Lack of Top 25 victories
dooms C-USA to the conference basement
By Tom Carpenter
The Daily Cougar
Conference USA continues to be the Rodney
Dangerfield of Division I football leagues -- the conference just can't
seem to get any respect.
Jennifer Gibbs/The Daily
TCU and UH football players
gather at midfield to talk about the lack of respect shown to Conference
USA teams by the rest of the country.
Louisville, the lone team from the conference
to crack the AP Top 25 this season, lost to an undefeated Big Ten Illinois
team 34-10 and plummeted 18
places in the polls. The Cardinals now
rest at No. 43 in the AP poll while the Fighting Illini ascended to No.
Florida State got hammered 41-9 by an 0-3
North Carolina team and dropped a mere 12 places in the polls, from No.
6 to No. 18. Figure that one out.
Therein lies the problem faced by C-USA
teams week after week, year after year. From 1998 to 2000, C-USA has been
ranked eighth of the 11 Division
This season, with its 11-13 record against
non-conference opponents and a sterling 0-5 mark against Top 25 teams,
the conference finds itself ranked No.
8 among Division I-A conferences again.
Unfortunately this season the conference's
current power rating of 65.09 is the worst the league has suffered during
the past four years.
"The coaches in the league understand what
we have to do to gain national recognition," said Louisville coach John
L. Smith. "We have to step outside
the league and win. Not only that but
win our bowl games as well."
There's an old saying that goes: "It's
tough to soar with the eagles when you're surrounded by turkeys."
That doesn't mean that Conference USA gobbles
and gets served up as a tasty treat during the holiday season, although
so far this year the league's
teams have played like a tasty morsel
accompanied by a side dish of cranberry sauce.
The addition of Texas Christian to C-USA
was supposed to enhance the stature of the conference. So what happens?
TCU immediately gets whacked,
not WACed, by a Division I-AA team from
Northwestern State (in Louisiana).
Southern Miss alone carries the C-USA banner
high in its quest to bring respectability to an underdog league. The 2-0
Golden Eagles have surrendered
an average of 26 yards per game rushing
so far this season, the best in the country among Division I-A schools.
The Golden Eagles clawed their way to a
No. 35 ranking this season, where they cling to the AP poll. Their lofty
aerie allowed them to witness the
Louisville free-fall Monday when the latest
AP poll came out.
The Southern Miss game against Alabama
that was postponed on Sept. 15 has been rescheduled for Nov. 29. But even
a game against the storied
program of Alabama won't bring much respect
to the conference since the Ebb Tide is ranked No. 45, one spot above No.
46 C-USA powerhouse
A quick look through the rankings finds
a few C-USA players scattered in the Top 25 of their respective positions,
but none lead the pack.
Louisville's junior quarterback David Ragone
ranks 16th in passing efficiency on 75-127 with 4 interceptions, 7 touchdowns
and a 148.1 efficiency rating.
East Carolina running back Leonard Henry's
373 net yards and 124.33 average per game and Tulane's Mewelde Mobre's
120.5 yards per game ranks
them No.'s 14th and 18th respectively
in rushing yardage.
The conference draws a blank in Top 20
scorers and it's a real surprise not to find a C-USA field goal kicker
in the Top 25 -- especially after the season
that All-American and 2000 Lou Groza Award
winner Jonathan Ruffin had for Cincinnati last season.
The junior from Metairie, La., scored 104
points for the Bearcats, and his 26 field goals were the sixth-highest
single-season total in NCAA history, three
field goals short of the NCAA record.
The Cougars finished 7-4 in 1999 and were
snubbed for a post-season game because they were from C-USA.
Until the conference scores some victories
against ranked teams and wins a few bowl games, C-USA will continue to
be the conference that gets no