June 7, 1999
CHICAGO - Louisville has been chosen as the favorite to be Conference USA's football champion in 1999, according to a poll taken by the leagues Sports Information Directors at the conferences annual SID meetings in Tampa, Fla., this past weekend.
The Cardinals received 78 of a possible 81 points, garnering all but three first place votes. Louisville is coming off a 7-5 season in which they were one of the nation's most improved teams and participated in the Motor City Bowl. Athlon's Magazine has the Cards ranked in their preseason top 25 this season as U of L returns nearly all components from the most productive offense in the nation, most notably record-setting quarterback Chris Redman.
Southern Miss, which received the other three first place votes, was selected to place second. The Golden Eagles were 7-5 in 1998 and represented C-USA in the Humanitarian Bowl. Lineman Adalius Thomas, the league's Defensive Player of the Year last season, leads USM's strong defense, as the Golden Eagles look to build on their 15-2 all-time record in conference play.
East Carolina edged out defending champion Tulane for third place. The Pirates are aiming for their fifth winning season in the last six years will look to quarterback David Garrard and linebackers Jeff Kerr and Pernell Griffin to get there. The Green Wave carry a 13-game winning streak and a victory in the AXA/Equitable Liberty Bowl into 1999. Running back Toney Converse and wide receiver JaJuan Dawson look to lead a Tulane offense that re-wrote school records last season.
Houston was picked fifth, followed by Army, Memphis, Cincinnati and newcomer UAB. The Cougars, Cadets and Tigers each feature solid running games. Ketric Sanford leads UH and Gerard Arnold paces UM, while Army looks to defend its NCAA rushing title with a number of talented ball carriers. UC will look to quarterback Deontey Kenner and a several defensive newcomers to get the Bearcats back to its 1997 bowl form, while UAB becomes the ninth football-playing member of Conference USA, completing its transition from a club team to a member of a major Division I-A Conference in just nine years.
The 1999 season will get underway on Saturday, September 4. The conference champion will receive a bid to the AXA/Equitable Liberty Bowl on December 31 in Memphis, Tenn. Other guaranteed bowl slots include the first-year Mobile Alabama Bowl and the Humanitarian Bowl in Boise, Idaho.
Poll Results Pts (first place votes) 1. Louisville 78 (6) 2. Southern Miss 75 (3) 3. East Carolina 60 4. Tulane 50 5. Houston 45 6. Army 38 7. Memphis 23 8. Cincinnati 21 9. UAB 15