Bill Connelly

NCAA Football, Basketball and Tennis Contributor

Bill Connelly grew up a fan of the Miami Dolphins (post-1970s glory), Pittsburgh Pirates (ditto), Portland Trailblazers (ditto again) and Missouri Tigers. That he still enjoys sports at all shows both severe loyalty and a potential personality disorder. He spends his evening playing with excel sheets and watching DVR'd football games from ESPN Classic. See more of his work at Rock M Nation, Football Outsiders and Football Study Hall.


UNLV's present is exciting, uncertain

It took a while, but Bobby Hauck was able to build a deep, exciting (and, yes, flawed) squad in his fourth year at UNLV. The Rebels are quite experienced heading into 2014, but they face potential academic sanctions and a potential bowl ban in 2014.

New Mexico is finally building

New Mexico has one of the best running games in the country and finally has some depth on defense. Can the Lobos' defense improve enough to get out of the offense's way in Bob Davie's third season in charge?

LA Tech looks for new life

After an awful first season as Louisiana Tech's head coach, Skip Holtz looks to some new blood on defense (on both the field and sideline) and in the receiving corps to liven up a team didn't have much life in 2013.

Marshall is the C-USA's top dog

The offense could be a legitimate top-25 unit, the defense should be aggressive and fun, and wow, is the schedule cake. Marshall's 2014 season could be one for the ages. In fact, it would almost be disappointing if it wasn't.

Southern Miss still picking up the pieces

Southern Miss lost 25 games in five years, then lost 23 in two. The Golden Eagles are officially starting from scratch, and while improvement is almost guaranteed, Todd Monken's squad has a ways to go.

UTSA is loaded (and let's hear it for Larry Coker)

UTSA boasts 38 seniors on its 2014 squad. The ambitious Roadrunners have come a long way in an incredibly short amount of time, and with experience and continuity galore, they could be the team to beat in the Conference USA West.

North Texas tries to do it again

North Texas took a significant step forward in 2013, Dan McCarney's third year in charge. The Mean Green will have to account for quite a few departed difference-makers this fall but should have enough pieces remaining to reach another bowl in 2014.

WKU's trajectory post-Petrino

Western Kentucky has either improved or held steady for most of the last five years. The Hilltoppers move to Conference USA with a new coach and a rebuilt defense; the 2014 season will represent quite a test of that improvement.

MTSU's two big questions

Following a disastrous 2011 season, Rick Stockstill has put together back-to-back eight-win seasons at Middle Tennessee. A third straight is within reach if MTSU can avoid too much of a drop-off at quarterback and on the offensive line.

Rice looks for new stars

A year and a half ago, it looked like David Bailiff's time at Rice was just about over. But the Owls have won 15 of 19 games and are the defending Conference USA champions. Can they make changes in the backfield and make a run at a second title?

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