Sept. 4, 2012
Ten Conference USA teams will play this Saturday, with the first league matchup on the docket, as well as two games vs. top 15 opponents, two other games vs. BCS AQ schools and one game against a future league member.
Tulane visits Tulsa in the first league game of the 2012 season (11 a.m. CDT on FSN). The Golden Hurricane is 6-1 in Conference USA openers since joining the league in 2005 and has won 12 of its last 13 games overall vs. C-USA opponents, dating back to Oct. 16, 2010. Tulane may benefit from having a "normal" week of preparations after Hurricane Isaac forced the Green Wave to travel to Birmingham and practice at Samford University for four days last week. Ron Thulin and former Tulane QB Shaun King, the 1997 and 1998 C-USA Offensive Player of the Year, will be in the booth, while Desmond Purnell reports from the sidelines.
UCF plays its second straight game in the state of Ohio when the Knights visit No. 14 Ohio State for a Noon EDT kickoff. In his first-collegiate start, UCF sophomore QB Blake Bortles was 13-for-16 for 168 yards and three touchdowns. It was the first time since Nov. 24, 2007 (Kyle Israel vs. UTEP) that a UCF QB had three touchdown passes in a game. Beth Mowins, Joey Galloway and Lewis Johnson will announce the game on ESPN2.
East Carolina will try to move to 2-0 for the second time in the three-year tenure of head coach Ruffin McNeill and for only the third time since 1999 when it visits South Carolina (12:21 p.m. EDT on the SEC Network). When the Pirates allowed only 119 rushing yards to Appalachian State last Saturday, it extended a streak of holding opponents to fewer than 120 ground yards to three-straight contests dating back to the 2011 campaign. That streak will be tested by South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore, who had three TDs against ECU last year and two scores in the Gamecocks season-opening win vs. Vanderbilt. Dave Neal, Andre Ware and Cara Capuano are set to call the action from Columbia, S.C.
Rice is one of six FBS schools that are opening the season with back-to-back non-conference games against schools from BCS AQ leagues. After facing UCLA last week, the Owls visit Kansas this Saturday (2:30 p.m. CDT). Rice senior WR Sam McGuffie is finally healthy after being banged up much of last season and enjoyed a strong opening game, catching eight passes for 63 yards and a touchdown. Rice senior QB Taylor McHargue threw for 172 yards and two touchdowns vs. UCLA and also rushed for 95 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. Joel Meyers, Brian Baldinger and Jim Knox will be in Lawrence to announce for FSN.
Marshall will welcome Western Carolina to town for its home opener on Saturday night (7 p.m. EDT). The Thundering Herd will look to continue the effective passing attack it displayed at West Virginia in the season opener. Sophomore QB Rakeem Cato's 38 completions were the most for a Marshall QB in a regular season game, and his 413 passing yards were the most since Bernard Morris' 417 against New Hampshire in 2007. Those 38 completions were spaced out among 13 receivers. Mike Gleason and Ben Leber will be in the booth and Lesley McCaslin on the sidelines for Fox College Sports.
A week after going neck-and-neck with No. 4 Oklahoma into the fourth quarter, UTEP travels to Mississippi to face the Rebels Saturday night at 6 p.m. CDT. Sophomore RB Nathan Jeffery ran for a career-high 177 yards against the Sooners, the eighth-best rushing performance in the FBS opening week. Bob Rathbun, Tim Couch and Elizabeth Moreau are set to announce the game for FSN.
Future C-USA member Louisiana Tech will open its season at Houston Saturday night at 7 p.m. CDT. The Bulldogs had their season-opener vs. Texas A&M postponed due to Hurricane Isaac and will now open against the Cougars. Houston won last year's meeting, 35-34 in Ruston, La., as the Cougars completed the largest comeback in school history. Houston rallied from a 34-7 deficit, scoring 21 points in the fourth quarter, including the game-winner on a spectacular back-of-the-end zone catch by Patrick Edwards on a pass from Case Keenum. Dave Ryan and Ron Zook will be in the booth for CBS Sports Network, while Evan Washburn reports from the sidelines.
Rounding out Saturday's action will be Memphis traveling to Arkansas State (6 p.m. CDT) and SMU welcoming Stephen F. Austin to Gerald J. Ford Stadium (7 p.m. CDT). The Memphis game will be on ESPN3, while SMU airs on Time Warner Texas.