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Questions abound for Pigskin and Kickoff Classics
By Terry Bowden
Special to
Bowden's Weekly Chat Show

We are ready to begin the third century of college football, and the first weekend of coverage on ABC Sports gives us a little bit of everything. Florida State vs. BYU in the Pigskin Classic (Sat., 8 p.m. ET) and Penn State vs. USC in the Kickoff Classic (Sun., 2:30 p.m. ET) provide us with four teams with a history of Heisman Trophy winners, National Championships and enough storylines to interest just about every college football fan. And speaking of the Noles ...

Who is going to win the National Championship?
Bobby Bowden
Bobby Bowden would have liked a preseason No. 1 ranking.
The Seminoles have been picked No. 1 or 2 in every preseason list that has come out this year, and their defense of the National Title begins right away against Brigham Young. I visited my father earlier this summer and he talked about how much he wanted to be ranked as the preseason No.1 so his players would be challenged to carry on "The Streak." The streak being Florida State's record of being the only team to carry the No.1 ranking from start to finish ever since polls have existed. Thus, every victory this year would have carried with it the added significance of setting a new benchmark that teams in the future would have to chase. The Noles didn't get the chance to continue that streak, but they will definitely wave champion's belt when they enter the arena against the Cougars. However, after twelve straight knockouts, I see them losing a close bout with the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Fed Ex Orange Bowl come Jan. 3.

Can BYU get back to national prominence this year?
BYU, on the other hand, was not even ranked to finish first or second in the Mountain West Conference. The Cougars definitely will have something to prove, but breaking in a new quarterback and offensive coordinator means there will be more questions than there are answers. But there are two great generals leading their troops onto the field in Jacksonville. I can't help but believe that, after 28 years at the helm of Quarterback U., coach Lavell Edwards won't have another pretty good signal-caller to unleash on the unsuspecting Seminoles. Now that Coach Edwards has announced his retirement at the end of the season you have to wonder if this will motivate his players to present him with the winning game ball from this big season-opening game.

Is Chris Weinke a legitimate candidate for the Heisman Trophy?
FSU quarterback Chris Weinke surprised everyone when he decided to come back for his senior season. One of the reasons he came back was to make a run for the Heisman Trophy. Although my choice for the Heisman is Drew Brees, you can't dispel some of the advantages Weinke has going for him. He has a real chance to lead the Seminoles to their second straight National Championship, and there's no Peter Warrick to take any attention away from Florida State's marquee player. A big opening night on national television would be a great way to come out of the blocks in that Heisman race.

Who will win this game?
It doesn't take an expert analyst to tell you that FSU will be prohibitive favorites in this one. But I do remember a few years back a gunslinger by the name of Brett Favre led Southern Miss to a stunning upset victory over the Seminoles in the season's opening game, which, incidentally was also played in Jacksonville, Fla.

Is the Kickoff Classic important to the Pac-10?
This game is not only important for Southern Cal but also for the respect of the entire Pac-10 conference. It was just one year ago that the highly-ranked Arizona Wildcats came East and the Penn State Nittany Lions sent them home with a 41-7 loss. This was the first of several ugly loses for the Pac-10 against non-conference foes in a year that ended with a dismal 1-4 bowl record. The Trojans will have a big opportunity to reverse this trend against a Penn State team that has to replace nine starters on defense and is picked to finish somewhere around the middle of pack in the Big Ten. Of course, the rest of the Pac-10 will get a chance to shoulder their fair share of the responsibility, as the conference plays against Alabama, Miami, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan, Texas, and Illinois before we even get out of September.

Will JoePa become the winningest coach in NCAA Division I-A history?
Yes, coach Paterno, with 317 victories, needs just seven more wins to surpass Bear Bryant for the No. 1 spot and he should get it in week nine of the season against Indiana. The bigger question at Penn State this year may be whether JoePa made the right decision in not suspending star QB Rashard Casey, who faces criminal charges for allegedly beating up an off-duty police officer over the summer. Well, coach Paterno would not be on the threshold of college football immortality without doing a few things right, and this is one of them. Presumed innocence is pretty darn important in this country and Paterno is saying what every parent in America would be saying: "My kid says he didn't do it, and until someone proves to me otherwise, he didn't do it." You go, Joe.

Is Paul Hackett on the hot seat?
Carson Palmer
The hopes of USC lies with this man's arm in 2000.
Yes, he is. But every coach in the country is either on the hot seat or soon will be. Heck, I've had my britches burned a few times myself. It goes with the territory. Coach Hackett has had two mediocre seasons at USC and that can't happen again. It won't. The Trojans bring to The Meadowlands the Pac-10's most talented defense, led by linebacking sensations Zeke Moreno and Markus Steele. They also bring "the Man," QB Carson Palmer, whose early-season injury last season probably cost USC a shot at the league title. Southern Cal, along with the Washington Huskies, will fight it out for a chance to go to the Rose Bowl and Paul Hackett will finally cool off his derrière.

So who's going to win this game?
Everything points to Southern Cal when you try to pick a winner. Penn State is rebuilding its defense and Casey has been greatly distracted by his legal problems. USC, on the other hand, looks to be loaded for bear - or should I say lion. Still, playing in The Meadowlands is like a home game for the Nittany Lions and nothing takes more out of a team than traveling across the country to play a football game. For that reason alone, I say it's gonna be Penn State in a knee-knocker.

Let's get on with the season.

Terry Bowden is ABC's college football studio analyst.

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