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One To 112 Our Rankings, from Top to Bottom

Aug. 31, 1998
Aug. 31, 1998

Table of Contents
Aug. 31, 1998

College Football Preview 1998

One To 112 Our Rankings, from Top to Bottom

Compiled by John Walters

Team
(Final '97 AP '97 Returning Schedule
Rank Top 25 Rank) Record Starters Strength*

This is an article from the Aug. 31, 1998 issue

1 Ohio State (12) 10-3 20 2

Buckeyes to celebrate 30th anniversary of their last national
championship with a trip to Fiesta Bowl

2 Florida State (3) 11-1 14 4

Wideout Peter Warrick and tailback Travis Minor, both explosive,
will take the heat off 26-year-old QB Chris Weinke

3 Kansas State (8) 11-1 20 80

From 0-11 in '88 to 11-0 in '98? Could be, if Cats win Nov. 14
showdown with Nebraska

4 Florida (4) 10-2 15 25

Runner-up in Aptly Named Lineman contest: Zach Piller (6'6", 322
pounds), who anchors strong O-line

5 Nebraska (2) 13-0 12 12

Big Red Machine won't miss a beat as Frank Solich succeeds Tom
Osborne

6 UCLA (5) 10-2 14 7

No showdown in the West: Bruins and Arizona State, Pac-10's top
two teams, don't face each other

7 Arizona State (14) 9-3 10 41

If everything goes their way, Sun Devils could play at home in
Fiesta Bowl for national title

8 Michigan (1) 12-0 17 13

Nine starters return from nation's top-ranked defense (206.9
yards per game allowed)

9 Tennessee (7) 11-2 14 23

Early Orange Bowl: Vols, with 1997's top freshman rusher, Jamal
Lewis, open at Syracuse

10 LSU (13) 9-3 15 29

SEC rushing champ Kevin Faulk, quarterback Herb Tyler and three
top receivers are back for the Tigers

11 Syracuse (21) 9-4 12 28

Fourth-year starter Donovan McNabb seeks third straight Big East
title

12 Washington (18) 8-4 13 15

Winner of Aptly Named Lineman contest: Center Brad Hutt, who
will snap ball to Brock Huard

13 Michigan State 7-5 15 42

Defensive line, led by end Robaire Smith (team-best 11 sacks
last season), returns intact

14 Penn State (16) 9-3 12 33

Brandon Short could be first consensus All-America linebacker at
erstwhile Linebacker U since 1986

15 North Carolina (6) 11-1 10 40

Cornerback sensation Dre' Bly and Tar Heels look to lead ACC in
total defense for fourth straight season

16 Missouri (23) 7-5 16 52

Roommates and backfield mates Corby Jones (QB) and Devin West
(RB) should combine for 1,500 yards rushing

17 Colorado State (17) 11-2 17 91

Rams are plus-29 in turnovers during current nine-game winning
streak

18 West Virginia 7-5 16 65

Twenty-five yards will make Amos Zereoue the Mountaineers'
alltime leading rusher

19 Miami 5-6 14 43

The embarrassments of 1997 behind them, youthful Hurricanes
are laying the groundwork for a return to prominence

20 Georgia (10) 10-2 10 14

Strong D, and it better be--quarterback, tailback and top
two wideouts are all new starters

21 Texas A&M (20) 9-4 14 19

Kickoff Classic (Aug. 31 versus Florida State) fact: Aggies
haven't beaten a Top 10 team away from Kyle Field since 1979

22 Wake Forest 5-6 18 58

Weighty wideout Desmond Clark (6'3", 248 pounds) had
school-record 72 catches in 1997

23 Auburn (11) 10-3 14 1

Tigers backfield is as thin as newly svelte coach Terry Bowden

24 Kentucky 5-6 16 47

Mumme's tomb: Coach's son, quarterback Matt Mumme, is buried on
depth chart behind All-World Tim Couch

25 Notre Dame 7-6 15 27

Senior tailback Autry Denson needs 989 yards to become Irish's
alltime leading rusher

