2024 Conference USA Power Rankings: Liberty and Jacksonville State Back on Top

    A conference full of newcomers welcomes another, and some familiar faces return to the top of our 2024 Conference USA Power Rankings.

    What a year for Conference USA! The Liberty Flames took over the conference, but it wasn’t as easy as many anticipated. The Jacksonville State Gamecocks and New Mexico State Aggies surprised us, but can they do it again?

    Our 2024 Conference USA Power Rankings look at where those teams land, welcome in a newcomer, and look at potential sleeper teams in the conference.

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    2024 Conference USA Power Rankings

    10) Kennesaw State Owls

    The Kennesaw State Owls join the FBS ranks for the first time in 2024, and they picked the right conference to make that transition.

    Unfortunately, their nonconference schedule gives them a rude awakening with UTSA, Louisiana, and San Jose State to start the year. Their first four conference games feature the top teams in these Conference USA Power Rankings, which doesn’t help.

    9) UTEP Miners

    Scotty Walden inherits a tough situation with the UTEP Miners, a program that’s 38-85 under the previous two coaches.

    The Miners don’t get much of a honeymoon phase with him, as they travel to Nebraska, Liberty, and Colorado State to start the year. They also head to Tennessee towards the end of the season, so wins will come at a heavy premium this year.

    8) Sam Houston Bearkats

    It took a while, but the Sam Houston Bearkats got in the win column late in their first year as an FBS program. They even won three of their final four games and were five points away from a 4-0 finish.

    Defense wasn’t a problem for the Bearkats last season, but defensive coordinator Joe Morris left in the offseason. If the offense can take even the slightest step forward, that loss may not be as impactful. The schedule’s also a little more favorable this year, which means they could get in the win column earlier in 2024.

    7) FIU Panthers

    If the FIU Panthers are to prowl to the top of the conference, they’re going to do it with new faces running the show. Is Keyone Jenkins the answer at quarterback? Can Shomari Lawrence take another step? There’s talent still on the roster, but how they perform remains a big question.

    The nonconference schedule isn’t bad outside of Indiana, but the Panthers must travel to Liberty and Jacksonville State in conference play.

    6) Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

    Derek Mason returns to the state of Tennessee as a head coach, and he inherits a tough situation. Not only did the Blue Raiders struggle last year, but most of its top production departed through the transfer portal. It’s a fresh start for everyone.

    Quarterback Nicholas Vattiato and running back Jaiden Credle are back to lead the offense. Linebacker Parker Hughes returns after a breakthrough season to lead the defense, and Mason’s influence on him should be fun to watch.

    The first month isn’t kind to this team. They host Tennessee Tech first, but Ole Miss, Western Kentucky, Duke, and Memphis follow. They also have Liberty and Jacksonville State later in the season, so it could be a year full of obstacles.

    5) Louisiana Tech Bulldogs

    It’s a make-or-break year for Sonny Cumbie after back-to-back 3-9 finishes, and he hands the offense over to Jack Turner. The running back room appears to have good depth, but the wide receiver room will feature new go-to players. Louisiana Tech struggled to keep teams from scoring last year, so improving the defensive side of the ball must be the focus.

    MORE: Conference USA 2024 College Football Schedule 

    While they avoid Liberty in CUSA play this year, they must face NC State and Arkansas in the nonconference schedule. If the offense is firing on all cylinders and the defense improves early, this could be a surprise team in the conference.

    4) New Mexico State Aggies

    How much Jerry Kill’s departure hurts this program cannot be understated. They came up short in the Conference USA Championship Game, but there were high hopes heading into the offseason. Kill retired, and key players such as quarterback Diego Pavia entered the transfer portal.

    This team should still play confidently after last year, but new head coach Tony Sanchez must find a way to continue Kill’s magic. The Aggies get Liberty in Week 2 and Fresno State the following week, so this team better buckle up quickly.

    3) Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

    If Caden Veltkamp can channel his bowl game performance into an entire season, the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers won’t skip a beat without Austin Reed. He must hold off incoming transfer TJ Finley to keep the job, but he’ll have plenty of confidence heading into 2024.

    The Hilltoppers start the year at Alabama, which won’t exactly build much confidence, but the schedule helps them out more after that. They have to travel to Liberty and host Jacksonville State, but that’s not until the last two games of the season.

    2) Jacksonville State Gamecocks

    Rich Rodriguez didn’t waste any time introducing the FBS to his team, and now the Jacksonville State Gamecocks have their sights set on loftier goals in 2024. His offense appears in good hands, with quarterback Logan Smothers taking over for Zion Webb. Running backs Anwar Lewis and Ron Wiggins also return after combining for 920 yards and nine touchdowns last year.

    Their defense returns plenty of talent, too. Defensive ends J-Rock Swain and Chris Hardie are back to lead the charge, and this group has a serious case for being the best team in the conference. They just have to take down the defending champs.

    1) Liberty Flames

    All you need to know about Liberty is that head coach Jamey Chadwell and quarterback Kaidon Salter return. Salter considered transferring before returning to the Flames, and he’ll run an offense that might look different with top receiver C.J. Daniels off to LSU. Running backs Quinton Cooley and Billy Lucas return after combining for 1,998 yards and 22 touchdowns rushing.

    KEEP READING: 2024 CUSA Transfer Portal Rankings 

    Linebacker TJ Bush appears set to take a step forward with key players running out of eligibility, and safety Brylan Green runs the back end after leading the team in interceptions in 2023. With so much talent returning on both sides of the ball, the Flames enter the 2024 season where they left the previous campaign; right at the top of the CUSA Power Rankings.

    Miss any action from the top college QB Rankings during the 2023 football season? Want to track all the movement with the college football transfer portal? College Football Network has you covered with that and more!

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