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A LETTER-PERFECT SEASON : For the college football-impaired, a 1995 preseason primer from A to Z

TIMES STAFF WRITER

All-American Team

Here’s ours:

Offense: QB--Danny Wuerffel, Florida. RB--Stephen Davis, Auburn; Mike Alstott, Purdue. WR--Keyshawn Johnson, USC; Derrick Mayes, Notre Dame. OL--Jason Odom, Florida; Bryan Stoltenberg, Colorado; Jonathan Odgen, UCLA; Aaron Graham, Nebraska; Willie Anderson, Auburn. TE--Marco Battaglia, Rutgers.

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Defense: DL--Marcus Jones, North Carolina; Tedy Bruschi, Arizona; Cedric Jones, Oklahoma; Daryl Gardener, Baylor. LB--Simeon Rice, Illinois; Randall Godfrey, Georgia; Kevin Hardy, Illinois. DB--Aaron Beasley, West Virginia; Lawyer Milloy, Washington; Ronde Barber, Virginia; Matt Stevens, Appalachian State.

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K--Remy Hamilton, Michigan. P--Brad Maynard, Ball State.

Bowl Alliance

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After years of remodeling, the Bob Villas of the bowl system have put away their tools and unveiled the closest possible thing to a national playoff. Gone are the automatic conference champion tie-ins that gave us such thrilling matchups as USC vs. Texas Tech. Instead, the major bowls revised the selection process by using the time-honored “highest bidder” principle.

“God, motherhood and the American way,” is how one bowl executive director described the bidding, which was won by the Fiesta Bowl.

Under the new system, the Fiesta chooses two teams from a list of conferences that includes the Southeastern, the Atlantic Coast, the Southwest, the Big Eight, the Big East, the Pacific 10 and the Big Ten, as well as independent Notre Dame. The catch: With the Pac-10 and Big Ten champions committed to the Rose Bowl through 2001, only the No. 2 teams from those two conferences are available for the alliance.

The Orange Bowl drafts third and fifth, and the Sugar Bowl drafts fourth and sixth.

In 1997, the Sugar gets the first two picks and the Orange gets them in 1998.

“It allows matchups to be made that have never been made before,” said John Junker, executive director of the Fiesta Bowl.

The Rose Bowl remains the Alliance’s biggest worry. If, say, USC and Penn State finish the regular season ranked No. 1 and 2--and it’s possible they will--they go to Pasadena and the Fiesta is stuck paying $24 million to the Alliance for a game no one cares about.

Conference Champions

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ACC--Florida State

Big East--Virginia Tech

Big Eight--Nebraska

Big Ten--Penn State

Big West--Nevada

Mid-American--Bowling Green

Pac-10--USC

SEC--Florida

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SWC--Texas A&M;

WAC--Colorado State

Dates to Remember

September--(2) Michigan at Illinois, Colorado at Wisconsin, Miami at UCLA, Florida State vs. Duke; (9) Colorado State at Colorado, UCLA at Brigham Young; (16) Tennessee at Florida, Washington at Ohio State, Oregon at UCLA; (23) Miami at Virginia Tech, Texas at Notre Dame, Texas A&M; at Colorado; (30) Colorado at Oklahoma, Wisconsin at Penn State.

October--(5) Mississippi State at Auburn; (7) Miami at Florida State, (14) Florida at Auburn, Oklahoma vs. Texas; (21) USC at Notre Dame, (28) Boston College at Notre Dame, Nebraska at Colorado.

November--(2) Florida State at Virginia; (9) Texas A&M; at Rice; (18) UCLA at USC, Alabama at Auburn; (24) Oklahoma at Nebraska; (25) Florida State at Florida.

December--(2) SEC Championship, Army vs. Navy, Texas at Texas A&M.;

Exotic Bowl Venue

For the first time in NCAA history, an international bowl game has been certified by the Special Events Committee. Beginning Jan. 1, 1997, the Haka Bowl will be played in Aukland, New Zealand. The Haka folks, not knowing any better, will happily agree to Arkansas State vs. Akron matchup.

