Friday, November 10, 2000 Volume 66, Issue 59



Bowl-bound teams battle for positioning

C-USA Preview

Abdul Michael Conteh

Heading into the last two games of the regular season, most of the conference is fighting for the four automatic berths and trying to get six wins to at least be bowl eligible.

Louisville is the current reigning king in Conference USA after dethroning Southern Miss last week.

The conference has only one team in the top 25 and Southern Miss is holding on to that spot for dear life. Memphis almost made its season but fell short to intrastate rival Tennessee, but its bowl chances are barely alive.

Unlike other conferences, C-USA always has an upset or two that keeps all of them out of the top 25 picture. None of the teams are juggernauts, but not having too many slouches in the conference can hurt from time to time.

The previews

Southern Miss at Alabama-Birmingham -- Both the Blazers and the Golden Eagles are coming off losses and are trying to place themselves in a position to get the best bowl game possible. The Golden Eagles are devastated after their 49-28 loss to Louisville, which took away their outside chance at a Bowl Championship Series bowl game, and maybe the C-USA championship.

Quarterback Jeff Kelly had a miserable game against the Cardinals, throwing four interceptions. He was repeatedly hurried into making bad decisions. Southern Miss must shake off the loss because one more mistake and it will be the end of the Golden Eagles' championship hopes. The Alabama-Birmingham Blazers are also recovering from a loss to the Cincinnati Bearcats, 33-21.

The Blazers' game plan is to try to rattle the Golden Eagles early with either a score off defensive dominated series. They'll have to force Southern Miss to lose some self-confidence.

The key matchup will be the hobbled Southern Miss offensive line against the Blazers' tough front seven, who are still giving up only 91.8 running yards per game. Either Southern Miss will take last week's frustration out on UAB or the Golden Eagles will lay a huge duck on the road.

Army at Louisville -- The Cardinals are on a high after knocking of Southern Miss but must not look past this week's game against Army. Army is 1-7, but the Black Knights did beat Louisville last year, -52 in a double overtime shoot-out at West Point.

Cardinal quarterback Dave Ragone has been extremely effective and ranks No. 12 in the nation in quarterback passing efficiency.

Army's main focus is to keep scoring and hope to get into another shoot-out like last year's contest. That duty falls mainly on running back Michael Wallace, who leads C-USA with 916 yards this season, good for an average of 114 yards per game. If Army's ground game is non-existent, expect a blowout.

Cincinnati at Memphis -- The Bearcats need a crucial victory on the road against the Memphis Tigers. The Bearcats need one more victory to be bowl eligible. With only Southern Miss remaining on the schedule, this should be treated as a must-win game.

Cincinnati hasn't won a road game all season and the Tiger defense is as tough as it gets. Quarterback Deontey Kenner threw for 352 yards in a victory over Alabama-Birmingham. The Bearcats must keep a balanced running and passing attack to keep the Memphis defense at bay. The Memphis Tigers lost a close 19-17 game to the Tennessee Volunteers. To be bowl eligible, they must win their final two games of the season.

Memphis has beaten Cincinnati for two consecutive years and won the last five meetings in the Liberty Bowl. Memphis' main goal is to keep the score low so the offense has a chance to put some points on the board.

Navy at Tulane -- The Green Wave kept its bowl eligibility alive after a 41-23 win over the Cougars. Tulane will now play 0-8 Navy. Tulane must beware of the triple option and make sure the defense stays disciplined enough to stick to its run-stuffing lanes.

Quarterback Patrick Ramsey is a gunslinger and should keep trying to test Navy deep where the secondary is a little suspect. A loss here and Tulane can kiss any chance at any bowl game good bye.

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