THE ANSWER MAN
In his biggest test Marcus Outzen stumped Florida State's
Marcus Outzen arrived on the Florida State campus in 1996 as an
option quarterback, which is something like going to Casablanca
for the waters. Outzen wasn't misinformed about the type of
offense the Seminoles run; he just didn't care. He grew up a
rabid Florida State fan in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. Back home in a
drawer are pictures of Marcus as a 10-year-old and as a
12-year-old with Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden. A year ago, had
Outzen been any lower on the depth chart, he would have been
playing intramurals. He spent most of this season mopping up
behind Chris Weinke. Last Saturday, in his second start after a
neck injury ended Weinke's season, all Outzen did was lead the
Seminoles to a 23-12 victory over archrival Florida.
A redshirt sophomore, Outzen completed 13 of 22 passes for 167
yards and his first career touchdown. He ran twice for first
downs on quarterback draws in the fourth quarter. He had three
fumbles, including one in his own end zone that turned into a
Gators safety. "I came to games here as a kid and watched the
quarterbacks," Outzen said after Saturday's game. "I watched
[Casey] Weldon, I watched [Charlie] Ward. I'm numb right now."
The steady breeze that blew through Doak Campbell Stadium may
have been sighs of relief from Seminoles fans. Their attempts
last week to buck up Outzen made the bright-red crew cut that had
earned him the nickname Rooster all but stand on edge. "Everybody
says, 'You can do it,'" Outzen said after last Thursday's
practice. "I know they mean well. But when you hear it a hundred
times a day, it gets repetitious. I know I can do it. You hear it
so many times you wonder if they're so sure."
Bowden and quarterbacks coach Mark Richt handled Outzen gently.
Every Friday, Richt gives his quarterbacks a written exam. Last
week, he didn't bother to collect the answers. "I didn't care,"
Richt said. "I didn't want to do anything that would clutter his
head." After the game the test answers sat on the floor of
Outzen's locker. "I'm going to keep it," he said.
Outzen's success validated the hunch Bowden had when he signed
him out of Fort Walton Beach High. Like Danny Wuerffel in 1991,
Outzen had taken the Vikings to the Class 5A championship. "In
Florida that's pretty big," Bowden says. "He wasn't a high
recruit. We just liked him. We felt he would be a backup
quarterback, an athlete."
He's likely to return to his backup role next year, when Weinke
is expected to be healthy again. In the meantime Outzen and the
rest of the fourth-ranked, 11-1 Seminoles wait and hope to play
for the national championship in the Fiesta Bowl. As Outzen sat
at his locker and peeled off his uniform after last Saturday's
game, wide receiver Peter Warrick ambled by. "Good game,
Rooster," said Warrick, who not only caught eight passes for 119
yards and a touchdown but also threw a 46-yard TD to Ron Dugans
that put the Seminoles up by eight.
"Hey," Outzen said, as giddy as a 10-year-old who had just had
his picture taken with Bobby Bowden, "I got my first TD."
"It's been a pleasure," Warrick said.
"It ain't over," Outzen replied.
Advice to Unbeatens: Win
How much might the outcome of the remaining games shake up the
bowl picture? Here are the projected matchups in the four Bowl
Championship Series games if Tennessee, UCLA and Kansas State
Sugar: Florida State-Kansas State.
But what would happen if the Vols, the Bruins and the Wildcats
all lost? In this unlikely--but hardly far-fetched--scenario,
Tennessee flops in the SEC title game, Texas A&M upsets Kansas
State for the Big 12 championship and UCLA loses to Miami, in the
Dec. 5 playing of their September game that was postponed by
Hurricane Georges. That would probably allow Florida State and
Texas A&M, who began the season in the Kickoff Classic, to end it
in the Fiesta; put Pac-10 champ UCLA in the Rose Bowl; and leave
the Orange Bowl with its choice of Tennessee, Ohio State, Notre
Dame and Florida to face Syracuse. Tennessee is out: The Vols
have already faced Syracuse this season. And while Notre Dame and
Ohio State have large followings, the Orange Bowl would select
the Gators, who haven't appeared in the game since 1967, when
coach Steve Spurrier was Florida's star quarterback. All of which
leaves this lineup.
Fiesta: Florida State-Texas A&M.
Sugar: Mississippi State-Kansas State.
King of Tulane
A Fractured Fairy Tale
By any standard, Tulane's Shaun King has had an extraordinary
year. The nation's leader in passing efficiency, he has thrown
for 2,902 yards and 33 touchdowns, while rushing for 440 yards
and nine TDs. But considering that the 6-foot, 201-pound King
broke his left (nonthrowing) wrist in the Green Wave's 42-24 win
over Navy on Sept. 26 and has played the last seven games wearing
a cast that makes it hard to take a snap, let alone throw, his
performance is even more remarkable.
"When I learned the severity of Shaun's injury, I figured he'd
have surgery and redshirt," says Tulane coach, Tommy Bowden. "But
Shaun never thought about not playing. He has sent a message to
the rest of the team about sacrifice and determination."
