New C-USA wonders if Pirates will exit on top

August 30, 2013 

Welcome FAU. And FIU. And Middle Tennessee. And North Texas. And Texas-San Antonio. And ... Skip Holtz at Louisiana Tech? We remember you ... dominating at ECU. Welcome back.

The league has added six teams since our last chat in November, replacing four (Houston, Memphis, SMU and Central Florida) that bolted to American Athletic Conference, or the old Big East. More change is coming, of course. ECU, Tulane and Tulsa will join the AAC next year.

But that can wait. The Pirates are trying to end their C-USA tenure with a conference title. They are loaded on offense, with three of the league’s top playmakers, and were picked to win their division. They start the journey Saturday against Old Dominion, which will join the C-USA next year.

Tulsa won the conference title last season, edging UCF in overtime, and is picked to repeat the feat in its farewell season.

Tulsa and ECU didn’t meet last season, but they will this season. Their Nov. 9 showdown in Dowdy-Ficklen is the league’s showcase game. Again, we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Last season, C-USA teams got knocked around quite a bit by bigger schools.

Saturday could bring more of the same.

Rice travels to Texas A&M, where it is expected to face reigning Heisman winner/prolific autograph signer Johnny Manziel.

FIU, in its C-USA debut, faces Maryland – a day after newcomer FAU played South Florida neighbor Miami on Friday night.

And of course Holtz will lead his new team back to an old, familiar stadium when La. Tech visits N.C. State.

Chris Wright

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