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Friday, November 3

Like it or not, blowouts count

In case you needed a reminder, rolling to lopsided victories matters big-time in college football. Just ask Nebraska.

This week's key matchups
Florida St. at Miami (Fla.)
Oklahoma vs. Texas
(at the Cotton Bowl)
Auburn at Mississippi St.
LSU at Florida
Indiana at Northwestern
Michigan at Purdue
N.C. St. at Clemson
Ohio St. at Wisconsin
Tennessee at Georgia
Oregon St. at Washington
Arizona at USC

Despite a nice 42-24 win over a fired-up Missouri squad, the Huskers were overtaken for the top spot in the AP poll by Florida State. Whether you agree or disagree, everyone understands that this is part and parcel to the college football world.

I've always been a strong supporter of a playoff system in college football, preferably 16 teams. Unfortunately, even then, I doubt you would see anything change. Whether it be a four-, eight-, or sixteen-team playoff, teams will still be pressured to light up the scoreboard.

Teams that are jockeying for position within the seeding of the top 16 would attempt to post lopsided victories. This would also apply to the other teams looking to move up in the rankings.

So folks, whether you like it or not, in the collegiate football ranks, we'll always be debating the issue of running up the score.

By the way, in the USA Today/ESPN poll, Nebraska did remain No. 1 this week, ahead of Florida State.

Upsets steal the day
On the final Saturday in September, with autumn in the air, we saw a day of upsets steal the headlines, with changes galore in the Top 25. What a day it was for the state of Oregon. Both the Ducks and Beavers knocked off Top 10 teams in Washington and USC.

And how about the way Mississippi State's usually suspect offense ran roughshod over Florida as the Gators underachieving defensive unit crumbled at Starkville?

In terms of the guttiest performance, my vote goes to LSU QB Rohan Davey, who directed the Bayou Bengals to a thrilling overtime victory over Tennessee. Even with constant pressure by the Vols' defensive line, Davey hung tough in the pocket, accurately delivering the football in just about every clutch situation.

Glass slipper fitting for Northwestern
The Cinderella story in college football has to be Northwestern. For the second straight week, Randy Walker's relentless and determined Wildcats shocked the college football world, this time defeating favored Michigan State by a count of 37-17 at East Lansing. The previous week they sprung a huge upset on the road over Wisconsin.

 Zak Kustok
QB Zak Kustok leads surprising Northwestern.

Both weeks, the star of the game for Northwestern was junior RB Damien Anderson. This time around, against Michigan State, Anderson accounted for 219 yards on the ground. For the year, he's already rushed for 758 yards, averaging 151.6 yards per game. And how about his impressive 7.2 yard average per carry? Anderson has also scored nine TDs.

Deserving tremendous credit as well has to be Wildcat signal caller Zak Kustok. It's been his ability to distribute the football through the air waves that has opened up running lanes for Anderson. No longer can defenses crowd the line of scrimmage. The Wildcats have a legitimate passing attack, with Kustok completing nearly 56 percent of his passes for 943 yards and eight TDs.

Defensively, the Wildcats may have the best set of linebackers in the Big Ten. OLB Kevin Bentley steals the headlines with his big-play ability, but equally as impressive have been the performances turned in by OLB Napoleon Harris and mike-man Billy Silva. And guess what, all three are only juniors. Next up for Northwestern is Indiana this week at Evanston, followed by another home game against Drew Brees and Purdue Boilermakers.

Minnesota's Cole making smooth transition
At Minnesota, Glen Mason's Golden Gophers jumped on Illinois early, then rolled to a surprisingly easy 44-10 victory. They were successful in taking advantage of any letdown effect the Illini may have suffered following their controversial loss to Michigan the previous week.

QB Travis Cole, who came to the Golden Gophers from Foothill Junior College this past spring, appears to have seized control of the offense. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound junior threw for 170 yards, but it was the quickness and running ability he displayed that had to surprise Ron Turner and the Illini defensive staff. Cole rushed for 82 yards and two TDs.

With Thomas Hamner moving on to the NFL, the question entering the 2000 season was who would pick up the slack for the running game. A huge boost was provided by youngster Thomas Tapeh against Baylor, but a sprained left ankle allowed sophomore Tellis Redmon to burst onto the national scene on Saturday against Illinois.

