Records don't matter during Rivalry Week, in which every underdog
relishes playing the role of spoiler
Hours after he had ripped off 126 yards against the nation's
stingiest run defense, Auburn's fourth-string tailback, Tre
Smith, was still boasting about the Tigers' 17--7 victory over
No. 9 Alabama. "Nobody gave us a chance," he said. "Everybody was
talking junk, about me especially. They didn't seem like the
Number 1 defense to us."
Although only a freshman, Smith is well versed in the spoilsport
spirit of Rivalry Week, in which the only thing sweeter than
clinching a conference title is ruining the chances of your
nemesis. Scheduled around the time when many teams are talking
about which bowl they're headed to, Rivalry Week games invariably
throw a monkey wrench into some schools' postseason plans.
Last Saturday's edition of Rivalry Week did not disappoint. The
fun started in Tuscaloosa, where Auburn shut out the Crimson Tide
in the first half and all but salvaged a season marked by late
fades in important games. Meanwhile, in the ACC, two games
between rivals brought the race for the conference title to an
embarrassing conclusion. Virginia's 48--13 upset of Maryland,
which had won its last eight games, meant that 8--4 Florida
State, which lost to N.C. State 17--7, would be the ACC champion.
If the Seminoles fall to Florida on Saturday, they will be the
first five-loss team to go to a BCS bowl. "I don't know what to
say," Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden said after learning that his
team was Sugar Bowl--bound despite the defeat. "Maybe I should
jump up and cry."
As night fell on the West Coast, Washington tipped the Pac-10
scales with a wild 29--26 triple-overtime victory over No. 3
Washington State. Huskies junior quarterback Cody Pickett
outshone his counterpart, Heisman hopeful Jason Gesser--who was
sidelined with a sprained right ankle in the fourth quarter--by
completing 35 of 57 passes for 368 yards. The Cougars (9--2, 6--1
in the Pac10) could have clinched a berth in the Rose Bowl but
must now beat UCLA on Dec. 7 to earn a trip to Pasadena.
Expect a few more spoilers to rush the stage this Saturday in Act
II of Rivalry Week. Among the teams looking to improve their bowl
standings is 6--5 Oklahoma State, which knocked Oklahoma out of
national championship contention last year with a 16--13 win in
Norman. Although the 10--1 Sooners secured a spot in the Dec. 7
Big 12 title game with a 60--15 blowout of Texas Tech, they were
looking forward to Saturday's showdown with the Cowboys. "This
was a fun one, but we're ready to go after it next week," said
Oklahoma linebacker Teddy Lehman. "We've been waiting a long time
Arizona State's Terrell Suggs
A Defensive End For the Heisman?
At last count Terrell Suggs, a junior at Arizona State, was a
candidate for the Nagurski (best defensive player), Lombardi
(best defensive lineman) and Hendricks (best defensive end)
awards. If the Heisman Trophy voters are paying attention, Suggs
will be on their lists too.
The odds of Suggs's winning the Heisman are stacked against him
like a three-man blocking scheme. In its 67 years of existence
the trophy, in theory presented to "the most outstanding college
football player in the United States," has been won by only one
primarily defensive player: Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson,
in 1997. But the 6'3", 252-pound Suggs deserves consideration.
Despite being frequently double-and even triple-teamed, Suggs has
a Division I-A record 20 sacks. He also leads the conference with
26 1/2 tackles for loss. His combination of power, speed and
relentlessness have made him arguably the most dominating player
in the nation. "Terrell understands schemes and coverages," says
Arizona State defensive coordinator Brent Guy. "He knows what all
11 players are trying to do."
Make that all 22 players. In his freshman year Suggs took a
sign-language class and learned how to read lips, which has
helped him intercept plays on occasion. "It doesn't always work,
but it works often enough," he says.
His performance for the 7--5 Sun Devils has been so good (he had
4 1/2 sacks in a win over Washington on Oct. 26) that he could be
a high NFL draft pick should he decide to leave school early.
However, the NFL is currently third on Suggs's list of career
aspirations, behind high school history teacher and movie actor.
Clearly, Suggs has a bright future. If the voters can see their
way past tradition, he'll be invited to the Heisman ceremony at
the Yale Club in New York City on Dec. 14.
Performing Under the Radar
It's hard to draw attention to yourself when one of your
teammates is 295-pound quarterback Jared Lorenzen, who has the
balance of Baryshnikov, and another is Derek Abney, who has
returned an NCAA-record six kicks for touchdowns this season. Yet
ask any of the Kentucky Wildcats who has made the difference
between the team's 2--9 finish in 2001 and its 7--4 record this
year, and he'll point to workhorse senior tailback Artose Pinner,
who leads the SEC with 1,363 rushing yards.
Here are five other stars who are not likely to appear on any
--Tully Banta-Cain, DE, Cal. The play of this senior pass-rush
specialist, who has 22 tackles for loss, has helped the Bears go
from 1--10 last season to 7--5 this fall.
--Brock Forsey, TB, Boise State. Forsey leads the nation with
14.5 points per game. The Broncos have run away with the WAC
title behind this hard-charging senior, who has rushed for 1,533
--Brian Jones, QB, Toledo. The Rockets have a shot at the MAC
crown thanks to the senior, who has completed a nation's-best
71.4% of his passes for 2,661 yards.
--LaMarcus McDonald, LB, TCU. He was not among the semifinalists
for the Butkus Award in mid-October, but McDonald proved he was
worthy with four sacks in a Nov. 9 win over Tulane. McDonald has
25 tackles for loss.
--Rashaun Woods, WR, Oklahoma State. The junior has been one of
the few bright spots for the Cowboys. He leads the Big 12 in
receptions (7.82) and receiving yards (118.64) per game.
Head to Head
USC QB Carson Palmer
Notre Dame CB Shane Walton
Palmer is finally showing why he was one of the nation's most
heralded quarterbacks as a senior at Santa Margarita High in
Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., in 1997. The 6'5", 225-pound
senior has thrown for 3,214 yards and 28 touchdowns for the No. 6
Trojans (9--2). Walton, a 5'11", 185-pound senior, began his
collegiate career as a soccer player, but he's found stardom on
the gridiron. A finalist for the Nagurski Trophy, Walton leads
the No. 7 Irish (10--1) with seven
An NFL scout assesses the draft prospects of two seniors:
Jimmy Kennedy, DT, 6'5", 316, Penn State
"He's big, and he can move. He can really cover ground all the
way to the sideline. He made two plays against Nebraska on the
boundary. Weighing  and having the ability to run gets you
into the first round. He can get better at knocking people back.
He plays more as an athletic finesse guy than a physical guy.
He's not a Tony Siragusa. He's more like a Sam Adams but not that
explosive. I think he'll go in the top 15."
Andre Woolfolk, CB, 6'1", 195, Oklahoma
"He has played corner exclusively for only one year, so you
figure that he's going to get better. He can get beat on 90
percent of the play, but he can finish the last 10 percent and
knock the ball down, because he's tall, fast and athletic. With
his skills, press man is what he'll really be good at. He may be
the first corner taken. He's an inch or so taller than Washington
State's guy [Marcus Trufant], but not quite as fast. If Mike
Rumph went in the first round, Woolfolk will."