Fan Frenzy

Ohio State and Notre Dame haven’t played each other since 1936, which explains why, at last count, seven companies have been licensed to sell t- shirts for the Irish’s Sept. 30 trip to Columbus.

If a t-shirt isn’t enough, a southern California firm is selling CD-ROMs featuring the Buckeyes and the Irish.

Gender Equity

Given the choice between a dinner of green flies or attending a gender equity seminar, college football coaches would choose the insect feast.

Heisman Trophy

The obvious candidates: Florida’s Wuerffel, Auburn’s Davis, USC’s Johnson, Nebraska quarterback Tommie Frazier, Nebraska running back Lawrence Phillips, Notre Dame quarterback Ron Powlus, Florida State quarterback Danny Kanell, Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning.

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The not-so obvious: Illinois’ Rice, Colorado quarterback Koy Detmer, Texas Christian quarterback Max Knake.

History isn’t in Rice’s favor. The closest a defensive player ever got to winning the Heisman was in 1980, when Pittsburgh’s Hugh Green finished second to South Carolina running back George Rogers.

Ineligible

A list of teams serving time in the NCAA big house:

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Auburn--on probation until Nov. 11, but eligible for TV and bowl game.

Mississippi--on probation until Sept, 30, 1998, and ineligible for TV and bowl game.

Oklahoma State--on probation until Jan. 5, 1996, but eligible for TV and bowl game.

Pittsburgh--on probation until Nov. 23, but eligible for TV and bowl game.

Texas A&M--on; probation until Jan. 6, 1999, but eligible for TV and bowl game.

Tulsa--on probation until Jan. 8, 1996, but eligible for TV and bowl game.

Washington State--on probation until June 21, 1997, but eligible for TV and bowl game.

Washington--on probation until June 5, 1996, but eligible for TV and bowl game.

Just to be Different

Our longshot pick for national champion: Illinois.

Kevin Faulk

Remember the name. By season’s end, the LSU running back from Carenco, La., will be the freshman of the year.

With the exception of Dan Kendra, the Pennsylvania high school quarterback who broke Joe Paterno’s heart by signing with Florida State, Faulk was the most sought after player in the country.

Lou Holtz

Holtz needs one more victory and he’ll become one of 15 Division I-A coaches with 200 or more wins. Holtz should get No. 200 in Notre Dame’s season opener, a Sept. 2 game against Northwestern.

Fresno State’s Jim Sweeney needs nine more victories to reach the 200-win mark. He won’t get it this season.

Marolt, Bill

Our condolensces to the Colorado athletic director if former UCLA quarterback and assistant Rick Neuheisel does a belly flop as the Buffaloes’ new head coach.

Neuheisel, 34, is the second-youngest coach in Division I-A and was the surprise selection after serving only one season on Bill McCartney’s Colorado staff. McCartney’s personal choice was longtime assistant Bob Simmons.

If nothing else, Neuheisel has a sense of humor about the whole process. He said when he first heard of McCartney’s resignation, his first thought was to call his wife--not for sympathy, but to tell her to cancel an order for window coverings.

“Stop the window coverings,” said Neuheisel, who figured he was a goner. “That’s all I could think about. It was like an $8,000 check out the window.”

Notre Dame

Three Reasons Why Notre Dame Will Win It All:

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1) A schedule as soft as a knee pad.

Florida State is off the schedule. So is Michigan, Michigan State, Brigham Young and Stanford. Notre Dame finished 2-3 against those teams on its way to a dreadful 6-5-1 season, the worst since Coach Lou Holtz took over in 1986.

The Irish’s first three games this year: Northwestern, Purdue and Vanderbilt (combined 1994 record--12-18-3). Patriotic Notre Dame is also doing the Armed Forces Network thing, playing Air Force, Army and Navy. If only the Merchant Marine Academy had been available.

