Friday, August 24, 2001 Volume 66, Issue 3


C-USA shut out of Top 25

Derrick Hinton

The Top 25 Notebook

Even though 13 more reporters thought Miami was a better team, Florida sits atop the first Associated Press poll of the season.

There was definitely no consensus as to who is the best in the land. Five schools received votes for the top spot.

The Big 12 received an amazing three teams in the top five, while the Big 10 has no team in the top 10.

Defending national champion Oklahoma slid from its perch atop the college football landscape all the way down to number three.

Photo courtesy of ECU Sports Media

Conference USA didn't make a dent in the Top 25 in the preseason polls, but the East Carolina Pirates could storm into the rankings when the season gets underway.

Where's Conference USA in all this madness? Four teams can be found in the also-ran section, otherwise known as the "others receiving
votes paragraph."

East Carolina received 65 points. Louisville amassed 53 points and Texas Christian slides in at the bottom with 7 measly points.

Expect that to change as the season goes on. Most experts agree that C-USA has tons of talent; they just aren't sure where it lies.

Obviously some think highly of East Carolina and Louisville, but Southern Miss is always on voters' minds, and just about everyone thinks
Alabama-Birmingham will field one of the best defenses in the nation.

No one knows what to think of C-USA.

Is it composed of solid teams that just seem to beat each other up, or is it a conference that will increasingly assert itself nationally in the
years to come?

Now that there are more than just one or two teams in the conference that have the ability to be considered among the top 25, some
answers will develop during the course of the season.

The conference continues to grow more powerful each year, but has found it difficult to shed its reputation as a lightweight football
conference riding the laurels of great basketball teams.

Adding schools like TCU helps, but it doesn't put muscle in a conference.

A conference grows powerful by hiring coaches who can recruit top-flight talent and can teach the players how to win. C-USA will discover
this when Dana Dimel's Cougars march into the Top Ten in the next few years.

I know, I know; it's a bit premature to shove the Cougars into the penthouse of college football, but Dimel is filling the elevator with
Cougars. It won't be long before he'll close the doors and press the penthouse button. But I digress.

Trouble in Tallahassee?

Florida State might be the most interesting team to watch this season. Many consider the Seminoles vulnerable.

This may be the year they surrender the Atlantic Coast Conference crown, which they've held since joining the conference, to a strong
Georgia Tech squad.

The Seminoles return only 10 starters, having lost leaders Chris Weinke, Marvin Minis and Jamal Reynolds, among others.

Chris Rix, a redshirt freshman, will start at quarterback, and to make matters worse, FSU just lost one of its most athletic players of the year.
Anquan Boldin tore his ACL.

The bright side? Last time they returned fewer starters (nine) in 1993, FSU won the national championship.

Most Overrated Team -- Oklahoma

Yes, Oklahoma returns such superstars as Rocky Calmus and Roy Williams, but Heisman runner-up Josh Heupel is gone and the current
starter at quarterback, Nate Hybl, just isn't the same.

Last year was a perfect season in more ways than one for the Sooners. Everyone played above his talent level and the injury bug left them

To expect the Sooners to go two years in a row without suffering another major injury is foolish. Also, the famed offense that wowed
everyone at the beginning of last season seemed to stall a bit toward the end of the year.

If the Sooners finish in the Top 10, I'll be shocked.

Most Underrated Team -- Nevada-Las Vegas

With only 12 points in the current poll, the Running Rebels don't have many fans in the media. However, don't be surprised if they pop up
in the Top 25 and make a run at Colorado State for the Mountain West crown.

Quarterback Jason Thomas, a dark horse for the Heisman, keys a run-and-gun offense that will be one of the tops in the land.

While they won't be much of a defensive team, Coach John Robinson will find a way to outscore just about everyone they face.

For those of you with satellite dishes, the game against Northwestern on Sept. 7 should be one of the better games of the year.

More than 100 points scored in the game should not shock anyone.

Game of the Week -- Oklahoma vs. North Carolina

For the starved college football fan, the six games on tap this weekend make for slim pickings, but they will do just fine.

It will be interesting to see how Oklahoma's new starting quarterback Nate Hybl holds up against the fierce North Carolina pass rush.

Oklahoma is favored by 22 points, but this game should be much closer than that.

All future Houston Texans fans should watch UNC defensive end Julius Peppers, as he just might be the top pick in the 2002 draft.

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