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SEPTEMBER 1999 | VOL. 3, NO. 9


SPORTS

CURRENT SPORTS

ALSO THIS MONTH
Subway Series - interleague play spawns renewed rivalry in the Big Apple

RECENT SPORTS
David Cone's Imperfect Game

SPORTS ARCHIVE


MARK DEWING, a freelance writer and British expatriate, moved to the U.S.A. partly to experience heavy snowfall, but primarily because he got tired of having to wait until 2:00 a.m. to watch the Super Bowl live. He has worked as a social worker, freelance photographer, tomato picker, mortuary cleaner and bookstore buyer/manager. He most recently worked within the publishing industry as a PR consultant. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, and he wishes the Dodgers still lived there too.

 

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College Football Season Preview

MARK DEWING

Due to the arid summer the leaves may not turn red this fall. There are however other signs that a new season is upon us. Soon breath made visible by the cold will be snorting from beneath mud-splashed helmets. It's college pigskin time!

Get the tailgate grills and coolers ready - even if you're only hanging out in the backyard. What's new? Florida State, Florida, and Nebraska are still the classroom bullies, but their regular season schedules are weak. Tennessee (last year was their Twilight Zone season) will attempt - and fail - to repeat as national champion. Miami (FL) after years of crippling recruiting sanctions believes it can move back upstairs. It won't. Miami of Ohio is a far better team - last year they finished 10-1, tied as conference champs, yet failed to gain a bowl berth! The Big East is still a blue collar, but weaker conference - pity poor CBS who own the TV rights to it. Notre Dame is rebuilding but feels cocky enough to have an impossibly tough schedule. Penn State, Arizona and Ohio State are all feeling like they have the weapons to win big in '99. But watch out for this season's sleepers, which include Air Force, Purdue, Louisville, and Colorado.

Who'll be crowned champion on January 4th at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans? The BCS - though some might drop the "C" after Kansas State were shut out of it last year - has been tinkered with, after only one year. Human beings have been reduced in importance, and additional computerized polls added. Its now dependent on a combo of the human AP media and USA Today/ESPN coaches polls, nine computer polls, strength of schedule, and a minimum of 9 wins - last year it was 8. The official BCS press release reads like a math thesis: "The formula shall be weighted two-third (66.67%) for the opponent's record and one-third (33.33%) for the opponents' opponents record... shall be calculated to determine in which quartile it will rank...and shall be further quantified by its ranking within each quartile (divided by 25)". Yeah, Ok! Thanks guys!

The colleges are getting greedier - and our Faustian TV corporations are eagerly beckoning with more buckets of cash, in exchange for odd scheduling match-ups, and yet more bowls. The Mobile Alabama Bowl debuts this year. There are now 23 bowls, involving 46 teams. There are only 114 teams in Division 1-A. "Huh", I hear you say, "weren't there only 112 1-A teams last year?" Please put your hands together to welcome the latest teams to leap up to Division 1-A: Buffalo, and Middle Tennessee State. Let's pretend we don't know that Buffalo finished last season - when they were still playing Division 1-AA teams - 4-7. Middle Tennessee State managed to do better - it finished 5-5 - giving them the confidence to take on Arizona (#4 AP pre-season), and Arkansas (#22) on the road. It's all about money. As Francis Bacon once wrote: "Money is like muck, not good except that it is spread".

College football, traditionally starts before the slicker, but less exciting, NFL. However, even though the NCAA now stages five late August games - some oddly referred to as "Classics" - the NFL's televised pre-season, started August 7th. Their regular season has shifted a week forwards - the NFL regular season now concludes in January.

Pop Quiz:
Which outstanding college center went on to become the only American president never to be elected into that office? Answer follows later.

Happiest News This Season:
Keith Jackson is not retiring after all! He's doing PAC10 games and the Rose Bowl. Be thankful all those who live out west. Whoa Nellie!

Most Depressing News:
The Heisman trophy is now being brought to us exclusively by Suzuki, though initial reports indicate the actual name won't change. What next, the Nobel Prize brought to you by Pfizer?

Top Heisman Candidates:
All seniors. Chris Redman, QB, Louisville. 6'3, 215 lb. Last year this Louisville native phenom passed for 4,042 yards and 29 Td's. I believe he could ultimately be better than an earlier Louisville Cardinal, Johnny Unitas.

Ron Dayne, RB, Wisconsin. 5'10, 253lb. Dayne will not only smash Archie Griffin's Big 10 rushing record, he'll also nudge past last year's Heisman winner, Ricky Williams' career NCAA rushing record of 6,279 yards.

Chad Pennington, QB, Marshall, 6'3, 220lb. He's amassed over 10,000 career passing yards already. This is the guy who threw to Randy Moss two years ago, yet last year - sans Moss - still managed to be incredible. In last year's Motor City Bowl he threw for 411 yards, and completed 4 TD's.

Worst Conference:
WAC. All the good teams (BYU, Air Force, Colorado St, etc.) just bolted and formed the Mountain West Conference. What's left ain't pretty: TCU, SMU, and Tulsa among them. Hawaii haven't won since 1997, but...

Most Interesting Coaching Stories:
June Jones quit the San Diego Chargers, to return to his alma mater Hawaii - for considerably less money - in the hopes of turning them around. He'll have his hands full. Some of the nations best prospects come out of Hawaii's high schools only to attend colleges on the mainland. Tommy Bowden abruptly quit a fine program at Tulane to run Clemson. On October 23rd he'll make history when he leads the Tigers at home against football powerhouse Florida State, who are coached by his Dad, Bobby. Another bitter divorce was that between Colorado and the NCAA's blondest coach Rick Neuheisel, when he signed a huge contract with Washington. The Buffaloes visit the Huskies September 25th, in what could prove to be a real hoe-down.

Will Florida's Terrible Triplets Wipe the Floor?
No. Florida State, Florida, and Miami will win plenty, but they'll also lose some big ones. Arkansas and Georgia Tech could be the best teams in the South. The Big 10 will have an awesome year. The national champion will be either Penn State, Wisconsin, or Ohio State. From the west look out for Arizona.

Why I Love This Game:
Two years ago at an Army home game at beautiful West Point on the leafy banks of the Hudson, halftime arrived and I found myself in the john. Next to me was General "Stormin'" Norman Schwarzkopf. "Great game", I said nervously. "Sure is", he replied enthusiastically.

Pop Quiz Answer:
Gerald Ford, Michigan Wolverine and former U.S. President.

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PICTURES: Ron Dayne (right) copyright ©1999 University of Wisconsin; Chris Redman (left) copyright © 1999 University of Louisville Sports Information