Movers and Shakers
 
Wednesday, December 6
Looking back, the crystal ball was partly cloudy




Now that the regular season is finished, a review of the 2000 preview. The original Sept. 3 predictions are in italics, followed by apologies, explanations or gloating.

25: That a yet-to-be-determined Texas player, most likely 180-pound cornerback Ahmad Brooks, will suffer a season-ending back injury while lifting the Longhorns' massive 536-page football media guide.

Brooks survives, but rumor has it that next year's Texas guide will be thicker than combined legal briefs filed in Florida courthouses.

24: That as late as Nov. 18, the Heisman Trophy race will remain exactly that, a race. Everybody's preseason favorite, Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Vick, will have a slight edge over Purdue quarterback Drew Brees, Florida State quarterback Chris Weinke, Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch and fast-closing Alabama receiver Freddie Milons.

No. 24 was written after Pot Luck Night at ESPN colleague Hunter S. Thompson's rental house in Bristol. He kept saying, "Try the mushrooms," so I did and this is what happens.

OK, so I was right about it being a race. I figured Nov. 18 -- Florida at Florida State, Auburn at Alabama -- would be a key date for Weinke and Milons. What I didn't foresee was a Vick playing on one ankle, Milons being abducted, Crouch playing with a bum shoulder in a loss against K-State, and the reincarnation of Danny Wuerffel in an Oklahoma uniform -- Josh Heupel.

23: That Jesse Palmer will begin the season as Florida's starting quarterback, but he won't finish it there, courtesy of true freshman Brock Berlin. Same goes at Tennessee, where true freshman Casey Clausen will eventually unseat Joey Mathews.

Cha-ching! Just last week Palmer was saying "you definitely have to be tough mentally" to play quarterback at Florida. Palmer would know. The senior spent much of his Gator career in and out of the lineup, where he did the tag-team thing with Doug Johnson last year, and redshirt freshman Rex Grossman this season. Berlin played, too. But as half predicted, Palmer was on the sideline when Saturday night's SEC Championship began.

As for the Clausen prediction, you could see that one coming as far back as the Orange-White spring game. Mathews and A.J. Suggs had their moments, but no one on the coaching staff was comparing them to Peyton Manning. Stuck at 2-3 and out of the top 25 polls, Tennessee's Phillip Fulmer announced that Clausen would get the start against Alabama. That was six consecutive wins ago.

22: That Miami, Georgia, Tennessee and Texas are overrated and Oklahoma, Ohio State, Boston College, Maryland, Marshall, TCU and North Carolina are underrated.

I figure I was 3-1 on the overrateds, a dreadful 2-5 on the underrateds.

Santana Moss
OK, so maybe we underestimated Santana Moss and the Hurricanes a little bit.
Yes, I totally screwed the pooch on Miami, but preseason No. 11 Georgia did me proud by losing three of its last four. Tennessee didn't belong at No. 12 at season's beginning and proved it by losing to Florida, LSU and Georgia by Oct. 7. Fulmer would never admit it, but an 8-3 finish with a new quarterback, new offensive line and new secondary is probably one more win than he expected. And no way was Texas, even with its supposed favorable schedule, going to finish No. 1, as some national hacks had predicted. Sure enough, the preseason No. 8 Longhorns lost to Stanford and were Bevo-burgers in a 63-14 loss to OU.

A small standing ovation is in order for the Oklahoma (a preseason No. 20) and TCU (No. 23) picks. Preseason No. 15 Ohio State finished 8-3, but Carl Torbush got fired at North Carolina (6-5), as did Ron Vanderlinden at Maryland (5-6). Boston College and Marshall had disappointing 6-5 records.

21: That Vanderbilt will receive its first bowl bid since 1982. That means somebody gets upset by the Commodores, either Georgia, Kentucky or Tennessee.

That damn Hunter again. He said it was an "energy" pill. Next thing I know I'm on the Woody Widenhofer train to 3-8. Vandy did beat Kentucky, though, lost to Tennessee by two and could have beaten Georgia.

