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COLLEGE FOOTBALL / 1996

By the Numbers

August 25, 1996|CHRIS DUFRESNE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

There goes Tommie Frazier around left end, to the 10, to the five, touchdown Nebraska!

Relax, Florida, it's a joke.

The national title game ended months ago, although popcorn-less showings of Nebraska's 62-24 Fiesta Bowl blowout are being replayed nightly in Gator Coach Steve Spurrier's tightly wound cranium.

Much in the college game has changed since that Jan. 2 Tempe trampling, the title game that went stale faster than the tortilla chips.

-- Frazier took his act and moved on to Canada -- yes, Canada -- after the NFL snubbed the most electrifying no-options quarterback of his generation.

-- Quarterback Donovan McNabb, Syracuse's super sophomore, came as close to a national title as he'll get last spring as a bench warmer for the Orangeman basketball team, which fell to Kentucky in the NCAA title game.

-- The University of Miami? Updates on its 1996 roster can be obtained through the Dade County Attorney's office via the Freedom of Information Act.

-- There were the usual house-cleanings. Cal replaced Coach Keith Gilbertson with Steve Mariucci; Georgia fired Ray Goff, thought it had hired Kansas' Glen Mason -- who then changed his mind -- then settled for Jim Donnan. Jim Donnan? Oklahoma showed ol' cuss Howard Schnellenberger the door and ushered in a more familiar face, John Blake, the former Sooner nose tackle and Barry Switzer back-slapper.

You may have heard about Bob Toledo replacing Terry Donahue at UCLA.

-- The Rose Bowl, nothing but a thorn in the national alliance's side, at last signed on to the national championship program, beginning in 1998. You can bet that'll be the year three teams go undefeated.

-- The nation's conferences underwent more structural changes than Michael Jackson. The former Big Eight hand-picked the best of the defunct Southwest -- Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Baylor--then re-formed as the Big 12, a barrel-chested, two-fisted conference if ever there was one.

Well, actually, there was once. It was called the Southwest.

SWC outcasts Southern Methodist, Rice and Texas Christian were sent packing to the Western Athletic, the Brady Bunch of conferences as it tries to clothe and feed 16 teams in a two-division format.

Houston, the remaining SWC orphan, was put in the loving care of upstart Conference USA.

The Big West, once a 10-tentacled, frequent-flyer boondoggle, dumped seven teams, added three and returns as a slick (that's sick without the L) six-team unit. For more details, call the Big West's emergency hotline, 1 (800) SAY-WHAT?

-- The tie game in college football became history after common sense and cooperation prevailed in a meeting involving, get this, an NCAA committee.

-- There were losses: former Nebraska quarterback Brook Berringer died in a plane crash; Miami linebacker Marlin Barnes was beaten to death in his apartment; Clemson paid last respects to Frank Howard, the rock, its Hall of Fame coach.

-- There were relapses: Boise State Coach Pokey Allen, 53, took medical leave after the cancer he beat into remission last December reappeared last month. Same sad story in in Boulder, where leukemia again postponed Colorado defensive end Tyrone Bussey's comeback.

Yet, much in college football has not changed since Tempe.

The top five teams in the final 1995 Associated Press poll were Nebraska, Florida, Tennessee, Florida State and Colorado.

The top five teams in the 1996 preseason poll are Nebraska, Tennessee, Florida State, Florida and Colorado.

Joe Paterno, 69, is back with a top-20 team for his his 33rd year at Penn State.

Nebraska lost Frazier but returns with seven starters on defense, including the troika of All-Americans that snout-tied the Gators' offense in Tempe.

Nebraska has won 25 consecutive games, its last 30 at home, and the last two national titles.

Betting against the Cornhuskers to win a third would be a) illegal in most states, and b), ill-advised.

There are a number of questions as the season approaches.

Here are the numbers:

0

The number of times Arizona has appeared in the Rose Bowl. The Wildcats are the only Pac-10/Big Ten school never to have appeared in the Granddaddy, but improved their chances by hiring 64-year-old tinkerer Homer Smith to run the offense.

Also: the number of years new Oklahoma Coach John Blake has served as a offensive or defensive coordinator at any level. Also: the number of NFL scouts Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne is inviting to campus this season.

5

On a scale of one to 10, where College Sports magazine is picking Northwestern to finish in the Big Ten race. This is the same publication that rated Northwestern 86th nationally last year in its preview guide, noting, "youthful offensive roster spells trouble in Big Ten."

Also: how many Miami Hurricanes ran afoul of the law in the off-season. Also: how many games Stanford has lost on the last play since 1971, an NCAA record.

6

How many NCAA rules-makers it takes to screw in a light bulb.

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