Fit To Be Tied
By creating a three-way logjam in the ACC, Florida State got a
chad up on a BCS bid
Maryland, one of five top 15 teams to have its unbeaten record
spoiled last Saturday, will really regret its 52-31 loss at
Florida State once it gets a load of the ACC three-way
tiebreaker. If Maryland (5-1), Florida State (4-1) and North
Carolina (4-1 going into Thursday night's game against Georgia
Tech) tie for the conference crown, the ACC berth in the BCS will
be decided by averaging the standings of the teams in the AP
(media) and USA Today/ESPN (coaches) polls.
This week Florida State is 14th in each poll, Maryland is ranked
15th by AP and 16th by USA Today/ESPN, and North Carolina is
rated 22nd and 26th, respectively. If the teams were to end the
season ranked like that, the Seminoles would get the league's
automatic bid--helped no doubt by a Bobby Bowden vote for the
Seminoles in the coaches' poll. Ralph Friedgen of Maryland also
has a vote, but John Bunting of North Carolina doesn't. Bunting
won't like the two-way tiebreaker, either. If, in an average of
the two polls, the loser of the game between the two teams is
ranked at least five spots ahead of the winner, then the ranking
supersedes the game result.
That could also be known as the Florida State Rule because the
league first adopted a similar tiebreaker in 1996, for the then
Bowl Alliance, to ensure that its highest-ranked team (i.e., the
Seminoles, who have finished in the top five of both polls in
each of the last 14 seasons) would get the league's best bowl
berth. Before that, the ACC allowed a bowl to pick between
co-champions. In 1995, for example, Florida State and Virginia
tied for the title after the Cavaliers upset the Seminoles 33-28.
Florida State, 9-2 and No. 8 at the close of the season, was
chosen by the Orange Bowl over Virginia, 8-4 and No. 18, which
went to the Peach Bowl.
This season, if the current rankings were to stand, the Seminoles
would be invited to a BCS bowl instead of the Tar Heels, who
humiliated Florida State 41-9 on Sept. 22. If Florida State loses
one of its last four games, including a Nov. 17 match at No. 4
Florida, the Seminoles will finish 8-3; if North Carolina wins
out, it will finish 9-3. So the ACC representative in the BCS
could come down to how far Florida State falls in the polls.
Complicating matters is the fact that Clemson coach Tommy Bowden,
whose Tigers lost 38-3 to North Carolina on Oct. 20, has a vote
too. "Until John Bunting puts me in his will," says Tommy, a son
of Bobby, "the vote will go to Florida State."
Seven Up for the Orangemen
After quarterback Donovan McNabb graduated from Syracuse
following the 1998 season, Syracuse went 13-10 in the ensuing two
years and lost its seat alongside Miami and Virginia Tech in the
Big East oligarchy. When the Orangemen started this fall 0-2, the
criticism of coach Paul Pasqualoni, which had first been voiced a
year ago, intensified. After Syracuse won its seventh straight
game, 22-14 over No. 5 and previously undefeated Virginia Tech
last Saturday, Pasqualoni said, "The hottest fire makes the
His reference was to early-season losses to Georgia Tech and
Tennessee, No. 10 and No. 8, respectively, at the time. Besides,
Pasqualoni is too courtly to wave the victory in the face of
critics. One of his best friends, offensive coordinator George
DeLeone, showed no such restraint. "For a team to become
successful after no one gave it a chance," DeLeone said, "that's
one of the great moments I've had in coaching."
Of the 31 teams that stumbled to an 0-2 start this year, only
19th-ranked Syracuse and Miami of Ohio have gone undefeated
since. (North Carolina, ranked 22nd, started 0-3 and has gone
5-0.) Granted, three of the Orangemen's victories were over Big
East weaklings Rutgers, Pittsburgh and Temple (6-15 combined),
and two more have come against Central Florida (4-4) and East
Carolina (4-3), but give Syracuse credit for knocking off Auburn
and Virginia Tech.
