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The Life

December 8, 2002
Upon Further Review. . .
ESPN The Magazine

As Bear Bryant used to growl with that Chesterfield voice of his, "I don't care what the last BMOC promised you. We're gonna review now."


25. That the warmest, fuzziest, soft-as-cashmere story in college football this season will take place in the semi-obscurity of the WAC, on a team that won only three games a year ago, and, if all goes well, at a modest 30,456-seat stadium that hasn't had a sellout since 1990.
We were talking about San Jose State's Neil Parry, who suffered a compound fracture of his right leg during an October 2000 game against UTEP. The lower part of his leg was later amputated, followed by a long series of surgeries. He had hoped to make a return to the field this season, but postponed the comeback try until 2003.

If he does make it -- and given his determination, we're guessing he will -- BMOC might have to violate the sacred, no-cheering-in-the-press box rule.

24. That Division I-A athletic directors and university president will continue to take well-deserved PR body blows for their unwillingness to hire minority head coaches.

What a joke: 117 D I-A football programs and only four minority head coaches -- down from six two years ago, down from five in 2001. This season's foursome of Michigan State's Bobby Williams, San Jose State's Fitz Hill, New Mexico State's Tony Samuel and Notre Dame's Tyrone Willingham must feel like the last of the football Mohicans.
Williams was deservedly canned, which dropped the number to three. But Texas A&M obviously didn't consider anyone but Dennis Franchione for its opening. Bama made a beeline for Mike Riley, but got turned down. Baylor and Guy Morriss were soon attached at the Waco hip. Utah went with Urban Meyer. Wyoming hired Joe Glenn.

The only program that actively pursued a minority coach was Michigan State, which made a longshot, but admirable run at Washington Redskins defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis.

23. That the five most overrated teams in the country will be Miami, Nebraska, USC, Kansas State and Notre Dame.
Ken Dorsey may find a home with the 49ers.
An explanation: This was written during Open-Tap Night at the Sigma Chi house.

We figured Miami didn't deserve the preseason No. 1 because of 11 players lost to the NFL. We've got lip burns from sucking on that gas pipe.

Nebraska was a gimme. In fact, the Cornhuskers' plunge into mediocrity is worse than we thought.

Carson Palmer told us at season's beginning that this was the most talented USC team he had seen since arriving at Troy. We ignored him. Dumb.

Who knew K-State, along with USC and Iowa, would be playing the best football of anybody in the country by season's end? Not us.

How Tyrone Willingham squeezed 10 wins out of this team is as mind-boggling as my preseason rip job. Do you accept apologies?

Our overrateds finished a combined 49-12.

22. That the five most underrated teams will be Oregon, Maryland, Michigan State, Auburn and Middle Tennessee State.





We were mesmerized by a preseason trip to Eugene where a half dozen Oregon players all but guaranteed a Pac-10 championship. So BMOC joined the honk wagon and watched the Ducks quack their way to a 7-5 record. That's OK, fellas -- you made us look good last year.

Ralph Friedgen has won 20 games in two seasons, and could win another one if the Terps beat Tennessee in the Peach Bowl. If I ever say a Friedgen-coached team is underrated, please smack me with a canned ham.

Michigan State suffered the biggest collapse since the bridge on the River Kwai. The Spartans (4-8) had six games where they gave up 42 or more points. Time for a CAT-scan.

We started the season as an Auburn honk. We finish it that way. Given the Tigers' schedule (four games in 18 days, including a season-opening trip to USC), two new coordinators, a quarterback change, and a season-ending injury to tailback Cadillac Williams, Tommy Tuberville's 8-4 team did itself proud.

We're all about the kids, so we threw a bone to MTSU. It threw back a 4-8 record. Bad, MTSU. Bad.

