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Irish? Here Are Four New Horsemen

October 31, 2002|Chris Dufresne

You wouldn't believe the stuff that piles up on a college football writer's desk during the course of a year in which Notre Dame starts 8-0.

I try my level best to keep up and have more Post-It reminder notes than a soccer mom but things fall through the cracks -- specifically four of this year's more compelling stories: Iowa, Georgia, North Carolina State and Bowling Green.

Let the record state these schools are a combined 32-1 with nary a peep out of your command central correspondent.

Truth is, when Notre Dame is hot the Irish suck media attention like a fire eats oxygen, and let's just say presently the Irish have four burners lit.

If this keeps up, you can reach me through December at a post office box in South Bend.

Miami, of course, has to be covered because the Hurricanes are defending national champions and haven't lost a game in 25 months, so I actually saw Miami beat Florida in Gainesville.

Oklahoma demanded attention during the annual Red River Show Up (and humiliate) Texas week and Ohio State caught my eye in Columbus on a trip to scout Washington State.

This hasn't left much time for the Rest of the Nation.

These poor orphans of Notre Dame's success deserve more ink, but unfortunately my "Things to Do" list was only recently discovered beneath a pile of potatoes and cabbage.

Memo to self: find out more about:

Iowa: Does team still play in Big Ten; is Hayden Fry still coach? May be time to get tailback Ronnie Harmon some pub.

North Carolina State: Find out if games against East Tennessee State and Massachusetts will hurt Wolfpack's RPI ranking and seeding in NCAA tournament (Updated memo: Scratch that -- those teams are on the school's football schedule).

Georgia: Follow-up on Uga VI's off-season trip to Washington. Heard 4-year-old canine mascot flew to nation's capitol in private jet and got the red carpet treatment -- most dogs only get their noses rubbed in it -- in halls of Congress.

Bowling Green: There's a Bowling Green in Ohio and Kentucky. Find out which one has the football team ranked ahead of Tennessee.

Seriously, with Notre Dame's next game only days away, this might be the only chance to sneak in a few thumbnail sketches on non-Irish teams between now and St. Patrick's Day.

* Iowa (8-1): The No. 9 Hawkeyes are coached by Kirk Ferentz (turns out Fry retired years ago) and are possibly Rose Bowl bound. The Hawkeyes' only loss was to rival Iowa State but the team has won six consecutive games since, including a Big Ten, 34-9 eye-opener at Michigan last week. Consider it payback for 1902, the year Michigan nipped Iowa, 107-0. Quarterback Brad Banks ranks third nationally in pass efficiency, which comes as news to Big Ten schools who recruited Banks to play defensive back.

Fast fact: Did you know this is the first time Iowa has ever defeated Michigan and Penn State in the same season?

Some bad news: Iowa and Ohio State are undefeated in conference but don't meet this year because of a Big Ten schedule rotation system that also didn't have Ohio State and Northwestern paired in 1996, the year those schools tied for the conference title.

National title hopes? Iowa picked the wrong year to have one defeat, but would gladly settle for fresh-cut roses.

* North Carolina State (9-0): No more jokes about this school's schedule, only to respectfully note the Wolfpack has defeated two Division I-AA teams while the other seven victories were logged against major college teams with an aggregate record of 23-37. Listen, North Carolina State is taking enough grief in the BCS standings with its 85th strength-of-schedule mark.

Who wouldn't want to be 9-0? Only Miami (29) and Bowling Green (10) have won more consecutive games and North Carolina State quarterback Philip Rivers leads the nation in passing.

The most fascinating statistic, however, belongs to freshman running back T.A. McLendon, who has 492 rushing yards and nine touchdowns in the three games -- Texas Tech, North Carolina, Clemson -- in which he has vomited on the sidelines. It's a nervous reflex that dates back years. Word is, fans at McLendon's high school games wouldn't rest until the star put his head in a bucket.

National title hopes? North Carolina State is 14.04 points out of the No. 2 bowl championship series spot. In outer space terminology, that's the equivalent of 14.04 light years.

* Georgia (8-0): That Uga-goes-to-Washington-last-summer story is true. While the homeless lined up for lunch at area shelters, Georgia's famous bulldog mascot ate roast beef out of the hands of U.S. senators. When Uga barked during a speech, some said it was the most intelligent thing emanating from the caucus room in years.

Uga's lobbying efforts have paid off handsomely on the field, as No. 5 Georgia is poised to win its first Southeastern Conference title in 20 years. The only annual hang-up is this week's game against Florida, which has won 11 of the last 12. That was then, this is now, and no school was happier to see Steve Spurrier scratch his NFL itch than Georgia.

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