at least two of the conference's other programs in 2014.
For UTSA, the 2014 season brings to mind the old adage of "gone to hell in a hand basket". The senior-laden squad was projected to finish 10-2 and win the CUSA West division, but injuries quickly riddled the program and the Roadrunners crashed and burned at 4-8.
This year, Larry Coker's program returns only a half-dozen starters and faces a harsh nonconference schedule that features treks to Arizona and Oklahoma State, along with home games against Oklahoma State and Colorado State. When you combine all of those factors, it's not too surprising that UTSA is one of just two FBS programs projected by the computer to go winless.
Louisiana Tech represents the opposite end of the spectrum. After Skip Holtz seemed to single-handedly ruin the USF program, his hire was viewed auspiciously, but he was able guide the Bulldogs to the West division crown after being a consensus 4th-place pick and receiving a preseason projection of 4-8 from the computer.
For 2015, the computer projects Louisiana Tech to repeat as West division champs, but losing to Western Kentucky in the league championship game.
Marshall, the 2014 overall conference titlist, is picked to finish a game behind WKU with their head-to-head season finale matchup in Bowling Green serving as a de facto playoff game. Marshall is predicted to lose its perfect season in that matchup, just as it did a year ago when WKU prevailed in a 67-66 overtime shootout in Huntington.
The computer has usually been extraordinarily successful over the years in forecasting the seasons of North Texas. It has nailed the final record for the Mean Green 10 times in 20 seasons, and came within 1 game on 6 other occasions. However, last year's 8-4 prediction turned into a a disappointing 4-8 reality for the Denton program. This year, the computer has the Screaming Eagles further relapsing to 3-9.
Charlotte is expected to be competitive in its first year in the league and the FBS. The 49ers are projected to go 4-8 while gathering league wins over FAU, Southern Miss and UTSA.
UTEP's season could easily be better than the forecasted 3-9 as 4 of the predicted losses are by margins of less than 1 point. The Miners are underdogs by 0.54 at New Mexico State, 0.52 at FIU, 0.15 at North Texas, and 0.64 at home vs. Rice.
All 13 programs return retain their head coach.
The conference's west division ranks as the worst in all of the FBS, and even a solid East division can't help the conference rank better than 10th overall out of 11 (if you include the Independents as a conference). Nearly half (6-of-13) of the Conference USA members rank in the bottom 21 of the FBS, while only 3 rank among the top 62.