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Friday, October 27, 2000
Houston, Texas
Volume 66, Issue 49 

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Teams battle for Conference USA supremacy

C-USA Preview

Ed De La Garza

Seven of the nine Conference USA teams will be playing this week, with huge ramifications.

National powerhouse Southern Miss will be helping the UH Cougars celebrate Homecoming on Saturday. The No. 14 Golden Eagles were included in the first Bowl Championship Series ranking and look to continue getting the recognition.

A win for the Cougars would help them reach their first bowl game since making it to the Liberty Bowl in 1997. A win for USM -- a convincing win -- could help them move up the polls.

The only nonconference game features Cincinnati playing Miami (Ohio).

The previews

Alabama-Birmingham (5-2) at East Carolina (5-2) -- The UAB Blazers possess their best record since making the move to Division I-A in 1996, but they're only 1-2 in conference play.

The ECU Pirates hold the best C-USA record at 3-1. They're coming off a 28-25 win over Louisville, a game in which the Pirates picked off four passes. Senior halfback Keith Stokes now has 379 receiving yards after recording only 364 last year. A win for the Pirates would all but assure them of playing in the postseason.

Pick: East Carolina.

Tulane (3-4) at Louisville (5-2) -- Tulane is still smarting after handing the Army Black Knights their first win of the season. The Green Wave had won three consecutive games before being blown out by Southern Miss 56-24 on Oct. 14. At 1-3 in conference play, Tulane is pretty much dead for a bowl game bid.

Louisville will be looking to stay in the hunt for a C-USA championship. A win here would give the Cardinals a 3-1 record as they prepare to play the Golden Eagles on Nov. 4. But the Cardinals shouldn't look too far ahead, lest they get drowned by the Green Wave.

Pick: Louisville.

Southern Miss (5-1) at Houston (3-4) -- Southern Miss is the only C-USA team with an undefeated conference record. It is the mainstay of the league. The Golden Eagles played the Volunteers tough at Tennessee, losing 19-16. They exposed the then-ranked Vols for the pretenders they were.

Houston has shown flashes, but is prone to giving the ball away in crucial situations. The Cougars will have to play error-free if they hope to ground the Golden Eagles. The Cougars pretty much have to win to fulfill their dream of playing in the postseason. But if they stay in the game, they might be able to use Homecoming as enough motivation to win.

Pick: Southern Miss.

Miami (Ohio) at Cincinnati (3-4)

The Bearcats followed a 48-31 win over Houston on Oct. 7 by falling to the Louisville Cardinals 38-24. Quarterback Deontey Kenner may not play after re-aggravating an abdominal strain injury he got playing the Cardinals. He was 6-of-12 for 89 yards and a touchdown before leaving the game in the first half.

Cincinnati needs a win to gain momentum for its Nov. 14 game against the Alabama-Birmingham Blazers.

Prediction: Cincinnati.

Byes

Army -- Army is coming off an emotional 21-17 win over Tulane. Aside from finally winning, the 1-6 Black Knights racked up 392 yards of offense against the Green Wave. They aren't going anywhere, but they have a week off to prepare for longtime rival Air Force on Nov. 4.

Memphis -- The 4-4 Tigers could use the time off after losing a heartbreaker to Houston at the Liberty Bowl. Despite giving up 33 points to the Cougars, the Tigers' defense has still kept the team in some pretty close games. Seven of the last losses have been by a touchdown or less. The Tigers play the disappointing Tennessee Volunteers on Nov. 4.

Next week

Six C-USA teams will lock horns on Nov. 4, with Cincinnati going to Alabama-Birmingham, Houston visiting Tulane and Louisville sacrificing itself at Southern Miss.

The bowl picture will become much clearer as the season winds down. At least four schools will make it, with the possibility of a fifth being invited should the Golden Eagles move up in the BCS poll.
 

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