This year's HOT READS

The Nation


Much has transpired in the eight months since LSU left the field at the Superdome in New Orleans for a party that M-y last we looked M-y was still going on. Since then, college football has rarely left the headlines. Ohio StateM-Fs Maurice Clarett lost his case against the NFLM-Fs eligibility rule and, more recently, Southern CaliforniaM-Fs Mike Williams lost his bid to be reinstated by the NCAA. Colorado coach Gary Barnett showed incredible crassness during the recruiting scandal that rocked his program, yet somehow he survived the mess. The next four months should prove equally newsworthy. Maybe some of the news will even be made on the field.

1. The new Bowl Championship Series formula

Actually, it looks like the formula that existed before 1998. The human factor has been given a more significant role since the BCS gurus tweaked the system last spring. The Associated Press poll of media and the USA Today/ESPN poll of coaches will each count for a third, as will the average of six computer polls. While trying to eliminate the possibility of the two top teams not playing for the championship, as happened last season for the second time in three years, the BCS now thinks it has fixed the problem.

But has it?

M-tI think itM-Fs wrong to suppose this system is going to make sure we identify the No. 1 football team in the country every year,M-v Penn State coach Joe Paterno said. M-tI doubt it.M-v

2. Jason WhiteM-Fs redemption

Given a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA for medical issues, the Oklahoma quarterback and reigning Heisman Trophy winner also gets a shot at silencing those doubters who surfaced when the nationM-Fs No. 1 team lost its final two games last season.

White later acknowledged that he got banged up during OklahomaM-Fs Big 12 championship game against Kansas State and broke a toe during his teamM-Fs national championship game against LSU. White is apparently healthy, but the offensive line has to provide better protection for White than he got down the stretch last fall.

Having a tailback such as top recruit Adrian Peterson will certainly help take the focus off White.

3. Big East becomes a one-team league

West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez found himself in an unaccustomed position at the leagueM-Fs Media Day last month M-y surrounded by the media.

All the attention this season in this suddenly depleted league is focused on Morgantown, where after an 8-5 record in 2003 the Mountaineers have their first Top 10 preseason ranking (No. 10 in the Associated Press poll). Fourth-year quarterback Rasheed Marshall and top receiver Chris Henry are two of the reasons, but the departure of Miami and Virginia Tech M-y as well as wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald from Pittsburgh M-y leaves West Virginia as the leagueM-Fs only legitimate hope for a BCS invitation.

4. Utah could be this yearM-Fs mid-major to make it through unbeaten

Urban Meyer has become a hot commodity in coaching circles by turning the once downtrodden Utes into a Top 20 program, and has provided headline writers an easy job with all those M-tUrban RenewalM-v stories out of Salt Lake City.

Given the rivalries and the elements, the Mountain West is always treacherous terrain, but Utah could have an easy path considering that its toughest road game will be at New Mexico.

If the Utes go through unbeaten, the new BCS formula could be put under serious scrutiny again.

5. Joe PaternoM-Fs status in Happy Valley

Though the 77-year-old Penn State legend is as feisty as ever, and signed a contract extension that could go through his 82nd birthday, another losing season for Paterno in State College could raise the issue of retirement for college footballM-Fs second-winningest coach.

His 38th season coaching the Nittany Lions was a disaster M-y the teamM-Fs 3-9 record was his worst ever M-y but Paterno has no plans to call it quits and is hopeful that those who say Penn State could be one of the most improved teams in the country are right. Paterno doesnM-Ft want to talk about his teamM-Fs potential, recalling recently that former Maryland coach Jerry Claiborne once told some young players, M-tYour potential is going to cost me my job.M-v

6. USC and LSU try to repeat

The game between the Trojans and Tigers that everyone wanted to see last season will likely not take place at this seasonM-Fs Orange Bowl.

USC was everyoneM-Fs preseason No. 1, but its season-opening performance in SaturdayM-Fs 24-13 win over Virginia Tech showed some weaknesses and the running game without suspended Hershel Dennis is a question mark.

LSU has Marcus Randall replacing steady Matt Mauck at quarterback and a schedule that includes preseason Southeastern Conference favorite (and BCS contender) Georgia in Athens.

7. Old coaches donM-Ft fade away

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