Most important game: Houston Cougars

We kicked off our series on Friday with Cincinnati. We continue today, in alphabetical order, with conference newcomer Houston.


Most important game: Oct. 26 at Rutgers

Why: There are a number of possible choices for the Cougars as they enter their first year in the Big East. Their Nov. 9 contest at UCF and their regular-season finale against SMU certainly jump out. So, too, do their Nov. 16 and Nov. 23 games at Louisville and against Cincinnati, respectively, as both teams are among the conference's recent heavyweights.

But Houston is a new team in a new league, joined by UCF and SMU from Conference-USA. So I decided to cross those two -- plus Memphis, obviously -- off the list, since beating either wouldn't prove as much to the conference's six returning members. The Cardinals and the Bearcats are the likely top-two favorites entering the 2013 season, and I don't want to make that jump just yet for a team coming off a 5-7 season and stepping up a league in play, so I crossed those two games out, too.

But you guys did vote Houston -- just barely -- as the darkhorse team with the best chance of challenging for the league title, so I don't want to diminish expectations just yet, either.

All of this brings us to the seventh game of the year, at High Point Solutions Stadium in Piscataway, N.J. The tilt will be Houston's third conference game of the season, and easily its most challenging after facing Temple and Memphis earlier. Rutgers, one of four teams to share the conference crown in 2012, is relatively unknown entering this fall, as it recently had five players drafted from a defense that finished fourth nationally in scoring D (14.15 points per game) and 10th overall in total D (311.62 yards per game).

Houston, meanwhile, has a chance to boast the most explosive receiving duo in the conference in Deontay Greenberry and former USC and Arizona Western player Markeith Ambles. The mid-season game against the Scarlet Knights provides the perfect opportunity for the Cougars to prove that they will be a force to be reckoned with in their first year in the Big East. If they truly are a darkhorse threat to win the conference title in 2013, they will announce it to the rest of their peers with a win at Rutgers.