21. That the seven people with the most to prove this season are USC's Palmer, USC running back Justin Fargas, Miami running back Jarrett Payton, Texas quarterback Chris Simms and Nebraska quarterback Jammal Lord, Penn State coach Joe Paterno and Florida offensive coordinator Ed Zaunbrecher.
Carson Palmer
Carson Palmer lived up to his own great expectations -- and has the Heisman to prove it.
Palmer proved that with a little coaching staff stability (thank you, Norm Chow), he could live up to his own high expectations. By season's end, Chow and Pete Carroll had all but handed him the keys to USC's offense and Palmer drove it right into the Orange Bowl, with a quick detour to NYC to win the Heisman Trophy.

Fargas eventually won the starting job and got the happy football ending he deserved.

Payton had hoped to earn the starting tailback job. But some guy named Willis McGahee beat him to it.

Simms will leave Texas with all sorts of records and wins, but no conference championship or national title appearance. Did he have some stinker games against top 10 opponents? Sure. Was he one of the classiest acts we met during the last four years? Absolutely. We're going to miss the blond lug. He plays hard. Doesn't make excuses. Says what's on his mind.

Lord did what he could as Eric Crouch's replacement, but Nebraska's problems went much deeper than who said, "Hut."

Paterno can double his win total of 2001 with a win against Auburn in the Capital One Bowl. Now if he could just quit with the hissy fits about Big Ten officiating.

Zaunbrecher's offense had its moments, but all in all, it looked as if too much freedom was given to quarterback Rex Grossman. The Gators were inconsistent and scored 21 or fewer points in half their games.

20. That no one will be able to adequately explain why the NCAA has a playoff system in place for Division I-AA, Division II and Division III football, but keeps stepping on its chin strap when it comes to a Division I-A working model. In fact, D-II commissioners recently proposed a plan that would incorporate bowl games as part of their playoff schedule. Yet, when the same thing is mentioned for D I-A, you can hear the shrieks from Pasadena to Miami.
New NCAA president Myles Brand says D-IA presidents are split down the middle on a playoff system. That's great. Meanwhile, the rest of America has to hold its BCS breath until its lips are bluer than the ones Suzy Kolber had while working the sideline in Green Bay a week ago.

Yeah, the BCS "worked" this season, but only because Ohio State and Miami were the only two unbeatens. Had either the Buckeyes or Hurricanes lost in their final regular season games, there would have been BCS bedlam.

Memo to Myles: build a playoff consensus by the time the BCS expires after the 2006 bowl games.

19. That George O'Leary will get a phone call from a major college program by season's end.
You know the O'Leary story: Did a boffo job at Georgia Tech. . . was hired by Notre Dame. . . was fired by Notre Dame for screwing up his résumé. . . was hired by the Minnesota Vikings as an assistant coach.

Dennis Franchione lied. . . and he got hired by Texas A&M.

O'Leary has served his one year of probation. Time for that phone call.

18) That the 2002 national champion won't go undefeated.
Damn. Came close on this one. Only one of the 117 teams will go unbeaten.

17. That by midseason you'll know these five names (NFL scouts will):
We knew who Jordan Gross was before the season. Did you?

  • Hawaii guard Vince Manuwai
  • Utah offensive tackle Jordan Gross
  • Auburn running back Carnell "Cadillac" Williams
  • Florida State running back Greg Jones
  • Louisville defensive end Dewayne White
    Manuwai deserves more pub, but those 10:30 p.m. eastern kickoffs don't help.

    Gross finished in the top three of Outland Trophy voting

    Williams was on his way to a memorable season before he got hurt.

    Same for Jones.

    You'll see White on Sundays.

    16. That these five players will be sitting in New York City come time to pick a Heisman Trophy winner: Florida quarterback Rex Grossman, Oregon's Onterrio Smith, Washington State quarterback Jason Gesser, Marshall quarterback Byron Leftwich, Miami quarterback Ken Dorsey.

