Some questions answered and some answers questioned as another season of college football kicks off . . . or, whatever became of the Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl?
OK, who's No. 1?There are four teams that stand out:
- Florida State, the defending national champion.
- Nebraska, which came within a missed field goal of winning the title.
- Notre Dame, which believes it should have been awarded the title.
- Florida, which has been ranked first only once (the week of Nov. 4, 1985, for all you trivial pursuers).
The opening nod here goes to Notre Dame, if only because we enjoy hearing coach Lou Holtz say things like: "That's crazy. I should call you a psychiatrist. You obviously need some professional help." Which, of course, was his reaction when several magazines made his Fighting Irish their No. 1 choice. Holtz must fill some graduation holes, but that's never been a problem before. In redshirt freshman quarterback Ron Powlus, he has the next golden boy. Above all else, Holtz is among the best single-game coaches ever.
He should look at it this way: If you're No. 1 in September and you don't lose, you're probably still going to be No. 1 four months later. And wouldn't it be ironic if the Irish lost to Florida State in November but finished atop the polls anyway?
How will the major bowl games shake out?
In the Rose, which is only the battle for No. 5, it will be Penn State-Arizona, the only members of the Big 10 and Pac-10 that have never rung in the new year in Pasadena. The last Cotton Bowl as we know it matches Texas and Alabama. The Fiesta gets Florida State and Colorado. Notre Dame draws Nebraska in the Orange. And in the Sugar, how about Florida vs. Miami, since, like Pitt and Penn State, these natural rivals don't see the need to schedule each other anymore. Says Miami coach Dennis Erickson: "They want to play us at a neutral site: Gainesville (where Florida is located). We'll play them home and home: in Miami and Orlando."
In the Heisman Trophy balloting, which five guys jumped into contention when Michigan running back Tyrone Wheatley separated his right shoulder? (Wheatley is expected to miss at least two games.)
In no particular order: USC quarterback Rob Johnson, Georgia quarterback Eric Zeier, Stanford quarterback Steve Stenstrom, Notre Dame running back Lee Becton and UCLA wide receiver J.J. Stokes. All are seniors.
Which underclassman figures to get the most votes?
Nebraska's junior quarterback, Tommie Frazier, who did himself proud in this year's Orange Bowl loss.
What is the best major conference?
The Southeastern. From top to bottom, it's not really close. The Pac-10 gets second, by a neck over the Big 10.
So who pulls up the rear?
The sorry Southwest, which fortunately won't be around to kick around much longer, in a walkover. As if you had to ask. See ya.
Which 10 games figure to have the most impact on the national title chase?
From the top:
- Michigan at Notre Dame, Sept. 10.
- Florida State at Miami, Oct. 8.
- Penn State at Michigan, Oct. 15.
- Auburn at Florida, Oct. 15.
- Colorado at Nebraska, Oct. 29.
- Notre Dame vs. Florida State in Orlando, Nov. 12.
- Arizona at Southern Cal, Nov. 12.
- Auburn vs. Alabama, at Birmingham, Nov. 19.
- Nebraska at Oklahoma, Nov. 25.
- Florida at Florida State, Nov. 26.
- Notre Dame at USC, Nov. 26.
Which national title contender has the least chance of finishing No. 1?
That would be Michigan, and not just because the Wolverines haven't won a national title since 1948 or the Big 10 hasn't won one since 1968. No, it has more to do with the fact that Gary Moeller's team opens with Boston College, followed by Notre Dame (on the road) and Colorado. And even if the Wolverines somehow get past that stretch unscathed, you just know they'll mess up somewhere along the way, because they always do (usually when you least suspect it). If all else fails, there's always that Rose Bowl thing waiting to do them in.
Which national title hopefuls have the easiest non-league schedules?
For a change, it's not Nebraska, which at least plays UCLA and West Virginia (in addition to Texas Tech, Wyoming and Pacific). So we'll call it a dead heat between Alabama (Tulane, Southern Mississippi and Tennessee-Chattanooga) and Auburn (Northeast Louisiana, East Tennessee State and East Carolina). By contrast, Florida State is willing to put its reputation on the line against the likes of Notre Dame, Miami and Florida. Again.
Which five teams have the best chance of being this year's sleeper?
Depending upon how you define sleeper, our money's on these teams:
- Stanford, which can't possibly be as sad as it was a year ago.
- Clemson, which has renewed hope under new coach Tommy West and a favorable schedule, which is always a key.
- Illinois, which has everything back from a team that almost got over the hump a year ago.
- Arkansas, because Danny Ford won't accept anything less.
- Oklahoma, which is being largely ignored in the Big 8 but is good enough to be the host school in the Orange Bowl.
And which handful figure to take a step backward?
- Wisconsin, if only because it must travel to Colorado, Michigan and Ohio State.
- Boston College, because Dan Henning is no Tom Coughlin and whichever greenhorn replaces Glenn Foley ain't Glenn Foley, either.
- Kansas State, because it won't go 1-0-1 against Colorado and Oklahoma again.
- Louisville, because the graduation losses were as brutal as the schedule.
- West Virginia, just because.
What are the best games that won't be played?
Wisconsin vs. Penn State, and Arizona vs. Washington, both for the second straight year.
Which five coaches had better not quit their day job?
- Hayden Fry, Iowa.
- George Perles, Michigan State.
- Jim Colletto, Purdue.
- Ray Goff, Georgia.
- Curley Hallman, Louisiana State.
Oops, better make that an even half-dozen. Almost forgot Ohio State's John Cooper, whom a whole lot of folks in Columbus undoubtedly would like to forget. Geez, sounds like half the Big 10 fraternity is in trouble.
Name three things we won't see this fall:
- Stanford coach Bill Walsh breaking bread with Lou Holtz. Not after Walsh, in a new book written by San Francisco Chronicle columnist Lowell Cohn, says Holtz "is just a . . . little, spoiled brat."
- Walsh having drinks with Oregon State coach Jerry Pettibone. Not after he said that school "doesn't belong in the Pac-10. They should play with Boise State."
- Walsh sharing a cab with Southern Cal coach John Robinson. Not after Walsh said USC is "a team of the '60s trying to hold on to the past. Knock their (butt) off and take pride in it."
And three things that we can count on:
- Some guy in the WAC passing for 850 yards - in a losing cause.
- Mississippi State coach Jackie Sherrill making a fool of himself, early and often.
- Florida coach Steve Spurrier yanking senior quarterback Terry Dean in favor of sophomore Danny Wuerffel.
- Spurrier pulling Wuerffel, to re-insert Dean.