First, a Few Words...
As Larry King might say, Marcus Houston, hello...which is our
way of introducing this college football season, one that heralds
the debuts of both the aforementioned Colorado freshman running
back (rated the nation's top high school rusher in 1999) and
Brigham Young starting quarterback Bret Engemann, who happens to
be King's brother-in-law. And so, with apologies to our favorite
USA Today columnist, here goes:
My two cents.... Call me crazy, but if quarterback Major
Applewhite sets single-season records at Texas for passing
yardage, touchdown passes and total offense and beats Nebraska,
all of which he did last season, shouldn't he be the Longhorns'
starter? And while I'm on the subject, understudy Chris Simms
not only wants the job, he changed his jersey number from 8 to 1
in the off-season--talk about cocky.... If you thought Nebraska
quarterback Eric Crouch was a two-way threat on the field, you
should have seen him sing and act in the musical Surprise! on
July 29 at Omaha's Jewish Community Center. Insiders say that
the Husker is in negotiations to perform in a revival of
Oklahoma! on Oct. 28 in Norman.... You heard it here first,
gang: Navy will defeat Notre Dame for the first time since
1963.... How desperate are the Irish? They signed a kid at
running back named (Garron) Bible.... This just in: Two of
Mississippi State's stalwarts are Pig Prather and Pork Chop
Womack. Shouldn't they be playing for the Razorbacks?... Call me
old-fashioned, but I'm not about to get excited about the
inaugural galleryfurniture.com Bowl, to be played on Dec. 27 in
the Astrodome.... Marshall coach Bob Pruett is 50-4 in his first
four seasons in Huntington, W.Va. Can this guy coach or what?...
Whatever happened to Elvis Peacock?... Nittany Lions quarterback
Rashard Casey could get hit with prison time for allegedly
committing aggravated assault. Has anyone ever gone directly
from Penn State to the state pen?...
Enough. Enough. King, who has dropped his in-law's name in his
Monday column on more than one occasion, is understandably
enthused about BYU's approaching season. However, the Cougars
open in prime time against defending national champion Florida
State on Aug. 26 in Jacksonville. You can be sure that Bobby
Bowden will mention to his Seminoles that BYU has a current
streak of 312 straight games without being shut out, an NCAA
record dating to October 1975. And you can be sure the Seminoles
will be trying to terminate it.
High Seas, Low Cee
At 5'3", Navy fullback Cee Harris is the shortest player in
Division I-A. Harris, whom Middies coach Charlie Weatherbie calls
"a tightly wound ball of muscle," is of slighter stature than
Tulsa tailback Terrance Smalls (5'7") and Miami (Ohio) running
back Steve Little (5'10").
Florida hosts not one but two schools that ended 1999 with an
0-11 record--Ball State and South Carolina. The Gamecocks enter
the season with the nation's longest losing streak (21 games).
Bad Things Happen in Threes
If the national championship were like Survivor, one sure way to
get voted off the island would be to schedule
back-to-back-to-back games against powerhouses. The tiki torch
will be extinguished for these teams.
Colorado (Sept. 9, 16, 30)
At USC, then Washington and Kansas State in Boulder. CU...later
Georgia Tech (Aug. 27, Sept. 2, 9) at Virginia Tech, home against
Central Florida, at Florida State. (The Golden Knights, in case
you're wondering, aren't half bad.)
Missouri (Sept. 9, 16, 30) at Clemson, home against Michigan
State, at Nebraska. (The Tigers, suffering a scheduling anxiety
attack, have canceled dates with UCLA in 2001 and 2002.)
Notre Dame (Sept. 2, 9, 16) Irish wage a stay-at-home crusade
versus Texas A&M, Nebraska and Purdue.
Oklahoma (Oct. 7, 14, 28) Texas (in Dallas), at Kansas State,
Nebraska in Norman.
The Year of the Quarterback
After Texas's Ricky Williams broke the NCAA Division I career
rushing yardage record and won the Heisman statue in 1998 and
Wisconsin's Ron Dayne did the same last year, this autumn will
belong to the QBs. Virginia Tech's Michael Vick and Purdue's Drew
Brees are the Heisman front-runners. However, Nebraska's Eric
Crouch, who became the first quarterback in 45 years to lead
Nebraska in rushing (even though he didn't start in the opener),
and Florida State's Chris Weinke, who's riding a 20-game winning
streak, will stay in contention as long as their teams stay atop
There are more Rockys on two-deep charts this season than in
your neighborhood video store. (For the record, we did not
unearth a single Apollo Creed.)
Rocky Bernard, defensive end, Texas A&M
Rocky Boiman, linebacker, Notre Dame
Rocky Calmus, linebacker, Oklahoma
Rocky Harvey, running back, Illinois
Rocky Martin, linebacker, Colorado State
Rocky Perez, quarterback, UTEP
Five Games Not to be Missed
Sept. 9, Nebraska at Notre Dame The Irish may not be
national-title material, but tickets for the Huskers' first visit
to South Bend since 1947 are selling for more than $265 apiece on
Sept. 30, Wisconsin at Michigan The Badgers (twice) and the
Wolverines have represented the Big Ten in the last three Rose
Bowls. Excellent All-America matchup of Wisconsin cornerback
Jamar Fletcher versus Michigan wideout David Terrell.
Oct. 28, Nebraska at Oklahoma The Huskers, thanks primarily to
quarterback Eric Crouch, had the Big 12's top rushing team a year
ago. The Sooners, thanks to quarterback Josh Heupel, had its top
passing team. Old rivals meet for the first time since 1997.
Nov. 4, Clemson at Florida State No school from outside Florida
has won in Tallahassee since 1989, but Clemson is much improved.
The father-son sideline duel between the Seminoles' Bobby Bowden
and the Tigers' Tommy is intriguing enough. Think it might be
heightened a bit for the son after seeing his dad steal three
of the top recruits out of South Carolina last winter?
Nov. 18, Auburn at Alabama Yes, you read that right--at
Alabama; for the first time since 1901 the Tigers will play in
Tuscaloosa. And forget what anyone else says, this is the
rivalry in college football.
Finally, a Rudi Worth Cheering For
He may never be considered in the company of Bo Jackson, but
running back Rudi Johnson is a sight for sore thighs at Auburn.
Johnson, the 1999 junior college player of the year, gained 373
yards for Butler County (Kans.) Community College in the juco
national title game. That's 43 more than the Tigers' leading
rusher gained all last season.
He's No Darva Conger
Minnesota center Ben Hamilton (left) was named to Playboy's
preseason All-America team but, being devoutly religious, he
declined to be photographed for the publication with the rest of
the squad. Perhaps he feared that the editors wanted him to pose
for a centerfold?
Heisman Web sites
Ole Miss running back Deuce McAllister
Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Vick
Purdue quarterback Drew Brees
--Penn State's Joe Paterno, 73, needs seven victories to break
Bear Bryant's Division I-A record of 323 career wins.
--Kansas State punt returner David Allen is 172 yards shy of the
Division I-A record for career punt-return yardage. His seven
returns for touchdowns already tie him for first in that
category with former Oklahoma Sooner Jack Mitchell and former
Nebraska Cornhusker Johnny Rodgers.
--Louisville senior wide receiver Arnold Jackson, who had 101
receptions in '99, needs 66 more to break Jerry Rice's NCAA
career receptions record of 301. Unfortunately for Jackson and
his quest, Louisville's record-setting quarterback, Chris
Redman, has used up his eligibility.