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College Football '98

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Games to Watch

Posted: Tue August 25, 1998

by John Walters, Sports Illustrated

Seinfeld? Gone. Sinatra? Gone. Larry Sanders? Gone. Jordan? Who knows?

College football has suffered a similar wave of high-profile departures. The four top Heisman vote-getters (Charles Woodson, Peyton Manning, Ryan Leaf and Randy Moss) jumped to the NFL. The winningest coach of this decade, Nebraska's Tom Osborne, bade adieu after wrapping up a share of his third national title in the past four seasons. Even Eddie Robinson, who began coaching at Grambling just three months after D-Day, has retired.

The field is wide open for both the national title and the Heisman Trophy. Herewith, a detailed map that blazes a trail for you to follow throughout this, the murkiest of college football seasons that we can recall.

Scroll through the file, or click on a date to jump directly to a selection of key games. Networks and times (Eastern) are listed where available; otherwise, check local listings. 

Aug. 29 - 31 | Sep. 5 - 10 - 12 - 19 - 26
Oct. 3 - 10 - 17 - 24 - 31 | Nov. 7 - 21 - 27 - 28

Colorado State at Michigan State - ESPN2, 4 PM
The Rams, riding a nine-game win streak, encounter a severe test at East Lansing. Spartans DE Robaire Smith (brother of NFL DE Fernando Smith) is an All-America-level sacker who led the Big Ten with a dozen last season.

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Texas A&M vs. Florida State - ABC, 8 PM
Quipmeisters-cum-coaches R.C. Slocum and Bobby Bowden invade the media capital of the world, New York City. The Aggies coach, once described the rigors of policing a Division I-A football program by referring to the Book of Genesis: "Two people, one law, and they couldn't even obey that."

Calling the signals for the Seminoles will be Chris Weinke, who is 26. Former FSU QB Danny Kanell will have played for the New York Giants on this same turf the night before in an exhibition game. Kanell is two years younger than Weinke.

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Tennessee at Syracuse - ESPN, Noon
The real Orange Bowl. Vols RB Jamal Lewis led all freshmen last season with 113.7 rushing yards per game, but then opposing defenses focused more on his backfield mate, Peyton Manning. If the Orangemen lose, they're looking at an 0-2 start because their next game is at Michigan.
Michigan at Notre Dame - NBC, 3:30 PM
Every five years the Irish unfurl a little-known African-American upperclassman QB as their starter and all he does is take them to the national championship--or at least to the brink of one. In 1988 it was Tony Rice, a 12-0 season and the title. In 1993, Kevin McDougal led Notre Dame to an 11-1 mark and an No. 3 final ranking. Can senior Jarious Jackson pull off the trifecta this season?

Wishful thinking against the defending national champions, whose top-ranked defense lost only one starter (albeit Heisman-winning cornerback Charles Woodson). The Irish will be fired up and an upset is possible if tailback Autry Denson gets his yards and the Wolverines' first-time starter at QB, Tom Brady, gets rattled.

Ohio State at West Virginia - CBS, 8 PM
Possible Heisman showdown between Buckeyes LB Andy Katzenmoyer and Mountaineers TB Amos Zereoue. Yes, Cooper's troopers are everybody's No. 1. However, last season Ohio State opened with an unimpressive 24-10 intersectional win vs. Wyoming. And that game was in Columbus.

Speaking of five-year plans, West Virginia finished 11-1 in both 1988 and 1993. If Zereoue, who finished third in rushing last season with 150.5 yards a game, can keep the chains moving, the first No. 1 team of 1998 will be toppled before Labor Day.

Colorado vs. Colorado State - ESPN, 10 PM
Mile High Stadium in Denver plays host to this intrastate war. Many are predicting a changing of the guard and a CSU victory, but the Rams may be licking their wounds from the Michigan State game. CU must replace 13 starters and mascot Ralphie the Buffalo, who died last winter.
Washington at Arizona State
The Sun Devils are an eyes-wide-open sleeper pick for the national title. Two years ago, when ASU made its Rose Bowl run, it opened the season with a thrilling defeat of the Huskies. If the Devils play in Pasadena this January, they will be disappointed: the national championship will be decided at their home, Sun Devil Stadium, in the Fiesta Bowl. RB J.R. Redmond is a longshot for the Heisman.
Also today:
Alabama plays a real non-SEC opponent (Was Northeast Louisiana busy?) when Brigham Young visits Tuscaloosa...Doug Williams, MVP of Super Bowl XXII, becomes the second coach at Grambling since 1944 as the Tigers welcome Alcorn State...Upset Special: Penn State hosts Southern Mississippi (8-3 a year ago)...Klunker: Nebraska hosts Alabama-Birmingham.
September Mourn:
Toughest schedules this month? Brigham Young visits Alabama, hosts Arizona State and then travels to Washington. North Texas is on the road at Oklahoma and Arizona State, then comes home to play Texas A&M.