20: That Florida's third team could beat Ball State, which finished 0-11 last season and opens its year with a Sept. 2 visit to The Swamp. One bright note: Ball State plays Buffalo (also winless in 1999) Oct. 21.

Florida 40, Ball State 19.
Ball State 44, Buffalo 35.

19: That you can count on one hand how many coaches would do what Cal coach Tom Holmoe is doing -- that is, declining to sign a proposed contract extension until he turns the program around. Until further notice, Holmoe is No. 1 in our Integrity Poll.

Holmoe signed his deal and Cal finished 3-8, but beat both UCLA and USC.

18: That the Comeback Player of the Year will be North Carolina quarterback Ronald Curry, Texas Tech running back Ricky Williams, or Southern California quarterback Carson Palmer.

Williams didn't crack the 425-yard mark and Palmer was part of a 5-7 USC team that got Paul Hackett fired. Curry wins by default.

And while we're at it, let's go ahead and pick a Surprise Player of the Year. The nominees: Northwestern quarterback Zak Kustok, Wisconsin running back Michael Bennett and Georgia Tech quarterback George Godsey. My pick: Godsey, who did the near impossible -- almost made Yellow Jacket fans forget about Joe Hamilton.

17: That new Kentucky quarterback Jared Lorenzen, who beat out incumbent Dusty Bonner, will become a collegiate cult hero. The 6-4, 270-pound (wink, wink) Lorenzen is heavier than every starting tight end in the SEC, as well as two starting offensive linemen at Air Force.

The left-handed redshirt freshman threw for a jillion yards, but Kentucky still finished 2-9, thanks partly to a defense that gave up 34 points or more eight different games (1-7 in those games). Meanwhile, Bonner transferred to Valdosta State and is a finalist for the Division II Player of the Year award.

16: That this season's Hawaii will be Cincinnati, UNLV, North Carolina or Auburn.

Tommy Tuberville and Auburn finished 9-3 and are heading to the Citrus Bowl against Michigan.
You usually can't go wrong if you take a flyer on a Tommy Tuberville-coached team. Auburn went from 5-6 last season to a 9-2 regular season finish. No wonder Alabama inquired about his availability (and why Auburn quickly signed him to an extension worth $1.25 million per season).

And a nice round of applause, please, for John Robinson, whose UNLV team is 7-5 and bowl bound after a 3-8 record last year. By the way, this is the same guy USC athletic director Mike Garrett fired in 1997.

Cincinnati finished 7-4, with wins against Syracuse and Southern Mississippi, and are heading to the Motor City Bowl against Marshall.

Not bad.

15: That Texas A&M will have its first losing season since 1982.

That's the last time I listen to Mack Brown. The Aggies won seven games, upset Kansas State and nearly beat Oklahoma.

And for the joke-impaired, Brown didn't dis A&M.

14: That if Joe Gunn remains healthy, Heisman candidate Deuce McAllister might not lead Ole Miss in rushing -- again.

I had a Tommy Boy moment on this one. McAllister battled through injuries and family tragedy to have a wonderful season. He might be the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft. Gunn gained 382 yards.

13: That Rutgers coach Terry Shea will be the first coach to be fired.

After a 3-8 season and 11-44 record at the school, Shea and Rutgers fans are finally put out of their misery. Now it's former Miami defensive coordinator Greg Schiano's turn to try to revive the Scarlet Knights.

12: That Notre Dame will win three of its first five games (lose to Nebraska and Purdue, beat Stanford, Texas A&M and Michigan State), finish 8-3, and it still won't be enough to satisfy Irish fans still trapped in a Gipper time warp.

The Irish won three of their first five (beat Purdue, lost to Michigan State), finished 9-2, and it still won't be enough to satisfy Notre Dame fans if they lose to Oregon State in the Fiesta Bowl.

11: That some smart Colorado State lawyer will sue the St. Louis Rams for stealing their uniforms.

Forget the uniforms. St. Louis would rather have Colorado State's 9-2 record.

