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For 20 bonus points and Keith Jackson's home phone number, name a team that has been to a bowl game and finished in the Top 20 four years running, averaged more than 58,000 fans at home last season and has an aw-shucks coach with his own fan club. Did you say West Virginia? Right you are. Coach Don Nehlen, whose new autobiography is called I'm Nobody Special, has quietly turned Mountaineer football into something very special. More good things are to come, with 10 starters back from a superb defense and with an offense that features 6'7", 290-pound Brian Jozwiak—this year's Bill Fralic—at tackle. The big man in the backfield is 6'6", 220-pound quarterback John Talley, a redshirt sophomore. Talley-ho and away they go.
Because Miami gave up 128 points in its final three games last year, it's no wonder that Hurricane fans would just as soon switch on the lights before the end of the '84 highlights film. Look, there's Maryland coming back to win after trailing 31-0. And there's the Magic Flutie Pass. And how about that wild 39-37 loss to UCLA in the Fiesta Bowl. Wait, there's some footage of the beloved Bernie Kosar, but he bolted two years early, didn't he. Still, there's plenty left. Quarterback Vinny Testaverde can be good if he finds adequate replacements for wideouts Eddie Brown and Stanley Shakespeare. Even if he doesn't, Testaverde can defer to Alonzo Highsmith and Melvin Bratton, the best pair of runners in Miami's history. For peace of mind, coach Jimmy Johnson hired a new defensive coordinator ( Oklahoma State pal Paul Jette), switched to a four-man defensive front and prayed that his secondary wasn't scarred for life.
Joe Paterno is mad, and he's not going to take it anymore. Penn State was embarrassed in its final two games—a 44-7 loss to Notre Dame and a 31-11 loss to Pitt—and Paterno has been in a foul mood ever since. His 14-9-1 record for 1983 and '84 is his worst for back-to-back seasons in 19 years. To mark the occasion, he put the Lions through their toughest spring in years. Penn State is long on defense but hurting at running back, despite the return of D.J. Dozier, and at wide receiver, despite the arrival of Michael Timpson, the first competitor ever to win four events at the Florida high school track meet.
Recruiting guru Joe Terranova has deemed Florida State's crop the finest in the land for 1985. Maybe in there somewhere coach Bobby Bowden can find a) a quarterback to replace the injured Eric Thomas; b) a substitute for tailback Roosevelt Snipes, who flunked out of school; and c) someone, anyone, to play the secondary. Beyond that, the Seminoles are solid, especially on special teams. They have superb punting (Louis Berry), field goal kicking (Derek Schmidt) and kick blocking (nine last year). Problem is, the schedule includes Nebraska, Auburn and Florida—all on the road.
Syracuse finished 6-5 the past two years and figures to have another winning season after some nifty scheduling. The Orangemen have dropped Florida and Nebraska (smart) and added Mississippi State and Virginia Tech (smarter still). Mike Kmetz has won the quarterback job, but the "O" will go slow. At least you can count on the PAT kicking. Syracuse hasn't missed a point-after since 1978. That's 123 straight, 12 short of the record Oklahoma set from 1976 to '79.
Army marched to a different drummer in '84, leading the nation in rushing, going 8-3-1, accepting an invitation to its first bowl game—the Cherry—and, of all things, winning it. All this after some smart alecks (you looking at us?) predicted the Cadets would be the pits. So if somebody tells you both lines were decimated by graduation and Army will march to its usual drummer in '85, you didn't read it here.
For Napoleon McCallum (page 18), running for Navy will be an adventure, because all seven of last season's starting offensive linemen have graduated. But the Middies can also strike by air. Quarterback Bill Byrne broke nine academy passing records last fall, some of them Roger Staubach's.
The question at Memphis State is: Have the new coach and the star quarterback really kissed and made up? Fur reportedly flew between coach Rey Dempsey and starter Danny Sparkman after Sparkman was benched in the final game of last year. This spring they got along like father and son, and Sparkman will probably break most of the school's passing records. Rutgers coach Dick Anderson has his dander up, too, but for a different reason. The Knights were a surprising 7-3 in '84 but were snubbed by the bowls. However, with quarterback Rusty Hochberg back (1,905 yards passing in '84), they just might end up in one this year. If they do, it won't be because they're ducking anybody. Florida, Pitt and Tennessee replace Cincinnati, Kentucky and Louisville on the schedule.
Three years ago Temple's loquacious president, Peter Liacouras, predicted the Owls would be in the Sugar Bowl by this season. This will be a neat trick, with Penn State, BYU, Boston College, West Virginia and Pitt on the schedule and with the team very suspect in the depth department. Nonetheless, the offensive line, anchored by national powerlifting champ John Rienstra, is gargantuan, and all the skill positions are stocked with returning starters.
Pittsburgh needed the Heimlich maneuver last year after predictions of a national championship gave way to a 3-7-1 season. Great expectations don't exist this time. Half the '84 starters are gone, leaving a large portion of Panther hopes Velcroed to a blue-chip freshman, Brian Davis, who averaged 9.6 yards per carry as a high school senior.