26 Southern Miss (19) 9-3 17 68

Three-point specialist Tim Hardaway converted his last dozen
field goal attempts of 1997

27 Virginia 7-4 14 36

Linebacker Wali Rainer (team-high 118 tackles, nine sacks) heads
defense that has eight returning starters

28 Wisconsin 8-5 19 61

No big secret: Badgers will run big Ron Dayne (5'10", 258
pounds) behind bigger Aaron Gibson (6'7", 368 pounds)

29 Arizona 7-5 13 30

Junior tailback Trung Canidate was second in Pac-10 with 5.8
yards per carry in '97

30 Texas 4-7 17 49

Ricky Williams, nation's top rusher and scorer in 1997, has $2.8
million insurance policy, lest he be hurt before turning pro

31 Mississippi State 7-4 12 45

Tailback James Johnson rushed for 1,069 yards and 12 touchdowns
in 1997

32 Georgia Tech (25) 7-5 15 37

Quarterback Joe Hamilton, just 5'10", led ACC in completion
percentage (64.6) last season as a sophomore

33 Oklahoma State (24) 8-4 17 50

Tony Lindsay, the 1997 Big 12 Freshman of the Year, is back at
quarterback

34 Tulane 7-4 18 95

Ten starters, including prolific quarterback Shaun King, return
for an offense that averaged 34 points per game

35 Colorado 5-6 11 53

New mascot--500-pound Ralphie IV--debuts Sept. 5; sadly for
rushing offense (No. 69 in 1997), he's not in the backfield

36 Toledo 9-4 17 108

Two years and four knee operations later, former MAC rushing
leader Wasean Tait returns for senior season

37 BYU 6-5 15 86

Cougars open with nonconference powers Alabama, Arizona State
and Washington

38 Oregon 7-5 17 11

Linebacker Peter Sirmon led Pac-10 with 197 tackles in 1997

39 Virginia Tech 7-5 11 57

Special special-teamers: punter Jimmy Kibble (45.1-yard average)
and kicker Shayne Graham (19 of 23 on field goals)

40 Cincinnati 8-4 14 69

Free safety Tinker Keck, standout in a strong secondary, had
four interceptions and four punt-return TDs last year

41 Marshall 10-3 14 111

Chad Pennington (39 touchdown passes in 1997) has his own
Web site: www.HerdQB.com

42 Stanford 5-6 9 20

Stock dropped when quarterback-pitcher Chad Hutchinson chose
St. Louis Cardinals over Cardinal

43 USC 6-5 16 6

One of every five balls that wideout R. Jay Soward catches goes
for a touchdown

44 Purdue (15) 9-3 13 32

Offense that averaged 33 points in Big Ten play has lost
coordinator Tim Lappano and wideout Brian Alford to NFL

45 Iowa 7-5 13 46

Hawkeyes' career sack leader, defensive tackle Jared DeVries
(33), returns for senior season

46 SMU 6-5 15 78

Mustangs trying to notch back-to-back winning seasons for the
first time since 1985-86

47 Alabama 4-7 12 3

Junior tailback Shaun Alexander holds single-game school rushing
record of 291 yards (set in 1996)

48 Rice 7-4 15 71

Flightless Owls: No. 2 rushing team in the nation (332 yards per
game) passed 69 times in 1997

49 Mississippi (22) 8-4 12 39

Six-foot-four, 245-pound tight end Rufus French is magnifique!

50 Northwestern 5-7 13 24

Wildcats must settle on either redshirt freshman Gavin Hoffman
or Mizzou transfer John McArthur at quarterback

51 N.C. State 6-5 10 17

Quarterback Jamie Barnette will lock in on Torry Holt, who led
ACC with 16 touchdown catches in 1997

52 Utah 6-5 11 101

Soft nonconference lineup (Utah State, Louisville, Boise State)
could get Utes rolling

53 Washington State (9) 10-2 7 34

Cougars, with just two returning starters on offense, won't
change legacy of never having had back-to-back bowl seasons

