Conference USA Expansion: 2022 Football Records for New Teams

College football realignment this summer reminded me of a middle school cafeteria – no loyalty, just jockeying for the prime lunch spot. Oklahoma and Texas are leaving for the SEC, prompting the Big 12 to invite three schools from the American Athletic Conference – Houston, Cincinnati, and UCF. The AAC turned around and grabbed six schools from Conference USA – Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, North Texas, Rice, UAB, and UTSA. Luckily, C-USA was already scheduled to add Liberty, New Mexico State, Jacksonville State, and Sam Houston State to the conference next season.

Conference USA Expansion

C-USA lost the fight to keep Marshall, Old Dominion, and Southern Mississippi, who all bolted for the Sun Belt Conference. The five remaining schools, Western Kentucky, Florida International, Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee, and UTEP, will be joined by FBS schools Liberty and New Mexico State, as well as FCS programs Jacksonville State and Sam Houston State.

2023 Conference USA Football Teams

Florida International

The Panthers showed a resilience that will become synonymous with the Mike MacIntyre era Thursday as they rallied from a 16-0 deficit to defeat Bryant 38-37 in overtime at FIU Stadium. Sophomore quarterback Grayson James took over in the third quarter after Gunnar Holmberg left the game with an injury. James directed the Panthers’ five final scoring drives and finished 16-31 for 207 yards, and a career-high four touchdown passes.

Jacksonville State

The Gamecocks picked up their first win of the Rich Rodriguez regime with a 35-17 win over Davidson Saturday at JSU Stadium. Quarterback Zion Webb finished 9-20 for 158 yards, two touchdowns, and one rushing touchdown. Jacksonville State’s defense struggled when the Wildcats took to the air, but the Gamecocks’ special teams had a day with a forced fumble converted into a touchdown and a 73-yard kick return by Michael Pettway that set JSU up for a touchdown.

Liberty

It took three quarterbacks and four overtimes, but the Liberty Flames defeated the Southern Miss Golden Eagles 29-27 Saturday night. Liberty sophomore wide receiver Demario Douglas went off, finishing with five catches for 97 yards and two touchdowns, including the 2-point conversion catch that sealed the deal. Southern Miss running back Frank Gore Jr. finished with 32 carries for 178 yards and two touchdowns of his own, but Liberty stopped him just short of the goal line on the final OT drive.

Louisiana Tech

Missouri routed Louisiana Tech 42-24 on Thursday night, intercepting the Bulldogs’ junior quarterback three times in the first half. Mizzou’s defense held La Tech to 22 rushing yards while their offense put up 553 yards on the Bulldogs. Wide receiver Cyrus Allen led the Bulldogs receiving corps, finishing with five catches for 121 yards and two touchdowns.

Middle Tennessee 

In a surprising turn of events, newly minted FBS team James Madison defeated Middle Tennessee 44-7 in Harrisburg, Virginia, on Saturday. A former FCS national championship team, the Dukes dominated the first half, outscoring the Blue Raiders 21-0. MTSU’s offensive line struggled to open up holes for the run game and give quarterback Chase Cunningham any time to think – he was sacked four times and finished 18-32 for 110 yards and one touchdown.

New Mexico State

The Aggies dropped a tough one 23-12 to the Nevada Wolfpack Saturday night, holding the Pack to just two yards on their first three drives. But Nevada’s defense came ready to play, forcing two turnovers right away as New Mexico State’s offense struggled to find footing. The Aggies were plagued by poor quarterback play in the first half, drops by wide receivers, and drive-killing penalties. Over the first three quarters, Nevada limited the Aggies to just nine points, nine first downs, and 205 yards, including 2.8 yards per carry and five yards per play.

Sam Houston State

The Bearkats dropped their season-opener against Texas A&M 31-0 at Kyle Field on Saturday after inclement weather delayed the start of the second half for almost three hours. Offensively the Bearkats struggled, but defensively Sam Houston did come up with a pair of interceptions, one by BJ Foster in the second quarter and the other by Kameryn Alexander in the third. It was the first time the Kats had two interceptions in a game against an FBS opponent since Baylor in 2012.

UTEP

Oklahoma took care of business against UTEP on Saturday, defeating the Miners 45-13 in Brent Venable’s first win as head coach of the Sooners. Quarterback Gavin Hardison passed for 244 yards, Tyrin Smith caught eight passes for 71 yards, and Reynaldo Flores caught seven passes for 76 yards for the Miners, who are now 0-2 on the season. “I really feel like we’re a better team leaving the field,” head coach Dana Dimel said. “We played a really good football team today. They executed at a high level, and they did some really good things. But I feel really comfortable about our football team and what we gained.”

Western Kentucky

A balanced Hilltoppers team defeated Austin Peay 38-27 Saturday afternoon at Houchens-Smith Stadium. Wide receiver Malachi Corley stole the show, catching three touchdown passes and finishing with five catches for 61 yards. The defense forced three turnovers to keep the Governors’ offense at bay, holding them to just 4.6 yards per play.