The Orlando Sentinel recently listed five Conference USA games to watch and let’s just say the list is … not how I’d go with it.
The Sentinel’s five includes two games involving C-USA newcomer Charlotte and the Shula Bowl between FAU and FIU. So the five games that everyone should note includes a first-year team that couldn’t go .500 last year with an FCS schedule and two teams who have combined for a grand total of 14 wins over the two seasons they’ve been in the conference (that’s an average of 3.5 wins per team per season)?
As Jules Winnfield once said in “Pulp Fiction,” allow me to retort … with five of my own.
Sept. 12 — Louisiana Tech at Western Kentucky — The reigning C-USA West Division champ visits the team that knocked Marshall from the summit of the undefeated on the final weekend of the 2014 regular season for a very early conference clash. This might be a score-a-rama, considering WKU returns stat monster QB Brandon Doughty and the Bulldogs bring back RB Kenneth Dixon and might have Florida transfer Jeff Driskel under center. If the Hilltoppers can knock off Vanderbilt the week before and LaTech in this game, that post-Thanksgiving brawl between Marshall and WKU could become even juicier.
Oct. 10 — Rice at Florida Atlantic — Some consider the Boca Raton-based Owls a sleeping giant. They lost four games last season by a field goal or less and should be pretty salty again in 2015. They’ll get the Houston-based Owls the week after they feasted on Charlotte and the week before they host Marshall. This game will be their first true conference test.
Oct. 31 — Louisiana Tech at Rice — Here’s a spot where the Sentinel and I agree. This game decided the West Division last year and, surveying the competition on that side of the conference, there’s no reason why it wouldn’t decide the West this year. The Owls are probably itching for another shot at the Bulldogs, considering LaTech hung 76 points on Rice in 2014.
Nov. 7 — Marshall at Middle Tennessee — The Blue Raiders fancied themselves as a pretty tough group of guys last year. Then the Thundering Herd kicked them in the teeth in a 49-24 Marshall win in Huntington. Much like Rice versus Louisiana Tech, you can bet MT wants a crack at Marshall in Murfreesboro. That one could be a slugfest.
Nov. 28 — Marshall at Western Kentucky — The Sentinel and I also agree here and, frankly, if either one of us dissented, we’d need our heads examined. Last year’s game was the wildest in C-USA, perhaps in its history. It included 91 first-half points, 933 passing yards and 15 passing touchdowns between Doughty and Marshall’s Rakeem Cato and WKU coach Jeff Brohm’s gutsy call to go for two in the first overtime. That decision gave WKU a 67-66 win, ended Marshall’s undefeated streak and ripped the Herd from the access-bowl conversation. To say that Marshall wants revenge is an understatement. To say the ‘Toppers would love to tussle with the Herd in Bowling Green would be as well. This game could decide the East, decide the conference and, depending on how these teams enter the weekend, decide an access bowl spot.