Well folks it is that time of year again. Tomorrow the Conference USA football season kicks-off as Rice host PAC-12 member UCLA and UCF travels to Akron. In total all 12 C-USA schools will be in action this week with 11 of those games being televised.
Rice vs. UCLA, Thursday, 6:30pm CT, CBS Sports
Despite being more than 1,000 miles apart the Marshall Thundering Herd and Rice Owls share a common bond. Both schools are short on seniors as Rice only brings eight into their opening game against UCLA. Comparatively, Marshall boast 9 players entering their last year of eligibility.
Beating a BCS opponent would be nothing new for these Owls, they defeated Purdue in Houston last year. This game will also serve as the debut of new UCLA coach Jim Mora.
UCF at Akron, Thursday, 7pm ET, ESPN3
Marshall fans will have a hard time finding a team to root for in this match-up. On one hand you have bitter C-USA rival UCF, who have been a thorn in the Thundering Herds side since joining C-USA together in 2005. Then there is Akron, Marshall's old rival from the MAC and future opponent in 2014 and 2017. Personally, this blogger will be rooting for a C-USA win but, a little part of me would not mind a Zips victory.
ECU vs. Appalachian State, Saturday, 12noon ET, FSN
After a disappointing 2011 that saw ECU finish with a 5-7 record and no bowl appearance Pirates head coach Ruffin McNeil will be looking to right the ship in 2012. ECU starts with a tough test as talented FCS opponent Appalachian State visits Greenville.
Houston vs. Texas State, Saturday, 6pm CT, CSS
Defending Western division champion Houston enters the season under a new head coach, former Cougars assistant Tony Levine. Their opponent, Texas State, is also entering a new era as the Bobcats start their first season in FBS football Saturday night.
Marshall at WVU, Saturday, 12 noon ET, FX
The Friends of Coal Bowl kicks off for the final time this Saturday as Marshall and WVU meet at Milan Puskar Stadium. The only two division one football programs in West Virginia have met for seven consecutive years but the streak will end after this season. Marshall is lead by all C-USA receiver Aaron Dobson while WVU leans on senior quarterback Geno Smith, one of the best signal callers in the country.
Memphis vs. Tennessee Martin, Saturday, 6pm CT
Like I said earlier, 11 of 12 C-USA football games are televised this week, as you can probably guess Tennessee Martin at Memphis has been left out. The Tigers enter 2012 with a new head coach, former TCU offensive coordinator Justin Fuente. It will be interesting to see if Fuente can breathe new life into the Tigers dormant football program before they jump ship to the Big East.
Southern Miss at Nebraska, Saturday, 2:30pm CT, ABC
New coach, new quarterback, and a top 25 opponent, not exactly a recipe for success as Southern Miss travels to Nebraska this Saturday. Last years C-USA champion will lean on their defense this season as three of the Golden Eagles top four tackles from 2011 return.
SMU at Baylor, Sunday, 5:30pm CT, FSN
Baylor might be without Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Robert Griffin III but they are still a difficult test. In a rare Sunday night game SMU will try to defeat the Bears and take down a Big 12 school on the road.
Tulane vs. Rutgers, Saturday, 7pm ET, CBS Sports
A Big East opponent visits the Big Easy this Saturday as Tulane host Rutgers. Former New Orleans Saints assistant Curtis Johnson will be making his debut as the Green Waves head coach. Despite last years 2-11 record Tulane returns a number of quality players including three year starting quarterback Ryan Griffin and junior running back Orleans Darkwa.
Tulsa at Iowa State, Saturday, 12:30pm CT, FSN
It's not often that C-USA teams are favored to win at Big 12 schools but that is exactly the case this Saturday as Tulsa visits Iowa State. Vegas oddsmakers have placed the Golden Hurricanes as 1.5 point favorites over the Cyclones.
UAB at Troy, Saturday, 11am CT, CSS
Two of Alabama's mid-major programs meet on Saturday as UAB travels to Troy. The Blazers will be lead by new head coach Garrick McGee and returning quarterback Jonathan Perry who passed for over 2,000 yards last year.
UTEP vs. Oklahoma, Saturday, 8:30pm MTN, FSN
After seven seasons and a .500 record UTEP head coach Mike Price is close to wearing out his welcome in El Paso. The immediate future does not present an easy task for Price as his Miners host fourth ranked Oklahoma.