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Choosing CUSA: Week 1 predictions for Conference USA

All eyes will be on Southern Miss and Western Kentucky this week to see if either will be able to repeat last season’s success.

Mississippi State v Southern Miss Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images

Games of the Week

Rice vs Western Kentucky (WKU -17)

Your defending CUSA Champions will start the season against Rice who is looking to bounce back after a disappointing 2015 season. I’m a big fan of having conference games early in the season and this one should give us a good indicator of how the defending champs look.

Western Kentucky named former USF quarterback Mike White the starting quarterback last week and I’m curious to see how the offense looks. White wasn’t a polished passer at USF and the passing attack at WKU has been a staple of their offense. Could we see the rushing attack be featured more this year? Jeff Brohm is one of the best offensive minds in the country and with an offense that still boasts firepower at the skill positions I’m expecting WKU to field one of the best offenses in the country.

David Bailiff is my favorite coach in CUSA as I have always admired the job he has done at Rice. But as Bill Connelly loves to say, hard jobs remain hard, and I just can’t see Rice keeping this game close for more than a quarter.

WKU 45 Rice 21

Indiana vs FIU (FIU +9)

Indiana visits Miami to play FIU in what is the second of a four-game series between the two schools. How Pete Garcia was able to pull this scheduling coup is beyond me.

The Hoosiers have been pretty predictable under Kevin Wilson. Great offense. Bad defense. This year the offense could take a step back as the great Nate Sudfeld has graduated. Former Oklahoma State quarterback Richard Lagow will be making his first career road start.

This is a big year for Ron Turner and with FIU hosting Maryland the following week its imperative the Panthers come away with a split against the B1G schools as I don’t see FIU going to a bowl game without it. I think this is the most winnable game of the two.

FIU played the Hoosiers tough last year and even led the game at halftime before committing a bunch of turnovers and losing the game. I like the Hoosiers close in a really wacky game to start the year.

Indiana 28 FIU 23

Southern Miss vs Kentucky (Southern Miss +6.5)

Storylines abound in this CUSA-SEC matchup of David vs. Goliath. Southern Miss is the favorite to win CUSA West but nobody knows how the team will perform under first year head coach Jay Hopson. Mark Stoops has recruited really well, but the Wildcats have underachieved each year under his watch as he’s yet to take them bowling.

Out of all the candidates for “Game of the Week” this one has the most potential to live up to the billing. Southern Miss has notched many trademark wins over college football’s elite. Nebraska and Alabama come to mind.

Kentucky isn’t a traditional powerhouse on the gridiron but I’m sure Jay Hopson wouldn’t mind endearing himself to the Southern Miss faithful with his first win as their head coach over an SEC opponent.

Southern Miss’ defense must contain Stanley “Boom” Williams. He’s Kentucky’s most explosive player by far. On offense they must establish the run as Kentucky’s weakest unit appears to be their front seven.

This one is going to go straight to the wire. Southern has the better quarterback and honestly, the better team. I see Ito Smith having a big day as the Hopson era starts off with an upset over Kentucky.

Southern Miss 30 Kentucky 27

The rest of CUSA...

Charlotte vs. Louisville

The 49ers have no chance. Louisville wins big as the hype train for Lamar Jackson’s breakout season gets started in a major way.

Louisville 45 Charlotte 3

Louisiana Tech vs Arkansas

Too many question marks at the start of the season for me to think the Bulldogs can pull the upset here. Bert tries to make a statement Arkansas’ slow starts to the season have come to an end.

Arkansas 31 Louisiana Tech 13

Southern Illinois vs FAU

FAU is going to win. The only thing to watch for is how well the quarterbacks perform. Something tells me that competition isn’t over yet.

FAU 30 Southern Illinois 7

Hampton vs Old Dominion

ODU starts the season with a win and gets ready to redeem last year’s poor performance against App State.

Old Dominion 33 Hampton 7

Alabama A&M vs Middle Tennessee

They shoot horses in Murfreesboro don’t they. Blue Raiders big.

Middle Tennessee 48 Alabama A&M 14

Alabama State vs UTSA

The Frank Wilson era gets started with a win. Pray for UTSA twitter if they don’t.

UTSA 35 Alabama State 10

SMU vs North Texas

Chad Morris was just in Seth Littrell’s shoes last year when he landed in Dallas to revamp the SMU program. A win here would be a great start to the Litt era (sorry) but I don’t see it. SMU wins in a game devoid of defensive stops.

SMU 47 North Texas 21

New Mexico State vs UTEP

Courtesy of Las Cruces Sun-News Sports Editor Jason Grooves, Aaron Jones has rushed for 265 yards and three touchdowns in two games against New Mexico State. Aaron Jones announces that he’s back with a huge game as the Miners win big.

UTEP 34 New Mexico State 17