ALL IS NOT YET LOST
Thanks to the new bowl formula, teams with one defeat need not
give up their title dreams
Attempts this early in the season to apply the abstruse Bowl
Championship Series formula--which will determine the
No.-1-versus-No.-2 matchup in the Fiesta Bowl--produce little
more than a headache, but some things are becoming clear. One is
that even with one loss, strong teams like Florida State, which
beat then-No. 18 Southern Cal 30-10 last Saturday, and Florida,
which outgunned Kentucky 51-35, aren't out of the picture.
Another is that, when it comes to comparing conferences, the SEC
is strong, the Pac-10 is deep, and the Big Ten is in deep trouble.
--Given the quality of their SEC opponents, neither Florida
(3-1) nor the loser of the game this week between unbeatens
Georgia and LSU should give up hope of a berth in the Fiesta.
Each of those teams' strong strength-of-schedule rating (a
factor in the Bowl Championship Series formula along with a
team's standing in the two polls and various computer rankings
and its won-lost record) will help to offset a single defeat.
--Though USC and Washington suffered awful beatings by
nonconference opponents last Saturday, the Pac-10 is 8-3 against
the Big Ten, the Big 12 and the ACC. Oregon, Arizona and UCLA
remain unbeaten and figure to enhance their Bowl Championship
Series ratings because their strength of schedule will be
increased by the strong performances of the other teams in the
October 4, 1998
--Given the Big Ten's 4-10 record against teams from the power
conferences and Notre Dame, the loser of the Ohio State-Penn
State game this Saturday can make other plans for Jan. 4. The
Fiesta won't be calling.
--Of the 19 teams that enter October unbeaten, Marshall, Miami
(Ohio) and Tulane will never be ranked high enough to reach the
Fiesta Bowl. Three others are unblemished only by the grace of
their September schedules: Minnesota, Texas Tech and Wisconsin
will falter at some point. That leaves 13 teams with a genuine
chance to finish unbeaten and earn a spot in the title game.
Well, maybe not. By season's end, it's possible that the
Florida-Florida State winner or Syracuse, currently the next
most prominent team with one loss, will be ranked high enough
and have a schedule rating strong enough to come out ahead of an
unbeaten team in the race for a Fiesta Bowl berth.
To curtail all the speculation surrounding strength of
schedule--one scenario has an unbeaten, top-ranked Ohio State
losing a berth in the Fiesta and a shot at the national title
due to the Big Ten's weakness--SEC assistant commissioner
Charles Bloom, who played a large role in developing the BCS
formula, said on Sunday that the release of the schedule ratings
will be moved up from Nov. 15 to as early as Oct. 25.
IN THE WAKE OF THE STORM
Hurricane Georges swept past South Florida and into the Gulf of
Mexico last Friday, leaving the weather in Miami typically calm
and balmy on Saturday, when the Hurricanes had been scheduled to
play UCLA. No matter. For Miami administrators and players, many
of whom had endured the devastation wrought by Hurricane Andrew
in 1992, the decision last Thursday to call off the game against
the Bruins was the right one. "In Andrew, I lost my house, my
socks--everything," Hurricanes athletic director Paul Dee said
last Thursday. "You're going to make decisions a little more
conservatively after going through that."
Dee and UCLA athletic director Pete Dalis will talk this week
about if and when to reschedule the game. The only Saturday
available is Dec. 5, two weeks after the Bruins' traditional
season-ender against USC and one week after Miami would finish
up, at Syracuse.
Both teams may have ample incentive to make up the game at
season's end. The 2-1 Hurricanes, who opened the season with a
win over I-AA East Tennessee State, must have six victories
against I-A teams to qualify for a bowl; if they don't face
UCLA, they'll have only seven games left in which to get five
more wins. The 2-0 Bruins will be in contention for a berth in
the national championship game if they finish 10-0 or perhaps
even 9-1 but might need a victory over Miami to clinch the
spot--especially considering that a team that plays in a
conference championship game could have two more wins than the
Bruins. Moreover, Miami, a likely bowl team that will have
played Syracuse and Florida State, should boost the Bruins'
strength-of-schedule rating several spots.
