DALLAS – A panel of media members that cover Conference USA schools forecast a championship game matchup of former West Division rivals, UTSA, who won the 2021 C-USA title and, UAB. The 2022 season format is without divisions and will pit the top two teams in conference play against one another in the 2022 Ryan Conference USA Championship Game, which will be hosted by the team with the best league winning percentage.
UTSA earned 14 first place votes as the Roadrunners look to defend their 2021 conference crown. The Roadrunners finished a program-best 12-2 last season, posting a 7-1 mark in league play. They knocked off WKU in a thrilling 49-41 win at the AlamoDome in last season’s title game and earned their second straight bowl berth under head coach Jeff Traylor. UTSA is led offensively by QB Frank Harris, who completed 263-398 passes for 3,177 yards with 27 touchdowns to just six interceptions and also added 566 rushing yards, six more scores on the ground and added a touchdown reception. Defensively the Roadrunners are led by S Rashad Wisdom, who finished with 88 total tackles (67 solo) with four tackles-for-loss, six pass break-ups and a forced fumble.
UAB finished behind UTSA courtesy of a late-season, last-second loss in San Antonio, which cost the Blazers a title game berth. UAB then knocked off No. 13 BYU in the Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl to finish 9-4. The Blazers head into 2022 with a new face on the sidelines, in interim head coach Bryant Vincent, who takes over for Bill Clark. UAB is led by a three-headed monster offensively, including a dynamic duo in the backfield in RBs DeWayne McBride (1,371 yards and 13 touchdowns) and Jermaine Brown, Jr. (631 yards and seven scores). WR Trea Shropshire enters 2022 as the primary target on the outside following a breakout season in 2021 (27 catches for 703 yards and seven scoring grabs). Defensively, UAB led C-USA by allowing just 23.2 points per game last season.
WKU, last season’s runner-up, is coming off a record-setting season offensively. The Hilltoppers finished 9-5 and ranked second in the nation in scoring offense (44.2 points per game). WKU toppled Appalachian State 59-38 in the RoofClaim.com Boca Raton Bowl, its second bowl win in the past three seasons under head coach Tyson Helton. West Virginia transfer QB Jarret Doege will be WKU’s signal-caller in 2022 and has big shoes to fill with the departure of now-New England Patriots QB Bailey Zappe, who set single-season NCAA passing records with 5,967 yards and 62 touchdowns. Returning at receiver is Daewood Davis, who is on the Biletnikoff preseason watch list (43 catches for 763 yards and eight touchdowns in 2021) and Malachi Corley (73 catches for 691 yards and seven scores in 2021). Defensively the Hilltoppers return DL Juwuan Jones (45 total tackles, 6.5 tackles-for-loss, 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble in 2021) and DB Khalef Hailassie (57 total tackles, 3.0 tackles-for-loss, two interceptions and five pass break-ups in 2021).
The Conference USA slate opens on Saturday, Aug. 27, and the league’s 18th Conference USA Football Championship Game is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 2.
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