Sam Houston picked in 8th place tie in CUSA Media preseason poll
DALLAS, Texas -- A panel of media members that cover Conference USA schools forecast a championship game matchup of WKU and newcomer Liberty. The 2023 season format is without divisions and will pit the top two teams in conference play against one another in the 2023 Conference USA Championship Game, which will be hosted by the team with the best league winning percentage.
WKU earned 18 first place votes as the Hilltoppers seek their first conference crown since 2016. WKU is coming off a 9-5 season in 2022 that saw the Tops win its second consecutive bowl game, knocking off 10-win South Alabama in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. WKU returns the nation’s leading passer in QB Austin Reed, as well as the nation’s leading returning receiver in WR Malachi Corley. Defensively, the Hilltoppers led the nation in takeaways (32) and defensive touchdowns (six) and are led by highly-regarded LB JaQues Evans.Liberty is one of four new members in 2023 and has been projected to meet WKU in the CUSA Championship Game, receiving four first place votes. The Flames enter 2023 with a new head coach in Jamey Chadwell and are coming off an 8-5 season with the program’s fourth straight bowl appearance. Liberty returns a pair of quarterbacks who shared time in 2022 in QB Jonathan Bennett and QB Kaidon Salter, WR Noah Frith and a leader along the offensive line in OL X’Zauvea Gadlin. Defensively, the Flames finished third nationally last season in sacks (3.46 per game) and return key fixtures DL Kendy Charles and S Quinton Reese.
Middle Tennessee is coming off an 8-5 season in 2022 that saw the Blue Raiders win their second consecutive bowl game after knocking off San Diego State in the Hawai’i Bowl. Offensively, leading rusher RB Frank Peasant returns, as does a pair of big-play receivers in WR DJ England-Chisolm and WR Elijah Metcalf. Defensively, DL Zaylin Wood, CB Teldrick Ross and S Tra Fluellen return for a defense that ranked second nationally in interceptions (20) in 2022 and fourth in defensive touchdowns (four).
The Conference USA slate opens on Saturday, Aug. 26, with five teams in action and a pair of league contests. The league’s 19th Conference USA Football Championship Game is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 1.
PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
1. WKU (18)
2. Liberty (4)
3. Middle Tennessee
4. Louisiana Tech
5. New Mexico State
7. Jacksonville State
8. Sam Houston
- First place votes in parentheses
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