    Byron Leftwich
    The Jags hope Byron Leftwich can learn the West Coast offense.
    Our flyer picks if some of these guys flop (four of our five preseason 2001 Heisman choices didn't make it to NYC): Tennessee wide receiver Kelley Washington, Louisville quarterback Dave Ragone, Texas quarterback Chris Simms, Miami of Ohio quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, Iowa State quarterback Seneca Wallace and Ole Miss quarterback Eli Manning.

    OK, how do we explain this one? We don't.

    Grossman had the thing won after the Tennessee game, lost it after losses to Ole Miss and LSU.

    Smith got hurt.

    Gesser and Leftwich got hurt (though, we would have added Leftwich to the list of invitees -- maybe Gesser too). All you needed was two more chairs at the Yale Club.

    Flyer pick Wallace was on his way until the second-half semi-meltdown.

    15. That it might be in the following coaches' best interest to win plenty of games this season. . . or else: Duke's Carl Franks, Baylor's Kevin Steele, Clemson's Tommy Bowden (normally you wouldn't stick Bowden on this list, but in this case you have to allow for the Clemson impatience factor), and Mississippi State's Jackie Sherrill.
    Duke ended its losing streak, but finished 2-10. Still, Franks received a 2003 commitment from Duke's AD. Remember, Mike Krzyzewski struggled early at Duke too.

    Baylor was in better shape when Steele left than when he arrived. If Morriss succeeds, he'll have Steele partly to thank.

    Bowden finished with a 7-5 record and a Tangerine Bowl invitation.

    Sherrill, whose team finished 3-9, will be back in 2003. But some of his assistants won't be joining him.

    14. That the second-most soft-as-cashmere story will involve Midshipman 3rd Class Scott Lieng.

    The 5-foot-8, 175-pound wide receiver doesn't get much mention in the preseason outlooks on Navy. In fact, he doesn't get any attention, thanks to his third-string status on the Middies depth chart. But you root for someone like this because of his sense of honor and loyalty -- and because of the remarkable journey that took him and his mother from a Khmer Rouge labor camp in Cambodia. . . and ended years later, incredibly enough, with Lieng in Annapolis at the U.S. Naval Academy.
    Lieng is still a great story. He just isn't on the team anymore.

    13. That the 12-game regular season schedule is here to stay.
    JoePa will wear contacts before D I-A athletic directors give up the cash cow 12th game.

    12. That Duke will avoid surpassing Northwestern's record for football futility. Please.
    The Blue Devils entered the season with a 23-game losing streak. Twelve more losses and they would have owned the longest losing streak in D I-A history. Instead, they beat East Carolina in the season opener, which is one of the reasons Steve Logan is no longer the coach at ECU.

    11. That BMOC won't be the only one with some explaining to do when it comes to preseason predictions. A sampling:

    South Carolina's Holtz: Zook will win at Florida ("Florida's going to be Florida, Georgia will win the SEC.")

    Philip Rivers could be a Heisman favorite next season.
    North Carolina State quarterback Philip Rivers: Florida State is beatable and the ACC title is up for grabs.

    Oregon coach Mike Bellotti: If Onterrio Smith can stay healthy and trouble-free, he'll attract a lot of attention. Translation: Smith is gone early to the NFL.

    Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville: No way will the Tigers go in the tank, as they did in last season's 31-7 loss to Bama in the Iron Bowl.

    Wisconsin star receiver Lee Evans: If the rehab on his surgically repaired knee continues as planned (he tore his ACL in the spring game), Evans says he wants to be back, at the latest, for the first Big Ten game -- Oct. 5 vs. Penn State.
    Holtz was sort of 1½ for 2.

    Rivers was 2 for 2: NC State beat FSU, but the Seminoles still won the conference championship because the Wolfpack lost three of its last four ACC games.

    Smith didn't stay healthy for the whole season, but we'll bet a nickel he's still bolting for the NFL.

    Auburn beat Bama.

    Evans never played a down.

    10. That the media hack who recently conducted the following interview at the Big Ten get-together in Chicago is feeling a little silly.

