Conference USA: Is WKU’s Reign Over?

Southern Mississippi beat writer Jason Munz of the Hattiesburg American set the C-USA section of twitter ablaze last night, and then again this morning, by publishing his, for lack of a better word, Hot Take 2017 CUSA Preview.

The long and the short of it for those who have yet to read it (which I recommend you do) is this — WKU is out as the top of not only the conference, but in the East.

And taking WKU’s place is…Middle Tennessee?

Yup, Middle Tennessee. Munz see’s the Blue Raiders stringing together a 9–3 campaign, see’s Brent Stockstill putting together an MVP-caliber season and see’s them edging…no, not the Tops, but Old Dominion for the East Division crown.

These are — interesting — takes, to say the least.

If you’re looking for a piece that is going to bash Munz and look to “put him in his place,” this is not the stop for you. Sorry to disappoint.

I also don’t think Munz is incredibly incorrect in his predictions — everyone was all aboard the Stockstill train and if not for a regular-season-ending injury last year, who knows the type of year he would have had.

Also, he’s accompanied in the passing attack by Richie James, someone many are thinking is going to be the impact player not just for the Raiders, but in the entire league.

Meanwhile, projecting another solid year for the Monarchs isn’t so far fetched. Their first couple of seasons in the league always felt…incomplete. It always seemed like they should have had a better year than they did, and if WKU weren’t in the middle of the dominating stretch of football they currently find themselves in, the Monarchs are potentially playing for a 2016 conference title.

However, all of that being said, I just don’t see how the Tops going from 11 to eight wins in the span of one season. Yes, the head coach has changed. Yes some key offensive (and defensive) figures have departed. But, Mike White is still the man in charge, and if Nacarius Fant can have anything close to a true breakout year, and the Tops find some success in the running game between Quinton Baker, D’Andre Ferby and Marquez Trigg, than the Tops are winning at least nine games, and there’s no way they’re losing three CUSA games.

The mindset isn’t wrong — the East very much will be a three-headed monster between the Raiders, Monarchs and Toppers in 2017, but I think people are underestimating the talent of White, the defense that is returning, and the capabilities of Mike Sanford in his first year at the helm.

What did you think of Munz’s predictions? Do you think WKU will take such a dramatic step-back from last season to this year? Who do you see winning the East, and the conference as a whole? Let us know in a comment below, via twitter at @TheTowelRackWKU or on our Facebook page.

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