1. Matt Leinart, QB, USC, Jr. The next Heisman of Troy? He‚Äôll be surrounded by √ºbertalented skill players in Norm Chow‚Äôs high-powered offense and face seven teams whose D‚Äôs ranked lower than 70th against the pass in ‚Äô03.
2. Darren Sproles, RB, Kansas State, Sr. He led the nation in rushing in ‚Äô03 with 1,986 yards, but the departure of QB Ell Roberson means defenses will be keying on this 5'7", 180-pound mighty mite.
3. Jason White, QB, Oklahoma, Sr. Looking to bounce back from a disastrous finish to the ‚Äô03 season, the reigning Heisman winner leads an offense that may be even more potent than last year‚Äôs.
4. Chris Leak (above), QB, Florida, Soph. Last year‚Äôs top recruit was the only QB to beat LSU in ‚Äô03. He‚Äôll shine even more as Florida emphasizes downfield passing.
5. David Greene, QB, Georgia, Sr. He‚Äôs surrounded by a skilled and experienced offensive unit, so expect the Greene of 2002 (SEC offensive player of the year) rather than ‚Äô03 (13 TDs, 11 INTs).
1. Justin Vincent, RB, LSU, Soph. As a freshman, he was MVP of the SEC and BCS title games, rushing for 318 yards and three TDs against Georgia and Oklahoma.
2. Aaron Rodgers, QB, California, Jr. Ringmaster of an aerial circus, he‚Äôs coming off an impressive bowl performance and again will be throwing to All-America candidate Geoff McArthur.
3. Cedric Benson, RB, Texas, Sr. He‚Äôd have won the Heisman by now if the season started after the Texas-Oklahoma game. Eleven of his 15 100-yard rushing efforts have come after that test.
4. Brad Smith, QB, Missouri, Jr. He has 26 passing TDs and 25 rushing in two seasons, but the Tigers must be more than ordinary for their man to have a shot.
5. Carnell Williams, RB, Auburn, Sr. Cadillac ran for 1,307 yards and 17 TDs, but he‚Äôll split backfield time with Ronnie Brown in the Tigers‚Äô new West Coast offense.
HOW FAR WOULD HE GO FOR A QUARTERBACK? In December, Cal coach Jeff Tedford--whose team missed 15 field goals in ‚Äô03--flew 18 hours to Australia to meet the parents of Ellsworth (Iowa) Community College kicker David Lonie. Following a 45-minute visit, Tedford turned around and headed back home. A week later Lonie signed with the Bears.
GIVE HIM AN A IN MUSIC Indiana sophomore running back Lance Bennett (below) cowrote six songs on Will Smith‚Äôs Born to Reign album, including the hit Black Suits Comin‚Äô (Nod Ya Head). A business marketing major from Brooklyn, Bennett also penned the Baltimore Ravens‚Äô 2001 Super Bowl theme song.
HOLLYWOOD REWRITE Perhaps inspired by last season‚Äôs split title, USC has decided to claim a share of the 1939 national championship. Though the 8-0-2 Trojans finished third in the ‚Äô39 AP poll, they were No. 1 in the Dickinson System, one of 13 rankings then in use. By its count, USC now has 10 national titles.
IT‚ÄôS HER HOUSE NOW Marshall will play its first full season in a venue renamed Joan C. Edwards Stadium, after the woman who has donated more than $50 million to the school and the Huntington, W.Va., community. It‚Äôs the first I-A football stadium to be named after a woman.
THEY‚ÄôVE ALREADY TURNED THE BALL OVER TWICE The Waterford crystal footballs atop Florida State‚Äôs 1993 and ‚Äô99 national championship trophies were stolen from a locked case outside the office of Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden (above). The school has offered a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest of the thieves.
WHERE ELSE? Former Nebraska quarterback Curt Dukes transferred to Duke.
DOUBLE WHAMMY Twins Daniel and Josh Bullocks start at strong and free safety, respectively, for Nebraska. Josh, an All-America, intercepted 10 passes last year; Daniel made 69 tackles.
SI‚ÄôS 2004 ALL-AMERICA TEAM
QB Matt Leinart, USC, Jr.
RB Darren Sproles, Kansas State, Sr.
RB Justin Vincent, LSU, Soph.
WR Mark Clayton, Oklahoma, Sr.
WR Geoff McArthur, Cal, Sr.
TE Heath Miller, Virginia, Jr.
T Eric Winston, Miami, Jr.
T Alex Barron, Florida State, Sr.
G David Baas, Michigan, Sr.
G Elton Brown, Virginia, Sr.
C Ben Wilkerson, LSU, Sr.
DL Dan Cody, Oklahoma, Sr.
DL David Pollack (above), Georgia, Sr.
DL Matt Roth, Iowa, Sr.
DL Marcus Spears, LSU, Sr.
LB Will Derting, Washington State, Jr.
