Andy Katzenmoyer and Dre' Bly no longer dominate on defense
Hard as it is to believe, Ohio State linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer
and North Carolina cornerback Dre' Bly, two of the premier
defensive players in college football in 1996 and '97, may not
repeat as All-Americas. Katzenmoyer, a 6'4", 255-pound junior
who was last season's Butkus Award winner, won't win bubkes this
year. He didn't get his first sack of the season until last
Saturday in the Buckeyes' 38-7 victory over Indiana, and through
eight games he had just nine tackles for a loss.
In 1996 Ohio State had Mike Vrabel, an All-America, and Matt
Finkes rushing from the defensive ends and turning plays inside
toward Katzenmoyer, who had 12 sacks and 23 tackles for a loss.
In addition, neither of the Buckeyes' other starting linebackers,
Greg Bellisari and Ryan Miller, covered much ground, leaving most
plays in the intermediate zone to the Big Kat.
Katzenmoyer's numbers declined slightly last year, and they have
fallen further this season, now that he's flanked by Na'il Diggs
and Jerry Rudzinski. Diggs, who possesses an NFL-worthy
combination of power and quickness, has outdone Katzenmoyer
statistically, with 50 tackles (to 49), 10 tackles for a loss
and four sacks. And whereas Katzenmoyer got the majority of the
blitz calls in the past, more of them this season have gone to
Rudzinski, who in the absence of defensive ends with strong
outside moves is being asked to come off the flank.
Katzenmoyer's job is to stay home and react.
There may be more to Katzenmoyer's statistical drop-off,
however, than changes in strategy and personnel. An NFL scouting
director who has seen him play this season says, "Down in, down
out, you have questions about his instincts. He gets blocked
from the side. He doesn't see the tight end that well. He gets
caught in traffic. But once he goes, he goes."
On Oct. 27 Katzenmoyer was taken to task by former Ohio State
coach Earle Bruce in The Columbus Dispatch. "He's not making
plays," Bruce was quoted as saying. "He's not making tackles. I
don't think he's playing up to his capability."
Responding to Bruce and other detractors, Katzenmoyer says, "Let
them come in and watch the film. They watch the game from a
spectator's standpoint. They're not in there grading film, and
they're not out there calling defensive signals."
As for Bly, during his two All-America seasons he intercepted 16
passes and broke up 17; this year he has intercepted two and
broken up seven.
Eight members of last season's North Carolina defense are now in
the NFL, and the pass rush that forced quarterbacks to throw
mistakes in Bly's direction is gone. He also has three new
starters alongside him in the secondary. With so much
inexperience, the Tar Heels have used a lot of zone coverage,
which doesn't lend itself to big defensive plays.
Bly bulked up in the off-season to improve against the run, but
the extra weight made him slower. Recently he has slimmed down.
From his high of 198 pounds in September, he has dropped back to
his 1997 playing weight of 190. "That's where I need to be," Bly
says. "I don't need to be at 200 pounds. I felt I wasn't as
quick as I used to be, and I wasn't making plays. I was like,
Yo, I've got to do something."
Bowl Championship Series
The Man Behind The Math
A few days after the first Bowl Championship Series ratings came
out on Oct. 26, college football's official math geek lamented
that they had been released. "I was the conservative," SEC
commissioner Roy Kramer said. "I don't think the ratings are
tremendously accurate until we get eight or nine games in."
College football now anxiously awaits the release of the ratings
on Monday afternoon. This week Ohio State and Tennessee are in,
UCLA is in the wings, and Kansas State continues to study the
Sugar Bowl brochure.
Kramer, who spearheaded the development of the formula that will
determine which two teams play in the Fiesta Bowl for the
national title, rattles off terms like "adjusted deviation" and
"quartile" as if they were part of the football lexicon--which,
thanks to him, they are. It's no mystery why the commissioners
of the conferences in the Bowl Championship Series chose Kramer
to come up with the rating. He is a former chair of the NCAA
Infractions Committee and a onetime football coach (Central
Michigan, 1967-77) who headed the Division I men's basketball
tournament selection committee, and he has a reputation for
fairness and honesty, even though his tendency to hoard power
causes colleagues to smirk. One commissioner, asked why the Bowl
Championship Series committee shouldn't just lock itself in a
room and choose two teams for the title game, said, "Then Roy
wouldn't be in charge."
"I bet he would," says Dave Cawood, the former NCAA official
who's now a vice president at Host Communications, the company
that does the NCAA's marketing. "He has such great integrity that
people believe he'll be fair in whatever is done. People know
that he does his research and thoroughly studies an issue before
he takes a position. This is a case in point."
Kramer, along with his top assistant at the SEC, Mark Womack,
and conference media officer Charles Bloom, spent three or four
hours a day for three months developing the formula. They looked
at more than 40 computer ratings before choosing those produced
by The New York Times; Michigan-based computer whiz Jeff
Sagarin, whose rankings appear in USA Today; and The Seattle
Times. Not only do the three ratings complement each other, but
their geographical diversity is also politically correct. "Using
Seattle helped with the Pac-10 a great deal," Kramer says.
