The Owls remain 271/2-point underdogs, and they have their issues on defense. Their top two players on that side will miss the game: linebacker Cameron Nwosu and cornerback Phillip Gaines (suspended). Gaines was named C-USA's preseason player of the year by league coaches.
The Aggies reportedly will start either junior Matt Joeckel or true freshman Kenny Hill.
Rice's game against seventh-ranked Texas A&M is the first of 21 games pitting C-USA teams against a "Power Five" conference member.
Every team plays at least one such foe, with East Carolina taking on three - Virginia Tech, North Carolina and North Carolina State. The Pirates are in long-term contracts with big-name foes in their region.
Even future C-USA teams Old Dominion and Western Kentucky have "Power Five" foes: ODU plays Maryland and WKU plays Kentucky today in Nashville, then at Tennessee.
bod:Middle Tennessee began its C-USA existence Thursday night by beating Western Carolina 45-24. One setback for the Blue Raiders: Quarterback Logan Kilgore left the game with a shoulder injury after going 12 of 18 for 144 yards with a touchdown.
The injury is to the AC joint, and he is questionable for the Raiders' game next week at North Carolina. Kilgore's backup is Austin Grammer.
Also Thursday, Tulane used six turnovers and two Orleans Darka rushing TDs to defeat Jackson State 34-7.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5140, dougsm...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.