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Mighty SEC knows how to create a buzz
Seattle Times colleges reporter
Say this for the Southeastern Conference: It knows how to create a buzz.
OK, sometimes that isn't always in the most sporting vein: When the Times polled Division I-A coaches over the summer on which conference breaks the rules most often, there were 34 responses, and 32 of them said the SEC cheats like no other.
Maybe it just knows how. This week, the polls are lopsided with SEC teams, claiming four of the top seven with No. 3 LSU, Tennessee (fifth), Florida (sixth) and Georgia (seventh).
The league already had a couple of sassy story lines in Steve Spurrier's return to the college game at South Carolina and Urban Meyer's installation of his spread-option attack at Florida.
Florida hosts Tennessee tomorrow, and as usual in the SEC, subplots come free of charge. If it's not a coach (Tennessee's Phil Fulmer, 2004) bailing on media day because he's liable to be subpoenaed in Alabama, it's a fired and disgruntled Vols assistant faxing a Florida aide Tennessee plays and audibles (Jack Sells to Ron Zook, 1991).
Most people figure this is worth only a ho-hum, but Meyer's offensive playbook somehow surfaced as an item on eBay in recent weeks. We're talking scouting in the 21st century.
Asked this week on the SEC coaches conference call whether he would have been tempted to pay the $15 or so to buy it on eBay, Tennessee's Fulmer sounded bemused.
1. USC (1-0)
Widespread panic grips Los Angeles: Punter Malone iffy for Arkansas with bad hip
2. California (2-0)
After meeting with Rick Ankiel, QB Ayoob was better last week
3. UCLA (2-0)
To set mood for Oklahoma, Dorrell reading to Bruins from "Grapes of Wrath"
4. Arizona State (1-1)
If ifs and buts were Moey Mutz, what a season this would be
5. Oregon (2-0)
Some pundits calling Ducks best 2-0 team in Lane County
6. Oregon State (2-0)
Who even knew there were cabs in Corvallis?
7. Washington State (2-0)
On trip to Seattle, Cougars plan to consult with Mariners about best steroids
8. Stanford (1-0)
In other news, Buddy Teevens has Dartmouth opener tomorrow
9. Washington (0-2)
Octogenarians fondly recall when Huskies used to beat California
10. Arizona (1-1)
In astute move, used
InfoSpace.com to find end zone last week
Washington 31, Idaho 21
But Vandals aren't anybody's pushover
WSU 38, Grambling St. 20
With no video on Tigers, Cougars flying blind
Louisville 34, OSU 17
Elvis Dumervil, Cardinals defensive end, had six sacks against Kentucky
Fresno State 24, Oregon 23
Just enough bugs in Ducks' new offense to get them beat
Cal 51, Illinois 14
Little to keep Bears from 5-0 entering Oct. 8 game with UCLA
Stanford 38, Cal-Davis 10
Second of only two games in September for Cardinal
USC 47, Arkansas 13
Not a good sign that Hogs lost at home to Vanderbilt
Oklahoma 28, UCLA 24
Bruins improved, but Adrian Peterson might see the ball 40 times
Ariz. St. 30, Northwestern 21
Not many people questioning whether Keller can replace Walter
Purdue 28, Arizona 21
This time a year ago, 'Cats almost upset Wisconsin
Last week: 7-1.
"We might need to check on eBay," he joked. But he added, "On a good day, you run 70 to 75 offensive plays, and you couldn't run every play [in preparation] that's in a playbook. It would be impossible.
"All you've got to do is watch the tape. You can put your own playbook on us or anybody else."
Asked earlier about it, Meyer said, "You've still got to defend it, and you've still got to execute it."
Of more immediacy to the Vols is the fact that ex-Tennessee quarterback C.J. Leak, brother of Florida quarterback Chris, is on the Gators' staff as a graduate assistant. GAs don't usually play more than a grunt-work role in game preparation, but this could be the exception.
C.J. has refused interviews this week. Asked about him, Fulmer said, "I'm sure he's kept every note he's ever taken, and he was a very good note-taker."
If it weren't for the Vols-Gators matchup, the most compelling story in the league might be ... Vanderbilt. Yes, Vandy, which hasn't been to a bowl game since 1982. The Commodores have opened with good victories against Wake Forest and Arkansas — each on the road — and now have five straight at home, starting with Mississippi tomorrow.
The coach is Bobby Johnson, hired out of Division I-AA four years ago by Todd Turner, the Washington athletic director, when he was A.D. at Vandy.
Later, the athletic department there underwent a fusion into direct university stewardship, and Johnson says the perception was another obstacle.
"It might have hurt us in recruiting that first year," Johnson said. "A lot of schools were using it against us, saying we didn't have an athletic department, saying we were going to intramurals."
Johnson has had congratulatory calls from Turner, a tradition he'd like to sustain.
"We hadn't even made it to the airport," Johnson said, recalling the aftermath of the Wake Forest game. "Same thing after the Arkansas game. He's a good friend of mine."