He and his aides tested a dozen or so formulas by applying them
to the past 10 seasons. They knew the answer--e.g., last season
Michigan and Nebraska should finish first and second--and had to
come up with a formula that would produce that answer. "We had
to be able to get to a place that you could defend," Kramer
says. The method on which they settled weighs equally a team's
average standing in the AP and USA Today/ESPN polls and its
average standing in the three computer ratings, then uses the
BCS's own strength-of-schedule rating as a tiebreaker.
Among the years that proved the formula viable was 1989, when
Colorado went 11-0 in the regular season and Alabama, Miami,
Michigan, Nebraska, Notre Dame and Tennessee finished with one
loss. The formula rated eventual national champion Miami, which
had beaten Notre Dame in the last game of the regular season and
had lost only to eventual No. 5 Florida State, as the team to
play Colorado in the theoretical title game.
Kramer says he has been flooded with mail from math professors
stating that the formula incorrectly uses adjusted deviation
(don't ask) to average the three computer ratings. He's
experimenting with an alternative formula that may be more
accurate (so far, he says, it hasn't contradicted the Bowl
Championship Series rankings). Get ready to widen your football
vocabulary next year: "You know what a trimean is?" Kramer asks.
Rumblings Out West
The WAC Whacked?
Once touted as the superconference of the future, with 16
schools in four time zones, the wild WAC has become a wild mess.
Last spring eight schools--Air Force, BYU, Colorado State, New
Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV, Utah and Wyoming--announced that
they were leaving the WAC to start their own conference,
effective July 1, 1999. As a result, the guaranteed payout from
this year's WAC title game has been reduced from $1 million to
$250,000 by the city of Las Vegas, its sponsor. (The contract
had been for the next two WAC football and basketball
championships; the conference breakup effectively nullified the
deal.) Moreover, the Holiday Bowl won't extend its traditional
invitation to the WAC champ. Instead, it will invite the
Pac-10's runner-up and will take a WAC team only if that team is
ranked higher than the Big 12's No. 3. That's unlikely: Five Big
12 teams are rated higher than No. 25 Air Force, the WAC's sole
It's possible that the WAC champion will be shut out of a bowl
entirely. The conference does have a pair of guaranteed slots,
in the Las Vegas Bowl and the Aloha Christmas Classic, but the
former is unlikely to take a team that played in Las Vegas just
two weeks earlier in the WAC title game, and there's speculation
that out of loyalty to Hawaii, the Aloha will invite one of the
teams that plan to remain in the WAC rather than a breakaway
school. The exception would be Air Force, which has a big
following in Hawaii.
The name of the new conference--the Mountain West--hasn't drawn
raves. "It sounds like a trucking firm," says New Mexico
basketball coach Dave Bliss. Sun Belt Conference commissioner
Craig Thompson has been hired to assume that role with the
Mountain West, which hopes to get a television contract and a
guaranteed bowl bid for next season.
The future of the WAC looks bleak. Of its eight remaining
schools (Fresno State, Hawaii, Rice, San Jose State, SMU, TCU,
Tulsa and UTEP), not one has a football record of better than
.500 this year. But commissioner Karl Benson says he has begun
preliminary talks with schools wishing to enter the WAC (among
the possibilities are Nevada and Utah State). "Obviously some
serious damage has been done," says Benson. "I don't think it
will cause the WAC to roll over and give up. You'll see an
aggressive attempt from us to compete against the Mountain West
and other conferences." --B.J. Schecter
Follow the Bouncing Ball
At Missouri's first practice after the Tigers lost to Nebraska
two weeks ago, coach Larry Smith gathered his players in the
indoor practice facility. As he was speaking, dozens of tennis
balls suddenly dropped from the rafters and bounced off the
players' helmets and shoulder pads. Smith asked every player to
carry a ball with him all week and bounce it as a reminder of the
Tigers' mission: Bounce back. It's an old Smith ploy, and it
worked. Missouri rebounded last Saturday, handing Texas Tech its
first home loss, 28-26. With Colorado, Texas A&M and Kansas State
remaining on the schedule, the Tigers should keep those balls
Ricky Williams all but locked up the Heisman by rushing for 150
yards as Texas snapped Nebraska's 47-game home winning streak
with a 20-16 victory. But as good as Williams is, the Longhorns
(6-2) have won their last five games because their defense has
grown up. The same team that gave up 35 points and 379 yards in
the first half while losing 49-31 to UCLA on Sept. 12 and was
crushed by Kansas State 48-7 a week later, limited Nebraska to
311 yards and one touchdown.
With 14 freshmen and sophomores on Texas's two-deep roster,
defensive coordinator Carl Reese has kept it simple. He didn't
introduce nickel or dime defenses in practices until
mid-October. "They didn't have a clue about tempo," coach Mack
Brown says. "If something bad happened, they'd let three other
bad things happen."
Now, if something good happens, the Longhorns feed off it. After
the defense held the Huskers to 16 yards on their first eight
snaps, its confidence surged. Tackle Casey Hampton, a 6'1",
300-pound sophomore and Texas's strongest player, plugged up the
middle, limiting Nebraska fullback Joel Makovicka to 11 yards on
It helps to have Williams controlling the ball on offense. Brown
jokes that Williams should win the Heisman and the Nagurski
Award, which goes to the nation's top defender. "I said before
the season that he would be the best defensive player on the
team," Brown says. "When our defense is on the sideline, he's
moving the chains. He's giving this team a lot of confidence."
