Q: Even if the Huskies, who on Sunday were hit with severe sanctions by the Pac-10 (page 11), were eligible for the Rose Bowl, would a team that lost its top two quarterbacks, three starting linebackers and three first-string defensive backs—not to mention its coach, Don James—have made it to Pasadena?
A: Yes. At quarterback, sophomore Damon Huard and junior Eric Bjornson are as good as the Mark Brunell—Billy Joe Hobert tandem was last season. And if any team can survive the loss of senior tailback Beno Bryant, who was suspended as part of the Pac-10 sanctions, it's Washington. The Huskies lose nothing in turning to junior Napoleon Kaufman, one of the fastest running backs in the country. They might also have their best group of wide receivers ever and, in Mark Bruener, perhaps the nation's finest tight end. Despite the losses to graduation, the Washington defense is still blessed by an extraordinarily fast group of linebackers, led by two-year starter Andy Mason, and some excellent athletes in the secondary. Now with no Rose Bowl to point for, the Huskies will be forced to concentrate on a realistic goal—like, say, going 11-0.
Q: How long will it take the team to adjust to new coach Jim Lambright's system?
A: Not long. Lambright bleeds purple and gold. He played defensive end for Washington in the early '60s and was the only assistant coach retained by James when James came to Seattle in 1974. As defensive coordinator for the last 16 years, he developed a swarming scheme that countless other schools have copied. Says linebacker Jamal Fountaine about Lambright, "He's been in the system longer than the system."
10. Fresno State
Q: After leading the nation in scoring for the second consecutive season and shocking Southern Cal 24-7 in the Freedom Bowl, can the Bulldogs sneak up on anybody anymore?
A: No, but just because opponents know quarterback Trent Dilfer, tailback Ron Rivers and receiver Malcolm Seabron are coming doesn't mean they can stop them. The 6'5", 230-pound Dilfer passed for 3,000 yards and 21 touchdowns last year, Rivers rushed for 1,007 yards, and Seabron caught 42 passes for 994 yards and nine touchdowns.
Q: Will Fresno State's porous defense put too much pressure on its superb offense?
A: Yes, but if the defense, which has no starters from the line returning, can just figure out how to defend the wishbone—the Bulldogs face four wishbone teams—the offense should boost Fresno State to the top of the WAC.
11. Notre Dame