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Navy at Wake Forest - ESPN, 8 PM
Will this make anyone forget Navy at Wake Island?

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Syracuse at Michigan
Chew on this, Orangemen and Wolverines, as you both face your second Top 25 foe in eight days: Florida opens with homers vs. The Citadel and Northeast Louisiana. Who will shine at QB today for Michigan? Tom Brady, Scott Driesbach--who started two years ago--or true freshman Drew Henson? Whoever takes the snaps will be glad that senior TE Jerame Tuman and senior WR Tai Streets, both of whom caught TD passes in last January's Rose Bowl win, are still in Ann Arbor.
Texas at UCLA - ABC, 3:30 PM
Go for a spree/On Rout 66-3. That was the score of last year's debacle, in Austin, when the Bruins, then 0-2, took out their frustrations on the Longhorns. The win was the first of 10 straight for the resurgent men of Westwood.

Another Heisman tussle, this one more prominent than last week's between Katzenmoyer and Zereoue. Bruins QB Cade McNown, the '97 passing efficiency leader (168.6), meets Texas TB Ricky Williams, who led the nation in rushing (172.1 yards per game) a year ago.

Joe Pa goes for win No. 300 (unless Southern Miss spoiled things one week earlier) when Penn State hosts Bowling Green...Potential conference member Notre Dame plays its second of three straight Big Ten matchups when it visits Michigan State.

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Central Florida at Purdue - ESPN, 12:30 PM
Probably your first chance to watch Golden Knights QB Daunte Culpepper, who is being touted as the top quarterback for the 1999 NFL draft. Purdue coach Joe Tiller made football fun in his first season in West Lafayette last year by leading the Boilermakers to nine wins.
Duke at Florida State
The Blue Devils will set an ACC record with their 19th straight conference loss.
Louisiana State at Auburn - ESPN, 5 PM
Tiger versus Tiger on the Plain tonight. LSU squandered the SEC West title a year ago with its 31-28 home loss to Auburn. QB Herb Tyler and TB Kevin Faulk lead the Bayou Bengals' potent offensive attack.
Florida at Tennessee - CBS, 8 PM
As long as Volunteer State apostate Steve Spurrier and his "ball plays" make their home in Gainesville, this is a great rivalry. The Gators have beaten the Vols five straight and this year, like last, they plan to do it with defense. LB Jevon Kearse (6'5", 240) is a man-eater.
Texas at Kansas State
In 1988 K-State went 0-11. In 1998 Wildcats fans will be disappointed with anything less than 11-0. Coming off a road trip at UCLA, the Longhorns will not be intimidated by QB Michael Bishop and K-State's 18 other returning starters.
Upset Special:
Missouri at Ohio State. Just ask Nebraska about Mizzou.

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UCLA at Miami - CBS, Noon
It's Pacific Blue meets Silk Stalkings, for you fans of the USA Network. The Pac-10 is 4-1 vs. the 'Canes in their last five meetings. Miami is coming off its first losing season since 1979, but tailbacks Edgerrin James and Najeh Davenport will make this a contest.
USC at Florida State
The Trojan horse mascot is named Traveler, but rarely does USC venture this far east. This, in fact, is USC's only road game among its first six matchups. New coach Paul Hackett has some Florida State-caliber players in LB Chris Claiborne and CB Daylon McCutcheon. If Hackett can repair the Trojans offense, who knows what might happen? The Seminoles only won 14-7 when these teams met at the Coliseum last September.
Washington at Nebraska
Washington visits Lincoln. Expect the Huskers to rush more than the Huskies, who will rely on Brock Huard's arm. Nebraska's Red Sea supporters have not witnessed a loss at home since 1991...courtesy of Washington. The best player on the field may be Nebraska FB Joel Mackovicka. After all, the Huskers grow fullbacks (Corey Schlesinger, Tom Rathman, etc.) like, well, corn.
Michigan State at Michigan
Five interceptions! The Spartans' leading receiver in last year's 23-7 loss to the Wolverines was the Michigan defense. Expect MSU coach Nick Saban to rely heavily on tailback Sedrick Irvin in this early-season intrastate showdown.
Kentucky and quarterback Tim Couch visit Florida Field and a the SEC's best pass defense in the Gators...Blowoff class: Louisiana State hosts Idaho.