New Monsters Of the Midway
With a 16-6 home victory over Washington University of St. Louis
last Saturday, the University of Chicago (6-2, 3-0) clinched at
least a tie for the University Athletic Association title in
Division III. It's the first championship for the Maroons since
they won the Big Ten--yep, the Big Ten--in 1924....
Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles, bowing to pressure
from the student body, said last week that next season the
school will change its policy under which tickets sold to
students and not picked up by the Wednesday before each game are
resold to the public, with no refund to the students (SI, Oct.
12). Details of the change won't be decided on until next year....
New Hampshire senior Jerry Azumah, who earlier this season
became Division I-AA's alltime leading rusher, added the
division's career records for scoring and all-purpose yardage
last Saturday in a 27-26 loss to Massachusetts. Azumah has
rushed for 5,677 yards, scored 394 points and gained 7,780
Texas A&M is 8-1 largely because it has held five opponents to
10 points or less. The Aggies' offense also has converted 12 of
14 fourth downs. You can win a lot of close games doing that.
Read more from Ivan Maisel and cast your vote in our Top 25 fans'
poll at www.cnnsi.com.
Top 10 Special Teams Players
BENNIE ALEXANDER, FLORIDA The 5'9", 174-pound redshirt freshman
was so tenacious on punt and kickoff coverage in his first six
games that he earned a starting cornerback job. He leads Florida
in special teams tackles, with 14.
NATE BROOKS, MIAMI Brooks, a 5'10", 173-pound senior cornerback,
blocked a kick in each of the Hurricanes' first three games and
returned a punt for a touchdown against East Tennessee State
on Sept. 5.
JOHN ENGELBERGER, VIRGINIA TECH The 6'4", 263-pound junior has
blocked two kicks this year, giving him five for his career.
DAMON GOURDINE, SAN DIEGO STATE The son of rock-and-roll singer
Little Anthony, Gourdine, a 5'7", 160-pound junior, leads the
nation in punt returning with a 21.8-yard average. He has
returned two punts for touchdowns.
ROYCE HUFFMAN, TCU A star third baseman on TCU's baseball team
and the school's male athlete of the year for 1996-97, the
6-foot, 195-pound Huffman serves as both punter and punt
returner for the Horned Frogs.
SEBASTIAN JANIKOWSKI, FLORIDA STATE Nicknamed the Polish Powder
Keg because of his strong leg, Janikowski leads the nation in
field goals made and attempted. Of his 60 career kickoffs,
36 have resulted in touchbacks.
JOE JARZYNKA, WASHINGTON In addition to his 614 return yards on
punts and kickoffs, Jarzynka (above) has kicked three field
goals and 14 extra points.
BRANDON KNOWLES, KANSAS STATE A 5'11", 235-pound senior, Knowles
is a four-year starter as the Wildcats' long snapper. He has
never muffed a snap.
JOE KRISTOSIK, UNLV The winless Rebels have given Kristosik,
their 6'3", 220-pound senior punter, plenty of action this
season, and he has made the most of it. He leads the nation in
punts (66) and yards per punt (46.6).
SHANE LECHLER, TEXAS A&M The 6'2", 220-pound junior averages
44.9 yards per punt. He also kicks off, serves as holder on
placekicks, has passed for a touchdown on a fake field goal and
has completed a pass on a fake punt.
Washington (5-3) at Oregon (6-2)
Everyone knows about Alabama versus Auburn and Michigan versus
Ohio State, but the nastiest rivalry in the nation may be the
one between the Ducks and the Huskies. "Oregon people think
Huskies are a real undesirable breed of dog," says Thomas
Hansen, commissioner of the Pac-10. How undesirable? On one
occasion, when Washington's players ran onto the Autzen Stadium
field in Eugene, they were pelted with dog excrement. In 1992
fans threw Milk-Bones, whereupon Huskies linebacker Dave
Hoffmann picked one up, yelled, "You think this is tough?" and
began eating it.
Oregon resents Washington's arrogance, which developed as the
Huskies beat the Ducks 17 times between 1974 and '93. However,
Oregon has won three of the last four meetings and, behind star
quarterback Akili Smith, should do so again on Saturday.
Ole Miss (6-2) at Arkansas (7-0)
Ole Miss already has beaten the Razorbacks once in the last
year: Rebels coach Tommy Tuberville, an Arkansas native, was up
for the Hogs' coaching job last December, but having second
thoughts, he withdrew from consideration. Arkansas athletic
director Frank Broyles instead hired former Razorbacks
quarterback Houston Nutt. Arkansas hasn't lost since, and they
won't on Saturday. The SEC West champion will be decided when
Arkansas visits Mississippi State on Nov. 21.
Penn State (6-1) at Michigan (6-2)
The Nittany Lions have never lost in Michigan Stadium. O.K., so
they've only been there twice. Who are we to argue with history?