Florida State, Bowden could win first championship

YEAR OF THE SEMINOLE?

September 04, 1993|By Knight-Ridder News Service

The sign, certain to be held aloft by mocking Miami Hurricanes fans, once again will be waved in front of the faces of those cursed Florida State Seminoles when these two most bitter of rivals go at it on Oct. 9 in Tallahassee.

The sign reads, "WIDE RIGHT . . . The gift that keeps on giving."

Cute. But after this season, it will no longer be a sign of the times.

The Seminoles won't lose to Miami because of a field goal or PAT that sails wide right, as they have in two of the past three years. They won't lose to anyone. Not to Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. Not to Florida in Gainesville. Not to any of their Atlantic Coast Conference rivals.

And when Bobby Bowden is hoisted onto the shoulders of his players after winning another New Year's Day bowl game, his coaching life will be complete. Justice will be served. After finishing No. 2, No. 3, No. 3, No. 4, No. 4 and No. 2 in The Associated Press poll the past six years, Bowden will have the one thing left to his glorious but frustrating coaching career, a national championship.

A word to the wise, though: Just don't bet on it.

Here's how the top 10 will look at the end of the 1993 college football season:

* 1. Florida State: Quarterback Charlie Ward, who got off to a superb start in last Saturday's 42-0 win over Kansas, will be the most exhilarating, most creative player in the game this year. And perhaps the Heisman Trophy winner, too.

A new rule moving the hash marks 2 yards closer to the center of the field will make Ward an even more dangerous runner. Tamarick Vanover, a sophomore wide receiver, will catch most of Ward's touchdown passes.

To take care of that "wide right" business, Bowden beat Notre Dame for Scott Bentley, a kicker who drilled seven field goals 50 yards or longer in high school.

* 2. Michigan: Elvis has left the building, and no one in Ann Arbor is upset. Todd Collins showed last season he's capable of easing the loss of quarterback Elvis Grbac. All Collins did when he filled in for an injured Grbac was set the school's single-game passing record for completions (29) and tie the record for touchdowns (four) in a game. His job will be made easier with a potentially devastating running game led by Tyrone Wheatley, and receiver Derrick Alexander.

The Wolverines have a rugged schedule, but seven of their games are at home, including Notre Dame, Iowa and Ohio State.

* 3. Florida: Coach Steve Spurrier's sideline histrionics aside, he knows how to develop quarterbacks. So newcomer Terry Dean should be just fine, especially with Errict Rhett to hand the ball to and an experienced corps of receivers to catch it. The Gators defense, led by linebacker Ed Robinson, was a bit soft last season. It should be tougher and more talented this time around.

Florida will knock off defending national champion Alabama in the Southeastern Conference championship game and go to the Sugar Bowl, setting off a bowl alliance debate. Bowden will say no to a rematch with Florida in the Sugar Bowl, then go beat up the Big Eight champ in the Orange Bowl.

* 4. Miami, Fla.: The demise of the Hurricanes has been widely predicted. Mostly, they're picked to finish second in the Big East and fall well short of winning their fifth national title since 1983.

The Hurricanes will play Syracuse in the Orange Bowl, where Miami has won 51 straight. They will succeed because of the nation's best defensive line (Darren Krein, Kevin Patrick, Warren Sapp).

* 5. Arizona: The Wildcats to the Rose Bowl? Believe it. All they have to do is learn how to score points and the Pacific Ten crown will be theirs. Last year, Arizona was the country's best 6-4-1 team, allowing a mere 98 points.

Most of that defense is back, with nose tackle Rob Waldrop perhaps the best in the nation. Defending conference champ Washington is on probation, Stanford lost too much on defense, and Southern Cal and UCLA are a notch below the Wildcats in the Pac-10.

* 6. Alabama: It may be a long while before the country sees the kind of tenacious, swarming defense that propelled the Crimson Tide to last year's 12-0, national championship season, which reached a crescendo in the 34-13 blowout of Miami in the Sugar Bowl. That defense will come down a bit with the loss of defensive ends John Copeland and Eric Curry.

* 7. Texas A&M: The Aggies have a great chance of going into the Cotton Bowl undefeated, mostly because the Southwest Conference remains one of the country's weakest.

* 8. Notre Dame: Lou Holtz is poor-mouthing his team like never before, which is no easy accomplishment. All that means is the Irish won't be nearly as bad as Holtz wants us to believe. Yet they won't be nearly as good as their ubiquitous fans expect them to be.

The Irish lost six players to the NFL draft, but they're never bereft of talent. A better-than-usual defense will keep them in games. The Irish have been hurt at quarterback. Highly touted freshman Ron Powlus of Berwick suffered a broken clavicle last week and may be out for the season. Can senior Kevin McDougal or junior Paul Failla ease the loss of Rick Mirer?

* 9. Syracuse: The schedule is set up nicely for this immensely talented team. Ball State, East Carolina and Cincinnati are three of the four teams the Orangemen play outside the Big East. An early trip to Texas will be dangerous, and Syracuse might fall flat in one of its four games after Miami. Quarterback Marvin Graves is a legitimate Heisman Trophy challenger, and nose tackle Kevin Mitchell is among the nation's best.

* 10. Penn State: The Nittany Lions return to the top 10 after fading badly last season.

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