The 2023-24 college football season is swiftly approaching. The C-USA will have a new reigning champion after back-to-back title winner UTSA decided to divert to the AAC. The Roadrunners’ departure from the conference has opened the door for a new dominant presence to emerge. Several contenders are jockeying for positioning.
The futures market for the impending campaign has been released. BetOnline recently updated their odds for the 2024 C-USA Championship Game victor. Western Kentucky and Liberty are considered the favorites. The complete odds are as follows:
- Western Kentucky (+125)
- Liberty (+225)
- Middle Tennessee (+500)
- Louisiana Tech (+800)
- UTEP (+1000)
- New Mexico State (+1400)
- Florida International (+5000)
THE FAVORITE AND MY PICK: WESTERN KENTUCKY
The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers were the 2021 runners-up. BetOnline views them as the likeliest contender to capture the C-USA championship in the wake of UTSA’s exit from the conference. I agree with that overall assessment.
Returning quarterback Austin Reed positions Western Kentucky to enjoy 2023 success. Reed led all FBS quarterbacks in passing last season with 4,744 yards. Reed threw for 40 touchdowns while completing 65% of his passes. A dual-threat playmaker, Reed added 224 rushing yards and eight touchdowns to his offensive totals.
Reed has shown terrific command of head coach Tyson Helton’s offense. His No. 1 target is Malachi Corley, who recorded a fourth-best-in-the-nation 1,293 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns via 101 receptions is also back.
Western Kentucky fielded a quality defense last season, but there are new challenges this year—like replacing Brodric Martin, who the Detroit Lions drafted in the third round. With conference bullies UTSA no longer in their way, Western Kentucky appears primed to capture its first C-USA championship since 2016.
THE NO. 1 CONTENDER: LIBERTY
The Liberty Flames are making their C-USA debut after competing in the FBS as an independent last season. Head coach Hugh Freeze departed the program to take on the Auburn job and was replaced by Jamey Chadwell. Chadwell spent the previous four campaigns in charge of Coastal Carolina. Chadwell is tasked with navigating Liberty through their unfamiliar surroundings.
Chadwell’s first order of business will be to identify his starting quarterback. Last season’s premier starter was Johnathan Bennett, who struggled with turnovers, throwing nine interceptions in 11 appearances. Kaidon Salter is Bennett’s No. 1 contender for the starting gig. A former Tennessee transfer, Salter displayed promise in flashes. And finally, there’s Southern Miss transfer Trey Lowe, who is the real wild card of this competition.
Whoever starts at quarterback will be without superstar wide receiver Demario Douglas, who is shining for the New England Patriots in the preseason. There are a lot of question marks for Chadwell in Liberty’s debut season in the C-USA. The Flames may experience an adjustment period that prevents them from challenging Western Kentucky.
THE UNDERDOG: MIDDLE TENNESSEE
Head coach Rick Stockstill is entering his 18th season in charge of the Blue Raiders, offering some much-needed continuity. Stockstill’s biggest challenge will be to lead Middle Tennessee State to more in-conference success. The Blue Raiders went 4-4 in the C-USA last season and they haven’t posted a winning conference record since 2018.
Quarterback Nick Vattiato is an experienced leader. Vattiato will require better support from a rushing attack that averaged a pathetic 3.1 yards per carry last season. Defensively, the likes of Marley Cook and Zaylin Wood should continue spearheading a stout defensive line. Better success against the pass is needed after allowing 292.7 passing yards per game.
- Sep 29, 2023
- Sep 22, 2023