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Scribes anoint Knights, Cougs as favorites

From staff and electronic reports
All rights reserved.

Sports journalists from around Conference USA dubbed Central Florida and Houston as the premier teams in their respective divisions in the Tulsa World's 2011 preseason football poll.

The panel of 24 voters, comprised of one sportswriter and one broadcaster representing each of the league's 12 teams,  picked the defending champion Knights to beat out Southern Mississippi and East Carolina in the East Division race. ECU won back-to-back division and conference titles in 2008 and 2009.

Houston, expected to get a jolt of extra offensive firepower from the return of injured quarterback Case Keenum, edged out Tulsa and Southern Methodist as the favorite to win the West Division. SMU captured the division's spot opposite UCF in the C-USA championship game last season, losing the title tilt to the Knights 17-7.

The paper published the poll on Thursday, three days ahead of the annual gathering in Memphis of coaches, media members and sports information directors for the league's media kickoff event.

Bonesville columnist Denny O'Brien served on the voting panel. O'Brien was in sync with the consensus in picking UCF as the East Division kingpin, but went against the grain in tabbing SMU to emerge with West Division supremacy. (See the poll and O'Brien's ballot below this story.)

O'Brien's fellow Bonesville staff member, Al Myatt, will be in Memphis covering the media kickoff event on Sunday and Monday.

Poll results and O'Brien's ballot:

Conference USA Preseason Football Poll

(Conducted by the Tulsa World; compiled from votes by a panel of 12 print media members and 12 radio journalist from cities around the league.)

1. Central Florida (20 first-place votes) .... 139 points
2. Southern Miss (4) .... 122
3. East Carolina .... 93
4. Marshall ... 65
5. UAB ... 61
6. Memphis ... 24

1. Houston (12 first-place votes) ... 127 points
2. Tulsa (8) ... 117
3. Southern Methodist (4) ... 116
4. Rice ... 60
5. Tulane ... 42
5. Texas-El Paso ... 42

Denny O'Brien's C-USA Preseason Football Poll Ballot

1. Central Florida
2. Southern Miss
3. East Carolina
4. Marshall
5. UAB
6. Memphis

1. Southern Methodist
2. Houston
3. Tulsa
4. Texas-El Paso
5. Rice
6. Tulane

PAGE UPDATED 07/29/11 04:03 AM.

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