54 Central Florida 5-6 16 105

Daunte Culpepper (3,086 passing yards, 25 touchdown passes)
could be first quarterback taken in 1999 NFL draft

55 Louisiana Tech 9-2 13 82

QB Tim Rattay led nation in total offense in 1997; WR Troy
Edwards was tops in both receiving and all-purpose yardage

56 Miami (Ohio) 8-3 13 85

With 37 rushing touchdowns in his first two seasons, Travis
Prentice is on pace to break NCAA record of 64

57 Arkansas 4-7 20 18

New defensive co-coordinators are Keith Burns and Bobby
Allen. Say good night, Gracie

58 Wyoming 7-6 14 77

Only Florida State surpassed Cowboys' 54-sack total of a
year ago

59 Kansas 5-6 14 56

Good news: Offensive line returns intact. Bad news: Jayhawks
last in nation in total offense in 1997

60 Texas Tech 6-5 13 63

The "other" Ricky Williams set Red Raiders freshman rushing
record (894 yards) in 1997

61 Clemson 7-5 13 48

Offense lost five players who held 60 school records; QB
Brandon Streeter returns from a broken ankle suffered in spring

62 East Carolina 5-6 14 92

Linebacker Roderick Coleman and nosetackle Travis Darden
(combined 23 sacks last season) lead an all-senior front four

63 South Carolina 5-6 13 10

Free safety Arturo Freeman, Gamecocks' best defender, will be
out most of the year with ligament damage in right knee

64 Boston College 4-7 15 51

Eagles will start just two seniors, linebacker Brian Maye and
tackle Andrew Krauza, on defense

65 Air Force 10-3 9 76

Nation's 10th-ranked defense has lost all four starting
linebackers from 1997

66 Memphis 4-7 15 55

Sophomore quarterback Kenton Evans, who passed for more than
10,000 yards in high school, is the likely starter

67 Cal 3-8 17 5

Punchless Bears added little to an offense that led Pac-10 in
time of possession in 1997 but was seventh in scoring

68 New Mexico 9-4 9 100

Quarterback Graham Leigh threw for 24 touchdowns and ran for
eight more in 1997

69 Oklahoma 4-8 17 62

Good news in Norman: For first time since 1927, Sooners don't
play Nebraska

70 San Diego State 5-7 9 79

Defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila had WAC-high 12 sacks in 1997

71 Ohio 8-3 16 94

Bobcats were fourth in the nation with 301.9 rushing yards
per game; leading receiver Damion Maxwell had seven catches

72 Pittsburgh 6-6 13 67

Walt Harris voted Big East Coach of the Year after taking
previously pathetic Panthers bowling; lanes closed this year

73 Nevada 5-6 13 102

Juco transfer quarterback Erik Stidham inherits nation's No.
1 air attack of a year ago

74 Minnesota 3-9 16 16

Brutal conference schedule (all seven of last year's Big Ten
bowl teams) likely spells eighth straight losing season

75 Louisville 1-10 17 73

New coach John Smith, from Utah State, will build one-back,
three-wideout offense around talented QB Chris Redman

76 Fresno State 6-6 16 87

Five-foot-seven linebacker Tim Skipper is the Bulldogs'
leading returning tackler with 117

77 Vanderbilt 3-8 13 22

Commodores were the only team in 1997 with a top 10 defense and
a losing record

78 Western Michigan 8-3 16 110

Nation's most-improved team in 1997 welcomes back fullback
Robert Sanford (1,033 yards)

79 Indiana 2-9 13 8

Senior fullback Chris Gall had team-high 54 receptions in 1997

80 Houston 3-8 13 44

Cougars play all home games on campus, at 20,500-seat Robertson
Stadium, for first time since 1949

81 Utah State 5-6 11 106

New coach Dave Arslanian moves up the road and up in class
from I-AA Weber State

82 Temple 3-8 13 59

Bobby Wallace, who won three Division II championships at
North Alabama, is the new man in charge

83 Illinois 0-11 16 38

Illini, who had nation's worst scoring offense in 1997, have
lost 17 straight games

