In WKU’s inaugural season of football as a member of Conference USA, the coaches of the conference picked the Toppers, fresh off their best record in FBS history (8-4), to finish fourth in the Eastern Division, behind former Sun Belt opponents Florida Atlantic, Middle Tennessee, and the near unanimous preseason champion Marshall Thundering Herd. The full predicted order of finish is below:
2.) Middle Tennessee
3.) Florida Atlantic
5.) Old Dominion
7.) Florida International
1.) North Texas
4.) Louisiana Tech
5.) Southern Miss
While Marshall received far and away the most amount of points (however those were calculated) with 91 to win the East, the West is seemingly a toss up, as the Mean Green finished with 66 points, finishing just about Rice (65) and UTSA (62). None of the bottom three Western institutions had more than 38. Looks like it’ll be pretty top heavy out there.
And, while yes, WKU’s fantastic football success over the past few years is incredibly recent, it seemed odd to me that they were picked to finish below MTSU and FAU. Let’s not forget – the Raiders were blown out of the water (pun intended) by Navy – a team that the Tops were able to “upset,” in the regular season – in their bowl game, and FAU for a long time was a football laughing stock, but they were able to scrap together four straight wins to close the season, so they could start right where they left off. Also, I (regrettably) don’t know CUSA football too well yet, so I could be talking straight nonsense.
Something else that worried me (as silly as it might sound) is that zero Hilltoppers were voted to the Preseason First Team All-Conference USA squad. Not even the three who have been named to position award watch lists - Mitchell Henry, Cam Thomas and Garrett Schwettman - were named to the Preseason squad. Now, granted, a game has yet to be played, but still…no one voted by the coaches on the list? That worries me about the talent the Tops are gonna see versus the talent they have.