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Stewart Mandel's Two-Minute Drill

Sept. 19, 2005
Sept. 19, 2005

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Sept. 19, 2005

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Stewart Mandel's Two-Minute Drill

HOT TOPIC

This is an article from the Sept. 19, 2005 issue Original Layout

Not even the most fervent subway alum would have predicted that the Charlie Weis era at Notre Dame would begin with consecutive road wins over ranked opponents (Pittsburgh and Michigan). It's too soon to be making Knute Rockne comparisons--though Rockne was the last Irish coach to begin his tenure with two road wins, in 1918--but Notre Dame's improvement under Weis is hard to overlook. Brady Quinn, a 50.8% passer in his first two seasons, has bettered his accuracy to 64.9%. The running game, led by Darius Walker (above), has averaged 189.5 yards a game, up from 127.4 yards last season. And a year after allowing 23 touchdowns through the air, the Irish pass defense has given up just two so far. Suddenly that Oct. 15 home game against USC is looking a whole lot more interesting.

UNDER THE RADAR

Before Ohio's opener against Northwestern on Sept. 3, the school's website polled its readers on who they thought would score the Bobcats' first touchdown. Only players on offense were listed individually, so senior cornerback Dion Byrum voted for the generic DEFENSE--SPECIAL TEAMS choice. Then he fulfilled his own prophecy, scoring not only the team's first TD--on a 62-yard fumble return after snatching an option pitch out of midair in the loss to Northwestern--but also its third and fourth. Last Friday against Pittsburgh, Byrum returned two Tyler Palko interceptions for scores, the second for 85 yards in overtime, to give new coach Frank Solich a 16--10 upset in his home debut. Having played tailback and wide receiver in high school, Byrum has a knack for reading the quarterback's eyes. "Any QB eventually has to look where he's throwing," says Byrum. Quarterbacks might want to start looking out for where Byrum is, and then throw the ball in the other direction.

THREE AND OUT

1 With the damage assessment of Hurricane Katrina just beginning, BCS organizers will "wait as long as possible" before officially ruling out New Orleans as host of the Jan. 2 Sugar Bowl, says a BCS source. Possible alternative sites include Baton Rouge, Atlanta, San Antonio and Houston.

2 Florida QB Chris Leak (below) has completed nearly 70% of his passes, but hasn't looked all that comfortable with the running component of new coach Urban Meyer's offense. Could Meyer be waiting for Saturday's showdown with Tennessee to fully unleash Leak?

3 SMU coach Phil Bennett, 6--29 in his first three seasons, finally has something to show for his rebuilding efforts. Last Saturday the Mustangs stunned TCU 21--10 for their first win over a ranked foe since 1986, the year before the NCAA dealt SMU the death penalty.

PHOTOSIMON BRUTY (WALKER)PHOTOSCOTT A. MILLER/US PRESSWIRE (LEAK)