College football is fast approaching, and everyone is looking for their favorite future to bet on before the season starts. Today, we will look at C-USA, which feels more wide open than usual as several teams are losing integral amounts of production to the NFL, and other teams are trying to replicate success from 2021. We will look at Returning Production (from the TARP database on the Action Network) and pair it with SP+ Efficiency measures from 2021 and other advanced stats from CFB. Two teams stand out to me.
University of Texas at San Antonio (+200)
They are the co-favorites with UAB. UTSA had a tremendous season in 2021, going 7-1 in conference play and finishing with a conference championship with a win over Western Kentucky 49-41. They bring back QB Frank Harris (3161 passing yards, 27 TDs, 6 INT). He was also second on the team with 561 rushing yards. This, paired with the 7th ranked receiving yards returning production (87.03%), will have them poised for another successful season.
However, they will have to overcome a couple of obstacles. They rank bottom 40 in returning production in the following categories OL Snaps% (115th), rush yards (129th), tackles (92nd), passes defended (108th), pressures (96th), and stops (91st). There will also be some negative turnover regression (+13 turnover margin 4th overall). UTSA will try to bolster their lost production with a recent recruiting advantage 1st in C-USA via 247sports in 2022 (3rd in transfers) and 3rd in C-USA in 2021. If they play anywhere close to the level they did last year, they will be near the top of the conference again.
Middle Tennessee State University (+1000)
MTSU comes off a 7-6 season with a mediocre conference record of 4-4. They didn’t wow from an efficiency standpoint last year, 90th in SP+ Offense and 70th in SP+ Defense. The underlying metrics are where I believe there is much to be desired. They ranked 38th in Offensive Explosiveness, 1st in Def Front 7 havoc, 1st in Def Defensive Back Havoc, and 47th in defensive standard downs success rate. These elite defensive rankings are rare for Group of 5 teams.
MTSU ranks 42nd in overall returning offensive production and 29th in defensive returning production. They are the only team in C-USA to bring back the top 45 overall returning production on both sides of the ball. MTSU also brings back the 10th-ranked returning production in passes defended on defense. They had four Qbs attempt at least 29 passes or more in 2021. Chase Cunningham led the team with 1318 passing yards, 16 TDs, and three INTs. If they can get any stability at the quarterback position, this team will make some strides in 2022. +1000 offers incredible value in a conference that has no true dominant force.
Tune into the next article, where we look at the always action-packed MAC conference.
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