    Hack: "Coach Turner, can you win the Big Ten?"
    Coach: "It's a lock."
    Hack: "Can you replace Kurt Kittner?"
    Coach: "Shoot, he was overrated. It was all coaching."

    Problem was, the coach was Minnesota's Glen Mason, not Illinois' Ron Turner.
    Without Kittner, Illinois' Turner had a tag-team QB situation. The Illini, Big Ten champions a season ago, finished 5-7 overall. Meanwhile, Mason coached his team to a 7-5 record and a Music City Bowl invitation against Arkansas.

    9. That Bobby Bowden will surpass Joe Paterno on the all-time victory list this season.
    Didn't happen. JoePa won nine, Bowden won nine. Bowden trails Paterno, 332-336. Both these guys will coach 'til they drop dead near the right hash mark.

    8. That the NCAA ought to listen to thoughtful, bright players such as Ohio State all-America Mike Doss.

    Doss could have stiffed college for the NFL, but stuck around for his senior year. But the NCAA should have heard him last spring during a speech class, when he advocated a monthly stipend for scholarship football players. His pitch: the NCAA, its member institutions, TV, advertisers, coaches. . . everybody makes money off the players' sweat and blood except, well, the players. His financial remedy: $300 per month stipend.
    This will happen about the same time Ohio State coach Jim Tressel gets his tongue pierced.

    7. That few teams will play a more difficult schedule than San Jose State.

    The Spartans play 13 games in 13 weeks. They only have four homes games. They'll travel nearly 24,000 miles, including trips to Washington, Ohio State, Hawaii, and Illinois. Only one starter returns on defense -- a unit that finished 115th in total defense last season.
    Now here's an underrated team. San Jose State won six games, including victories at Illinois and SMU.

    6. That the best games in September will be:
    Sept 2 -- Auburn at USC (Critical opener for both teams).
    Palmer nearly sprained his smile muscles after the win.

    Sept. 6 -- Hawaii at BYU (Cougars will never forget 72-45 whupping by Hawaii in 2001 regular season finale).
    BYU got its revenge, 35-32.

    Sept. 7 -- Alabama at Oklahoma (Tide better than you think; Sooners will make them prove it with defense for the ages).
    Franchione heard humming Aggie War Hymn during halftime.

    Miami at Florida (The Hurricanes come to town for the first time since 1986).
    Hurricanes said they expected more out of Grossman in UM's 41-16 win.

    Utah at Arizona (John Mackovic's improving offense vs. Ron McBride's defense-first mentality).
    Arizona won, but later revolted against Mackovic. Mutiny quelled -- for now. McBride got canned at season's end.

    Tyrone Willingham
    Tyrone Willingham turned the Irish into 10-game winners.
    Purdue at Notre Dame (Ty-Ball makes its home debut).
    Willingham becomes football folk hero.

    Sept. 12 -- Marshall at Virginia Tech (Big TV game for Leftwich).
    Thundering Herd gets blown out at Blacksburg; not Leftwich's fault.

    Sept. 14 -- Georgia at South Carolina (Let's see if Holtz was right).
    He was.

    Washington State at Ohio State (WSU's receivers vs. Doss).
    Turns out America met a true freshman tailback named Maurice Clarett.

    Texas at North Carolina (Mack Brown returns to Chapel Hill).
    It wasn't even close. Longhorns 52, Tar Heels 21.

    -- Nebraska at Penn State (Todd Blackledge will remember the last time the Cornhuskers visited State College. The Nittany Lions scored on a last-second TD pass to beat Nebraska. That was the same 1982 season Penn State won its first national championship).
    So much for Nebraska's 3-0 start. The Nittany Lions expose every Cornhusker weakness (space considerations prevent us from listing them all here).

    Sept. 20 -- UCF at Marshall (Central Florida makes its MAC debut).
    And loses, 26-21.

    Sept. 21 -- Florida at Tennessee (Miami and the Vols in the span of 15 days).
    Grossman played magnificently, Vols played as if they had never seen rain before.

