Conference USA Odds: UCF Favored In 2012 Betting Preview

HOUSTON - OCTOBER 22: Defensive lineman Kelvin King #59 of the Houston Cougars races past quarterback A.J. Graham #1 of the Marshall Thundering Herd after he deflected a pass to himself for an interception in the fourth quarter at Robertson Stadium on October 22, 2011 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Relegated to second-tier status among college football conferences for most of its existence, Conference USA stood a great chance last December of sending an undefeated team to a BCS bowl.

But instead the previously perfect Houston Cougars got upset on their home field by Southern Miss in the C-USA championship game, and the conference was once again left out in the cold.

As for this year, here's a look at the contenders and Conference USA championship betting odds courtesy of OddsShark.com.

Central Florida is listed as a +120 favorite to win C-USA's East Division this season and a +275 fave to win the conference championship. The Knights get back eight starters on both sides of the ball from a team that went 3-5 in conference last year, despite outgaining C-USA foes by 40 YPG.

Among the top contenders for the conference title this year UCF has to play at Tulsa but gets Southern Miss and SMU at home and doesn't have to play Houston.

Those Cougars are +185 favorites to win the West Division this year and co-second choices to win the C-USA title at +450. But Houston only returns 12 starters, and lost both its head coach and record-setting QB Case Keenum.

Fortunately, sophomore QB David Piland has a full season under his belt, when he filled in for an injured Keenum two years ago, and four starters return along the O line. And the schedule is kind, with just three true conference road games, and they miss both Southern Miss and Central Florida.

Those Golden Eagles are getting +230 to win the East and +450 to win the conference. Southern Miss only gets back 10 starters, just four on defense, from the team that won the C-USA championship game last year, and they have to replace their head coach and a four-year starter at QB.

But plenty of talent remains, including four starters along the offensive line. Schedule-wise the Eagles have to play at Central Florida and at SMU but miss Houston and Tulsa.

Tulsa and Southern Methodist are both getting +230 to win the West and +600 to win the C-USA championship. The Hurricane returns 13 starters from a team that went 7-1 in conference last year, but while they get UCF at home they have to play at Houston and SMU.

The Mustangs, meanwhile, have only 10 starters back, just three on offense, after going 5-3 in C-USA last year. But they have three very winnable conference road games, and they get Houston, Southern Miss and Tulsa all at home.

And East Carolina, with 15 starters back after going 4-4 in conference last year, is listed at +425 to win the East and +900 to win the conference title.

Elsewhere on the 5Dimes C-USA futures betting boards, Marshall, returns 13 starters from a team that went 5-3 in conference last year, is getting +525 to win the East and +1200 to win the conference.

UTEP, facing maybe the toughest schedule in the league, is listed at +600 to win the West and +1500 to win the conference.

UAB, for its first season under new HC McGee, is getting +1200 to win the East and +3000 to win the C-USA championship.

Rice, with just 10 returning starters, is getting +1200 to win the West and +3000 to win the conference.

Tulane, for its first season under new HC Johnson, is lined at +1300 to win the West and +3500 to win the conference title.

And Memphis, with seven starters back on both sides of the ball for its first season under new HC Fuente, is listed at +1800 to win the East Division and +5000 to win the C-USA championship game.

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