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Wednesday, August 23, 2000
Houston, Texas
Volume 66, Issue 3 

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Pirates close in on Golden Eagles

C-USA Notebook

Ed De La Garza

When Conference USA was formed, it was assumed that it would be a good basketball conference -- with not much else to offer college fans.

That's pretty much been the case so far. But lately, Southern Miss and East Carolina have given notice that the conference is on the rise. Southern Miss even cracked the Associated Press Top 25 poll.

Also, schools such as Cincinnati, Houston, Louisville and UAB could make the race for the final two bowl spots fun to watch. The fact that the Cougars could end up playing in the postseason is reason enough.

As we get ready to start the season, we'll spend this edition of the C-USA Notebook looking at the individual teams' strengths and weaknesses.

Southern Miss

The Southern Miss Golden Eagles are the odds-on-favorites to run away with the C-USA crown. Ranked No. 23 in the nation, they have been the top dogs in the conference for the past four years. That may start to change this season with ECU breathing down their necks. Junior running back Derrick Nix should have a standout year. Look for the Golden Eagles to stay on top -- barely, going 9-2.

East Carolina

The East Carolina Pirates pose a serious threat to Southern Miss' stranglehold on C-USA. The Pirates went 9-3 last season en-route to a second-place C-USA finish and a spot in the Mobile Alabama Bowl. Junior quarterback David Garrard is always a threat to run, but can be just as effective running. But he did throw 12 picks last season. Nevertheless, it should go down to the wire, with ECU finishing 9-2.

Houston

A new coach and offensive scheme aside, this should be a good year for Cougar football. Most polls are picking UH to finish anywhere from third to sixth. But, given at least one upset and beating teams they should, the Coogs should make it to one of the four C-USA-affiliated bowls, finishing 6-5, possibly 8-3. Beating a non-conference school -- Texas -- would be huge. They could finish 5-2 in conference play.

Cincinnati

With top-notch quarterback Deontey Kenner at the helm, the Bearcats look to make some noise in C-USA this year. It's no secret Cincinnati can score -- witness last season's Cougars/Bearcats Homecoming game. Cincy has a great offensive line that give Kenner plenty of time to run. It went 3-8 last season, but should fall between third and sixth this year, posting at least six wins.

Memphis

The Memphis Tigers went 5-6 in '99, but 4-2 in conference play. They also ended the season by winning four of their last six games. Memphis has a legitimate defense, but its offense is a little shaky. Quarterback Travis Anglin always has the potential of evading the pass rush and running for positive yardage. Many are picking the Tigers to finish fifth, but they probably won't get past the five-win mark.

Louisville

The Louisville Cardinals have a high-powered offense and had C-USA's No. 1 passing defense. Mike Watkins and Dave Ragone will be battling for the starting quarterback spot. The Cardinals could finish as high as third in the conference, with a possible 7-4 record.

UAB

The University of Alabama at Birmingham Blazers ended the season going 4-2 in conference play. It's a solid team that'll wind up in a tight race for the fourth and final C-USA bowl slot. The Blazers should go 6-5.

Tulane

Junior quarterback Patrick Ramsey has a good arm, but he tends to throw a lot of interceptions. He still passed for more than 3,000 yards last season. The Green Wave was 4-8 last year and it could conceivably post five wins this season.

Army

Regardless of the promises made about bringing new life into the Black Knight offense, Army will have a hard time contending with the upper-echelon C-USA schools. The cadets are short on talent and will probably go 3-8.

By the way, in non C-USA news, the college football season begins Saturday when the USC Trojans face the Penn State Nittany Lions at the Meadowlands in New Jersey. Penn State should win in what's essentially a home game.

Finally, be sure to check back every Monday following a Cougar football game as Cougar Sports will offer more coverage of UH football than the Chronicle. It will be replete with interesting photos, sidebars, box scores and yes, NCAA college football scoreboards.
 
 

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