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College Football ’94

Times Staff Writer

The predicted best and worst of the 1994-95 college football season. Clip and save and amaze your friends come January.

BEST GUESS OF A TOP 25

1. Auburn

2. Nebraska

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3. Arizona

4. Notre Dame

5. Florida

6. Florida State

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7. Wisconsin

8. USC

9. Alabama

10. Miami

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11. Tennessee

12. UCLA

13. Colorado

14. Michigan

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15. Virginia Tech

16. Illinois

17. Penn State

18. Washington

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19. Texas

20. Boston College

21. Arizona State

22. North Carolina

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23. Michigan State

24. Clemson

25. Texas A&M;

WORST OFF-SEASON WARNING

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Michigan State President M. Peter McPherson announced that Spartan Coach George Perles, beginning his 12th prickly year at East Lansing, must produce “an outstanding season” . . . or else.

McPherson forgot to mention any specifics, leaving Perles, who has four years remaining on a 10-year contract, to twist in the wind. Perles isn’t a big fan of twisting, which is why he sent a few verbal zingers back to McPherson.

Asked to define an “outstanding” season, Perles said, “I don’t have to because I didn’t make the statement. And what happens if we don’t have an outstanding season?

“Only the Shadow knows.”

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BEST PERLES DEFENSE

This from Iowa Coach Hayden Fry, who, by the way, might also be starting his final season:

“Maybe the (Michigan State) Board of (Trustees) will go public and say, ‘Mr. President, your graduation rate better jump by 10%,’ and see how he reacts.”

WORST CONFERENCE FOR ASPIRING QUARTERBACKS

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The Pacific 10. Every starting quarterback from last season returns.

BEST REASONS TO PICK AUBURN NO. 1

Fourteen starters--nine on defense, five on offense--are back from an undefeated team that wants to prove last year’s record wasn’t a fluke. . . . Terry Bowden, consensus national coach of the year in only his first season in Division I-A, squeezed an 11-0 mark out of an Auburn program on probation. Think what he’ll do in his second year and with something to play for, like a national championship.

Running back Stephen Davis is a chip off the ol’ Bo. . . . Redshirt freshman quarterback Dameyune Craig is so good he led the No. 2 Auburn offense to a victory against the Auburn No. 1 defense in the spring game. Craig won’t start the season, but he will finish it. . . . The early season schedule is as soft as a down pillow. The Tigers should be 6-0 when they travel to Florida on Oct. 15. . . .

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Cornerback Fred Smith, who sat out last season because of a knee injury, is back. Smith was Auburn’s defensive player of the year in 1992. . . . The best punter in the game, Terry Daniel, also returns. Daniel, who averaged 46.9 yards, so exasperated Mississippi State Coach Jackie Sherrill, that Sherrill accused him of kicking helium-filled footballs. . . . Twenty-two consecutive victories in one of the country’s most difficult conferences can’t be ignored. . . . The Tigers, still on NCAA probation, are back on TV.

WORST REASONS TO PICK AUBURN NO. 1

The 11-0 season was a fluke. . . . NCAA probation prohibits Auburn from postseason play, which isn’t exactly a selling point to Associated Press voters. . . . There are new starters at quarterback, fullback, halfback and kicker. . . . Starting cornerback Calvin Jackson, who helped give Auburn the Southeastern Conference’s best secondary, flunked out. . . .

The Tigers travel to Gainesville to play the Gators, to Starkville for Mississippi State, to Birmingham for the Crimson Tide. Does anyone really think Auburn can beat Florida, Mississippi State and Alabama in consecutive years, this time on the road? Well, now that you mention it. . . .

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WORST FAREWELL

Thanks to the freeze-out by the coalition, the historic Cotton Bowl has been relegated to has-been status. There is hope, though. If they’re smart, Cotton Bowl officials will jump at the chance of having the Big 12 championship game played in Dallas.

BEST GAMES OF THE SEASON

--SUNDAY

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Nebraska vs. West Virginia in the Kickoff Classic.

The Midwest’s most prolific whiners vs. the East’s best complainers. That said, Nebraska, with quarterback Tommie Frazier, is loaded. Rebuilding West Virginia will think it has been in a mining accident.

--SEPT. 3

Boston College at Michigan

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Former NFL coach Dan Henning, not exactly the people’s choice to succeed Tom Coughlin, makes his first appearance on a college sideline in 20 years. Some return. He gets 105,000-seat Michigan Stadium and Wolverine running back Tyrone Wheatley. Worse, Henning has to choose from among a sophomore, a redshirt freshman and a true freshman as his starting quarterback.