Better yet, Notre Dame gets Texas, USC and Boston College at home, leaving it with only two tough road trips, at Ohio State and at Washington.

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2) Notre Dame--Those Lovable Underdogs.

For the first time in years, the Irish aren’t the people’s choice. They only won two of their last seven games last season and it could have been worse.

Holtz, who knows how to press a few motivational buttons, will take advantage of the gritty-little-Irish theme. “Nobody thinks we have a chance.” . . “Do you want 6-5-1 to be your Notre Dame legacy?.” . . blah, blah, blah.

So serious is Holtz about returning Notre Dame to past glory, that the Irish will spend an entire week hunkered down at a nearby Indiana military academy for workouts. As best as anyone can tell, it’s the first time in Notre Dame football history that a coach has taken a team off-campus for boot camp.

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3) Ron Powlus.

In his first season as a starter, Powlus threw 19 touchdown passes, completed 53.6% of his attempts and had an acceptable nine interceptions. Just think what he’ll do with five returning offensive linemen, star wide receiver Derrick Mayes and a solid running game. If a trimmed-down Powlus is real lucky, maybe Holtz will junk the beloved option attack, which doesn’t fit Powlus’ game.

Three Reasons Why Notre Dame Will Disappear From the National Championship Radar Screen:

1) The depth chart is thinner than a coat of gold helmet paint.

The Irish are down to 75 scholarship players (85 is the maximum). The starters are good--in some cases, excellent--but Notre Dame’s title hopes are gone if injuries hit, say, the offensive line. Of the five backup linemen, only one lettered last season.

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2) The kicking game.

Last season you needed a pair of tongs and a hospital breathing mask to remove the stench of Notre Dame’s kicking “performances.” The numbers: Three missed extra points. Eleven of 18 field goal attempts. Six of 11 between 30 and 39 yards. One of two between 40 and 49 yards.

Notre Dame opponents also averaged more yards per punt, more yards per punt return and more yards per kickoff return.

This year the Irish might start true freshmen at place-kicker and punter. Good luck.

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3) Ron Powlus.

The expectations are mind boggling. Can he survive? Will he stay healthy? And if he does get hurt, then what? The Irish only have two other scholarship quarterbacks and one of them is a true freshman.

Osborne, Tom

Early leading candidate for Lou Holtz Poor Mouth Award is none other than Cornhusker Coach Tom Osborne, who can’t understand why his team was media’s preseason choice as Big Eight Conference champion.

“Even though we were picked to win it, I don’t know what the rationale is,” he said.

Well, let’s see . . .

Nebraska is the defending national champion. Nebraska returns five starters on defense, five on offense, including Tommie Frazier, Lawrence Phillips and Aaron Graham. Nebraska gets star safety Mike Minter back in the lineup (he was hurt last year). Nebraska hasn’t lost a regular season game since November 1992. Nebraska plays its toughest regular season game (Oklahoma) at home.

Polls

Here’s our Top 25:

25) Ohio State--Buckeyes are good enough to earn Rose Bowl trip, but won’t.

24) Virginia--If not for Florida State, Cavaliers would be ACC favorites.

23) Illinois--New offensive coordinator for Big Ten’s X-factor team.

22) California--We’ll become Berkeley flower child if Cal goes 4-7 again.

21) Texas--Tough schedule (Notre Dame, Okla., Texas A&M;), but tough team.

20) South Carolina--A stretch at No. 20? Not with QB Steve Taneyhill.

19) Colorado State--10-2 record no fluke. Rams will win WAC title again.

18) Washington--After serving NCAA time, Huskies eligible for bowl game.

17) Miami--Hurricanes headed for first sub-nine-win season since 1984.

16) Michigan--New coach. New quarterback. Most talented roster in Big Ten.

15) West Virginia--17 starters return to team that won six of last seven.

