UAB returns in 2017 after abandoning football at the conclusion of the 2014 season. The Blazers will compete in the western half of the conference, giving each Conference USA division 7 teams.
Last year, as predicted by the Congrove Computer Rankings at CollegeFootballPoll.com, Western Kentucky repeated as conference champions. In the title game, the Hilltoppers avenged their only regular season loss, a 55-52 defeat at Louisiana Tech, by dropping the Bulldogs 58-44 in Bowling Green, Kentucky. That contest proved to be the final game for WKU with Jeff Brohm as head coach. Two days later, he left to take the same position with Purdue.
FAU and FIU also made head coaching changes. The Owls made quite a splash when they hired Lane Kiffin on December 12, perhaps slightly outdoing the Panthers who signed Butch Davis on November 14.
Even without Brohm patrolling the sideline at WKU, the Hilltoppers will challenge for the East Division title and a CUSA 3-peat. However, the computer has the Western Kentucky finishing a game behind Old Dominion since the Monarchs are listed as 7.90-point favorites when the teams meet in Norfolk on October 20.
Louisiana Tech is picked to repeat as West Division champs, thanks to a predicted 2.51-point win at home over UTSA in a de facto playoff game on the last Saturday of the season. It would be the 3rd championship game appearance in 4 years for the Bulldogs who lost to Marshall in 2014.
Old Dominion is the preseason favorite to host, and win, the championship. The Monarchs are 12.26-point preseason favorites over the Bulldogs in such a scenario. The two teams do not meet during the regular season.
Overall, CUSA is extremely weak, with 7 of its 14 members ranking 102nd or worse in the projected end-of-regular season rankings. Nonetheless, the other 7 teams could all wind up seeing postseason bowl action.
As for UAB's return, it's difficult to tell what we'll see from the Blazers. The consensus on the Prediction Tracker website has them last in all of the most notable websites, polls and magazines.
*-Tie-breakers: FIU beats Charlotte
*-Tie-breakers: Louisiana Tech beats UTSA; North Texas beats UTEP.