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Inside College Football | Chris Dufresne / ON COLLEGE

Season Already Full of False Starts

September 04, 2003|Chris Dufresne

I know it's early, Gladys, but get me rewrite ...

It used to be you could wait until after Labor Day to rethink everything you thought about an upcoming football season, but that was before they started playing more and more games before the back-to-school sales ended.

Although a few schools -- UCLA, Arizona State and Notre Dame to name three -- have yet to strike up their bands, August proved to be a defining month for many:

* TEAM OF THE MONTH: Kansas State went 2-0 and is heading toward 5-0 and an Oct. 4 showdown against Texas in Austin. If this keeps up, who knows, Kansas State Coach Bill Snyder might crack a smile.

* COACH OF THE MONTH: California's Jeff Tedford. We figured his Golden Bears would fall into the San Andreas fault this year after losing quarterback Kyle Boller to the Baltimore Ravens and nine starters on defense, but Cal played Kansas State tough in a 42-28 loss and last weekend completely messed up Southern Mississippi.

Revised conclusion: Tedford can really coach.

* COACH ALREADY ON THE HOT SEAT: Clemson's Tommy Bowden. The eldest of Bobby Bowden's boys is going to need his sense of humor to survive the year in Death Valley. This, after almost every so-called expert last weekend picked Clemson to upset suspension-depleted Georgia. Final score: Georgia 30, Clemson zip.

You knew it wasn't going to be Clemson's day in the second quarter when Tiger center Tommy Sharpe vomited on the ball before a center snap, causing a yucky exchange and a fumble. After cleaning off the ball, Georgia kicked a field goal to go up, 10-0.

* PLAYER ALREADY OUT OF HEISMAN TROPHY CONTENTION: Washington quarterback Cody Pickett. He might tear up the conference again in Pacific 10 play, but no one will forget how he and his team struggled in Saturday's opener against Ohio State, televised to 75% of the country. Last year, Washington State's 25-7 loss at Ohio State took Jason Gesser out of contention. Even though he recovered to share conference MVP honors with USC's Carson Palmer, Gesser didn't even receive an invite to Heisman ceremonies in New York.

* EARLIEST UNCALLED-FOR HEISMAN TROPHY POSE RECORDED: Aug. 28, 2003, Miami tight end Kellen Winslow Jr., after a leaping touchdown catch against Louisiana Tech.

Here's what Larry Coker, Winslow's coach, thought of the pose: "I didn't think very much of it, to be quite honest," he said.

Winslow, who has dubbed himself "the Chosen One," should have chosen to hand the ball to the official.

* SCHOOLS THAT MAY HAVE BEEN UNDERSOLD BY ONE NATIONAL COLUMNIST: USC and Ohio State. We said USC was a year away from national-title contention, but that was before the Trojans went south and knocked the humidity out of Auburn or, as it might be remembered, Wild Bunch II vs. Brady Bunch III.

We also had no idea Ohio State Coach Jim Tressel would take a page from "Seabiscuit" and put blinders on all his players to keep them from being distracted by the Maurice Clarett saga.

Early report: The Buckeyes looked focused in Saturday's 28-9 victory over Washington. Here's how much Clarett has been written out of Script Ohio: A pregame video display celebrating last year's national-title run included no footage of Clarett, even though he gained 1,237 yards in 2002 and scored the title-clinching touchdown against Miami.

We're still hedging a bit here, figuring there's going to be a game this year the Buckeyes could have used Clarett to win.

* TEAM ALREADY OUT OF NATIONAL TITLE CONTENTION: Auburn. It is feasible Tommy Tuberville's team could recover, win the "rugged" Southeastern Conference and earn a spot in the bowl championship series title game, but at some point this is going to require scoring a touchdown. The only team we can remember that stayed in national-title contention without an offense was last year's incarnation of Notre Dame. The difference: Although the Irish offense did not produce a touchdown in their first two games, Notre Dame won both games and ran its record to 8-0 before breaking out the green jerseys in time for a home loss to Boston College.


Somehow the wires got crossed. Instead of quarterback Brock Berlin leading Florida into Saturday's grudge match against Miami in the Orange Bowl, Berlin will lead Miami against Florida.

"You really can't draw it up any better," Berlin said.

We'll see.

Berlin was the cream of Steve Spurrier's quarterback crop when he signed with Florida out of Louisiana's Evangel Christian Academy. But when Rex Grossman won the starting job in 2001, Berlin gassed up the car and headed to archrival Miami (Interstate 75 south from Gainesville to Florida Turnpike).

Berlin sat out last year and has two years of eligibility remaining.

Berlin said leaving Florida was strictly a business decision and had nothing to do with "the ball coach."

"A lot of people thought that me and Coach Spurrier didn't get along," Berlin said after a practice last month. "I have great respect for Coach Spurrier."

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