14) Alabama--As long as there’s a top 25, Alabama will be in it.

13) UCLA--Disregard ranking if Bruin defense does a 1994 and finishes 85th.

12) Colorado--QB Koy Detmer could add another Heisman to family collection.

11) Virginia Tech--Thanks to defense, Tech unseats Miami as Big East power.

10) USC--Lots of talent (Keyshawn Johnson), but lots of questions, too.

9) Tennessee--Star QB Peyton Manning returns, so do 10 defensive starters.

8) Notre Dame--Inspired Irish win nine games mininum, 11 if get past USC.

7) Penn State--Three hardest games (Wisconsin, Ohio State, Mich.) at home.

6) Oklahoma--If Sooners find a quarterback, OU makes run at national title.

5) Auburn--Off probation and get Miss. State, Florida and ‘Bama at home.

4) Texas A&M--Aggies; say goodby to Southwest Conference with 11-0 record.

3) Florida State--Return 54 lettermen off 10-1-1 team. Underrated defense.

2) Florida--Gators have 18 returning starters, but kicking game is suspect.

1) Nebraska--Huskers become first back-to-back champ since ‘Bama in ’78- ’79.

Quiz

Which once perennial top 20 team has not had a winning record in the 1990s?

Answer: Arkansas.

Recruiting Wars

For what it’s worth, the top 10 recruiting classes:

1) Notre Dame, 2) Florida, 3) Auburn, 4) Florida State, 5) USC, 6) Nebraska, 7) Texas A&M;, 8) Penn State, 9) Michigan, 10) Tennessee.

Smith, Larry

Desperate for a Division I-A coaching job, the former USC coach jumped at the chance to try to revive the Missouri program. Smith can sort of laugh about it now, but little did he know what he was getting himself into.

“When I came in the door in December of ’93, I really felt very strongly that I had inherited a team that looked really good in uniform,” Smith said. “We were strong and looked [ital]good[end ital]. But we weren’t very flexible or quick. We got in some games and we had a hard time tying our shoes.”

Missouri finished 3-8-1 last season. By the way, Smith said he no longer reads the newspaper during the season.

“If we have a real good game, I might read the paper on Sunday,” he said.

Considering the Tigers are picked to finish sixth in the Big Eight, Smith might want to cancel that Sunday subscription.

Tiebreaker

Who says the NCAA isn’t progressive? Only five years shy of the 21st Century, the NCAA Football Rules Committee approved the use of a tiebreaker system, but only in postseason bowl games.

According to the rules of the overtime period, each team will get the ball at the opponent’s 25-yard line. The possession ends on a score, turnover or failed fourth-down play. If Team One scores on its first possession, but Team Two doesn’t, the game is finished.

Unsportsmanlike Conduct

The Fun Police of the NCAA have outlawed all non-spontaneous actions on the field. In other words, 15 yards for dancing after a touchdown, dropping to a knee and praying, excessive celebration or taking off a helmet while on the field.

Voice of College Football

Seasons change, but ABC’s Keith Jackson, who enters his 43rd year of broadcasting, stays the same. The Red Barber of college football.

Weather

If Kansas Coach Glen Mason had his way, all bowl games would be played outdoors, regardless of the weather. Football, he said, was meant to be played in the elements, not in a domed stadium.

“It’s like saying, ‘Let’s move the British Open because it’s too windy over there,” he said.

X-playoff team

North Texas, which advanced to the first round of the Division I-AA playoffs last season, moves up to Division I-A this year. It won’t be a pleasant experience, what with games against Kansas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Louisiana State and Nevada, among others.

Youngstown State

Jim Tressel, whose program has won three Division I-AA national championships in the last four years, turned down the head coaching job at Miami during the offseason.

Zzzzzzzz

What will happen to whoever watches the season opener between Ohio (0-11 in 1994) and Iowa State (0-10-1) Aug. 31 at Ames, Iowa.


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