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Bailey's Take on Conference USA

From the Anchor Desk
Friday, August 24, 2001

By Brian Bailey

Louisville Less than Stellar in Debut


The Conference USA season is on and Louisville did enough to win its opener against New Mexico State.

The Aggies dished out gifts like it was Christmas Eve in falling 45-24.

The Cardinals opened the game with two touchdowns, but then New Mexico State went to work. In fact, the Aggies led the Cards 24-23 at halftime.

New Mexico State was driving to extend that lead in the third quarter when Kenton Keith fumbled on the Louisville 19 yard line. Michael Brown scooped up the first present and the Cardinals never looked back.

Later in the fourth quarter, Devon Thomas gathered in an Aggie fumble for another touchdown.

The final score looked like a blowout, but the game really should have been much closer.

The league’s preseason offensive player of the year, Dave Ragone, had a great night, finishing 18-31 for 272 yards and three touchdowns.

Bottom line: Conference USA opens the season, as expected, with a victory. Louisville was a 20 ½ point favorite in the game, and won by 21.

League Gets Double Dose of TV Exposure on Saturday

There are two games involving conference teams scheduled for this weekend, both on the road against high profile opponents.

Tulane is set to take on Brigham Young on ESPN2 on Saturday in the BCA Classic. The last time these two teams hooked up was in the Liberty Bowl in 1998, when the Green Wave beat the Cougars 41-27.

That was the debut game for Tulane head coach Chris Scelfo, who assumed the reigns when Tommy Bowden departed for Clemson after the Wave’s 11-0 regular season.

This year, the Green Wave was picked near the bottom of the C-USA standings in the league's preseason poll. The Wave is a 10-point underdog against BYU.

Speaking of underdogs, Texas Christian will have that role in the Pigskin Classic before an ABC-TV audience against Nebraska. This will be the first meeting in 25 years between the Horned Frogs and the Cornhuskers.

The last time TCU faced a Top 5 opponent was in 1997, when then 5th-ranked North Carolina ripped the Frogs 31-10.

This game also marks the regular season coaching debut of former Dennis Franchione assistant Gary Patterson. Patterson’s first outing as head coach came in last December's Mobile Alabama Bowl loss to Southern Miss.

Nebraska is loaded in 2001, and a 30-point pick over TCU in this Pigskin Classic.

While both Conference USA teams are underdogs, these are the types of games that the league has to start winning.

Much was made over North Carolina State Coach Chuck Amato’s comments about “an equal playing field” this summer. That topic was about non-qualifiers.

What would truly be “an equal playing field” is a national championship structure where Conference USA would have the same chance as the ACC or the Big East in the Bowl Championship Series.

Conference USA needs nationally ranked teams. Only a handful of the polls include even one league team.

The league needs a couple of big wins early in 2001!

Bailey's Conference USA Power Rankings

1. Louisville... Cards weren’t great, but did win big, at least on the scoreboard.
2. East Carolina... Pirates move up next week with a big win over Wake Forest
3. Southern Miss... Always the team to beat in Conference USA for my money.
4. UAB... We wish the Blazers much luck in 2001, but we’re glad they aren’t on the ECU schedule.
5. TCU... Horned Frogs may need a Ladanian Tomlinson clone to compete.
6. Cincinnati... If Bearcats take the ball away like they did last year, they move up quickly in ratings.
7. Memphis... May have the coach in place with Tommy West.
8. Army... Hoping our good friend Todd Berry can turn things around.
9. Tulane... Rooting hard for the Green Wave against BYU.
10. Houston... Wishing that the Cougars were on the ECU schedule in 2001.

Send an e-mail message to Brian Bailey.

02/23/2007 01:19:24 AM

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