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Arizona State at USC - ABC, 3:30 PM
Ryan Kealy at QB. tailbacks J.R. Redmond and Marlon Farlow. Wideout Lenzie Jenkins. The Devils bedevil you with their offensive pitchforks. The Trojans pose as Arizona State's only stern road test until Thanksgiving weekend.
Fordham at Princeton
It took more than seven blocks of granite to rebuild Old Nassau's old stadium. Given that the Tigers played all their games on the road last season, this is truly a homecoming.
Florida at Alabama
Georgia at Louisiana State
Tennessee at Auburn
Remember when you could pencil in the first of these three SEC East-meets-West showdowns as the potential conference title game? No longer. 'Bama has fallen. Off the top of your head, can you name the Tide's coach? Or its quarterback? Answers: Mike DuBose and, perhaps, true freshman Tyler Watts. Can Watts' line, with three new starters, spare him from Gators DTs Ed Chester and Reggie McGrew?...Georgia and Louisiana State both beat mighty Florida a year ago. The Dawgs' DB/WR Champ Bailey will star on both sides of the ball a la Charles Woodson...Tennessee and Auburn renew one of the South's best rivalries, one that has lain dormant since 1991.
Penn State at Ohio State
The Nittany Lions are 0-2 in Columbus since joining the Big Ten in 1990. Ohio State's David Boston caught 73 passes last season and needs 63 in this, his senior season, to pass Cris Carter as No. 1 all-time for the Buckeyes.

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Florida State at Miami - CBS, 3:30 PM
The Seminoles all but administered noogies and wedgies to the 'Canes in Tallahassee last season. Don't expect Miami to settle the score this afternoon.
Nebraska at Texas A&M
What if they didn't hold the Big 12 championship game in an antiseptic dome? It would be like this: Two great programs playing in College Station as a devoted legion of Aggies fans yell "Gig 'em!" (don't ask) and kiss their dates after each touchdown. A&M QB Brandonn Stewart began his career at Tennessee in the same class (in one sense of the word) with Peyton Manning. He'd improve his rep with an upset win.
Notre Dame at Arizona State
Sinister Sun Devils ticket peddlers will not sell single-game seats for this one. You wanna see the Irish, you have to buy season tickets. Actually, Arizona State has the better team. But if QB Jarious Jackson, who has shown flashes of becoming a potent option runner, can avoid turnovers Notre Dame could steal this desert duel.

FYI: Tonight in Tucson (approximately 90 miles southeast of Arizona State's Tempe campus) UCLA plays Arizona.

Kansas State at Colorado
Rick Neuheisel is in his fourth season in Boulder, where the going has been rocky the last two years. The Buffs went 5-6 in '97 and watched as the Wildcats passed them in the conference hierarchy. This is K-State's toughest road game of the year. Buffs LB Hannibal Navies—now that's a great name—will keep tabs on do-it-all Wildcats QB Michael Bishop.
Louisiana State at Florida - ESPN, 7 PM
These two teams are favored to meet in Atlanta for the SEC championship. The Tigers shocked the world, and perhaps themselves, by beating the Gators in Baton Rouge last year.

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You'd best watch the baseball playoffs. The best of a bad lot of matchups this week pits Virginia at Georgia Tech. Cavaliers QB Aaron Brooks threw 20 TD passes and just seven interceptions a year ago.

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Miami at West Virginia - CBS, 3:30 PM
Can anyone stop Mountaineers RB Amos Zereoue? The Hurricanes ranked 100th (!) against the run a year ago.
Missouri at Nebraska
Last year's most memorable moment was the kicked pass-turned-touchdown that saved Nebraska's undefeated season and broke the heart of upset-minded Mizzou. Tigers QB Corby Jones, who returns for his senior year, threw for three TDs and a career-high 233 yards, while running for 60 yards and another score, in the 45-38 overtime loss.

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Louisiana State at Mississippi
This is the seventh time these two schools have met on the night of the ghouls. It's also the 39th anniversary of Billy Cannon's famous Halloween run. In 1959, Cannon returned a punt 89 yards (he's still going, we believe), weaving through the entire Ole Miss defense before scoring the only TD in a 7-3 LSU win.
North Carolina at Florida State - ESPN, 7:30 PM
Will somebody puh-leeze beat Bobby Bowden? Since the Seminoles joined the ACC six years ago they have lost only one conference game—to Virginia on a Thursday night in 1995, when TB Warrick Dunn was stopped just shy of the end zone in the final seconds. Last season the Tar Heels got plenty of hype but still lost in Chapel Hill, 20-3. Why should tonight be any different?
Florida vs Georgia - CBS, 3:30 PM
The Bulldogs' 37-17 victory at The World's Largest (Drunkest?) Cocktail Party last season was a pick-me-up for the program. However, Georgia's star QB (Mike Bobo), RB (Robert Edwards) and Mr. Everything (Hines Ward) are all gone. Best matchup today will be All-America candidate Matt Stinchcomb at LT vs. whomever Florida is blitzing.
Wurst Octoberfest Schedule:
Tennesseemakes SEC road trips to Auburn (10/3), Georgia (10/10) and Alabama (10/24).