The decision on whether to play could also affect which Pac-10
team goes to the Rose Bowl. If Arizona, Oregon and UCLA finish in
a three-way tie, the Bruins would be knocked out of consideration
because they would have only two nonconference wins, compared to
three for the Wildcats and the Ducks.
THE TUCSON TWO-STEP
Arizona coach Dick Tomey had said he would start the season with
a quarterback rotation of junior Keith Smith and sophomore
Ortege Jenkins and reassess that strategy after three or four
games. Last Friday, the day after Smith (who played the first
and fourth quarters) and Jenkins (second and third) led the
Wildcats to a 35-16 rout at San Diego State to run Arizona's
record to 4-0, Tomey reassessed reassessing. "The only thing
that will come about is we won't take a guy out if he's hot,
whether it's the end of the quarter or not," Tomey said last
Friday. "We're not going to count plays or series."
Smith and Jenkins, who room together on the road, have taken on
some of each other's characteristics. Smith, the more accurate
passer (he's sixth in the nation in passing efficiency, with a
rating of 179.9), ran for touchdowns of 30 and 20 yards against
the Aztecs. Jenkins, the playmaker who began the season throwing
erratically, completed 6 of 9 attempts for 75 yards and a
Arizona has won eight straight since its overtime loss to
eventual Pac-10 champion Washington State last October. The
Wildcats travel to Washington this week and then meet UCLA in
Tucson. "With the teams we start playing," Tomey says, "we're
going to need a relief pitcher. We'll keep doing what we're
Illness in the ACC
Football is often described as warfare. What Duke conducted
against Florida State on Sept. 19 amounted to germ warfare. A
gastrointestinal virus, which began to show up among Blue Devils
players during pregame warmups, knocked the starting defensive
line out of the game in the second quarter and over the next few
days affected 35 Duke players and coaches. By the Monday after
the game, Seminoles quarterback Chris Weinke, 11 Florida State
offensive linemen and one defensive player were sick as well.
"Their quarterback must have got it from them; he didn't get it
from us," said Duke coach Fred Goldsmith, referring to the Blue
Devils' inability to lay a hand on Weinke in a 62-13 loss. So
many players on both sides were affected that neither the Blue
Devils nor the Seminoles held practice early last week. Florida
State all but quarantined its stricken players; Weinke was
banned from quarterback meetings for fear he would infect his
backups. (However, Weinke and his teammates were back in fine
fettle by last Saturday, for the Seminoles' victory over USC.)
Considering the proximity of opposing players at the line of
scrimmage and the amount of contact during a game, it's
surprising that such outbreaks aren't more common. After two
games in 1969, Holy Cross, faced with an epidemic of hepatitis,
canceled the remainder of its season. Spokesmen for the NCAA
cannot recall any other such incidents. "We have a rule with
bleeding," NCAA senior assistant director of sports sciences
Randy Dick says. "I think the decision to play kids who are sick
is based more on whether they're going to do harm to themselves."
JUST LIKE THEY DREW IT UP
When junior quarterback Mike Moschetti sprained his right ankle
in the third quarter of last Saturday's game against Baylor,
Colorado coach Rick Neuheisel turned to sophomore Adam Bledsoe,
who henceforth will be known for more than being Drew's little
brother. With the Buffaloes facing third-and-10 from their own
20 and trailing 16-15 with fewer than six minutes to play,
Bledsoe completed a 44-yard pass to Darrin Chiaverini. Eight
plays later, Jeremy Aldrich made a 31-yard field goal, and
Colorado survived, 18-16. "It was nerve-racking," Bledsoe said
of his sudden call to duty, "but that's where the fun is."
