The specialty of the house at LSU will be that perennial Cajun favorite, redshirts and rice. Coach Mike Archer red-shirted the entire freshman class last season, and after a bountiful recruiting year the Tigers will be deep at every position. LSU's greatest asset is quarterback Tommy Hodson (page 92), but the Tigers would feel a whole lot better facing just about the toughest schedule in the nation if running back Harvey Williams, who gained 1,001 yards then blew out his left knee in the last regular-season game, has recovered enough to provide some stability in the ground game. If Williams isn't fit, Hodson may truly stand alone; the Tigers lost tight end Brian Kinchen to graduation and lost Kinchen's younger brother, Todd, a wide receiver who may be the best athlete on the team, to a serious knee injury three weeks ago.
On another culinary front, the
Creamery produces an ice cream flavor called Peachy Paterno, but that may be the only peachy thing on the Nittany Lion country safari this year. "This team is going to be young," coach Joe Paterno says. "It's going to have to get some things done on just sheer intensity." Three of the four best linebackers have departed, as has quarterback Matt Knizner, who often incurred the wrath of fans in an 8-4 year. Competing for the quarterback job are junior Tom Bill, and senior Lance Lonergan, whose career stats show three passes, three completions.
Tailback Blair Thomas, who tore a ligament in his right knee last December after rushing for the third most yards in Penn State history (1,414), had surgery in January, and if Thomas is hobbled, the Lions could tumble. In the end, Paterno may be the best thing Penn State has going for it. "There's a challenge out there," he says. "Let's lick it." When you've got a flavor named after you, you can get away with ice-cream-cone metaphors.
In the realm of metaphor, the AUBURN defense is like the mythical Hydra—it keeps sprouting new heads every time one gets hacked off. Enough good defenders departed the Tigers in the off-season to stock an Arena Football powerhouse, but rest assured, equally brutish ones will grow in their places. Questing quarterbacks will want to be particularly aware of linebacker Craig Ogletree. When he spelled the NFL's No. 1 draft pick, Aundray Bruce, last year, the drop-off in talent was not always noticeable. The Tigers lack a big running back again, and quarterback Reggie Slack is inexperienced, but in Lawyer Tillman, Slack will have one of the best wide receivers in the country.
coach Bo Schembechler is patrolling the sideline again after his second open-heart operation, and apparently the doctors will go on looking until they find one. "Bo is the same coach," says defensive tackle Mark Messner, "just more intense." Schembechler says he has the best group of tailbacks he's ever coached in Allen Jefferson, Tracy Williams and Tony Boles, and they'll look even better running behind the best offensive line in the nation. With that mammoth front wall, quarterback Demetrius Brown, who got Bo riled this summer by skirting the edge of academic ineligibility, should have no excuse for duplicating his 16 interceptions of '87, most in the Big Ten. There is concern that the defense will suffer from an inexperienced secondary, but corner David Arnold and safety Rick Hassel did have 43 tackles between them.
Last year the
Cowboys yielded a school-record 4,531 yards but still finished 10-2 and won the Sun Bowl. They did it by scoring fast and often, led by the Mutt-and-Jeff combination of quarterback Mike Gundy and wide receiver Hart Lee Dykes. When Gundy, who stands only 5'11" and has to scramble a lot, spots a cornerback attempting to cover Dykes, who is 6'4" and has a 36�-inch vertical leap, he just runs around for a while and then lobs something high enough so that only Dykes can get it. "That's how we get our biggest gains," says Gundy. "On broken plays."
great Earl Campbell, now an administrator at the university, runs into the Longhorns' exciting tailback, Eric Metcalf, in the halls, he asks Metcalf why he always falls down when he's going into the end zone. "Why don't you stand up like I did, and just give 'em a stiff arm?" Campbell asks. And Metcalf, a graceful, high-stepping runner who bounds and cuts like a frightened deer, always has an answer. "He says, 'Yeah, but I've got this thing in my hips'—meaning moves," Campbell says. Metcalf had enough of them to finish third in the nation in all-purpose yardage last year, and this season he has a chance to win the Heisman and propel Texas back into the Top 20. The defense, led by linebacker Britt Hager, will have to do better than the 27 points per game—60 against Houston—it allowed last year if the Longhorns are to press the Aggies for Southwest supremacy.
has most of its important players back on offense, but nobody is quite sure what that means because last year the Volunteers had to rally from behind in the fourth quarter four times, including their Peach Bowl win over Indiana. This is the sleeper team of the powerful SEC and of the Top 20; Tennessee will either disappear quickly—three of its first four games are against Georgia. LSU and Auburn—or rise among the honored few with early victories. The Vols like to use three wide receivers most of the time, and with Thomas Woods (26 catches), Terence Cleveland (23 catches at 18.1 yards a pop), and Alvin Harper and Carl Pickens (both of whom have high jumped 7'1") on hand, steady quarterback Jeff Francis should have no problem finding a target.
Finding a target wasn't a problem for
quarterback Todd Ellis during the past two seasons. Making sure the target was wearing the right color jersey was, as Ellis threw for 30 TDs but also had 46 interceptions (including the Gator Bowl). Now the Gamecocks have junked the flashy run-and-shoot offense in favor of a standard pro set that will feature more handoffs to tailback Harold Green. Defense is what this team is all about, though. Second-stingiest in the nation last season in points allowed, it lost half the unit to graduation, but returning cornerback Robert Robinson and linebacker Matt McKernan are as good as they come.