AUG. 31/SEPT. 2:
Best Game - Marshall at West Virginia. In only the sixth meeting of the two Mountain State rivals since 1911, and the second since 1997, WVU comes in riding high as a Top Ten pre-season pick. The Herd, off the first losing season in 21 years, would like nothing more than to announce its return to prominence than to upset the Mountaineers in the opener for both teams in Morgantown. It is the first of a seven-game series brokered by W.Va. Governor Joe Manchin, a West Virginia grad.
C-USA Game Of The Week - Houston at Rice. Crosstown rivals meet in game with new coach for Owls and great pre-season expectation for Cougs, with Heisman candidate Kevin Kolb at QB.
Other Big Game - SMU at Texas Tech-Mustangs won three in row at end of season, would like to maintain momentum against in-state rival from the Big XII.
Best Game -Tulsa at BYU. Defending Conference USA champion Golden Hurricane is 0-5 all-time against Brigham Young of Mountain West Conference. BYU is thought ready to return to the national picture this year with three-year starter John Beck (7,136 yards and 47 tds in career) and may push TCU for MWC crown. Tulsa returns 16 starters from 9-4 team that beat Fresno State in Liberty Bowl.
C-USA GOTW - East Carolina at UAB. East Division rivals meet with chance to lead pack for at least one week. ECU won two in row at end of season to finish 5-6 in Skip Holtz's first year as coach, after only winning three the previous two seasons. UAB loses QB Darryl Hackney and slipped to 5-6 after 7-4 season and Hawaii Bowl in 2004. The Blazers return 12 starters, led by DE Larry McSwain whom some are calling the conference's best defender. Pirates return 13 starters, led by QB James Pinkney.
OBG - UCF at Florida. After opening with I-AA Villanova, Golden Knights are severly tested against in-state rival Gators and Coach Urban Meyers. UF have top QB in SEC in Chris Leak and Knights must work on defense that allowed 49 points to Nevada in Hawaii Bowl, 44 to Tulsa in C-USA title game and 28 to Rice in final regular season game.
Best Game - USF at UCF. Bulls of South Florida hoping to catch Central Florida coming off Gator "hangover." USF plays first "real" opponent after home games with I-AA McNeese State and Florida International. UCF will look to hang one on Big East member, who doesn't seem inclined to continue series at present.
C-USA GOTW -Memphis at East Carolina. While the only conference game, another early season East Division barometer. If ECU would lose previous game to UAB, the Pirates could not afford to go 0-2 in league. Memphis, rebounding from season where lost three QBs and still went 6-5 and won Motor City Bowl on back of DeAngelo Williams, the three-time C-USA Player of Year. Tigers come in off breather vs. Chattanooga the week before and could be 2-0 with upset of Ole' Miss Rebels in week one.
OBG - Marshall at Kansas State. Herd upset No. 6 K-State in Manhattan in 2003, while Wildcats escaped Huntington with 21-19 thriller where Marshall threw INT late, instead of kicking relatively close field goal. New KSU coach Ron Prince inherits team with back-to-back losing seasons and now only two QBs in camp.
SEPT. 23/SEPT. 26:
Albert McClellan, Herd hope to put pressure on Kansas State quarterbacks in "Little Apple."
Best Game: - West Virginia at East Carolina. Pirates gave Mountaineers fits last season in Morgantown, losing 15-20 and having numerous chances to pull game out. WVU will have extra rest for this game, playing Maryland on a Thursday the week before.
C-USA GOTW - Southern Miss at UCF. The teams picked by most everyone to finish either first or second in the East Division meet in a Tuesday night national telecast in Orlando's aging Citrus Bowl.
OBG -OK State at Houston. Cougars have chance to knock off Big XII team at home in Cowboys, picked by most to finish near the bottom of the South Division after dropping to 4-7 in 2005. Cowboys may be 3-0 at this point, with Missouri State, Arkansas State and Florida Atlantic the first three weeks, a I-AA and two teams in the Bottom Ten of most pre-season magazines.
Best Game -Tennessee at Memphis. Vols lead this series 19-1 all-time and make first trip to the "Home of the Blues" since 2000. But the recent games have been close, even in Knoxville; 20-16 last year, 17-16 in 1999 and Memphis winning the 1996 game 21-17. Heat could be on Coach Phil Fulmer if UT is not at least 3-1 coming into this game, but California, Air Force and Marshall are not exactly pushovers before Florida on week four.
C-USA GOTW - SMU at Tulane. Not only will it be a big battle in the West Division, it will mark the first home game for the Green Wave since Louisville came to the Superdome in 2004. Last year, due to Hurricane Katrina, Tulane played all games away from New Orleans and, in a special twist, SMU was one of the schools that boarded the Green Wave football team in 2005.
OBG - Southern Miss at Tulsa. Another Tuesday night nationally televised game for the Golden Eagles and another tough opponent in a C-USA game on the road. If USM can at least split with UCF and Tulsa, they should remain in title hunt. Win both, and Southern Miss becomes favoright to win title.