Conference USA was one of the better non-BCS conferences this season, and two of the best teams square off Saturday for the title as Rice hosts Marshall. That's right, hosts -- the game isn't played on a neutral site, and because the teams didn't play each other in the regular season, computer rankings were expanded to pick a host team, with Rice winning out (despite Marshall's appearance on more poll ballots).
COMPUTER RANKINGS (Based on 125 teams, highest & lowest dropped)
% of 500 pts
points based on 125
points based on 125
Rankings and records: Neither team is ranked. Both teams went 9-3 in the regular season, with 7-1 conference records, finishing on top of their respective divisions (both a game ahead of a two-way tie for second place). Marshall holds a 3-1 lead in the all-time series, and has won the last two games between the two programs.
Vegas: Marshall is a 6-point favorite. OddsShark has more.
Weather: Mid 30s with a "light wintry mix" expected.
Three names to know
Rakeem Cato. The junior quarterback put up some gaudy statistics early on in the season, and finished the year out with 34 touchdowns against only eight interceptions (while running for six more scores).
Essray Taliaferro. It would be a mistake to assume the Thundering Herd's offense is one dimensional -- they rank 21st in the nation in both passing and rushing offense. Taliaferro is a 1,000-yard rusher and scored nine touchdownts this season.
Bryce Callahan. The junior cornerback will be tasked with stopping Cato and the Marshall attack -- he had eight passes broken up and three interceptions in the regular season.
Two things at stake
The winner heads to the Liberty Bowl to face an SEC squad.
One of the Conference USA bowls the loser could fall to? The Hawaii Bowl. Consolation prize may not be so bad in this case.
How to witness
TV: 12 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
Radio: For Rice, try 1560 AM or 1430 AM in Houston. Here's a list of affiliates for Marshall.
Check out Bill C's season previews for the two schools -- you can find Marshall's here and Rice's here. The Owls also played a 4'9, 135 pound running back earlier in the year, and you can see video of his first collegiate carry here.