Not to worry. Boston College, with 14 returning starters, will keep it close.

Louisville at Kentucky

There’s a good reason these two teams haven’t met since 1924: Kentucky and Louisville despise one another. Back by popular demand, football’s version of an in-state civil war.

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Tennessee at UCLA

The survivor becomes an instant threat to challenge for a national championship.

Virginia at Florida State

Florida State opens its season against a solid Cavalier team and does so without some key players, including All-American linebacker Derrick Brooks, one of several Seminoles suspended for his part in an NCAA rule-breaking shopping spree last year.

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--SEPT. 10

Michigan at Notre Dame

No other game could mean as much this weekend.

--SEPT. 17

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Wisconsin at Colorado

Florida at Tennessee

--SEPT. 24

Arizona at Stanford

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Arizona’s amazing Desert Swarm faces Bill Walsh. Our upset special.

--OCT. 8

Florida State at Miami

The Hurricanes haven’t lost a game in the Orange Bowl since Sept. 7, 1985. The Seminoles haven’t beaten them there since 1984. You decide: Due or doomed?

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Notre Dame at Boston College

The Catholic holy war.

Texas vs. Oklahoma

--OCT. 15

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Auburn at Florida

Penn State at Michigan

Had it not been for a great Michigan goal-line stand and a Penn State love affair with its predictable submarine offense (Dive! Dive! Dive!), the Nittany Lions would have beaten the Wolverines last year. Now the rematch.

Alabama at Tennessee

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If Auburn or Florida falters early, this becomes the SEC game of the regular season. Tennessee hasn’t beaten archrival ‘Bama in the last eight years.

--OCT. 22

UCLA at Arizona

--OCT. 29

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Colorado at Nebraska

For the Big Eight title.

--NOV. 12

Notre Dame vs. Florida St. at Orlando.

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Memo to Irish Coach Lou Holtz: We don’t want to hear a peep from you if Notre Dame beats the Seminoles, but suffers a killer letdown (see, Boston College, 1993) against Air Force at home or USC on the road. Games of the century mean nothing if you can’t also win the games of the week.

Arizona at USC

--NOV. 19

Nevada at Nevada Las Vegas

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Don’t laugh. A sellout is a given, as are the bitter feelings between UNLV Coach Jeff Horton and Nevada’s Chris Ault.

Some background: When Ault became Nevada’s athletic director after the 1992 season, he hand-picked Horton to succeed him as coach. A year later, UNLV canned the unpopular Jim Strong and tried to hire Ault as the Rebels’ coach. Ault said no, but Horton didn’t. Not only that, Horton took six Nevada assistants to Las Vegas. A steamed Ault, who now serves as athletic director and coach, hasn’t spoken with Horton since.

USC at UCLA

Michigan at Ohio State

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--NOV. 25

Arizona State at Arizona

The game that determines if the Wildcats play in their first Rose Bowl.

--NOV. 26

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Florida at Florida State

The Seminoles have won six of their last seven games against the Gators. In the last three games at Tallahassee--all victories--the Seminoles have scored 52, 45 and 45 points against Steve Spurrier’s team.

Last year in Gainesville, the Seminoles put up 33 points in a victory. Shortly thereafter, Bobby Pruett was hired as new defensive coordinator.

Won’t matter. Florida State will win again.

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WORST JOB SECURITY

1. Louisiana State’s Curley Hallman.

Maybe Mike Archer wasn’t such an awful coach after all. Since Hallman’s arrival, the Tigers have gone 5-6, 2-9 and 5-6. Another sub-.500 season and Hallman will find himself doing color commentary on cable high school games.

2. Purdue’s Jim Colletto.

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Colletto puts on the happy face and refuses to talk about the past, which includes three consecutive losing seasons on his watch, six more before him. Also, the Boilermakers’ 1-10 record last year was the worst at West Lafayette since 1942. Not even 16 returning starters will save Purdue from another dreadful season and Colletto from a pink slip.

3. Perles.

The university president is dropping ominous hints and the school’s athletic director reportedly wanted Perles fired last February. Perles (68-56-4) needs to do better than 1993, when the Spartans finished 6-5 during the regular season and lost to Louisville in the Liberty Bowl.

4. Rutgers’ Doug Graber.

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Graber, a good guy who deserves better, can’t afford another 4-7 season.

5. Ohio State’s John Cooper.

Habit.