10: That the Big Ten will stay at 11 teams, that the Bowl Championship Series is here to stay, that you'll know who Washington running back Paul Arnold is by the end of the season.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany says no expansion is planned. The BCS, no matter how long the Pac-10 holds its breath, is here until 2006. And, no, you probably still don't know who Paul Arnold is.

9: That on schedule strength alone, TCU, Colorado State and Marshall have wonderful chances to finish undefeated.

TCU went 7-0 before losing at San Jose State. Then the Horned Frogs won their next three to finish 10-1. Then Dennis Franchione bolted for Bama.

8: That there will be no quarterback controversy at Nebraska. Eric Crouch is the starter, former quarterback Bobby Newcombe is the wingback -- and has made it clear he wants to stay there. One problem: if Crouch gets hurt (he added some weight during the offseason to help offset that possibility), then coach Frank Solich will have no choice but to approach Newcombe about a position change.

Crouch was the main reason the Cornhuskers managed to win nine games. He played hurt. He played hard. He made Newcombe's decision to stay at wingback look like genius.

7: That the two best regular season games will be Nov. 4 (Virginia Tech at Miami) and Nov. 18 (Florida at Florida State). Not too much will be at stake, only the Heisman chances of Vick and Weinke, a possible Big East championship, an unbeaten season for the Gators or Seminoles. By the way, the winner of the FSU-UF game has played for the national championship five of the last seven seasons. Make it six of the lasts eight.

Vick was no factor against the Hurricanes. Then again, either was the Virginia Tech defense. Florida's defense wasn't any better in a 30-7 loss to the Seminoles. As predicted, though, the FSU-Florida winner found itself in another national championship game.

As for actual great games, our five favorites: Northwestern's 54-51 win against Michigan; Nebraska's 27-24 OT win against Notre Dame; Oregon's 56-55 OT win against Arizona State; Nebraska's 34-32 OT win against Colorado and Mississippi's 45-30 win against Mississippi State.

6: That within four seasons, Northwestern's Randy Walker and Texas Tech's Mike Leach will have worked wonders at their respective programs.

I underestimated. Northwestern won a share of the Big Ten championship and did it with one of the most entertaining offenses in the country. Leach ended his first season with a 7-5 record and bowl invitation.

5: That there isn't a person with a life who can name all 13 teams in the Mid-American Conference.

Contestants in ESPN's Two-Minute Drill game show not eligible.

4: That Penn State will remember spring and fall practices as some of the toughest in JoePa history.

The practices were a breeze compared to the actual season, which included the tragic injury of freshman Adam Taliaferro, the grand jury investigation of quarterback Rashard Casey (Casey was cleared any wrongdoing), and a 5-7 season that deprived Paterno of the all-time record for wins.

3: That Major Applewhite will make it difficult when it comes time for Texas coach Mack Brown to choose a starting quarterback. Applewhite, who returns after tearing his left ACL last January, is the sentimental favorite, but here's guessing sophomore Chris Simms will be the starter. Simms added about 20 pounds of muscle during the offseason and coaches raved about his spring practice performances. When fall workouts begin Friday, Simms, not Applewhite, will work with the first team.

Simms was the starter, but not for long. Applewhite eventually replaced the mostly ineffective Simms, but then suffered yet another knee injury. Simms started the last two games and the Longhorns beat Kansas, 51-16, and Texas A&M 43-17. In the win against the Aggies, Simms went 16-of-24 for 383 yards and three touchdowns.

2: That nobody will be able to explain the logic of the NCAA's decision to allow teams to play as many as 14 games during the 2002 and 2003 seasons (12 regular season games, a conference championship game, a bowl game), but yet not endorse a playoff system. What happened to all those worries about players missing class time? What, no classes in 2002 and 2003?

Hmmm. . . a 14-game season is the exact number it would take to implement an eight-team playoff system. Chances of this happening: (Hint: place forefinger and thumb together.)

Still waiting for an explanation. And as long as the BCS is here, you can forget about a playoff.

1: That Nebraska will play Florida State for the national championship.

I was off by one state.










ALSO SEE
ESPN.com's College Bowls coverage

ESPN Experts: A look back at preseason picks















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