Behind King, 10-0 Tulane is ranked 11th in the country and
probably bound for the Liberty Bowl. The Green Wave clinched the
Conference USA title--the school's first league championship since
1949--with a 48-20 victory over Houston last Saturday thanks to
King, a senior from St. Petersburg, Fla., who completed 26 of 33
passes for 319 yards and five touchdowns.
King still can't bend his left wrist, and every time he takes a
hit on that arm, he feels excruciating pain. Nevertheless, he
refuses to take painkillers or to complain. "I got down for a bit
when I first found out it was broken, but when the doctors said I
couldn't hurt it any more than it already is, I knew I was going
to play through it," he says. "We've worked too hard to get to
this point to let anything get in our way." --B.J. Schecter
UCLA's Rising Star
The Freshman Is The Man
Last Saturday afternoon on the frenzied floor of the Rose Bowl,
in the moments after No. 2 UCLA's 34-17 spanking of USC, Bruins
tailback DeShaun Foster looked preoccupied. He didn't seem
thrilled, as might be expected of a guy who had just become the
first Bruins freshman to score four touchdowns in a game. Nor did
Foster appear exhausted, which was strange considering that the
day before the game he had gone to the hospital, where he was
treated for strep throat. No, amid all the backslapping and
interviews, Foster was scanning the field. "I was looking for
Carson," he said a bit later. "I wanted to talk to him."
That would have been Carson Palmer, the Trojans' starting
quarterback and a freshman every bit as precocious as Foster.
Last year the two met in the CIF Southern Section Division V
championship, a game that is still spoken of with reverence by
the Southern California pigskin cognoscenti. That day Foster ran
for 377 yards and six touchdowns for Tustin High, and Palmer
passed for 419 yards and five TDs for Santa Margarita High, which
won 55-42. Ever since an emotional embrace at midfield following
that game the two have formed a mutual admiration society, but
neither of these high school All-Americas dreamed he would be a
focal point of L.A.'s grand rivalry just one year later.
As usual, Foster didn't start in UCLA's three-tailback rotation,
but he did jump-start the Bruins in the first half, scoring three
times as they took a 27-10 lead. The 6'1", 205-pound Foster is a
dazzling combination of hustle and muscle. On his first score, a
four-yard catch-and-run on a throw from Cade McNown, he made like
his idol, Earl Campbell, and bulled into the end zone over the
top of a would-be tackler. Early in the second quarter Foster
added a 65-yard scamper down the sideline. For the game Foster
rushed 15 times for 109 yards and now leads UCLA with 556 yards
(at 5.6 per carry) and 12 touchdowns. "DeShaun was awesome, as
usual," Palmer said following the game.
Palmer wasn't so bad himself, completing 28 of 43 passes for 252
yards and a touchdown. A year ago, after their epic
confrontation, he had consoled a teary Foster by telling him,
"You are the man." The same goes now, only more so. --Alan
The Dicey State Of Connecticut
If Governor John G. Rowland and the city of Hartford follow
through on last week's tentative agreement with the New England
Patriots and build a 68,000-seat stadium, UConn, now a Division
I-AA school, almost certainly will move up to I-A and become the
ninth team in the Big East. One problem: Where will the Huskies
find I-A talent? At the start of this season, the eight Big East
teams had a total of just 12 players from Connecticut on their
rosters.... The longest winning streak in the Pac-10 after those
of UCLA (20) and Arizona (5) belongs to 3-8 Stanford, which won
its last two games. The Cardinal's 10-3 defeat of Cal not only
was Stanford's fourth consecutive Big Game victory but also
prevented the Golden Bears, who finished the season 5-6, from
qualifying for a bowl game.... The crowd to see Temple lose to
Syracuse 38-7 at 67,000-seat Veterans Stadium was so sparse (an
announced 12,483) that one Owls defensive player adjusted his
position on the line after hearing a coach yell at him from the
Read more from Ivan Maisel, and cast your vote in our Top 25
fans' poll at www.cnnsi.com.
COLOR PHOTO: BOB ROSATO In his second start Outzen kept his cool in the pocket and passed for 167 yards against the Gators. [Marcus Outzen passing football in game]
COLOR PHOTO: HEINZ KLUETMEIER Joe Germaine and Ohio State are likely losers in the BCS scramble. [Joe Germaine with football in game]
COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECK Foster's fourth touchdown set a UCLA freshman record and sealed the Bruins' eighth straight win over USC. [DeShaun Foster leaping for touchdown in game]
TOP 10 Most Costly Injuries
Amp Campbell, CB, Michigan State A second-team All-Big Ten
selection as a junior last season, the 6-foot, 192-pound Campbell
suffered a severe cervical-spinal injury against Oregon on Sept.
5 but hopes to play again. Considered a lock for a bowl berth
before the season, the Spartans are 6-5.
