2023 Conference USA college football preview: Odds to win conference, win totals and predictions

In the crosshairs of college football realignment, Conference USA looks to find a new champion. Who enters the season as the favorite?

Dec 21, 2022; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA;  Western Kentucky Hilltoppers quarterback Austin Reed
Dec 21, 2022; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Western Kentucky Hilltoppers quarterback Austin Reed / Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Conference USA is going to continue reshaping as the college football landscape evolves, losing nine members over the last two seasons.

With that being said, Conference USA has welcomed four new members to the mix, giving the conference nine total teams. Liberty enters as the most competitive of the bunch to incumbent favorite Western Kentucky while Jacksonville State and Sam Houston State are set to join the FBS ranks for the first time.

This conference will be full of high powered offenses and questionable defenses as the league embraces mid-week football in late September and early October. With scheduling quirks galore in this conference, there is going to be plenty of intrigue in CUSA.

For now, here are the odds and a few teams to keep an eye on in Conference USA in 2023:

Conference USA Win Totals

  • Florida International: 3.5 (Over -110/Under -110)
  • Jacksonville State: 4.5 (Over +112/Under -138)
  • Liberty: 8.5 (Over -134/Under +110)
  • Louisiana Tech: 5.5 (Over -170/Under +138)
  • Middle Tennessee: 6.5 (Over -134/Under +116)
  • New Mexico State: 6.5 (Over +134/Under -164)
  • Sam Houston State: 3.5 (Over -142/Under +116)
  • UTEP: 5.5 (Over -122/Under +100)
  • Western Kentucky: 8.5 (Over +110/Under -134)

Conference USA Conference Winner

Conference USA Dark Horse: Louisiana Tech (+650)

Louisiana Tech enters year two of the Sonny Cumbie era, and is embracing the transfer portal in hopes of outscoring the opposition. Cumbie has made a career of being a strong offensive mind, and now has hopefully found the quarterback to execute with Boise State transfer Hank Bachmeier.

The team returns key pieces in the passing game like Smoke Harris and Cyrus Allen, who each had over 500 receiving yards and will step in for the outgoing Tre Harris (Ole Miss). The passing game should take a big step forward with Bachmeier and an offensive line that brings back four starters, including two honorable mention Conference USA players.

The conference is going to be geared towards offense, and while the Louisiana Tech defense was abysmal last season, the O will hope to cover up some of the drawbacks on the other side of the ball.

While only four starters return on D, the team checked in bottom 20 in yards per play, points per drive, sacks and yards per carry, so it can't get much worse.

The team lost two overtime games and another game by one score with a rotating door at quarterback. The hope is that a fully healthy Bachemier can recapture the 3,000-plus passing yard campaign in 2021 in a tougher conference and be the turning point for this roster in a defensive-deficient conference.

The Bulldogs will play five games in 24 days, a quirk in the Conference USA schedule due to the weekday nature of the updated broadcast schedule, with one coming against Western Kentucky at home (more on them in a bit).

Outside of hosting WKU, the team must play at UTEP, Middle Tennessee and Liberty, which isn't easy, but I'm going to buy into the upside of the offense and that Cumbie can get this team going int he right direction.

Conference USA Championship Pick: Western Kentucky (+130)

Tough to disagree with the Hilltoppers being favorites to win the revamped Conference USA title.

The team has the highest upside on offense with returning star quarterback Austin Reed, who passed for a national high 4,744 yards and 40 touchdowns. While the team is onto its third offensive coordinator in three years, the offense should still hum around its air raid principles with former Mississippi State OC Drew Hollingshead.

With the quick trigger nature of the offense, Reed was untouched most of the time, sacked the 19th fewest times in the country, and that should stay the same. The team brings back four of five starters on the offensive line.

There are questionable defenses all over the conference, and Reed should continue to pass at an elite level this season.

On defense, the team will continue to be aggressive after ranking in the top 30 in sacks and points allowed per drive, but is counting on a lot of Power Five transfers to make up for a sub-50% returning production on that side of the ball.

However, it's going to be counting on Reed to outpace the suspect defenses in CUSA.

The team will need to win at Louisiana Tech and UTEP, but drawing Liberty at home is a big swoon for a team that is shaping up to be a two team-race heading into the season between those two.

Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.