The quick, deceptively strong 5-foot-11, 199-pounder carried the ball 31 times for 183 yards, while catching three passes for 116 yards out of the backfield. And how about this! Redmon's 314 all-purpose yards were the most by any Big Ten player so far this season. By the way, Tapeh carried the ball five times for 27 yards.

Karon Riley, who I have raved about all year, continues to strike fear in the hearts of enemy signal callers.

Defensively, setting the tone up front were the inside-outside tandem of DE Karon Riley and DT John Schlecht.

Interestingly enough, both are transfers. Riley came to the Golden Gophers in '98 (sat out that season) after two years at SMU. Schlecht spent his freshman season at St. Cloud State.

Against Illinois, the incredibly powerful (bench presses nearly 500 pounds) Schlecht disrupted things behind the line of scrimmage, finishing with two tackles for loss and a pair of QB hurries.

Riley, who I have raved about all year, continues to strike fear in the hearts of enemy signal callers. Versus the Illini, he recorded one stop behind the line, one sack, and four QB hurries.

Now at 3-2 for the year, the Golden Gophers host Penn State this week.

Clemson's Dantzler on pace for a QB first
Clemson pounded Duke 52-22, and in the process saw multi-talented signal-caller Wood Dantzler again put on quite a show.

Dantzler continued on a pace to rush for 1,000 yards and throw for 2,000, something that has never been accomplished by any Division I QB.

Against the overmatched Blue Devils, Dantzler accounted for four TDs, while rushing for 134 yards and throwing for 175. This week, the Tigers host the undefeated Wolfpack of North Carolina State at Death Valley.

Purdue's loss points out value of special teams
In Purdue's loss to the emotionally charged Nittany Lions of Penn State, major problems on special teams led to the Boilermakers' demise. This was also the case when they came up short against Notre Dame a few weeks ago.

I keep harping on it, but you can never underestimate or overlook the fact that special teams is one-third of the equation. That's why I have such a problem with the flawed overtime system that is currently in place in college football. Kickoffs and punts are eliminated from the process.

In my opinion, this makes no sense. In the Redskins overtime victory against the Bucs on Sunday, their winning field goal was set up by a dramatic punt return by Deion Sanders. In the college overtime setup, this could never happen.

Maryland's Jordan running strong
Despite a slow start to the 2000 season, Maryland RB Lamont Jordan appears to be primed for a strong final half of the campaign.

Considering the fact that he missed so much time while awaiting his academic standing, it figured to be around midseason before Jordan would hit his stride. Even with all his talent and natural ability, it takes some time to shake off the rust.

In order for Jordan to post big numbers, however, the Terps need more effective, consistent play from the QB position or else Jordan will be fighting an uphill battle.

Against Florida State, Jordan was held in check much of the night, but his 74-yard TD scamper proved to be a nice illustration of his dynamic ability. This week, the Terps are on the road against Virginia, then face Clemson on Oct. 14 at Death Valley.

UCLA impresses sans Foster
As far as comebacks were concerned, how about UCLA battling and scratching their way back from a 21-0 deficit late in the second quarter? Even at the half, after redshirt freshman tailback Akil Harris scampered 23 yards for a TD with 2:38 remaining, the Bruins trailed 21-7.

Credit Bob Toledo and his staff for making the necessary halftime adjustments. UCLA outscored the Sun Devils 28-7 in the third quarter on their way to a 38-31 victory.

The Bruins accomplished this with their super blue-chip junior tailback DeShaun Foster watching from the sidelines after he broke a bone in his right hand during the first quarter. Currently, it is undetermined just how long Foster will be out.

Fortunately for the Bruins, their open date this week comes at the right time. Filling in admirably for Foster against Arizona State were Harris (13 carries for 100 yards) and senior Jermaine Lewis (17 carries for 104 yards).

Fourth-year junior wide-out Freddie Mitchell continues to remind me a great deal of Peter Warrick. The athletically gifted and extremely polished 5-foot-11, 188-pounder has enjoyed a brilliant campaign thus far. Against the Sun Devils, Mitchell hauled in four receptions for 125 yards and two TDs.

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