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(All information as of June 20, 2007)
COACH AND PROGRAM
Throughout his first three seasons as Houston's head coach, Art Briles spent a lot of time and energy trying to convince his Cougars they could win the Conference USA championship.
Now he no longer has to convince them.
The proof came last year, starting with a C-USA West Division title and culminating with a 34-20 victory over Southern Miss in the conference championship game.
"The difference is that now it's not a dream or a hope anymore -- it's a reality," Briles said. "Now we know we're capable of winning a championship and accomplishing even bigger, better things."
For the Cougars, bigger and better things means winning a bowl for the first time since the 1980 Garden State Bowl. The Cougars have been to three bowls in four years under Briles, including last year's 44-36 Liberty Bowl loss to South Carolina, and that has to change.
"We've had our chances," Briles said, "and now we've got to take the next step and take advantage of that opportunity."
The next step beyond that is to go where so-called "mid-majors" such as Louisville, TCU, Utah and Boise State have traversed in recent years.
"We'd like to win the conference and be good enough to play in a BCS bowl," Briles said. "In Division I-A in general, you can take out the top 10-12 teams and from 13 to 100, I'm not sure there's 10 points difference in any of them. A lot of it is about who gets hot at the right time."
If Louisville and TCU could threaten to make a BCS bowl during their time in C-USA, if Utah can do it out of the Mountain West and if Boise State can do it out of the WAC, Briles figures "why not us?"