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SI FOR KIDS
Welcome, students, to College Football 101, a crash course designed to give you a jump on the upcoming season. Think of it as instant answers to all the questions you haven't had time to ask
by Ivan Maisel
Posted: Wed August 26, 1998
Handicapping the Heisman | The Most Taxing Schedules
Small-School Secrets | A Sweet Start | Big Numbers
Another season, another flawed formula for deciding the national champion. The Bowl Championship Series, the latest evasion of a fan-pleasing playoff tournament, figures to match the nation's top two teams in each of the next four years in either the Fiesta, Sugar, Orange or Rose bowl. Because the Big Ten and Pac-10 have finally agreed to be included in the formula, the Bowl Championship Series will be able to produce season-ending matchups that the old Alliance couldn't: Nebraska versus Michigan (1997) and Florida State versus Arizona State (1996).
Trouble is, the top two teams will be determined using one part poll (combined ranking in the AP and USA Today/ESPN polls), one part computer rankings (combining the New York Times, Seattle Times and Jeff Sagarin ratings), one part strength of schedule and one part win-loss record. The reason for such a soulless, corporate formula is that no one in the NCAA wants his fingerprints on the decision of which teams will play for No. 1. A committee consisting of one representative from each conference and Notre Dame should lock themselves in a room at the end of each season, deliberate and announce a tournament field. The precedent for that is most NCAA championships, even (especially!) March Madness.
But the last thing that the heads of the six power conferences and Notre Dame want is a tournament playoff. As long as there is a bowl system, their schools stand to keep almost all the money, which for this year's title game in the Fiesta Bowl will be approximately $12 million per team.
SI's Preseason All-Americas
Wide ReceiversDavid Boston, Ohio State; Peter Warrick, Florida
EndsRobaire Smith, Michigan State; Mike Rucker, Nebraska
These four key players, who spent last season injured, will now try to resume outstanding careers.
D'Wayne Bates, Northwestern, WR, Senior
Madre Hill, Arkansas, TB, Senior
Wasean Tait, Toledo, TB, Senior
DeAngelo Evans, Nebraska, I-Back, Sophomore
Anyone who tries to select the Heisman winner in August should flee to the security of Powerball. It's easy to pick preseason candidates, but once they play, the logic of summer is clotheslined by the reality of fall. Still, there are rules for predicting a trophy winner.
His team has to be good. The last winner whose team lost as many as two regular-season games was Ty Detmer of BYU in '90. So say goodbye to tailbacks Ron Dayne of Wisconsin and Ricky Williams of Texas and quarterbacks Tim Couch of Kentucky and Daunte Culpepper of Central Florida.
He has to score TDs. Of the last 10 winners, only two led the nation in rushing, passing or receiving. Six led at their position in throwing for or scoring touchdowns. That eliminates running backs Travis Minor of Florida State, Kevin Faulk of LSU and J.R. Redmond of Arizona State, who won't get enough carries.
Defensive players can't win twice in a row, so forget Ohio State linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer.
That leaves five players, in ascending order, with a shot: Kansas State quarterback Michael Bishop, Syracuse quarterback Donovan McNabb, West Virginia tailback Amos Zereoue, UCLA quarterback Cade McNown and Tennessee tailback Jamal Lewis (above).
If Bishop throws the way he did in the Fiesta Bowl (four TDs) and not like he did during the '97 regular season (.432 completion percentage), he's got a chance. Beating Nebraska is a must.
If Syracuse can top Tennessee and Michigan in the first two weeks, then McNabb will be the man to beat. On Nov. 7 McNabb takes Syracuse into West Virginia, where Zereoue is poised to have a tremendous year.
McNown has the best offensive line in the Pac-10. The defense may hold UCLA back.
A sophomore has never won the Heisman, but in an era when the best players aren't redshirted, that taboo will disappear. As a freshman, Lewis rushed for 1,364 yards. In the year after Peyton Manning had the Heisman snatched out of his hands, it would be ironic if a Vol won it.
Auburn has the toughest schedule in the country this season. How do we know? We did the math. After ranking the teams from No. 1 to No. 112, we tabulated the rankings of all opponents for each team. To account for home field advantage, we multiplied each road opponent's ranking by 0.8 and each home opponent's ranking by 1.2.
The point values for all opponents on a team's schedule were totaled and then divided by 11, except for those of the 15 teams that play 12 games. For those, we divided by 12 and granted a one-point bonus deduction from the final average, since playing 12 games is tougher than playing 11. The final numberthe lower the strongerreflects the difficulty of the schedule. We then ordered all the schedule-strength numbers from one (toughest) to 112 (easiest) and listed them for each team.
The NCAA's strength-of-schedule formula, which will be used to help set up the Bowl Championship Series at season's end, will be based on the actual results of all games. Those, as the saying goes, were unavailable at press time.
The five toughest schedules as compiled by SI:
1. Auburn: Tigers play three Top 25 teams in the first six
If you miss these four seniors this falland given where they play, you probably willexpect to see them next year in the NFL
Jim Kleinsasser, 6' 2", 273, TE, North Dakota
Brian Shay, 5' 9", 211, RB, Emporia (Kans.) State
Marcus Spriggs, 6' 4", 290, DT, Troy (Ala.) State
Lamar King, 6' 5", 285, DE, Saginaw Valley State in Univ. Center,
College football brings us back to our youth, which may explain why this year's schedule serves dessert before the main course. On Sept. 5 the schedule makers provide one great game after another, believing, no doubt, that once America sits down at the table for this weekend's fare, it won't push away from the mush of the ensuing weeks.
The first full Saturday schedule of the season will include the traditional rivalry (Michigan at Notre Dame), the intersectional rivalries (Tennessee goes north to Syracuse, while Ohio State hopes it doesn't go south at West Virginia), the good-ol'-fashioned State U versus ag school, neutral-site grudge match (Colorado versus Colorado State at Mile High Stadium in Denver) and the conference showdown (Washington at Arizona State). Alas, the nonconference mismatch also is abundant. Among the worst, Florida plays The Citadel, a game that embarrasses even Gator coach Steve Spurrier.
After Sept. 5 the schedule has few games that leap off the page. Intersectional matchups that in most years would rivet the nation's attention are hindered by the fact that a lot of marquee teams aren't very good. Florida State's games against USC and Miami are perfect examples.
Likely milestones this season:
1. Joe Paterno is two victories short of becoming the fourth Division I-A coach to reach 300. Though older than Bear Bryant and Pop Warner when they won number 300, Paterno, 71, will do so in fewer games. After a tough but winnable opener against Southern Mississippi, the Nittany Lions play Bowling Green and former archrival Pittsburgh.
2. Ricky Williams should break Tony Dorsett's career rushing record of 6,082 yards inhere's the catchfour seasons (1973 to '76). In an era when tailbacks sprint for NFL riches after one or two 1,000-yard seasons, Williams stayed for his senior year. He needs 1,928 yards, about 175 a game, and with a veteran offensive line, he figures to get them. Along the way he'll pass another big name to become the Longhorns' alltime leading rusher: Williams needs 289 yards to surpass the mark of 4,443 yards set in '77 by Earl Campbell.
3. Keith Jackson, the man whose voice is synonymous with college football, will say whoa to Nellie and everyone else after working more than 400 games over 30 seasons.
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