5. University of Alabama at Birmingham
After notoriously axing the program for two years, UAB brought football back in 2017 and was more successful than before. The 2018 squad won 11 games and the Conference USA title, and the Blazers put together six consecutive winning seasons before hitting a bump in 2023 with its 4-8 record as a first-year member of the American.
UAB is in a decently sized city in a college football hotbed. Yes, the best recruits will go to the nearby SEC schools, but the level and depth of high school talent in Alabama and Georgia is undeniable.
The Blazers have had players go in each of the past three NFL Drafts, and the team hired former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer as its head coach to begin the 2023 season. While the 4-8 mark in its first year in the American is a disappointment, the Blazers had stepped up a level from the Conference USA in years past and have a positive outlook looking ahead.
Benefits to a potential future conference start with the Blazers’ location in the heart of Alabama and its dedicated fanbase that was able to resurrect the program six years ago.