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Ranking Every Conference USA 2018 Season Opener

Which C-USA team has the most entertaining game to begin the season?

NCAA Football: Florida International at Florida Atlantic Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

For fans of G5 teams, the first game of the year is often like that first roadside restaurant you see on a road trip after not seeing civilization for several hours. It’s probably not exactly what you want, but you’re just happy to eat and you can’t wait any longer. G5 teams usually either get pay day game against a P5 team or an FCS game schedule to pad the schedule out.

That appears to be the case for Conference USA in week one of the season, but there’s still some entertaining games on the docket. So we went ahead and ranked them based on entertainment value, intrigue, and implications for the rest of the season.

1. Oklahoma vs FAU

Nothing would add to the growing legend of Lane Kiffin like a win over high profile P5 on national television. The Sooners are favored by three scores, but Devin Singletary and the Owls return a massive amount of talent from their championship squad a year ago. It stands to reason they won’t go quietly.

2. FIU vs Indiana

FIU are coming off arguably the best year in program history and facing an opponent they were supposed to face last year, but didn’t due to a hurricane. Butch Davis has a lot of talent on this Panther team, and while Indiana is favored by 11, pulling this game out would be huge for the program and their season. The only time FIU has beaten a team currently in the P5 was Louisville (then in the Big East) in 2011.

3. North Texas vs SMU

Two high-power offenses face off in Denton after SMU won their last meeting 54-32 last September. North Texas is favored by just four, so we’re probably in for a close game between these two Texas G5s.

4. Vanderbilt vs Middle Tennessee

Middle has a tough non-conference schedule this year with Vandy, UT-Martin, Georgia, and Kentucky. Except for UT-Martin, the Vandy game is the most winnable and the commodores are favored by just 4.5. This would be a great start to Brent Stockstill’s final year if they can pull it off on the SEC Network.

5. Arizona State vs UTSA

ASU may be favored by three scores, but UTSA got their first taste of a P5 victory last season and the program’s on an upward trajectory. Plus, if you say you’re not intrigued by how Herm Edwards is going to handle the sidelines again, you’re lying.

6. UTEP vs Northern Arizona

UTEP have their work cut out for them against an FCS squad that’s fine, but not exactly North Dakota State. If Dana Dimel wants to turn UTEP football around, he can’t let this year start with another loss.

7. Miami (OH) vs Marshall

The Redhawks are favored in this one by just 2.5, but Marshall returns some key players from their team that went 8-5 last year and are predicted by some to win the league this year. Could be an exciting game, but ultimately probably won’t mean that much in terms of either team’s ultimate goals for the year.

8. Liberty vs Old Dominion

The first game between these two Virginia schools as FBS squads (and Liberty’s first game as an FBS team ever) could be the beginning of a nice rivalry. Both teams are relatively evenly matched, so the game should provide some excitement, provided Stevie Williams has progressed over the offseason.

9. South Alabama vs Louisiana Tech

Tech, on paper, should be coming out of Mobile with the victory here. But there’s always kinks to work out week one and South Alabama will be looking for revenge in their second meeting after a 34-16 loss to the Techsters last year.

10. Charlotte vs Fordham

Brad Lambert has the hottest seat in the conference right now and can’t afford to lose a home opener against an FCS team (again) if he has a hope of putting together a job-saving season.

11. Rice vs Prairie View A&M

The Owls have a good shot to start the year off in the win column against an FCS squad they beat 65-44 in 2016. Mike Bloomgren’s inaugural game on August 15th should be a decent first test, but no excuse why they shouldn’t win by a few scores, giving them their first win in almost a calendar year.

12. Wisconsin vs Western Kentucky

WKU is still figuring out a lot of their roster, and they won’t even have the guy many consider their top quarterback (Steven Duncan) against one of the better P5 teams on the road due to a suspension. Wisconsin may just cover that 34.5 point spread.

13. UAB vs Savannah State

The Blazers begin the follow up to their exciting resurrection season with a home game against a bad FCS team. UAB will probably run away with this one.

14. Southern Miss vs Jackson State

While Southern Miss is still figuring a few things out in terms of position battles, Jackson State football is in rough shape. USM has this one in the bag.