College Football Notebook: Pirates expected to win in Conference USA

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Associated Press
The college football notebook …
Conference USA coaches don’t bother to scrutinize a preseason poll. Who has time to sort out that mess?
As usual, there’s three or four teams that look as if they have a legitimate shot to win the conference championship this season, and a few more with reasons to dream big.
East Carolina coach Skip Holtz knows it’s not even safe to pick his Pirates to repeat.
“When you look at the last four years we haven’t had a back-to-back conference winner,” Holtz said.
East Carolina and Houston, both teams with talented, experienced quarterbacks, head into the season as the C-USA favorites. The Pirates get Patrick Pinkney back for a sixth year because of injury.
“That’s a nice little Christmas present for us,” Holtz said.
It was Pinkney who led the Pirates to an attention-grabbing start last season. East Carolina jumped into the rankings after consecutive wins over Virginia Tech and West Virginia and a 3-0 start. After faltering midseason, the Pirates rallied and beat Tulsa in the conference title game, finishing 9-5.
Holtz doesn’t see a clear path to return to the championship. Southern Mississippi and Memphis stand in the way in the East.
The road to the national title game has run through the Southeastern Conference recently.
So while perfection would be nice for Tim Tebow and Florida, it’s not necessarily necessary. And the Gators know it.
“Our goal is to win the SEC championship,” Tebow said. “That’s our ultimate goal. We feel like if we’re the champions of the best conference in college football, then we should have the opportunity to play for it all.”
Tebow and the Gators have won national championships two of the last three seasons after losing a game and are the team to beat again in 2009. Two years ago, SEC rival LSU won the BCS title with not one but two defeats.
Even with Tebow back for his senior season ó along with the entire starting defense ó winding up at the top of the treacherous SEC won’t likely be any easier this go around.
While the Gators are the prohibitive favorites to win the national championship, Alabama, LSU and Mississippi ó the last team to beat Florida ó and Georgia will all start the season highly ranked.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. ó Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin is taking precautions with some of his players as the Vols continue through a grueling fall practice schedule.
Coaches held a number of players out of the second session of Monday’s two-a-day practice because of minor injuries. Kiffin says none of the players’ injuries were serious and that most of them would be cleared to play in a game.
COLUMBUS, Ohio ó Ohio State coach Jim Tressel says linebacker Tyler Moeller will miss the season.
The fourth-year junior from Cincinnati injured his head when it hit the floor during a family trip in Florida about two weeks ago. Moeller was released Monday from the school’s medical center.