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The Inside Track | Chris Dufresne ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

If These Teams Keep It Up, He'll Be Leaving Soon

October 21, 2002|Chris Dufresne

It was another unbelievable weekend in college football but there are a few things I still can't believe:

* I can't believe Notre Dame is 7-0. If Tyrone Willingham isn't coach of the year, a kumquat isn't a fruit. The Irish offense still flows like continental drift, yet in the days leading to his "Saturday Night Live" victory over Air Force, Willingham made defensive adjustments former coach Bob Davie couldn't have made with a tool set.

The experts said no team could stop Air Force's triple-option offense, which was leading the nation in rushing with a 339-yard-per-game average. Well, the Irish did everything but throw out spike strips in holding the Falcons to 104 yards.

The one thing it takes to stop the option is discipline on defense, and Willingham apparently majored in the subject (with a minor in sideline stoicism).

Notre Dame lucked out in a few games this year but the Air Force win was no fluke and sets up Saturday's epic matchup at Florida State.

The schools' 1993 game in South Bend did an astounding 16.0 share for NBC and was recently rated the No. 3 moment in Notre Dame football history. The second-ranked Irish knocked off No. 1 Florida State, 31-24, en route to the winning the school's 12th national title ... well, no, it didn't quite work out that way, did it?

The Irish, in fact, went lilies-up the next week against Boston College and allowed Florida State to backdoor its way to its first national championship.

This week, a victory over Florida State would again make Notre Dame a title contender. And guess which school the Irish play the following week in South Bend?

Boston College.

* I can't believe Arizona State is 3-0 and shares the Pacific 10 Conference lead with Washington State. Is this the same Sun Devil team that looked so awful against Nebraska and had to come back from 22 points down to beat San Diego State?

No, actually. Arizona State started the year with Chad Christensen at quarterback but has since given the job to sophomore Andrew Walter, who rallied his team to victory against San Diego State and then on Saturday threw for a conference-record 536 yards in a 45-42 win over No. 6 Oregon.

Arizona State fans who trekked to Eugene chanted "Dirk Koetter for President" as the Sun Devil coach left the field. That may be a stretch given that no one named Dirk could ever be president, but Koetter could give California's Jeff Tedford a run for Pac-10 coach-of-the-year honors.

* I can't believe North Carolina State is ranked No. 9 in the coaches' poll. Can we get a "Frontline" investigation to expose these interlopers? Sorry, but two-point wins over Duke don't pass muster with our BCS (Bogus Crummy Schedule) Committee. Wasn't it bad enough that Kansas State tried this soft-shoe schedule act in 1998, and Virginia Tech in 2000? How can voters keep raising the Wolfpack in the polls for wins against New Mexico, East Tennessee State, Navy, Massachusetts and Duke?

How is it North Carolina State can be ranked higher than unbeaten Bowling Green, which has at least defeated Missouri and Kansas. Is it because North Carolina State plays in a BCS conference, the Atlantic Coast, and Bowling Green plays in the Mid-American? Or is that being too cynical?

* I can't believe California and Nebraska are both 5-3. Of course, these records have different meanings on their respective campuses. California is 5-3 coming off a 1-10 season while Nebraska is 5-3 coming off an appearance in last year's national title game.

Cal couldn't be any more happy with its 5-3; Nebraska couldn't be any more ashamed. The next critical moment in Cal's season comes in November when the school pleads its case before the NCAA appeals committee. Cal is serving a one-year bowl ban for violations committed by the former coaching staff and athletic administration.

Last month, no one thought the Bears had a right-winger's chance in Berkeley of becoming bowl qualified, but suddenly the school's appeal in Chicago has as much meaning as any pass Kyle Boller has thrown this year.

* I can't believe Iowa State was all that good to begin with. Watch out for the Cyclones, everyone said. Seneca Wallace is the real deal, everyone said. What everyone missed was the fact Iowa State always stood a good chance ending up 8-5. The Wallace-for-Heisman campaign hit a dead-end Oklahoma defense on Saturday that held the quarterback to four completions for 43 yards, three interceptions, and minus-28 yards rushing in a 49-3 defeat. Iowa State fell to 6-2 and still has to play at Texas, at Colorado and at Kansas State.

* I can't believe UCLA Coach Bob Toledo's job is in jeopardy -- at least not now. The strange twist to the Bruins losing two quarterbacks to injuries in a 17-12 defeat at Cal is that it may have bought Toledo some time. How can this pivotal season in Toledo's career be fairly evaluated now? You could argue that, had Cory Paus not broken his ankle, UCLA might have defeated Cal and improved to 5-2 and 2-1 in Pac-10 play.

Weekend Wrap

Conference commissioners a few years ago decided to rotate the handling of the BCS standings to avoid the perception of bias toward a particular league. This year, the ACC turned over release responsibilities to the Big East. For what it's worth, Miami and Virginia Tech, two Big East schools, could be 1-2 today in the first BCS standings.

The most overlooked receiver in the country may be Arizona State junior Shaun McDonald, who caught 12 passes for 204 yards in Saturday's win over Oregon and has nine touchdown catches this year.

With two quarterbacks on medical leave, it can't make Toledo feel better knowing that J.P. Losman, the quarterback he signed instead of Boller, tossed two touchdown passes and ran for another in Tulane's win over Alabama Birmingham. Losman's bizarre transfer out of UCLA has messed up the Bruin quarterback situation ever since.

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