Kentucky coach Hal Mumme has no second thoughts about his decision last spring to give freshman quarterback Jared Lorenzen the starting job over Dusty Bonner, a junior who had led the SEC in passing in 1999 with 3,266 yards and 26 touchdowns. Bonner transferred to Valdosta (Ga.) State, which he has led to a 10-1 record and the No. 6 ranking in Division II on the strength of his 54 touchdown passes. The Wildcats, who went 6-6 a year ago, are 2-8 after last Saturday's 24-20 loss to Vanderbilt.
Blame Kentucky's decline on a host of things—injuries, the nation's 20th toughest schedule compared with 41st toughest in 1999, a defense that is surrendering an SEC-worst 32.4 points a game and an offense that's 10th in the conference in scoring. Just don't put too much of the blame on Lorenzen, who has thrown 19 interceptions but is second in the nation in total offense (348.7 yards per game) and has thrown for 17 touchdowns. After every game, Mumme says, he measures what Lorenzen did against what Bonner might have done. "The one game where I would have said, 'All right, Jared, I'm going to put Bonner in,' would have been after Jared threw the second interception [of four] against Mississippi State," Mumme says of the Wildcats' 35-17 loss on Nov. 4.
Lorenzen goes into Saturday's game against Tennessee needing 233 passing yards to break the NCAA record for a freshman. He has already set national freshman marks for pass attempts (513) and completions (297). With him at quarterback Kentucky has suffered only 17 sacks, compared with 52 last season. Lorenzen is surprisingly agile for someone his size. The Wildcats' media guide lists him at 6'4" and 275 pounds, but Mumme says his quarterback is even bigger than that. "No, he's 280, 285. He's his basic, huge self."
If Lorenzen keeps demolishing records, he'll loom even larger in Kentucky's future.
Big Ten Frenzy
No Shortage Of Thrills
The Big Ten may not be the best conference in the nation this season, but it's right up there with the Pac-10 for pure excitement and entertainment. Three league games have gone into overtime, and 15 of the 36 others have been decided by eight points or fewer. Last Saturday, two of the Big Ten's top teams, Purdue and Northwestern, entered the day tied for the conference lead, and both lost, leaving four teams—the Boilermakers, Wildcats, Michigan and Ohio State—with a shot at the Rose Bowl.
Anyone needing to be convinced that there's no dominant team in the Big Ten should look no further than Ohio State's final two possessions last Saturday at Illinois. Trailing 21-18 with second-and-goal at the Illini two, the Buckeyes' Steve Bellisari failed twice to score on quarterback sneaks, and Ohio State had to settle for a game-tying field goal. On the Buckeyes' next possession, Dan Stultz kicked his fourth field goal of the game as time expired to clinch the victory. The point is that a team now tied for the conference lead couldn't make two yards running the ball in two plays against the league's worst rushing defense.
For the first time since 1992 the Big Ten will finish the regular season without a 10-win team. Remember in 1984, when 10-1 Illinois lost to 6-4-1 UCLA? The roles have been reversed. By beating Indiana on Saturday, Purdue will finish 8-3 and go to the Rose Bowl to play—and quite possibly defeat—a 10-1 team, either Oregon, Oregon State or Washington. Given how things have gone in the Big Ten this year, however, don't be surprised if the Boilermakers lose their conference finale and Northwestern (should it beat Illinois) or the winner of Michigan-Ohio State (if Purdue and Northwestern both lose) heads to Pasadena instead.