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SPORTS WEEKEND | WEEK 5 PRIMER

Kentucky Makes a Pass at Florida

September 26, 1997|CHRIS DUFRESNE

Steve Spurrier has so bulldozed the Southeastern Conference landscape that Saturday's game between the Gators and Wildcats in Lexington has actually become interesting.

If you're not keeping up with Spurrier in the SEC, you're, well, Vanderbilt.

It was no doubt because of Spurrier that Kentucky Athletic Director C.M. Newton canned nice-guy Bill Curry, the cloud-of-dust Bear Bryant disciple, and replaced him with Hal Mumme, a pass-happy no-name from Division II Valdosta State.

Result?

Kentucky threw seven touchdown passes all of last year under Curry.

Last week, sophomore quarterback Tim Couch threw a school-record seven touchdown passes in a 49-7 win over Indiana.

Kentucky has thrown more touchdown passes, 15, than Florida, 14, this season.

"I guess you could say Kentucky is now one of the best, if not the best, passing team in the conference," Spurrier semi-wisecracked.

Mumme says his offense is based on Brigham Young's passing schemes but does not deny being influenced by Spurrier.

"I think both of us want to throw the ball, maybe set up the run game with the throw first, and go from there," Mumme said.

Mumme's hiring probably kept Couch, the most prized recruit in state history, from transferring after his freshman season.

Couch has flourished in Mumme's system, having thrown for 1,081 yards and 15 touchdowns in three games while completing 69.2% of his passes.

* The Line: Florida by 23.

ON TV

Northwestern (2-2) at Purdue (2-1), ESPN, 9:30 a.m.: The Wildcats are two-time defending Big Ten champions but will need talent bypass surgery to make a run at crown No. 3. Purdue, after an embarrassing opening loss to Toledo, has rebounded under first-year Coach Joe Tiller with victories against Notre Dame and Ball State.

The Line: Purdue by 3.

* Illinois (0-3) at Iowa (3-0), ESPN2, 9:30 a.m.: Led by tailback Tavian Banks and receiver Tim Dwight, the Hawkeyes outscored Northern Iowa, Tulsa and Iowa State, 183-36, in three nonconference wins. Banks leads the nation in rushing with 644 yards, and should pick up a few more against the Illini's 67th-rated rush defense.

The Line: Iowa by 28.

* Notre Dame (1-2) at Michigan (2-0), Channel 7, 12:30 p.m.: The Irish haven't lost three regular-season games in a row since the last days of Gerry Faust in 1985 but appear headed in that direction against a Michigan bunch that has yet to give up a touchdown. Among schools that have played Notre Dame at least five times, Michigan is the only one with a winning series record (15-10-1) against the Irish.

The Line: Michigan by 14.

* Cincinnati (2-1) at Boston College (2-1), ESPN2, 3 p.m.: What's with the Bearcats? After giving up 729 yards in their first two games, they held Kansas to minus-46 last weekend. The Golden Eagles have rebounded from an opening loss to Temple with wins over West Virginia and Rutgers.

The Line: Cincinnati by 2.

* Louisville (1-3) at Oklahoma (1-2), Fox Sports West, 4 p.m.: Ancient mixed metaphor: If a bad game falls in a forest, will anyone watch it? That's what the folks at Fox Sports West should be asking as this stinker competes with paid programming for weight-loss equipment.

The Line: Oklahoma by 7 1/2.

* Clemson (2-1) at Georgia Tech (1-1), ESPN, 4:30 p.m.: The Tigers try to rebound from a tough 35-28 loss to Florida State last week, while the Yellow Jackets try to go 2-0 in the ACC for the first time since Bobby Ross' 1990, split-vote national championship team.

The Line: Clemson by 1.

* San Diego State (1-2) at Air Force (4-0), ESPN2, 6 p.m.: This is the third stop on a four-game road swing for the Aztecs, who are piling up gate receipts and frequent flyer miles, if not victories. Air Force is also flying high after a 24-0 win over Colorado State last weekend.

The Line: Air Force by 8.

* Oregon (3-0) at Stanford (2-1), Fox Sports West, 7:15 p.m.: The Ducks are off to their best start since 1986 and are looking to wreck Stanford's homecoming weekend while also avenging last year's overtime loss in Palo Alto. The Cardinal might want to shore up its line after giving up seven sacks in last week's three-point win over Oregon State.

The Line: Stanford by 8.

5 Things to Look For

1. Kevin Faulk's miraculous recovery. The Louisiana State tailback began the year as a Heisman Trophy candidate but may become Wally Pipp if his hamstring injury lingers. Faulk is expected back against Akron after sitting out two games. Good thing. In his place, Cecil Collins rushed for 404 yards and another back, Rondell Mealey, added 129 yards last week against Auburn.

2. Texas' return from purgatory. Two weeks after their 66-3 loss to UCLA, the Longhorns seek to recapture some honor at Rice, which is coming off an upset of Northwestern. Things are so bad at Texas a woman called a local radio station and said junior tailback Ricky Williams should opt for the NFL this year if the offensive line doesn't improve. The caller was Williams' mother.

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