One reason for the Orangemen's turnabout is the improvement of
sophomore quarterback R.J. Anderson, who runs the option well and
rarely turns over the ball. Though Anderson is 8-1 as a starter,
including a 3-1 mark as a freshman, he has suffered by comparison
to McNabb and Marvin Graves (who played from 1990 to '93), both
of whom took Syracuse to bowl games as freshmen. In 2000 Anderson
and Troy Nunes, then a sophomore, combined to throw 19
interceptions, and Syracuse finished minus-six in turnover margin
and out of the bowl picture with a 6-5 record.
This season the Orangemen have thrown seven interceptions in nine
games and are plus-12 in turnover margin. Anderson has been
intercepted only once in 88 pass attempts and, as Syracuse's
second-leading rusher, hasn't fumbled. "He gave us a chance to
win [against the Hokies] by being secure with the ball," DeLeone
says. "That's light years ahead of where he was."
On a day when an icy wind blew and snow flurries fell in
Blacksburg for most of the game, a turnover-free performance by
the Syracuse offense made a big difference. As did a 51-yard punt
return for a touchdown after Virginia Tech's first possession and
a fumble recovery on the Hokies' third possession, which led to a
14-0 advantage. Two field goals by Collin Barber and a safety
with 2:24 remaining finished off Virginia Tech. "We're used to
the cold, even if we do play in the [Carrier] Dome," Orangemen
senior guard Joe Burton says. "It snows four straight months in
Syracuse. We come down here, it's snowing, it's grass, it's
On a day when they took over first place in the Big East, a half
game ahead of Miami, the Orangemen and their sophomore
quarterback looked at home.
The Games Away From the Game
These days players across the nation are studying two playbooks:
the one their coaches give them and the one imbedded in the
PlayStation 2's NCAA Football 2002. The video game has become the
favorite pastime of many players, sometimes to their detriment.
Texas A&M coach R.C. Slocum banned PlayStation consoles from road
trips this season because the game had begun to distract the
NCAA Football 2002 (like its eight annual predecessor games)
attempts to portray accurately the skills of about 50 players on
each of 144 Division I teams. Every player is rated on a
100-point scale. Nearly to a man, the 10 players SI surveyed said
they're better on the field than PlayStation portrays them to be.
Says Michigan State wide receiver Herb Haygood, "They've got
[Spartans tailback T.J.] Duckett faster than me, and we know
that's not the case." Says Colorado tight end Quinn Sypniewski,
"My guy is definitely not fast enough, and his butt is too big."
Tennessee offensive tackle Will Ofenheusle isn't pleased with his
rating: "I think I'm better than a 47. I don't suck that bad."
At Nebraska, when teammates play the game against each other,
they first fight over which one gets to be the Cornhuskers.
Players at other schools aren't so loyal. "I don't like to play
with my team," UNLV quarterback Jason Thomas says. "I need more
speed. My team is Florida State." Cincinnati wide receiver
LaDaris Vann says he chooses to be his Bearcats or other teams
with good passing attacks. "I use Pittsburgh because [wideout
Antonio] Bryant catches everything, and Texas because I like
Chris Simms. I like the way he throws, and he's got two good
receivers in number 4 [Roy Williams] and number 82 [B.J.
Fresno State quarterback David Carr says playing NCAA Football
2002 helps him in real games. "If you know what kind of blitzes
other teams use in real games," Carr says, "you can punch them up
on the video and try different plays against them. You do pick up
a few things doing that."
For the most part, the video game accurately depicts teams and
stadiums, but some players point out mistakes. Tennessee
defensive end Will Overstreet, who's white, says he was shown as
a black player for two years. Michigan State righthanded
quarterback Ryan Van Dyke is a lefty in NCAA Football 2002.
Worse, a banner in Spartan Stadium reads GO MICHIGAN!
For complete scores, schedules and stats, plus Ivan Maisel's
exclusive weekly Heisman Watch, go to cnnsi.com/football/college.
