Conference Breakdown: Conference USA

5 things to know about Conference USA

Biggest game: WKU at Marshall, Nov. 26

Player to always watch: MTSU WR Richie James, a 5'9 catching machine who shows up big in big games.

Team nobody wants to play: FAU

Coach who really needs wins: Ron Turner's done a good job at FIU, buuut is in danger of delivering four straight losing seasons.

Don't be surprised if ... you look up in November and Southern Miss has already won 10 games.

Bill Connelly's Power Rankings

Tier 1

Western Kentucky

WKU lost its star QB, but Jeff Brohm's Hilltoppers will still score a billion points.

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Tier 2

Southern Miss

USM clawed its way out of the valley, and 2016's schedule couldn't be kinder.

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Marshall

The Herd's busy reloading, but a good 2016 should lead to a great 2017.

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Louisiana Tech

Skip Holtz is doing well, but he's got a lot of transition to deal with.

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Middle Tennessee

MTSU's longtime head coach replaced his QB with his son, and it's working.

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Florida Atlantic

FAU kept getting in its own way last year. How high can these Owls fly?

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Tier 3

Florida International

Some serious opportunity awaits, if the Panthers are ready.

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Rice

Can these Owls bounce back from a sudden, drastic collapse?

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Old Dominion

ODU is playing the long game, but could make its first bowl run in 2016 anyway.

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UTEP

Now that the Miners are healthy and experienced, they get an impossibly easy schedule.

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UTSA

UTSA has a ton of untapped upside. So does new head coach Frank Wilson.

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Tier 4

North Texas

Bill's 128-preview countdown started with UNT and finished with Bama, if that tells you anything.

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Charlotte

Charlotte established its identity in 2015. Can the 49ers turn it into wins?

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Tier 5