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No place like home

With the first game just a day away, the Bulls are looking to extend a very underappreciated streak.

USF is 9-0 in home openers and looks to increase it to a perfect 10 against McNeese State on Saturday.

The Cowboys are the Bulls’ only Division I-AA opponent on the schedule in this season, and USF is 16-0 against Division I-AA teams since 2000.

And even though coach Jim Leavitt has been light on dialogue this week, he did mention one team still on his mind when thinking of McNeese State.

“They beat Georgia Southern last year. We never beat Georgia Southern,” Leavitt said.

The Bulls had a home-and-home series with the Eagles in 1997-98, with Georgia Southern winning 24-23 and 28-23, respectively. McNeese State beat the Eagles 23-20 in 2005.

That six-point differential may just be the reason Leavitt is taking the Cowboys so seriously, treating them as if they were West Virginia. McNeese State went 5-4 last season after three games were canceled because of Hurricane Rita, but Leavitt said at Tuesday’s brief press conference, “They’re ranked as one of the best teams in I-AA. They’ve got a great tradition. They have their entire team back.”

McNeese State returns 15 starters on offense and defense, and Leavitt does not expect the Cowboys to be a pushover.

“They do everything good,” Leavitt said. “They’re good – very good.”

Leavitt announced captains after Thursday’s practice. They will be quarterback Pat Julmiste, linebackers Stephen Nicholas and Ben Moffitt, and right tackle Marc Dile.

While Leavitt has not indicated whether he will start Julmiste or redshirt freshman Matt Grothe, it’s probably a small tell that Julmiste will get the start. Leavitt said during fall drills that Julmiste would start if both he and Grothe were even come Saturday.

Julmiste or Grothe, as well as redshirt running back Moise Plancher, who earned the starting position with a little help due to the suspension of sophomore Ricky Ponton, will face a Cowboy defense that returns 10 starters.

Offensively, McNeese State is led by sophomore quarterback Mark Fontenot. His main target should be Quinten Lawrence, a junior receiver who had 575 receiving yards and six touchdowns.

In other news: Seven USF games will broadcast on XM Satellite radio, including the game with McNeese State. The other six will be Kansas (Sept. 23), Rutgers (Sept. 29), Connecticut (Oct. 7), Pittsburgh (Nov. 4), Louisville (Nov. 18) and West Virginia (Nov. 25).