Rob Cieslinski, DT, Colorado State The Rams' best run-stopper,
Cieslinski, a 6'4", 293-pound junior, hasn't played since
injuring his left hamstring against Nevada on Sept. 12. Colorado
State is ranked 58th nationally in rushing defense.
Alge Crumpler, TE, North Carolina The 6'3", 250-pound Crumpler
caught 24 passes for 278 yards and four touchdowns as a sophomore
last year, but he hasn't played a down this season after tearing
his left ACL in March. Tar Heels tight ends have eight catches
Joe Domingeaux, TE, LSU Sophomore Domingeaux, a 6'6", 267-pound
stalwart blocker, tore his right ACL during spring practice. LSU
is a disappointing 4-6, and its inability to get into the end
zone from inside the five-yard line resulted in losses to Alabama
Reuben Droughns, TB, Oregon In five games the 6-foot, 205-pound
Droughns, a junior, ran for 824 yards and scored 11 touchdowns.
The Ducks have not had a 100-yard rusher in the five games since
Droughns broke his right ankle against UCLA on Oct. 17.
John Fitzgerald, QB, Tulsa The No. 2 passer in school history,
the 6'3", 225-pound Fitzgerald was sidelined for the rest of his
senior season after fracturing his right wrist against Air Force
on Oct. 24. The Golden Hurricane is 4-7.
Arturo Freeman, FS, South Carolina The Gamecocks lost their
defensive leader--92 tackles and six interceptions last year--in
August after Freeman, a 6'1", 190-pound senior, tore his right
ACL. South Carolina is 1-10 and has the third-worst defense in
Anthony Poindexter, FS, Virginia The best safety in the nation,
the 6'1", 220-pound Poindexter, a senior, had 73 tackles and
three interceptions in seven games before blowing out his left
knee on Oct. 24 against N.C. State. The Cavaliers have gone 2-1
in Poindexter's absence, but they haven't replaced his leadership
Quinton Spotwood, WR-PR, Syracuse The 5'11", 190-pound Spotwood,
who tied an NCAA record by returning four punts for touchdowns as
a sophomore last season, tore his left ACL on Oct. 10 against
Cincinnati. The Orangemen haven't returned a punt for a TD this
Chris Weinke, QB, Florida State Forced to start after an
off-season knee injury to Dan Kendra, Weinke, a 26-year-old
sophomore, had thrown 218 passes without an interception before
injuring his neck against Virginia on Nov. 7. His loss may be
hard to overcome in the Seminoles' bowl game.
The Ole Miss coach took himself out of the running for the
Arkansas job in '97. If he says no to Auburn, will schools still
Oklahoma State vs. Oregon State
Our Oh-So-Close Bowl matches the best
5-6 teams in the country. Put them on your early watch list for
The Florida State defensive coordinator flummoxes Florida by
rushing only three men. The Gators' 204 yards of total offense
is the lowest in the Steve Spurrier era.
Boston College's silver lining finishes the season with 1,726
rushing yards, a Big East record.
Mountain West Conference
The eight former WAC schools that make up the league, which
starts play in 1999, tripled their '97 TV income by signing a
seven-year, $48 million deal with ESPN.
Notre Dame (9-1) at USC (7-4)
The old combat term million-dollar wound took on a negative--not
to mention much inflated--connotation for the Fighting Irish on
the final snap of their 39-36 victory last Saturday over LSU.
Senior quarterback Jarious Jackson tore a right medial collateral
ligament and won't play against USC on Saturday. To be in
position to get a Bowl Championship Series bid--and a payout of
about $12 million--Notre Dame must win against the Trojans. But
it's too much to ask that Jackson's backups, freshman Arnaz
Battle and junior Eric Chappell, beat a defense, led by Butkus
Award finalist Chris Claiborne, that has forced 31 turnovers. An
Irish loss could drop them into the Gator Bowl, where they would
play Georgia Tech for $1.4 million.
Miami (7-2) at Syracuse (7-3)
The Hurricanes want to claim a berth in the Orange Bowl, but
while coach Butch Davis has received well-deserved credit for
shepherding Miami through 34 games in the NCAA-probation desert,
the promised land isn't nigh. Miami has beaten only one team with
a winning record. Orangemen quarterback Donovan McNabb will close
out his Carrier Dome career with a third straight Big East title.
Arizona State (5-5) at Arizona (10-1)
The Wildcats must win to have any hope of erasing the stigma of
being the only Pac-10 (or Big Ten) team never to play in the Rose
Bowl. Twice in the 1980s they knocked the Sun Devils out of said
bowl, and their upset victory last season cost Arizona State a
share of the title. Payback isn't coming this year.
Grambling (5-5) at Southern (7-3)
The Tigers and the Jaguars have played 46 times, but only since
1974 has their matchup been known as the Bayou Classic. A Silver
Anniversary celebration will honor the Classic's best players
ever. Surely Grambling coach and former quarterback Doug Williams
will be among them. He won't have much else to celebrate.
Southern should win for the sixth straight year.