Chris: Which game will involve the mass destruction of a team: MTSU-Alabama, FAU-Florida or USM-Mississippi St.?
Jared: Bama is Bama, man. UTSA's season opener in Tucson could get ugly and Baylor may very well put up 900 points on Rice but the talent gap is widest between MTSU and Saban's band of cyborgs. Don't take that as a slight Blue Raider fans, Alabama just doesn't have a history of playing down to mid major competition.
Steven: The only thing stopping me from picking Alabama over MTSU is the fact that the Blue Raiders should at least have a pulse for the first half of this game. USM welcomes Mississippi State in a "rivalry" game that should be one-sided from the very beginning. MSU should prove too fast and too physical for a Golden Eagle squad still looking to get their feet under them.
Chris: Are there any potential Power 5 upsets that could occur?
Jared: It's easy to call P5 upsets like WKU over Indiana or MTSU over Vanderbilt but Vegas might actually favor the CUSA teams in those contests. UTEP over Texas Tech is one big upset that I could see coming to fruition. The Miners will seek to keep the ball on the ground and chew up clock while Tech will dispatch their high-tempo air attack. In a clash of play styles, a few untimely turnovers for Tech could cause them to go ten minutes without a possession.
Steven: I will resist my heart’s gentle whispers and not put FAU over Florida here, but if that happens, you heard it here first. Realistically, I’m going with Rice over Texas. Charlie Strong’s group is still trying to figure themselves out, while Rice knows exactly what type of team they are. An early season matchup, sandwiched between two cupcakes for Rice, should provide enough peace of mind for an experienced Owl squad to pull off the upset.
Chris: Which conference newcomer is going to steal the show this season?
Jared: Charlotte is the only new team in CUSA this season but I would be shocked if they showed themselves to be a true competitor this season as they dropped games to Elon Phoenix, Charleston Southern and Gardner-Webb, among others last year.
Steven: Yeah, that's true, Charlotte is technically the only true "newcomer" this year, but in a conference ravaged by realignment, nearly everyone is just showing up to the party. Western Kentucky, on the other hand, is going into their second year of C-USA play and may run away with the whole thing. A super-duper-senior QB in Brandon Doughty and a splendid offense that stares the record book in the face every Saturday, WKU is a serious contender to take Marshall’s place atop the conference.
Chris: So who is this season's sad sack (A.K.A. the worst team)?
Jared: FIU and UNT are probably safe bets to finish in the bottom third of the conference. UNT could break through if JUCO transfer DaMarcus Smith approaches his potential but missing spring camp deprives him of an important opportunity to learn the offense. FIU's defense should still be relatively stout and they've got some young play-makers returning on offense but I still see the squad as a few years away from matching the heavy hitters in the East.
Steven: The only C-USA team I see taking a true step back this season is Marshall, but even with their few questions, they should still be alright. With that said, Charlotte may be jumping the gun on this whole FBS idea. ODU ran with an FCS-caliber defense last season and experienced some true growing pains, although their offense kept them alive in most games. Charlotte probably won’t provide as prolific an offensive attack as the Monarchs, but in the few games they have played, they just don’t strike me as a team that can surprise anyone in the conference.