And, the Diminutive Ten
Then there's the Big Ten, whose Michigan, Ohio State and Iowa have finished atop the league 13 times since 1988. According to the Los Angeles Times, it's the first occasion since the AP poll originated in 1936 that three Top 10 teams from one conference lost on the same day.
Somehow, the release of Joe Paterno's contract terms has been held up in the Pennsylvania courts for three years. In 2002, the Harrisburg Patriot-News requested the information under the state's right-to-know act.
A lower-court ruling ordered release of the figures, but Penn State is appealing to the state supreme court. The terms become part of the State Employees Retirement System, and the school contends that releasing the figures for prominent employees would affect the entire 6,400 who participate in the program.
Paterno has said he would be willing to release the salary, but "whatever the university wants to do is fine."
Such university silliness probably doesn't do anything to quiet the hounds on Paterno's case, although Penn State has started 2-0.
Speaking of dissent, there's considerable in Missouri, where ex-Washington assistant Gary Pinkel is trying to get the Tigers off the ground. Pinkel, 23-26 in his fifth year, has been denied bowl eligibility by losses to Bowling Green (2002) and Troy (2004) and it might have happened again last week when Mizzou was upset at home by New Mexico, 45-35.
New Mexico scored on seven of its 12 drives, and players hinted afterward that they weren't prepared to stop Lobos receiver Hank Baskett, who had 209 yards on 10 catches.
Help from Stanford
The Stanford University golf course is private, and it has been that way since 1929. But Monday, in a benefit for the American Red Cross and Hurricane Katrina relief, it will open its doors to the public. Greens fees will be $100, all going to charity. Course officials say they can accommodate 300 on a busy day.
USC is unhappy about the transfer of quarterback Rocky Hinds and cornerback Eric Wright to UNLV. Los Angeles Daily News sources say USC is investigating whether the Rebels improperly contacted the pair before they obtained official transfer releases.
When Hinds initially expressed interest in transferring, USC coach Pete Carroll said, "He's been influenced to consider [transferring], and to see what his options are."
QBs stepping up
If the Pac-10 develops as stronger than prognostications, it will have something to do with a familiar reason: Its quarterbacks.
Last week, the nine who started — Alex Brink, Isaiah Stanback, Matt Moore, Kellen Clemens, Joe Ayoob, Trent Edwards, Drew Olson, Sam Keller and Richard Kovalcheck — combined for 199 completions in 314 attempts (63 percent) for 22 touchdowns and three interceptions.
And what's more ...
• USC has finalized an agreement with L.A. Coliseum officials not to sell beer inside the facility, after president Steven Sample said he thought the atmosphere there was deteriorating. All Pac-10 stadiums are now "dry," although beer will be sold outside the Coliseum by a USC sponsor.
• Last year, Clemson's Tommy Bowden canvassed coaches around the country on how to limit turnovers. The Tigers (2-0) are among seven I-A teams not to have made one.
• How times have changed in Lincoln. Nebraska linebackers have four touchdowns, the team's I-backs two. The Huskers have rushed for only 241 yards against Maine and Wake Forest and QB Zac Taylor was only 14 for 33 passing against Wake.
• After a year of being derided in the Big East for its switch to the ACC, Boston College finally has its ACC opener at home with Florida State. The ESPN "GameDay" crew will be there.
• Pitt, ranked 23rd in August, is the latest example of the folly of preseason polls. The Panthers (0-2) lost to Ohio U. last week.
• UCLA TB Maurice Drew will change the name on his jersey to Jones-Drew after his grandfather, Maurice Jones, collapsed and died at the Rose Bowl during the Rice game.
• It's football, and it's Texas: Limas Sweed, who caught the winning touchdown pass for Texas last week against Ohio State, was put in front of his math class to discuss the game for 10 minutes by his UT professor. Said Sweed, "It was better than talking about math."
National high five
9 a.m. (ESPN)
Oregon State (2-0) at No. 11 Louisville (1-0): Underdog Beavers have been down this road before, nearly upsetting LSU last year in rainy and humid Baton Rouge.
12:30 p.m. (Ch. 4)
No. 21 Oklahoma (1-1) at UCLA (2-0): A UCLA victory would be a big boost for Karl Dorrell's Bruins, impressive in their first two games.
12:30 p.m. (Ch. 5)
Michigan State (2-0) at No. 10 Notre Dame (2-0): Channel-surf to see if Notre Dame's two-game joyride will end a week before the Irish visit Husky Stadium.
4 p.m. (TBS)
No. 23 Fresno State (1-0) at Oregon (2-0): The Ducks' first real test against a Bulldogs team that has made a habit of chewing up Pac-10 teams in recent years.
5 p.m. (Ch. 7)
No. 5 Tennessee (1-0) at No. 6 Florida (2-0): The national spotlight shifts to "The Swamp."
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company