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            Bailey's Take on C-USA

From the Anchor Desk
Friday, September 28, 2001

By Brian Bailey
Sports Anchor of WNCT-TV 9


Conference USA Struggling,
But Good News on the Horizon


On the field, Conference USA's difficulties continue. Southern Miss is the lone unbeaten in the league. East Carolina struggles with a Division I-AA opponent, while TCU loses to one.

Then the league's lone ranked team, No. 25 Louisville, travels to Illinois and gets blasted by the Fighting Illini.

The good news, though, comes off the field. The Tampa Tribune reported this week that South Florida might enter the league in football a year early, in 2002. Marshall is expected to be invited in, paving the way for ABC to broadcast a C-USA title game.

The league’s athletic directors will meet during the first week of October. A meeting of the conference’s school presidents will follow that. If everything goes as planned, C-USA will get the title game the league dearly covets.

With national exposure comes better bowl opportunities. Conference USA has done a great job in securing bowl opportunities, but in the present bowl pecking order, it is more rewarding to finish third in the Big East or in the ACC than it is to finish first in C-USA.

Three league games dot the schedule this week as UAB travels to Southern Miss, Louisville hosts Memphis and TCU visits Lone Star State rival Houston.

Outside the conference, Tulane entertains Southern in the inaugural Big Easy Classic while ECU and Army have opportunities to win some prestige for the league against a pair of Big East opponents.  The Pirates sail to Syracuse and the Cadets march to Boston College.

Cincinnati, which lost on the road last Saturday to bitter in-state rival Miami (OH) of the MAC, has a bye-week.

UAB at Southern Mississippi

This match-up at The Rock will go a long way in determining the Conference USA champion and the team that heads to Memphis for the Liberty Bowl.

Pirate fans have to root for ECU’s nemesis in this one. With the Pirates not playing UAB this season, East Carolina needs a Golden Eagle win so the Pirates can control their own destiny.

The Blazers took two of the league’s weekly honors this week. Senior QB Jeff Aaron completed 17 of 23 passes for 187 yards and a pair of first-quarter touchdowns and was named C-USA offensive player of the week. Kicker Rhett Gallego kicked seven extra points and two field goals and was named C-USA special teams player of the week.

UAB hasn't allowed a TD in eight quarters at Legion Field this season. The only previous meeting with Southern Miss ended when the Golden Eagles won a double-overtime game at Legion Field.

Memphis at Louisville

These teams had played 14 consecutive years before not playing last season.

The Cardinals need a better showing from quarterback Dave Ragone this week.  The junior quarterback recorded his second 300-yard game of the season, but also threw three interceptions against the Illini. The Cardinals running game came up with just 29 yards on 25 carries.

Louisville has won 10 of its past 12 games against Memphis.  Each of the past four meetings has been decided by three points or less. A Louisville touchdown pass from Chris Redman to Lavell Boyd decided their last meeting, in 1999, with 16 seconds remaining.

The Tigers are coming off their second straight win, a 17-9 win over future C-USA rival South Florida on Saturday.  Travis Anglin leads C-USA in pass efficiency. He has completed 30-of-41 passes for 295 yards and 4 TDs and has not been intercepted. His rating is 165.8, nearly 20 percentage points higher than Louisville's Dave Ragone.

Texas Christian at Houston

The Cougars will be playing their third straight game against a former Southwest Conference foe when first-year conference member TCU visits on Saturday.  The former SWC rivals met every year from 1976 to '95, but this is their first meeting since the SWC disbanded after the 1995 season.

Both teams are coming off of losses. The Cougars played 5th ranked Texas tough for a while, before being blown out 53-26. TCU was upset by Division IAA member Northwestern State of Louisiana. That loss snapped TCU’s 11 game winning streak at home.

East Carolina at Syracuse

I-AA power William & Mary was able to hang tough for a half last week before quarterback David Garrard shifted the Pirate attack into a higher gear in the third quarter to break the game open.

ECU will be the underdog Saturday in the always-hostile Carrier Dame.  Syracuse has won two in a row, including its thorough domination of Auburn a week ago.

The Orangemen will go to their power running game early and often in an attempt to exploit the Pirates' suspect rush defense.  ECU Defensive Coordinator Tim Rose's unit will try to plug up the middle in what is expected to be a very physical game.

The Pirates' high-octane offense will counter-attack with a balanced scheme designed to set up opportunities for what Head Coach Steve Logan calls "explosion plays".

Army at Boston College

The Black Knights really struggled last week in that 55-3 loss to UAB. Six turnovers were the difference in the game. Army is a big underdog again this week. Last year’s game between these two was close until the second half, when the Eagles ran away with a 55-17 victory in Todd Berry’s debut as the Army coach.

Southern at Tulane

For the Green Wave, it’s the start of a brand new, in-state rivalry with Southern University from Baton Rouge. It’s the debut of the Big Easy Classic at the Superdome. Things aren’t getting any better for the Wave on defense. In four games, Tulane has given up 169 points. They are giving up 572.2 yards per game, including 293 per game on the ground.

Brian Bailey's C-USA Power Rankings [092801]

1.     Southern Miss.… Golden Eagles face huge test against UAB.
2. UAB…. Early battle for first has Pirate Fans pulling for USM.
3. East Carolina… Pirates rise to the top with a win at Syracuse.
4. Louisville…Loss to Illinois really hurts national ranking.
5.     Memphis…Tigers look better with Tommy West at helm.
6.     Cincinnati….Another blow to Conference USA, Bearcats fall to Miami of Ohio.
7. TCU… Here’s hoping the Frogs were better then they looked last week.
8.     Houston…Played Texas tough for a while.
9. Army… Cadets still have bigger things to think about.
10. Tulane… Given up 169 points in four games, that’s an average of 42 per contest!

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02/23/2007 01:19:34 AM

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