Pokemon, you know, those sometimes cuddly, often furious creatures we were introduced to the United States back in the 1990s? Well, what if instead of a mascot, each team had a Pokemon that represented them?
Moving on from the Independents, the first conference will be Conference USA. We’ll start with the East division.
The newest addition to Conference USA East, Charlotte, currently headed by Will Healy, is an up-and-comer within the conference. Despite being 22-48, the 49ers went 7-6 and made it to their first bowl game in 2019.
Only an FBS squad since 2013, their 7-6 finish last season was the best in school history.
Pokedex description: “No two Spinda have the same pattern of spots. Its tottering step fouls the aim of foes.”
Like Charlotte, Spinda is a newcomer. Also like Charlotte’s seasons, no two Spinda have the same spot pattern. Spinda doesn’t evolve and that’s perfect for where Charlotte is right now.
Ah, the Owls. The Owls entered FBS competition in 2004 and since then, have been up and down. In 2005, they joined the Sun Belt Conference under legendary coach Howard Schellenberger. FAU made and won two bowl games before making the jump to C-USA in 2013.
Since joining C-USA, FAU has won two conference titles and two bowl games — both under Lane Kiffin. Kiffin is gone now, and Willie Taggart replaces him. The Owls are undefeated in bowl games and have a 103-129 record overall.
Pokedex description: “It marks time precisely. Some countries consider it to be a wise friend, versed in the world’s ways.”
A literal owl, Hoothoot is a wise friend, just as FAU is to C-USA. Just as FAU is versed in the ways of C-USA, Hoothoot is also versed in the world’s ways. Hoothoot, at level 20, evolves into Noctowl and FAU is slowing evolving into a mainstay in C-USA.
Florida International first played football in 2002 — just seven years after being built. In that time, the Golden Panthers have been a breeding ground for good coaches like former head coach Mario Cristobal and current coach Butch Davis.
Over their first five seasons, FIU only won five games — all in its inaugural 2002 season. In 2010, FIU, then under Cristobal, got to its first bowl game after a 7-6 season, ultimately winning the Little Caesars Bowl. FIU’s best season in terms of wins was 2018 when it won nine games, but in 2019, FIU shocked South Florida by beating the Miami Hurricanes in a neutral-site game.
Pokedex description: “Using luminescent matter, it makes its eyes and body glow and stuns attacking opponents.”
Watchog, just like FIU, stuns attacking opponents like it did against Miami. A newer Pokemon, Watchog evolves from Patrat at level 20. The evolution likely took place when Oregon named former FIU coach Cristobal the new head coach of the Ducks.
Since the turn of the century, the Thundering Herd have been members of the MAC (1997-2004) and Conference USA since 2005.
If you look at its time in C-USA, Marshall has been a success. Under coach Bob Pruett (1997-2004), the Thundering Herd went bowling in six straight seasons, with five straight bowl wins.
When Mark Snyder (2004-09) took over, Marshall took a downturn, only making one bowl in 2009 and having the first losing seasons since returning to FBS in 1997. Doc Holliday, who is the current coach, took over after Snyder and turned the Herd around. That includes a 13-1 season in 2014 when they finished 18th in the AP rankings.
Pokedex description: “It has an easygoing nature. It doesn’t care if it bumps its head on boats and boulders while swimming.”
Marshall feels like a fun team, especially the Rakeem Cato years. It bumps its head every now and then with some slightly down seasons, but doesn’t get discouraged and didn’t pull the plug on Doc Holliday after a 3-9 season in 2016. Marshall has since rebounded.
The Blue Raiders began the new century as an Independent but joined the Sun Belt from 2001-12 and saw glimpses of success, going bowling three times. Middle Tennessee won the New Orleans Bowl in 2009 after going 10-3. Now in Conference USA, Middle Tennessee hasn’t gotten back to the 10-win mark but has gone bowling five times, including winning the Camelia bowl in 2017.
Despite a very up-and-down tenure, Rick Stockstill has been the head coach since 2005. 2019 saw Middle Tennessee have its first losing season (4-8) since going 2-10 in 2011.
Pokedex description: “They can’t swim well yet, and they move much faster by rolling. When they’re happy, they clap fins.”
MTSU is dangerous when good, but we don’t really know if it is good until late in the season. You can never quite tell when the Blue Raiders are going to be good, but when they are good, it’s fun to watch.
Only an FBS member since 2013 and only in Conference USA since 2014, ODU is still a very young program. After a run of success under Bobby Wilder, including a win in the 2016 Bahamas Bowl and a 2018 upset over Virginia Tech, new head coach Ricky Rahne takes over. Rahne has already done a good job recruiting and just landed a big transfer in the form of Ricky Slade.
Pokedex description: “Their coloring changes according to the seasons and can be slightly affected by the temperature and humidity as well.”
The Monarchs’ coloring (perception) is being changed thanks to the strong recruiting and new aura of the Rahne era. They are driven by the fans and driven by the talent surrounding them in Virginia.
Both Deerling, and the ODU Monarchs are newer additions to their respective fields.
Western Kentucky, the school with the world’s most confusing mascot, has been an FBS member since 2009. A member of the Sun Belt until 2014, and currently in Conference USA, the Hilltoppers have had recent success. After a combined 2-22 record in their first two Sun Belt seasons, they have only had two losing seasons since.
The high water mark was back-to-back 10-win seasons in 2015 and 2016, including a Boca Raton Bowl win in 2016. Now under coach Tyson Helton, their first season in 2019 could be considered a success, going 9-4 and winning the First Responders bowl.
Pokedex description: “When headaches stimulate its brain cells, which are usually inactive, it can use a mysterious power.”
A very confusing team, you don’t exactly know what the mascot is. Psyduck, like WKU, can have a mysterious power when it has a good season. It usually isn’t a thinking man’s team though, and kinda just fun to watch.