Rice kicked off the season in Australia last Saturday, but Conference USA’s 2017 campaign gets underway in earnest this week, with the league’s other 13 teams in action.
C-USA teams play three games against P5 schools, and three against members of the American Athletic Conference, which would like you to refer to it as a member of the “Power Six.”
Because someone has to, here’s your week one C-USA power ratings:
1. Western Kentucky: The two-time defending champs kick off the Mike Sanford era against their geographic inverse, Eastern Kentucky. More importantly, the Tops continue the QB Mike White era.
2. Louisiana Tech: The Bulldogs’ schedule gets harder in a hurry, with a trip to WKU Sept. 16 sandwiched between games with Mississippi State and South Carolina. So don’t fault La. Tech for opening with FCS foe Northwestern State, which went 1-10 last year.
3. Old Dominion: The Monarchs also get a tune-up game, vs. Albany. ODU has won 10 straight over FCS teams, dating back to its last game at that level, a playoff loss to Georgia Southern in 2012.
4. Middle Tennessee: The Blue Raiders are nine-point underdogs to Vanderbilt, which will make the short trip to Floyd Stadium. MTSU will find out quickly where it stands defensively under new coordinator Scott Shafer.
5. Southern Miss: The Eagles scored 34 straight points to beat Kentucky on the road last year, and get the Wildcats in Hattiesburg Saturday.
6. UTSA: The Roadrunners’ opener at home vs. Houston was postponed due to the effects of Hurricane Harvey. The Cougars had been practicing at the University of Texas after being displaced by the catastrophic flooding in their home city.
7. Marshall: The Herd is seemingly too talented for a repeat of last year’s 3-9 free fall. A visit from Miami (Ohio) will be an early test.
8. FIU: New coach Butch Davis’ Panthers are loaded with returning starters, which may or may not be a good thing. We’ll find out more after Saturday’s trip to No.19 South Florida.
9. FAU: Lane Kiffin and Co. have had months to get ready for Navy’s triple-option attack. The Kiffin factor is why this 8 p.m. game landed on ESPNU.
10. North Texas: The Mean Green seems to be heading in the right direction under second-year coach Seth Littrell, and opens with FCS foe Lamar.
11. UTEP: The Miners are 43-point underdogs at Oklahoma in the opener of a critical season for coach Sean Kugler, who is 18-31 in four years.
12. Rice: Unable to return home due to flooding from Hurricane Harvey, the Owls (0-1) have set up camp in Fort Worth during their open week.
13. Charlotte: The 49ers begin their third season of FBS football, and just their fifth overall, with a trip to 2016 Bahamas Bowl runner-up Eastern Michigan.
14. UAB: “The Return” is finally here for the Blazers, who will play their first game in 33 months, hosting Alabama A&M at Legion Field.