BEST OFF-SEASON MOVES

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1. Threatened with the possibility of a national playoff, the bowl alliance worked feverishly to improve its product. The result is a system, effective in the 1995 season and still imperfect, that unclogs Jan. 1 and puts four conference champions--the Atlantic Coast, the Big East, the Southeastern and the Big 12 (the Big Eight and four programs from the soon-to-be former Southwest) and two at-large teams in three bowl games: the Sugar, Fiesta and Orange. The new system also more than doubles the average payoffs of the three coalition bowls.

In a perfect bowl alliance, the two top-ranked teams in the nation would be coalition members and would meet in a de facto national championship game Jan. 2. The sixth- and fourth-seeded teams would play Dec. 31, No. 3 vs. No. 5 on Jan. 1, and No. 1 vs. No. 2 would be alone on Jan. 2. And for those who cried foul about freezing out the independents, the coalition added a second at-large spot.

But there are kinks, of course. The Big Ten and Pac-10 champions are tied to the Rose Bowl until 2000, which means the coalition is sunk if, say, UCLA ends the regular season No. 1. Also, what happens if the Big East champion finishes the regular season ranked a so-so 10th? Like it or not, that team is in.

2. Alabama hiring Homer Smith as offensive coordinator.

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3. Notre Dame sports information officials handing senior offensive tackle Mike McGlinn a questionnaire. The sarcastic McGlinn, when asked to complete the following sentence, “The national championship should be decided with a playoff because . . . " wrote, “As players, we feel the season is much too short.”

WORST OFF-SEASON MOVE

The decision to abolish the NCAA special committee formed to study the feasibility of a national playoff.

BEST LOU HOLTZ LINES REMEMBERED BY NOTRE DAME PLAYERS

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To wide receiver Derrick Mayes: “Son, are you happy now? You’re responsible for me never wanting to recruit in Indianapolis again.”

To a tubby offensive tackle, Ryan Leahy: “Is that a cast on your leg?”

To outside linebacker Jeremy Nau: “Son, you are stepping on my foot. Please remove your cleat.”

WORST TICKET SCAM

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At the University of Cincinnati, where the football program hasn’t been to a bowl game in more than 40 years, you can’t buy basketball season tickets ($192 last season) without also buying a football ticket package ($70). Beginning in 1995, Bearcat basketball fans not only have to buy football season tickets, but also must pay $550 to join the athletic department’s booster club.

BEST CHANCES OF A BREAKTHROUGH SEASON

Kentucky--After four years of rebuilding and a 17-28 record to show for it, Bill Curry’s Wildcats get a season to remember.

Maryland--The Terrapins will record their first seven-victory season since 1985.

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Southern Methodist--In SMU’s case, that means doubling last year’s victory total, from two to four.

New Mexico--Remember the name: Coach Dennis Franchione. He won’t be at New Mexico long.

Prairie View--The Panthers, holders of the longest current losing streak in college football, 35, haven’t won since 1989. The streak ends Sept. 10 against Arkansas Pine Bluff or Tarleton State (who?) Nov. 5.

BEST GUESS FOR 1994 TOP BOWLS

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Rose--Wisconsin beats Arizona.

Cotton--Clemson beats Texas.

Fiesta--Florida State beats USC.

Orange--Miami beats Nebraska.

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Sugar--Alabama beats Notre Dame.

National champion--Auburn, the only undefeated team in the country, is voted No. 1 by AP voters.

BEST 10 PLAYERS IN THE COUNTRY

No. Player School Pos. 1. Tyrone Wheatley Michigan RB 2. Derrick Brooks Florida State LB 3. J.J. Stokes UCLA WR 4. Steve Stenstrom Stanford QB 5. Bobby Taylor Notre Dame FS 6. Korey Stringer Ohio State OT 7. Rob Johnson USC QB 8. Curtis Johnson North Carolina RB 9. Warren Sapp Miami DT 10. Brent Moss Wisconsin RB

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Honorable mention: Rutgers running back Terrell Willis.

WORST REASON NOT TO HAVE A PLAYOFF

“The players will have to play too many games,” the critics say of a playoff.

Is that so? Anyone glance at Fresno State’s schedule this year?

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The Bulldogs play Ohio State in the Pigskin Classic, an extra game allowed by the NCAA. Then they play a 12-game regular-season schedule, one more than usual, thanks to an NCAA-approved trip to Hawaii. Then, Fresno can get a bowl bid. That comes to 14 games, the same number it would take for a team to play a regular-season schedule and win an eight-team national playoff.


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