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Hurricane Creating Havoc for Cal

September 16, 2004|Chris Dufresne

Names in the news ...

Gerry is kicking up dust at Indiana, Pat deserves one on the back in Fresno, Howard has things stirring at Florida Atlantic and Pete has USC thinking re-Pete.

Now, two names having an even bigger impact on college football:

Frances and Ivan.

Meaner than junkyard dogs, these hurricanes have altered the course of a season and may have already played a part in determining this year's national champion (two hurricanes are better than one BCS, you say?)

If you're thinking 1998, well, Pacific 10 Commissioner Tom Hansen is too.

"The UCLA situation has gone through my mind," Hansen said this week.

In 1998, Hurricane Georges forced the postponement of UCLA's game at Miami from late September to early December.

Many people, including Hansen, think UCLA would have won the Miami game had it been played in September.

Instead, UCLA lost a tackle-breaker to a more mature Miami team in December, costing the Bruins a chance to play Tennessee in the Fiesta Bowl for the national title.

Six years later, the Pac-10 remains the only major conference that hasn't placed a team in the BCS title game (USC quarterback Matt Leinart wears a T-shirt stating his opinion on that).

And now, another ill wind blows in Ivan.

The monster storm has forced the postponement of California's game at Southern Mississippi, from tonight until probably the first week of December.

California is 2-0 and back in the top 10 -- No. 10 in both polls -- for the first time since 1991. The season had been tracking beautifully after wipeout wins over Air Force and New Mexico State.

Positive momentum was building toward Cal's Oct. 9 showdown against USC at the Coliseum, the winner there emerging as a prime title contender.

The Golden Bears were ready to play Southern Miss tonight.

Instead, thanks to Ivan, Cal spent the week making contingency plans and will have two weeks off before resuming its season on Oct. 2, at Oregon State.

This is no bulletin, but college football coaches are control freaks, and it kills them that they cannot control the weather.

Tonight's postponement could mess with Cal's biorhythms. It is now likely the team will have to play Southern Mississippi on Dec. 4, two weeks after the Big Game against Stanford.

If you don't think a school can come out flat following a game against its traditional rival, recall Colorado State's performance against USC a week after the Rams' gut-punch defeat at Colorado.

Cal might have been able to stay in the BCS championship hunt with an early-season loss to Southern Miss if it rallied to defeat No. 1 USC and finish 10-1.

It's hard to envision, however, Cal making the BCS cut after a season-ending loss in Hattiesburg because voters are more apt to hammer schools for late-season losses.

Another factor: Southern Mississippi is upset Cal did not consult with the school before unilaterally deciding not to send its coaches and players into harm's way this week.

Southern Miss wanted Cal to at least consider moving the game to Saturday.

Cal Coach Jeff Tedford said, "To try to take a team cross-country with so many uncertainties was not very logical."

Tedford (we told you coaches were control freaks) charted Hurricane Ivan this week the way he would an upcoming opponent. He went so far as to consult a hurricane expert on the Berkeley staff.

"I called him at home to find out what his opinion was on it, and he had said it would be prudent for us not to take our team into that situation," Tedford said.

Southern Miss Coach Jeff Bower told Associated Press he thought the manner in which Cal handled the decision making this week was "very unprofessional."

So now you can add the disrespect angle when the teams get together.

What's more, Tedford has to hold his team together mentally through the downtime.

Tedford has a plan to keep his players focused.

"It's like preparing for a bowl game," Tedford said.

So, after a 2-0 start, Cal earns a bid to the Oct. 2 Corvallis Bowl?

Hey, whatever works, right?

Hurricane Frances already forced the postponement of Miami vs. Florida State and Florida vs. Middle Tennessee.

Hurricane Ivan has washed out Cal vs. Southern Miss and threatens another key national weekend game: Louisiana State at Auburn.

The BCS dropped SOS (strength of schedule) from this year's rankings formula but may have to add SOH (strength of hurricane).

Early Reads

Favorite story lines so far ...

* Indiana is 2-0 for the first time since 1996. The Hoosiers haven't been to the Rose Bowl since 1968. Last week, Indiana came to the West Coast and won a game (against Oregon), something traditional Big Ten powerhouse Michigan has historically failed to do.

Coach Gerry DiNardo's team could be 3-0 after a trip to hapless Kentucky before opening conference play with fanciful thoughts of, dare we say, a Rose Bowl bid?

Indiana could emerge as the best feel-good story since Northwestern's magical run in 1995, lacking only the journalism school graduates Northwestern had to drive that purple prose story home.

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