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Predicting the C-USA East Division
Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Predicting the C-USA East Division

Marshall Thundering Herd:

Marshall went 7-3 in a pandemic year and fired Coach Doc Holliday after losing their last three games. Charles Huff was hired and he has an impressive resume with stints in college and the NFL. He inherits a veteran team that is expected to win every year. They are in the East division and it appears to be the weakest of the two leagues. There isn’t one game on the schedule that Marshall can’t win so they look ready to roll.

Offensive Players to Watch: QB, Grant Wells (209 passing yards per game with 18 touchdowns and C-USA Freshman of the Year) , WR, Corey Gammage, TE, Xavier Gaines, OG, Cain Madden

Defensive Players to Watch: LBs, Eli Neal and Koby Cumberland, CB, Nazeeh Johnson

Must Wins: NC Central, Old Dominion, FIU, at Charlotte, Western Kentucky, at Middle Tennessee

Toss-Up Games They Need to Win But Could Lose: at Navy, East Carolina, at North Texas, UAB, at Appalachian State, at FAU

Predicted Finish: 1st Place in C-USA East Overall: Record: 11-1

Florida Atlantic Owls:

Despite having woeful offensive numbers the Owls still won four out of six conference games in 2020. So, one would assume, if they can improve the offensive production they have a good chance at a very good season. They auditioned several quarterbacks in the spring and the position was not clearly settled. They have talent at the rest of the positions and their defense is strong so if they can find the right guy to captain the ship, they can make a run at the C-USA title.

Players to Watch: RB, James Charles (429 rushing yards), WR, TJ Chase (23 receptions for 218), WR, Jordan Merrill (18 receptions for 218 yards) LB, Chase Lasater, DE, Jaylen Joyner, S, Jordan Helm.

Must Wins: Fordham, FIU, at Charlotte, UTEP, Middle Tennessee

Toss-Up Games They Need to Win But Could Lose: Georgia Southern, at Old Dominion, Marshall, at Western Kentucky

Probable Losses: at Florida, at Air Force, at UAB

Predicted Finish: 2nd Place in the C-USA East Division Overall Record: 7-5

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers:

The Hilltoppers hired offensive coordinator Zach Kittley from Houston Baptist which he helped turn into one of the most prolific passing offenses in the country. He also brought quarterback Bailey Zappe with him and together they might be the ingredient needed to spice up the offense. Only 4 starters return on defense and that is a concern heading into the preseason but there are some pieces to build round. A bowl game is certainly within reach for this team.

Players to Watch: QB, Bailey Zappe (1,833 yards, 15 TDs, and 1 interception in only four games), WR, Jarreth Sterns, OL, Cole Spencer, First-Team All-Conference DE, DeAngelo Malone

Must Wins: UT Martin, UTSA, Charlotte, at Rice

Toss-Up Games They Need to Win But Could Lose: at Army, at Old Dominion, at FIU, Middle Tennessee, FAU

Probable Losses: Indiana, at Michigan State, at Marshall

Predicted Finish: 3rd Place in the C-USA East Division Overall Record: 6-6

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders:

The Blue Raiders are coming off of back-to-back losing seasons and veteran Coach Rick Stockstill wants to get the program back to becoming eligible for bowl games. They brought in NC State transfer Bailey Hockman to quarterback an offense with some proven talent. Defensively, 10 starters return from a unit that underachieved so there might be changes in 2021. If the QB works out and the defense can find some answers they have a chance to move up.

Players to Watch: QB, Bailey Hockman, WR, Jarrin Pierce (59 receptions for 584 yards) WR, Yusuf Ali (37 receptions for 457 yards), LB, DQ Thomas (67 tackles 3.5 sacks), S, Reed Blankenship (76 tackles).

Must Wins: Monmouth, at UTSA, at Charlotte, Southern Miss, Old Dominion

Toss-Up Games They Need to Win But Could Lose: at UConn, at Western Kentucky, FIU

Probable Losses: at Virginia Tech, Marshall, at Liberty, at FAU

Predicted Finish: 4th Place in C-USA East Division Overall Record: 6-6

Florida International Panthers:

The Panthers only played five games last year and failed to win any of them. They have some optimism on offense with the running back and receiver position solid. They have three candidates for quarterback that all have some talent. Defensively, the secondary is strong and led the team in tackles and that means the defensive line and linebackers need fixing. Coach Butch Davis is a proven winner and the schedule is manageable.

Players to Watch: RB, D’Vonte Price (581 rushing yards) WR, Shemar Thornton, DE, Devon Strickland, LB, Jamal Gates

Must Wins: Long Island, Texas State, Charlotte, Old Dominion, North Texas

Toss-Up Games They Need to Win But Could Lose: at Central Michigan, Western Kentucky, at Southern Miss at Middle Tennessee

Probable Losses: at Texas Tech, at FAU, at Marshall

Predicted Finish: 5th Place in the C-USA East Division Overall Record: 6-6

Charlotte 49ers:

Charlotte has to improve at quarterback and the running backs are young and inexperienced. They do have some quality receivers to build around. The defense needs improvement across the board if the 49ers are going to return to a bowl.

Players to Watch: QBs, Craig Reynolds and James Foster, RB, Iowa-transfer Shadrick Byrd, WR, Victor Tucker (30 catches for 400 yards), DE, Markees Watts, LB, Tyler Murray (49 tackles)

Must Wins: Gardner-Webb, Rice

Toss-Up Games They Need to Win But Could Lose: at Georgia State, at Old Dominion

Probable Losses: Duke, Middle Tennessee, at Illinois, at FIU, FAU, at Western Kentucky, at Louisiana Tech, Marshall

Predicted Finish: 6th Place in the C-USA East Division Overall Record: 3-9

Old Dominion Monarchs:

Old Dominion chose to opt out of the 2020 season due to COVID. So, they are an unknown commodity. They have added UCF-transfer D.J. Mack Jr. at quarterback and if he can step up the offense will improve. The defense returns some experienced players and everyone around the program is anxious to play a game again.

Players to Watch: RB, Elijah Davis, WR Aaron Moore, LB, Jordan Young, Des, Marcus Haynes and Cory Jackson

Must Wins: Hampton, at UTEP, Charlotte

Toss-Up Games They Need to Win But Could Lose: Buffalo, Western Kentucky

Probable Losses: at Wake Forest, at Liberty, at Marshall, Louisiana Tech, at FIU, FAU, at Middle Tennessee

Predicted Finish: 7th Place in the C-USA East Division Overall Record: 2-10

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