84 Maryland 2-9 12 31

Terrapins were last in ACC in rushing, passing, scoring and
total offense in 1997; expect more ACC futility

85 Oregon State 3-8 19 21

Senior DE Inoke Breckterfield (249 pounds; team-high eight
sacks) is top returnee on a lithe line (252-pound average)

86 Duke 2-9 16 35

Loss in Tallahassee on Sept. 19 would give Blue Devils
ACC-record 19th consecutive conference defeat

87 Texas Christian 1-10 14 84

Horned Frogs' leading receiver, junior Patrick Batteaux (27
catches), has been moved to backup quarterback

88 Alabama-Birmingham 5-6 14 98

NFL-caliber linebacker Brian Smith will meet future colleagues
when the Blazers visit Nebraska and Tennessee

89 Ball State 5-6 12 93

U da man: Defensive end Sunungura (Go-Go) Rusununguko
anchors unit that led MAC in rushing defense

90 UTEP 4-7 17 74

Defensive end Leif Larsen of Tofte, Norway, is former WAC shot
put champ

91 Baylor 2-9 15 9

Middle linebacker Kris Micheaux reminds Baylor fans of
alumnus Mike Singletary

92 Iowa State 1-10 17 26

Win now! Fourth-year coach Dan McCarney has imported 17 juco
transfers

93 NE Louisiana 5-7 20 104

Indians play six home games--three against I-AA
opponents--for first time since moving up to I-A in 1994

94 Kent 3-8 12 107

In two fewer games Eugene Baker caught seven more passes (103)
than MAC daddy Randy Moss in 1997

95 Navy 7-4 7 83

With 10 new starters on defense, Middies' two-year streak of
winning seasons is likely to end

96 Army 4-7 11 54

Option-loving Cadets employ don't-ask-don't-tell policy when
queried about passing game; QB Johnny Goff threw for one TD

97 Hawaii 3-9 14 72

Sophomore tailback Charles Tharp led Rainbows in rushing
yards (796), receptions (42) and receiving yards (435)

98 UNLV 3-8 19 60

Leaving Las Vegas: Record-setting QB Jon Denton transferred to
Eastern Kentucky; fifth-year man Kevin Crook steps in

99 Central Michigan 2-9 17 99

Walk-on Bryan Schorman has caught on as Chippewas' alltime
receptions leader (147)

100 Boise State 4-7 22 112

Dirk Koetter becomes Broncos' third coach in as many seasons

101 San Jose State 4-7 17 66

Leading rusher Carlos Meeks (503 yards in '97) quit team to
join rap group Cutty and the Committee

102 Akron 2-9 19 96

Zips tight ends caught all of three passes last season

103 North Texas 4-7 15 89

John Baker averaged 47.2 yards per punt, second best in the
nation; he also got lots of practice--his 62 attempts ranked fifth

104 New Mexico State 2-9 18 90

Denvis Manns could become only third back (Tony Dorsett, Amos
Lawrence) with four 1,000-yard rushing seasons

105 Arkansas State 2-9 19 103

Despite having 25% lung capacity because of asthma, senior
offensive tackle Todd Frohbieter has never allowed a sack

106 Tulsa 2-9 16 75

New blood on defensive line (including five J.C. transfers)
can't help but help nation's worst rushing defense

107 Northern Illinois 0-11 19 97

Huskies averaged 2.4 yards per punt return in 1997--this
year's strategy: fall forward

108 Idaho 5-6 14 109

Vandals' Sept. 26 visit to LSU will be one of the year's
worst mismatches

109 Eastern Michigan 4-7 9 81

Eagles hope sophomore quarterback Walt Church has big-pray ability

110 Bowling Green 3-8 13 70

Sophomore Matt Bunsey, Falcons' top returning receiver, had five
catches in 1997--all in the season finale

111 SW Louisiana 1-10 12 88

New defensive coordinator Miles Aldridge, from Arkansas, brought
in to repair unit that gave up NCAA-record 553 points

112 Rutgers 0-11 14 64

D that yielded 45.1 points and 479.3 yards per game (both worst
in school history) lost its best player (LB Brian Sheridan)

*Explanation on page 44

CONFERENCE RANKINGS
Conferences are listed in order of strength. Each team's SI
national ranking is in parentheses.

