NO TENNESSEE WALTZ
When the SEC decided to add two teams, split into two six-team divisions and hold a postseason playoff to determine the conference champion and Sugar Bowl representative, Tennessee coach Johnny Majors wasn't overjoyed. "One more game a year in a tough conference, and an additional game after that for the teams that go to the playoff?" said Majors. "Aw, it's a waste of time for me to argue about it. The athletic directors and the presidents have made that decision." Majors may now wish he took the time to argue. The way the season is unfolding, the SEC's new system might ruin an unbeaten season for the Vols and cause them to miss out on the Sugar Bowl.
After its 31-14 victory over defending league champion and preseason favorite Florida, Tennessee is 3-0 and poised for what could be one of its greatest seasons, even though Majors is just now returning to the team after undergoing heart surgery in August; offensive coordinator Phillip Fulmer has been in charge. Of the Vols' remaining eight games, they figure to be favored in seven ( Cincinnati, LSU, Arkansas, South Carolina, Memphis State, Kentucky and Vanderbilt). The big one will be on Oct. 17 against SEC West favorite Alabama, which extended its winning streak to 13 games with a 38-11 thumping of Arkansas. That showdown will be in Knoxville, but even if the Vols beat the Tide there, they'll probably have to play Alabama again in the SEC playoff—and that game will be held on Dec. 5 at Birmingham's Legion Field, where the Tide is 137-48-11.
When a Florida A&M linebacker slammed into Miami quarterback Gino Torretta in the second quarter of the Hurricanes' 38-0 victory, Miami coach Dennis Erickson was shaken up too. Torretta left the game with a slight shoulder sprain, and Erickson moaned later, "He went down, and it was my worst fear." Had the Hurricanes been playing Florida State or Penn State, two future opponents, they would have been in deep trouble without Torretta because backup Frank Costa, a redshirt sophomore, is woefully short on experience.
Coaches are finally seeing the wisdom of having a strong backup as insurance in case the top gun is cither injured or firing blanks. At Georgia Tech, coach Bill Lewis rests senior quarterback Shawn Jones, one of the nation's best signal-callers, early in every game so that Jones will be fresh for the fourth quarter. That also gives backups Jeff Howard and Donnie Davis valuable experience. Although Lewis's policy was not exactly given a ringing endorsement by Tech's 55-24 loss to Virginia, its basic soundness was on display elsewhere last Saturday.
?When freshman Koy Detmer enrolled at Colorado instead of trying to fill brother Ty's Heisman-sized shoes at Brigham Young, he told Buffalo coach Bill McCartney that he would like to be redshirted, but "I'd be willing to play if you need me." The need arose after first-stringer Kordell Stewart was injured against Baylor on Sept. 12 and his backup, Duke Tobin, struggled for a half against Minnesota on Saturday. Detmer responded wonderfully, connecting on 11 of 18 throws for 184 yards and two TDs, to lift Colorado to a 21-20 victory.
?BYU could have used Ty's little brother in a 17-10 loss to UCLA. With the Cougars on the Bruin 10-yard line with 1:13 to go, No. 2 quarterback Steve Clements, who was forced into action when starter John Walsh went down with a shoulder injury early in the fourth quarter, threw a pass that was picked off in the end zone. And who led UCLA? Redshirt freshman Rob Walker, who started in place of injured sophomore Wayne Cook. Walker completed 18 of 26 passes for 198 yards.
?Then there was Penn State coach Joe Paterno, who went with his No. 2 quarterback against Eastern Michigan. The No. 1 quarterback, freshman Wally Richardson, led the Nittany Lions to two consecutive wins, but, says Paterno, "I just don't want to rush Wally." Junior John Sacca responded by leading the Lions to four touchdowns in the first 11 minutes of a 52-7 win. Going into the season, both Sacca and Richardson were scheduled to back up sophomore Kerry Collins, who broke a finger in preseason practice. "You're never sure when someone's going to get hurt," says Penn State linebacker coach Tom Bradley. "If you don't have a guy to step in, you could be in trouble."