COLOR PHOTO: TOM DIPACE Michael Boulware's interception return for a touchdown helped end Maryland's unbeaten run.
COLOR PHOTO: DAVID BERGMAN James Mungro, with 102 rushing yards for Syracuse, bowled over Willie Pile and the other Hokies.
YA GOTTA LOVE THIS GUY
Four days before Hawaii's home game last Friday against Fresno
State, Warriors senior free safety Nate Jackson crashed on his
motorcycle while trying to avoid a car that he says suddenly
stopped in front of him. Jackson, who has a 75-minute ride
between his home on Oahu's leeward coast and the campus in
Honolulu, suffered a deep gash in his right leg that required two
layers of stitches. Two days later, Jackson, a former walk-on,
appeared at practice on crutches. He also didn't participate in
the next morning's workout. Against the 18th-ranked Bulldogs the
following afternoon, Jackson sat out the first quarter but then
played 35 to 40 plays, making two tackles, recovering one fumble
and forcing another that led to the winning touchdown in Hawaii's
An NFL scout assesses Florida's 6'4", 265-pound senior defensive
end Alex Brown, who has 36 tackles this season, 6 1/2 of them
"He's a more dedicated, disciplined worker in practice and in
games than in past years. He took some plays off as a sophomore
and junior but not now. He uses leverage and strength well for a
slightly undersized end. He has an excellent first step. His
ideal pro position would be outside linebacker in the 3-4. He
stays alive when the quarterback breaks out of the pocket, so he
will get some coverage sacks for you. When he has to rush inside,
he's disruptive in the gaps. You may struggle to find the right
position for him, but he'll be a good first-round pick for a team
that plays four linebackers."
"It's time now that we act like we know how to win, and that it's
not a surprise, and that we handle it with dignity."
Before last Saturday's game against Florida State, coach Ralph
Friedgen pleaded that Maryland students not wreak havoc on campus
should the Terrapins win. He needn't have worried. The Seminoles
posted his comments on their bulletin board and then destroyed
Maryland's run at an undefeated season with a 52-31 victory.
Michigan State kick returner Herb Haygood vs. Michigan's kickoff coverage
Haygood, a 6-foot, 190-pound senior, leads the nation with a
33.2-yard return average and has taken two kicks back for
touchdowns this season, tying a Spartans record. Thus Haygood,
the third-fastest Spartan (4.40 in a preseason 40), is starting
to see fewer and fewer returnable kicks because opponents are
choosing to kick away from him. He probably will not get many
opportunities to bust loose on Saturday, either. The Wolverines'
coverage unit ranks fourth in the Big Ten, permitting 17.4 yards
per return, and no opponent has returned a kickoff for a
touchdown in Lloyd Carr's seven seasons as Michigan coach.
Booth or Sideline?
SI polled the 117 major college teams on whether their offensive
plays are called from the coaches' booth or from the sideline.
The result was surprisingly close: 65 prefer the booth, 51 the
sideline, and one--Minnesota--puts a coordinator in each spot.
Here's a sampling of the rationale behind calling plays from on
high or on the field.
"It allows you to get the players who carry the plays in on the
field at least four or five seconds faster, which is huge."
--Tennessee coordinator Randy Sanders
"It's an advantage because you're right there with the offense
all the time. I can get the whole unit together and go over
something that needs to be covered. I can talk to the quarterback
--North Carolina State coordinator Marty Galbraith
"I was a backup quarterback for almost nine of the 10 years that
I played in the NFL, so I was used to watching the game from the
--Florida coach Steve Spurrier
"You're removed from most of the emotion; it's more like you're
in the office. You see things quicker, but you don't get the
immediate feedback [from fellow coaches]. Also, you can't eat a
sandwich on the field."
--Stanford coordinator Bill Diedrick
"I started last year on the sideline, but I wasn't comfortable. I
like to see the structure of the defense from above, to see the
opposition's game plan."
--Colorado coordinator Shawn Watson
"Being in the booth allows me to lay down my play charts in front
--Texas coordinator Greg Davis