Wednesday, August 22, 2001
Updated: August 27, 11:21 AM ET
Bruin up a Rose Bowl special
By by Gene Wojciechowski
ESPN The Magazine
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25. That you're going to need a beach towel to soak up the tears if San Jose State safety Neil Parry makes good on his vow to play football again.
Parry suffered a compound fracture of his right leg during the third quarter of last October's game against UTEP -- an injury so serious that doctors later had to amputate just below the knee. Parry has since been fitted with two prosthetic devices and reported with the team Aug. 9 for the beginning of fall practice. He has yet to take part in any contact drills, but Parry can move forward, backward and laterally well enough that a comeback at some point this season isn't out of the question.
His goal: to return to special teams coverage, which is where he injured himself against UTEP.
And if Parry doesn't play, the next-best comeback will be June Jones' return to the Hawaii sidelines Sept. 8 against Montana. Jones was nearly killed in a Feb. 22 car accident that left him in critical condition.
24. That Rex Grossman will be the starting quarterback when preseason No. 1 Florida opens its schedule against Marshall.
Grossman stunk up a scrimmage a week ago, but so did fellow sophomore Brock Berlin, who actually began that day listed No. 1 on the Gators depth chart. A few days later, Grossman started the scrimmage and played noticeably better than Berlin. Another scrimmage -- the Gators' final one before the Sept. 1 opener -- is tentatively scheduled for Thursday.
Only at Florida can a first-team All-SEC quarterback have to fight for his starting job. Somehow, coach Steve Spurrier makes this two-quarterback thing work, though even Spurrier has said he'd love to have one guy assert himself all season.
As for the criticism of a two-quarterback system: "For some reason, people don't worry about a left guard losing his confidence," says Spurrier.
Translation: nobody makes a big deal of other in-game position changes. Then again, quarterback isn't just any other position, especially in Spurrier's offense.
23. That if one of the many Matts -- Matt Leach, Matt Piotrowicz and Northwestern transfer Matt Morton -- don't start punting better, Florida won't be No. 1 for long.
22. That two of the best players in the best conference -- the Big 12 -- are named Roy Williams, and neither one plays for Kansas.
Roy Williams No. 1 plays wide receiver for Texas. Roy Williams No. 2 plays safety for defending national champion Oklahoma. Williams faces Williams Oct. 6 at the Cotton Bowl.
21. That Ohio State strong safety Mike Doss will hit someone so hard this season that their jersey numbers will fall off. Doss led the Buckeyes in tackles last season, including 16 in the John Cooper-killing loss to Michigan.
20. Few teams play a tougher schedule this season than Notre Dame. This is the kind of schedule that puts hair on your chest. . . and bitchy alums on your back.
As ND honk Dickie V. would say, "Are you kidding me?" The schedule of doom (last season's record in parenthesis): at Nebraska (10-2), at Purdue (8-4), Michigan State (5-6), at Texas A&M (7-5), Pittsburgh (7-5), West Virginia (7-5), USC (5-7), at Boston College (7-5), Tennessee (8-4), Navy (1-10), at Stanford (5-6), at Rose Bowl and BCS championship game if the Irish somehow worm their way through those 11 games.
Runner-up in the Death March contest: Troy State, a transitional Division I-A member, which plays at Nebraska, at Middle Tennessee State (better than you realize), at Miami (the Florida kind), at Mississippi State, at Maryland.
Winner of the "Whew, did we luck out" scheduling award: Texas, which doesn't play Nebraska or Kansas State during the regular season.
19. That Bevo would need a truss to carry Texas' 568-page media guide.
In review: the New York Yankees have won 26 world championships and their media guide is 352 pages. The Longhorns have won two outright national titles and shared another, and yet you need a forklift to carry the thing. And good thing the Longhorns' sports information department doesn't design the Holy Bible, or else you'd have a photo of Mack Brown on almost every page -- just like this year's guide.
18. That even with the latest tweaking of the the BCS formula (minimizing margin of victory, rewarding teams for strength of schedule, tinkering with the lineup of computer polls), something will happen during the course of the season to create controversy -- not that it will matter. The BCS system runs through the 2006 bowl games and, according to John Swofford, the BCS coordinator and Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner, university presidents and ACC elite players aren't in favor of a playoff system.
But here's the rub: some coaches (see, Oklahoma's Bob Stoops) argue that the leagues with conference championships are put at a disadvantage because of the extra game at regular season's end. He's right. . . and wrong.
It would be nice if every major conference had a championship game, but that means the Big Ten, the ACC, the Pac-10 and the Big East would have to find religion. And what happens if independent Notre Dame becomes a serious national player again?
Since the BCS started in 1998, two of the last three national champions (Tennessee in '98, OU in '00) played in conference championship games. The Big 12 gets a fat check for more than $8 million because of its league championship, so don't look for those money-makers to go away anytime soon. Sorry, Bob.
17. That the Big Ten, Georgia Tech, UCLA, Louisville, Auburn, East Carolina, San Jose State, Texas Tech, Alabama and Toledo are underrated, and Oregon State, Washington, LSU and Nebraska are overrated.