SEC

East
1. Florida (4)
2. Tennessee (9)
3. Georgia (20)
4. Kentucky (24)
5. South Carolina (63)
6. Vanderbilt (77)
West
1. LSU (10)
2. Auburn (23)
3. Mississippi State (31)
4. Alabama (47)
5. Mississippi (49)
6. Arkansas (57)

Pac-10
1. UCLA (6)
2. Arizona State (7)
3. Washington (12)
4. Arizona (29)
5. Oregon (38)
6. Stanford (42)
7. USC (43)
8. Washington State (53)
9. Cal (67)
10. Oregon State (85)

Big Ten
1. Ohio State (1)
2. Michigan (8)
3. Michigan State (13)
4. Penn State (14)
5. Wisconsin (28)
6. Purdue (44)
7. Iowa (45)
8. Northwestern (50)
9. Minnesota (74)
10. Indiana (79)
11. Illinois (83)

ACC
1. Florida State (2)
2. North Carolina (15)
3. Wake Forest (22)
4. Virginia (27)
5. Georgia Tech (32)
6. N.C. State (51)
7. Clemson (61)
8. Maryland (84)
9. Duke (86)

Big 12

North
1. Kansas State (3)
2. Nebraska (5)
3. Missouri (16)
4. Colorado (35)
5. Kansas (59)
6. Iowa State (92)
South
1. Texas A&M (21)
2. Texas (30)
3. Oklahoma State (33)
4. Texas Tech (60)
5. Oklahoma (69)
6. Baylor (91)

Big East
1. Syracuse (11)
2. West Virginia (18)
3. Miami (19)
4. Virginia Tech (39)
5. Boston College (64)
6. Pittsburgh (72)
7. Temple (82)
8. Rutgers (112)

Conference USA
1. Southern Miss (26)
2. Tulane (34)
3. Cincinnati (40)
4. East Carolina (62)
5. Memphis (66)
6. Louisville (75)
7. Houston (80)
8. Army (96)

WAC

Mountain
1. Colorado State (17)
2. SMU (46)
3. Rice (48)
4. Wyoming (58)
5. Air Force (65)
6. Texas Christian (87)
7. UNLV (98)
8. Tulsa (106)
Pacific
1. BYU (37)
2. Utah (52)
3. New Mexico (68)
4. San Diego State (70)
5. Fresno State (76)
6. UTEP (90)
7. Hawaii (97)
8. San Jose State (101)

Mid-American

East
1. Marshall (41)
2. Miami (Ohio) (56)
3. Ohio (71)
4. Kent (94)
5. Akron (102)
6. Bowling Green (110)
West
1. Toledo (36)
2. Western Michigan (78)
3. Ball State (89)
4. Central Michigan (99)
5. Northern Illinois (107)
6. Eastern Michigan (109)

Big West
1. Nevada (73)
2. Utah State (81)
3. Boise State (100)
4. North Texas (103)
5. New Mexico State (104)
6. Idaho (108)

Independents
1. Notre Dame (25)
2. Central Florida (54)
3. Louisiana Tech (55)
4. Alabama-Birmingham (88)
5. NE Louisiana (93)
6. Navy (95)
7. Arkansas State (105)
8. SW Louisiana (111)

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTO ILLUSTRATIONS BY LANCE JACKSON JOHN BIEVER (2); LOUIS DELUCA; BOB DONNAN; STEPHEN DUNN/ALLSPORT; JIM GUND; HEINZ KLUETMEIER; DARRELL MCALLISTER; BOB ROSATO; TODD ROSENBERG. THIS PAGE: JIM GUND; BOB ROSATO; TODD ROSENBERG; BRIAN SPURLOCK; AL TIELEMANS [Foldout border montage of college football players, teams, marching bands and cheerleaders]