A look at Conference USA action Week 1

PonyStampede will take a weekly look at games played by Conference USA teams. A weekly prediction of who will win what game, and a weekly total of how our experts picked the previous week's game. Go inside to get our thoughts on this weeks matchups.

Conference USA may not get the credit it deserves on a national level, especially if you take a look at the talented coaches that have been assembled by league schools.

This week Conference USA gets an opportunity in week 1 to prove they can play with the big boys. Several non conference battles will be on tap this weekend, with two key conference match-ups, once scheduled for national television Friday night when SMU travels to Rice. The other pits Tulsa on the road against UAB.

UTEP at Buffalo

Mike Price enters his fifth season as head coach of the Miners in hopes this season will be a break out season for his team. The Miners get the opportunity to play on national television on Thursday night on ESPN. A win over Buffalo will be key for Price and his coaches. Buffalo is an improved ball club and this could become a shootout for the first game of the 2008 season.

My prediction Buffalo 48-45 over UTEP

SMU at Rice

The June Jones era officially begins Friday night before a national televised audience. Jones resurrected a winless Hawaii team during his first year on the Island. Can he do the same thing for the SMU program? Jones will start a true freshman at quarterback; all will depend on his performance the performance of a defensive unit that is expected to be a lot better than last year. Rice has a talented team, returns a lot of starters from a 3-9 debacle season, the main question concerning Rice is can the Owls defense stop Jones how power offense.

My prediction SMU 38-31 over Rice

Virginia Tech at East Carolina The conference could pick a huge amount of respect with an upset here. While East Carolina has definitely improved each year under Skip Holtz, can the improvement continue against an always solid Hokie team? While this may be a good game, it's hard to go against a Frank Beamer team.

My prediction VT 21-17 over East Carolina

Southern at Houston

Every new coach deserves a warm up game. Tell that to SMU's new coach June Jones, who has to open conference play as his debut. Houston's Kevin Sumlin got a little better draw for his first game as the new Cougar's head man. Sumlin's Cougars get to open up with IAA Southern. It should at least be a good half time show by the bands.

My prediction Houston 56-21 over Southern

Illinois State at Marshall

The Thundering Herd will be doing a lot of Thundering against another IAA team. Marshall need a few easy wins this fall, they won't get easy once conference play opens.

My prediction Marshall 35-14 over Illinois State

Memphis at Ole Miss

Always a great season opener for both teams, now Ole Miss has a new head coach in Houston Nutt. Memphis Tommy West could never find a way to beat former Rebel coach Ed Orgeron, he won't have any better luck with a veteran Coach Nutt. Look for this to be a break out game for the Rebels in Oxford.

My prediction Ole Miss 45-14 against Memphis

Louisiana Lafayette at Southern Miss

Look for Larry Fedora's debut at the head Golden Eagle to be a great one. A new high power offense will score a lot of points against the Rajun Cajuns.

My prediction Southern Miss 45-24 over ULL

Tulsa at UAB

How good is Tulsa going to be and how improved is UAB. Neil Calloway and Kim Helton both coaches at UAB know how to win in Conference USA. Todd Graham at Tulsa has experience winning games in the conference with two different teams. While I think UAB will be much improved, it will be a tough way for the Blazers to open the season.

My prediction Tulsa 45-31 over UAB

South Carolina State at UCF

Talk about a blowout game. UCF, one of the most talented teams in the conference, get an easy opener against an undermanned SC State team. The 1AA team better gotten a big pay check for the game, because that will be the only victory they will receive Saturday.

My prediction UCF 56-14 over South Carolina State

Tulane has a bye for week 1.

Publisher note: This will be a weekly feature from PonyStampede.com with a running total of how many picks I get right each week. These predictions are those of PonyStampede.com and not those of Scout.com.

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