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Penn State at Michigan - ESPN, 12:30 PM
What was purported to be the game of the year in '97 devolved into a 34-8 Michigan rout at Happy Valley. Linebacker U. has not produced an All-America at that position since 1986. Junior Brandon Short may change that.
Virginia at Florida State
The Cavaliers have won at least seven games in each of the past 11 seasons. The Seminoles have won at least 10 games in each of the past 11 seasons. Conclusion: Virginia is impressive, but not as impressive as Florida State.
Syracuse at West Virginia - ESPN 7:30 PM
The showdown for the Big East title. Virginia Tech will likely figure into this mix, also, but the Hokies do not have marquee players such as Orange QB Donovan McNabb and the Mountaineers' Amos Zereoue.
Nebraska at Kansas State
Game of the year? In Manhattan, Kansas? Believe it. By now, new Huskers coach Frank Solich and new, lightning-fast QB Bobby Newcombe should both have their acts down. The Wildcats last beat Nebraska in 1968. If it is close, keep in mind that K-State kicker Martin Gramatica won the Lou Groza Award in '97.
Texas at Texas Tech
Ricky Williams vs. Ricky Williams. Longhorns TB Ricky Williams was the nation's leading rusher in '97. Red Raiders TB Ricky Williams set a school rushing record for frosh with 894 yards in '97. He also outdueled his senior counterpart, 131 yards to 80, when they met in Texas Tech's 24-10 win last season.
UCLA at Washington
The Bruins may well be No. 1 when the boats dock at Husky Stadium. NFL scouts will be buying up rows of tickets to watch the QB duel between Washington's Brock Huard and UCLA's Cade McNown.
Wisconsin at Michigan - ESPN, 12:30 PM
The Great Dayne lives. Badgers back Ron Dayne, a bowling ball with shoulder pads, runs behind and under 6'7", 371-pound T Aaron Gibson. Dayne, who had an "off" year with 1,421 yards rushing in '97, presents an interesting puzzle, even for the veteran Wolverines defense.

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Blood Feuds
Michigan at Ohio State, ESPN, Noon
Florida at Florida State
Auburn at Alabama, ESPN, 7:30 PM
Arizona State at Arizona

Rivalry Week begins. Anything more fun than ruining your neighbor's holiday travel plans? Ask Michigan, which has often carjacked Ohio State's Rose Bowl hopes. The Buckeyes under John Cooper are 1-8-1 versus UM...Florida State would have played for the national championship, or at least a share, had it not lost 32-29 at the Swamp a year ago...Arizona jumped out to a 28-0 lead over higher-rated Arizona State last November before finishing them off 28-16 and bumping the Sun Devils from the Fiesta Bowl to the Sun Bowl...Southern Cal-UCLA is always sun and fun and fourth-quarter heroics, while Auburn-Alabama is as intense as a rivalry gets.

Louisiana State at Notre Dame - NBC, 1:30 PM
LSU coach Gerry DiNardo returns to his alma mater, where he was an offensive lineman on the 1973 national champions. The Tigers and Irish split a pair of games last season. Notre Dame beat LSU in Baton Rouge, 24-6, then the Bayou Bengals returned the favor in the Independence Bowl, 27-9.
Kentucky at Tennessee
Tim Couch is now the big kid on the block among SEC QBs. How will he fare before 103,000 rabid Vols fans?

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Texas A&M at Texas - ABC, 11 AM
Mack Brown ends his first season in Austin, after a hellish schedule that included three road trips to preseason Top 10 schools. The winner here should go on to San Antonio a week later for the Big 12 title game.
Colorado at Nebraska - ABC, 2:30 PM
Can the Buffs catch the Huskers looking past them? Naaaah.

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Miami at Syracuse - CBS, 3:30 PM
Donovan McNabb, Syracuse's four-year starter at QB, plays his final home game, with possible New Year's Day plans on the line.
Notre Dame at USC - ABC, 8 PM
The Trojans have won two straight from the Irish. Four-year starter Kory Minor, the heart of the Notre Dame defense at LB, comes home for his last regular-season game.
November's Bitter Harvest:
Missouri's Big 12 nightmare includes a home game with Colorado (11/7), a trip to Texas A&M (11/14) and then a homer vs. Kansas State (11/21).

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