Bowdenism of the Week
THE TRUTH ABOUT CATS AND DOGS
Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, comparing the canine qualities
of his defense--which held USC to 23 passing yards and forced
five turnovers--to his feline offense: "The defense had a job to
do and just did it. Didn't have to coax 'em. Didn't have to beg
'em. Just said, 'Sic 'em.' With the offense, it's, 'Please block
that guy. Please catch the ball.' They're like that stinkin'
cat. He just sits there, looks at you, scratches his ear. Ever
tell a cat to sic 'em? He doesn't do a dang thing but sit there."
THE VULTURES ARE CIRCLING
After Mississippi State shut out South Carolina 38-0 and Wake
Forest beat Clemson 29-19 last week, the death watches began at
South Carolina's two premier programs. The coaching jobs of the
Gamecocks' Brad Scott and the Tigers' Tommy West, both of whose
teams are 1-3, are in jeopardy.... After blowing a 26-point
lead, Division I-AA Bethune-Cookman improved to 3-0 for the
first time in 20 years with a 63-57 victory over Virginia State.
The eight-overtime game was the longest in NCAA history.
Quarterback Pa'tell Troutman, who had been benched in the third
quarter, ended the four-hour, 50-minute marathon with a 26-yard
run.... At least one former Prairie View player was not
celebrating the team's 14-12 victory over Langston, which
snapped the Panthers' record 80-game losing streak. "I
transferred from Prairie View to come here," said Langston
defensive back Deveren Byerly. "I feel terrible
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The Ducks whip Stanford 63-28. The last team to score that many
on the Cardinal (UCLA, 72-0, 1954) finished No. 1.
Double whammy: NCAA probation has severely weakened the Tide, but
foes still get up to beat 'Bama. Long season ahead.
The Boise State backup quarterback comes off the bench and leads
a 99-yard scoring drive in the late going to upset Utah 31-28.
State of Virginia
The Commonwealth's two big-time teams are 8-0. Next victims: San
Jose State (Virginia) and Boston College (Virginia Tech).
First Texas Tech runs afoul of NCAA eligibility rules, then
Texas A&M. And you thought Southwest Conference tradition was
--Penn State (3-0) at Ohio State (3-0)
In two Big Ten games at the Horseshoe, the Nittany Lions haven't
scored a touchdown against the Buckeyes' first-team defense. So
far this year Penn State has provided no reason to believe that
trend will change. Look for Ohio State to regain some of the six
first-place votes it lost to Nebraska in last week's poll.
--Georgia (3-0) at LSU (3-0)
It's a lot to ask of Georgia freshman quarterback Quincy Carter
that he excel in Tiger Stadium at night, when 80,000 fans and the
Death Valley ghosts come out. But the Bulldogs, who have been
operating quietly in the shadow cast by Tennessee, still should
win, because recently LSU hasn't handled success well. In 1996
the 4-0 Tigers lost at Florida 56-13. A year ago a 5-1 Louisiana
State team fresh off a 28-21 upset of the Gators lost to Ole Miss
36-21. If Tigers quarterback Herb Tyler wants to prove he can win
a must game, and if LSU tailback Kevin Faulk wants to contend for
the Heisman Trophy, now's the time.
--Arizona (4-0) at Washington (2-1)
It's bad enough that the Huskies once again were humiliated by
Nebraska. It's worse that they must come home, physically and
mentally beaten, and prepare for the hottest team in the West.
The 14th-ranked Wildcats, winners of eight straight, will make
it nine in preparation for UCLA's visit to Tucson on Oct. 10.
--Indiana (2-1) over Wisconsin (4-0)
Give a Hoosier fan any hope at all and Memorial Stadium becomes a
tough place to play. Redshirt freshman quarterback Antwaan Randle
El has provided plenty of hope. He combines mobility and a good
arm--two weapons the Badgers don't care to face. Wisconsin's
muscle-up attack, led by tailback Ron Dayne, won't be enough.