LB A.J. Hawk, Ohio State, Jr.
LB Derrick Johnson, Texas, Sr.
DB Josh Bullocks, Nebraska, Jr.
DB Thomas Davis, Georgia, Jr.
DB Antrel Rolle, Miami, Sr.
DB Corey Webster, LSU, Sr.
PK Jonathan Nichols, Mississippi, Sr.
P Tom Malone, USC, Jr.
Return Specialist Antonio Perkins, Oklahoma, Sr.
SI‚ÄôS ALL-NAME TEAM
Adrian Awasom, DE, North Texas
Andrew Crummey, OL, Maryland
D‚ÄôBrickashaw Ferguson, OL, Virginia
Derrick Belch, PK, Stanford
Jamaal Fudge, DB, Clemson
Richie Incognito, C, Nebraska
Erode Jean, DB, East Carolina
Johnny Jolly, DL, Texas A&M
Maurice Linguist, DB, Baylor
Bobby Purify, RB, Colorado
Frostee Rucker, DL, USC
Keith Toogood, PK, Texas Tech
NAME OF THE YEAR
I-Perfection Harris, CB, Georgia Tech
Sept. 6 Florida State at Miami Are you ready for some football? This Monday-night matchup, on ABC no less, pits spit-in-your-face rivals against each other for the third time in 11 months. What‚Äôs more, the game could decide the ACC title.
Sept. 25 Iowa at Michigan Hail! Hail! to ... Iowa. Entering this important early Big Ten showdown, the Hawkeyes have won two straight against the Wolverines, including a 34‚Äì9 romp at the Big House in 2002.
Oct. 2 LSU at Georgia The Tigers took two from the Bulldogs last season, and this battle between the hedges could again be a preview of the SEC title game.
Oct. 9 Oklahoma vs. Texas Red River Shootout or Red River Blowout? The Sooners and coach Bob Stoops have won four straight by an average of nearly 31 points.
Oct. 9 Cal at USC Only a triple-overtime loss at Cal--and some BCS computer nerds--stopped the Trojans from making it to the national championship game last year. USC will be out for revenge.
Oct. 30 Florida vs. Georgia The Dawgs‚Äô title hopes hinge on reversing their recent fortunes at the World‚Äôs Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party: The Gators have won six straight and 13 of 14.
Nov. 6 Colorado State at Utah If the Utes can reach November undefeated, this game will likely be the final hurdle to a perfect season.
Nov. 13 Boston College at West Virginia Some team from what‚Äôs left of the Big East has to qualify for a BCS bowl. Most likely it‚Äôll be the winner of this game.
Nov. 20 Michigan at Ohio State The Big Game has had Big Ten title implications eight times in the last nine years. That much at least should be at stake again this time.
Nov. 20 Southern Miss at TCU Frogs or frauds? Last season TCU reached late November unbeaten and thinking BCS before losing to the Eagles 40‚Äì28 in Hattiesburg.
Jan. 4, 2005 BCS Championship Game Orange Bowl, Miami
35.1 million ¬†Division IA attendance last year, breaking the record of 34.4 million in 2002.
19,340 ¬†Height, in feet, of Tanzania‚Äôs Mount Kilimanjaro, which Michigan State coach John L. Smith scaled in July.
666 ¬†Pounds bench-pressed in March by Kansas State senior DT Andrew Bulman, a school record.
319 ¬†Weight, in pounds, of Washington State offensive lineman Sam Lightbody.
278 ¬†Consecutive games in which Texas has scored, the nation‚Äôs longest streak.
.185 ¬†Batting average of West Virginia senior RB Kay-Jay Harris in three years as an outfielder in the Texas Rangers‚Äô farm system.
72 ¬†Percentage of concussions suffered by college football players that go unreported, according to an Indiana State study.
40 ¬†Times, on average, that the Tennessee band plays Rocky Top during a game.
10 ¬†Division I-A programs in Texas, the most of any state.
9 ¬†States without a I-A team.
4 ¬†Times since 1998 that the BCS formula has been changed.
3 ¬†Britt brothers--OL/DL Justin, RG Taylor and LT Wesley--on the Alabama roster.
2 ¬†Bowls with new names: the Emerald (formerly Diamond Walnut San Francisco) and the MPC Computers (né Humanitarian).
1 ¬†Returning Arkansas offensive starter: QB Matt Jones.
PHIL COALE/AP (LEAK)
MIKE BLAKE/REUTERS (BOWDEN)
Dude, where‚Äôs my trophy?
PAUL B. RILEY/IU ATHLETICS (BENNETT)
Smith gives the nod to Bennett. (inset)
PHOTOFEST (WILL SMITH)
See caption above. ¬†
BOB ROSATO (POLLACK)
JOHN BIEVER (MICHIGAN‚ÄìOHIO STATE)
Michigan‚ÄìOSU: Always a Big Game.
ROBERT BECK (CROWD)