Conference USA college football preview, Part 2: Burning questions, favorite players and projections

It's OK to admit it: It is sometimes difficult to remember which teams are in Conference USA. The roster has changed pretty frequently, and while recent seasons had seen relative stability, that's all come crashing to a halt with the departure of three programs for the Sun Belt (Marshall, Southern Miss, Old Dominion) and the impending departure of six more to the AAC. There will be nine programs in C-USA in 2023, and only five of those will have also belonged to the 14-team iteration of 2021.

That said, what the conference may lack in stability, it makes up for in chaos and parity. No one tends to stand too far from the pack, and you get as many close games and tight finishes as you could possibly want.

It appears that could be the case again in 2022. The three programs projected to top the heap (UTSA, Western Kentucky and UAB) are separated by just four spots in the SP+ rankings, and they are all projected to win an average of either 5.8 or 5.9 conference games. Head-to-head matchups -- WKU at UTSA on Oct. 8, UAB at WKU on Oct. 22, UTSA at UAB on Nov. 5 -- could decide the conference hierarchy, and at least one Texas sleeper could be close enough to the pack to make noise as well.

We talked about C-USA's bottom six projected teams last week. Today, let's talk about the top five.

Every week through the offseason, Bill Connelly will preview another division from the Group of 5 and Power 5 exclusively for ESPN+, ultimately including all 131 FBS teams. The previews will include 2021 breakdowns, 2022 previews and burning questions for each team.

Earlier previews: MWC West | MWC Mountain | AAC (Nos. 6-11) | AAC (Nos. 1-5) | MAC East | MAC West | Sun Belt West | Sun Belt East | Conference USA (Nos. 6-11)