16. That the Beaver and Husker Nations aren't going to like No. 17.
15. That our 10 most intriguing early season games are: Sept. 1 -- Miami at Penn State (the JoePa Countdown begins); Wisconsin at Oregon (Badgers get a week's head start with game against Virginia. If they beat the Cavaliers at Madison, Oregon will have problems); Sept. 7 -- Northwestern at UNLV (How will will the Wildcats regroup vs. Vegas quarterback Jason Thomas?); Sept. 8 -- Notre Dame at Nebraska (Could be as good as last season's 27-24 NU thriller); North Carolina at Texas (North Carolina returns 12 starters who were recruited by Brown before he took the Longhorns job); Sept. 13 -- Penn State at Virginia (If JoePa beats Miami, this one will be for Bear Bryant's record); Sept. 14 -- Colorado State at UNLV (No, this isn't a typo); Sept. 15 -- Tennessee at Florida (Can Spurrier mess with Phillip Fulmer's mind. . . Can Vols' DE John Henderson mess with Grossman/Berlin's limbs?); Georgia Tech at Florida State (If Tech can beat FSU. . . can you say possible Rose Bowl?); Louisville at Illinois (Dave Ragone vs. Kurt Kittner).
14. That these five players will be sitting in the Downtown Athletic Club come time to pick a Heisman Trophy winner: Nebraska's Eric Crouch, Oregon State's Ken Simonton, Northwestern's Damien Anderson, Clemson's Woodrow Dantzler and UCLA's DeShaun Foster.
13. That we can't wait to see how Glen Mason reacts if his Minnesota team somehow beat visiting Ohio State Nov. 3.
Mason, a former Buckeye player and assistant coach, thought he was the heir obvious when Ohio State canned John Cooper last season. Instead, OSU athletic director Andy Geiger hired Jim Tressel of D-IAA Youngstown State, which meant Mason had some explaining to do in Minneapolis. For starters, he said he was done interviewing for jobs (he flirted with openings at LSU at Michigan State in the past).
Of course, if he really wants to make nice with the Golden Gopher faithful, he'll figure out a way to finish above .500.
12. That the best line of the preseason came during the Big Ten media kickoff in Chicago. Asked by David Jones of the Harrisburg Patriot-News if he would consider retirement after passing Bear Bryant in total wins, Paterno said, "The only retirement I've thought about is yours, and I can't wait."
11. That new Alabama coach Dennis Franchione owes former Crimson Tide coach Bill Curry a thank you note. Curry, the first Bama coach not from the Bear Bryant coaching tree, was never embraced by Tide faithful. Franchione, another "outsider," will get the benefit of the doubt, thanks in part to the silliness Curry endured at Tuscaloosa.
10. That we'll bet USA Today's oddsmaker Danny Sheridan a dollar that Oregon or Oregon State (1,000: 1) will get closer to a national championship than Virginia Tech (25:1).
9. That if we could hire a mid-D-IA coach to fix a major program it would be Southern Mississippi's Jeff Bower or East Carolina's Steve Logan.
8. That by season's end you'll know all about Tennessee quarterback/wide receiver Kelley Washington, Auburn running back Carnell "Cadillac" Williams, Hawaii quarterback Timmy Chang and Virginia Tech running back Kevin Jones.
7. That the toughest player to tackle in the SEC is none other than Kentucky quarterback Jared Lorenzen. This observation comes courtesy of Ole Miss defensive back Syniker Taylor, a preseason second-team All-SEC selection.
Lorenzen is no Eric Crouch. Two Eric Crouchs is more like it.
Lorenzen weighed somewhere in the neighborhood of 275 pounds last season, which is great if you want to play quarterback and right guard at the same time. But new coach Guy Morriss, who sounds like a keeper, has told Lorenzen to mix in a salad now and then -- or else.
At last check, Morriss says Lorenzen is dropping weight, but won't divulge what the scale says just yet.
6. That we wouldn't want to be Mack Brown if quarterback Chris Simms struggles early in the season. Simms has the pedigree and arm, but there are coaches in the Big 12 who still believe Major Applewhite is the better quarterback.
The same goes for Franchione at Bama, where he might rotate senior Andrew Zow and junior Tyler Watts. Mike DuBose did the same thing last season and the Tide finished 3-8 and DuBose got fired.
Franchione says he used two quarterbacks at TCU a couple of years ago. The difference is, nobody outside of Fort Worth noticed.
5. That we'll never understand why Southern Cal insists on being called Southern California, or why Central Florida wants to be known as UCF. Seriously, UCF? That's either the University of California-Fresno, or a surgical procedure.
4. That Kansas' Terry Allen, Indiana's Cam Cameron, Utah's Ron McBride, Vanderbilt's Woody Widenhofer and Franchione (sorry, habit at Bama) might want to have winning seasons.
3. That former Arizona State defensive coordinator Phil Snow will make a significant difference at UCLA, and former North Carolina State offensive coordinator Norm Chow will do the same at crosstown Southern Cal (damn, forgot).
2. That Indiana's favorite play should be, "Throw it to No. 11."
No. 11 is Antwaan Randle El, who will spend time at wide receiver, as well as quarterback. Is it a good thing when your best quarterback and wide receiver might be the same guy?
1. That the safe bet would be a Florida-Oregon or Florida-Miami Rose Bowl. But that's no fun. Our longshot pick: UCLA beats Georgia Tech on its home field for the national championship.
Gene Wojciechowski is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. E-mail Geno at email@example.com.