    Colorado at UCLA (Buffs try to go 2-for-2 vs. LA teams -- play USC on the 14th, Bruins the next week).
    CU goes 1 for 1: gets creamed by Trojans, beats Bruins.

    Sept. 26 -- Florida State at Louisville (Papa John's Stadium will be hotter than a freshly made pepperoni pizza [BMOC hoping for lucrative pitchman deal from Papa John's]).
    FSU couldn't run the ball in the slop, couldn't tackle, couldn't throw, couldn't win in OT. The highpoint of an otherwise semi-disappointing 7-5 Louisville season.

    Sept. 28 -- Duke at Navy (No further explanation needed).
    A pay-per-view game. The cable companies pay you to watch. Duke won.

    Michigan at Illinois (nice early season indicator of who has what).
    Michigan had enough to beat Illini, but not enough to win the Big Ten.

    Nebraska at Iowa State (NU defensive coordinator Craig Bohl once said of ISU quarterback Wallace: "Geez, he's like trying to tackle the wind.").
    Bohl is now unemployed, thanks in part, to 36-14 loss to Iowa State.

    5. That nobody at Memphis is holding their breath for an Albert Means triumphant return.

    Means, who transferred from Alabama after it was revealed that he was basically sold out of high school to the highest booster bidder, was recently ruled academically ineligible this season. The much-heralded Means, a former Mr. Tennessee of football, played last season for Memphis and finished seventh in tackles. But his heart never seemed in it -- and his offseason conditioning and grades certainly reflected the indifference.
    Not so indifferent about things is the NCAA, which has reserved the right to re-open the Alabama/Means investigation.

    4. That in an effort to diffuse the controversy over Jill Arrington's provocative four-photo layout in For Him Magazine, CBS will institute a revised and stringent dress code for the network's female sideline reporters:

  • Absolutely no more than four (OK, five) blouse buttons unbuttoned during pregame and halftime interviews with coach.
  • Under no circumstances are high heels to be worn on Prescription Turf.
  • Until further notice, Madonna-themed attire will be restricted to Music City Bowl.
  • If you must wear a tube top, please make sure it doesn't clash with Tennessee's checkerboard end zone.
  • Remember: Verne prefers earth tones.
    At least Jill never had a Dick Enberg-Dick Jauron TV moment. And if you watched the final week of the NFL's regular season on CBS, you know what we mean.

    3. That new SEC commissioner Mike Slive will do more interviews in a month than he did in a year as Conference USA commish.
    Make it a week.

    2. That the engraver will be writing these names at season's end:

    Heisman Trophy -- Florida's Rex Grossman.

    No more Brock Berlin. No more Spurrier occasionally pulling him out of a game. A more confident, relaxed Grossman will put up enough numbers -- and victories -- to give him the Heisman edge over Oregon's Smith and Marshall's Leftwich.
    Either that, or he'll lead the Gators to an 8-4 record and not even get invited to New York. Not that we're doing all that well on predictions, but here's guessing the Outback Bowl will be Grossman's last game in a Florida uniform.

    Eddie Robinson/Football Writers Assn. of America Coach of the Year -- Joe Paterno, Penn State.
    And he would have won it too, if not for Willingham, Iowa's Kirk Ferentz, Tressel, Miami's Larry Coker, Georgia's Mark Richt, West Virginia's Rich Rodriguez and Franchione.

    1. Fiesta Bowl Matchup -- Oklahoma vs. Florida State (FSU wins the matchup).

    Other Eight -- Tennessee, Michigan State, Texas, Georgia, Oregon, Miami, Florida, Colorado.

    Waiting list: Michigan, Washington State, Washington, Nebraska, Ohio State.
    OK, we took the Dan Patrick whiff on the Fiesta Bowl, and only got half of the actual BCS bowl participants right. Any bonus points for having Washington State and Ohio State on the waiting list? Didn't think so.

    Gene Wojciechowski is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine. He can be reached at

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