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Tulsa picked as Conference USA divisional favorite

IRVING, Texas (AP) _ Tulsa, which won last year's Conference USA football title, has been picked as the favorite to win the league's West Division title, the league announced Monday.

In a preseason poll, league coaches tabbed the Golden Hurricane as a narrow favorite in the West race over Texas-El Paso. Tulsa received 61 points, one more than UTEP. Houston, Southern Methodist, Tulane and Rice rounded out the West poll.

Central Florida, which lost to Tulsa in last year's league title game, was picked as the East Division favorite, ahead of Southern Mississippi, Memphis, Marshall, Alabama-Birmingham and East Carolina.

After beating Central Florida, Tulsa downed Fresno State 31-24 in the Liberty Bowl to cap a 9-4 season. It was Tulsa's first bowl win since the 1991 season.

``It's great for preseason recognition and for the fans, but we all know that it's how the season ends that matters,'' Tulsa coach Steve Kragthorpe said.

Tulsa also placed four players on the league's preseason all-conference team: senior offensive lineman Jeff Perrett, senior linebacker Nick Bunting, junior linebacker Nelson Coleman and senior defensive back Bobby Blackshire.

Houston quarterback Kevin Kolb, UAB defensive lineman Larry McSwain and Southern Mississippi kicker Darren McCaleb were picked as the league's preseason offensive, defensive and special teams players of the year, respectively.
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