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NATIONAL INSIDER

Memo to Buckeyes: Beware of Darkness

September 02, 2006

There's no doubt top-ranked Ohio State will be looking for revenge next week when the Buckeyes visit Texas in an early-season rematch of the Longhorns' 25-22 victory last year.

But first comes Northern Illinois today.

And even though the Buckeyes are 17-point favorites, Northern Illinois Coach Joe Novak knows a thing or two about upsetting Ohio State.

He was an assistant at Indiana in 1987, when the Hoosiers defeated the Buckeyes -- a loss then-coach Earle Bruce called "the darkest day I've seen in Ohio State football."

"I'd love to win this football game," said Novak, a Cleveland native who grew up rooting for the Buckeyes. "I can't tell you how much it would do for this program. It would be the biggest victory ever."

The Buckeyes have been No. 1 in the preseason Associated Press poll five times but have not finished No. 1 in any of those seasons.

Back to the Swamp

The old ball coach is headed to his old stomping grounds, at least for a day.

Former Florida Coach Steve Spurrier, now at South Carolina, will join his 1996 national champion Gators for a 10-year reunion before Florida's game against Southern Mississippi.

The 1996 title was the school's only football national championship.

Spurrier notched his 150th career victory Thursday when South Carolina defeated Mississippi State, 15-0. He got 122 of those wins while at Florida but has not been to a game there since he quit the Gators after the 2001 season.

"Obviously a national championship is a memory of a lifetime," Spurrier said. "Seeing those players on the '96 team is certainly one of the biggest reasons I'm coming back."

Out With the Young

It won't be easy replacing the legendary quarterback of a national championship team, especially when you are a freshman in Texas.

Colt McCoy won the competition to replace Vince Young, now with the NFL's Tennessee Titans, and will lead the Longhorns against North Texas with a 20-game win streak on the line.

McCoy has never appeared in a college game, yet today he will trot into an expanded stadium that seats more than 85,000 -- 4,000 more than it did last year -- and start in front of what is expected to be one of the largest crowds in Texas football history.

"It's going to be hard not to get butterflies," said McCoy, who follows Major Applewhite (1998), Chris Simms (1999) and Young (2003) as freshmen to start at quarterback for Texas under Coach Mack Brown.

"We're really excited about the progress that he's made since spring," Brown said. "Probably as much as I've ever seen any young quarterback."

Coal Bowl

West Virginia and Marshall are the state's only Division I football programs, but the teams have played only once since 1923 -- a 42-31 West Virginia victory in 1997.

They meet again today for only the sixth time and it reportedly took Gov. Joe Manchin to renew the rivalry. With his involvement, though, the schools have signed a seven-year deal to play in what will be called "The Friends of Coal Bowl."

No. 5 West Virginia is a 22-point favorite, but Marshall has two victories over nationally ranked opponents since making the jump from Division I-AA to I-A in 1997. The Thundering Herd defeated No. 25 Brigham Young in 1999 and No. 6 Kansas State in 2003.

Ratings Plunge

Tennessee will be at home against No. 9 California in today's only game between ranked teams. For the No. 23 Volunteers, it's a chance to move up, but historically this situation hasn't been good for them.

Tennessee has lost six consecutive home games against teams ranked in the top 10.

Two-Sided Tribute

During their 21-3 victory over Miami of Ohio on Thursday night, Northwestern players wore patches in tribute to Randy Walker, their coach who died of an apparent heart attack in June.

Miami players also wore the tribute patches. That's because Walker coached at Miami before leaving for Northwestern in 1999. He also played running back at Miami from 1973 to '75 and is in the school's hall of fame.

Walker set up the game a few years ago to give the RedHawks an opportunity to face a Big 10 opponent at home.

Miami honored Walker in a pregame ceremony and with halftime video highlights of his career. The school also unveiled a plaque with Walker's likeness that is hung on a wall behind one of the end zones.

Quick Hits

Colorado State running back Kyle Bell, the top returning rusher in the Mountain West Conference, will sit out this season because of a torn knee ligament.... Despite a 19-29 record over the last four years, Kansas Coach Mark Mangino signed a contract extension through 2010.... Clemson starting defensive back C.J. Gaddis will serve a one-game suspension today for missing class; Tigers linebacker Antonio Clay will miss the game because his sister was killed in a car crash Tuesday.

-- Compiled by Peter Yoon

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