Things to look for in 1991

THE BALTIMORE SUN

5 GAMES YOU WON'T WANT TO MISS

* Sept. 28: Florida State at Michigan, Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Mich. This will be the toughest test for the top-ranked Seminoles until they play Miami and Florida the last 2 games of the regular season. The Wolverines will have a week off after playing Notre Dame at home Sept. 14.

* Oct. 12: Oklahoma vs. Texas, Cotton Bowl, Dallas. The Sooners are off probation for the first time in 2 years and throwing the ball for the first time. Gary Gibbs is emerging from the long, dark shadow of Barry Switzer. With the Longhorns back in the national picture as well, this once great rivalry seems to be back in the spotlight.

* Oct. 12: Penn State at Miami, Orange Bowl, Miami. The last time these teams met was at the 1987 Fiesta Bowl for the national championship, when the 2 teams nearly got into it at a pre-game banquet. This game could have similar implications, minus the hostilities.

* Nov. 16: Miami at Florida State, Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, Fla. This game has determined a national championship twice in the past 5 years. With the moves of the Hurricanes to the Big East and the Seminoles to the ACC, the rivalry never has been hotter.

* Nov. 30: Florida State at Florida, Florida Field, Gainesville, Fla. If they beat Michigan early, and Miami 2 weeks before this game, the Seminoles could be unbeaten. With the rejuvenation of the Gators under Steve Spurrier, and with Florida off probation, this game has all the makings of 1991's biggest.

5 TEAMS THAT COULD BE DISAPPOINTING

1. Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets, coming off an unbeaten (11-0-1) season in which they shared the national championship with Colorado, lost TB William Bell (suspended) and TB Jeff Wright (broken ankle). With road games against Penn State and Clemson in the first month, and with everyone else shooting for Tech, it will be tough for Bobby Ross' team to repeat.

2. Michigan: The Wolverines got things going last season after a rocky start under new coach Gary Moeller, but they still have to prove they can win the big one. Early indications will come with home games against Notre Dame and Florida State in the first month and road games at Iowa and Michigan State.

3. Washington: The Huskies might have been a preseason No. 1 choice had not QB Mark Brunnell gone down with a knee injury last spring. Replacement Billy Joe Hobert has solid credentials, and an early-season test at Nebraska might determine how far the Huskies can go.

4. Colorado: The Buffaloes shared last year's No. 1 spot with Georgia Tech by beating Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl but lost QB Darian Hagan with a serious knee injury in that game. Hagan's status has made Colorado a mystery team.

5. Brigham Young: This could be a long season for the Cougars, considering they open against Florida State (Thursday night in Anaheim, Calif.), at UCLA and at Penn State by the third week of September. Heisman Trophy winner Ty Detmer had surgery on both shoulders during the off-season.

5 TEAMS THAT COULD BE SURPRISING

1. North Carolina: After a horrible start in Chapel Hill, Mack Brown finally seems to have the Tar Heels on the right track. The Heels nearly upset Georgia Tech last season and turned down a bowl bid (Independence) because of exams. Much of the team's success hinges on quarterback Chuckie Burnette.

2. Virginia Tech: Frank Beamer turned down a shot at Boston College to stay in Blacksburg, Va., so he must feel the program is still on the rise. The only thing preventing the Hokies from improving on last year's 6-5 record is a tough road schedule, with stops at Oklahoma and Virginia, as well as a virtual road game with Florida State in Orlando, Fla.

3. Pittsburgh: The Panthers are coming off a 3-7-1 season, so there's much room for improvement. But Pitt returns 16 starters, including QB Alex Van Pelt. Tough schedule, with opener on the road at West Virginia providing a clue.

4. UCLA: The Bruins have had losing seasons for 2 straight years, but QB Tommy Maddox could put a smile back on coach Terry Donahue's ever-frowning face. Early-season game at Tennessee could be the key.

5. Air Force: Last season's Liberty Bowl victory over Ohio State could be the launching pad for this year. The combination of QB Rob Perez and a strong defense could put the Falcons back in the national spotlight again.

5 LONG SHOTS FOR THE HEISMAN TROPHY

1. Tony Sacca, Penn State QB. Considering the lack of big-time )) TBs in Happy Valley, and considering the way Sacca played at the end of last season, Joe Paterno might be forced to let this former high school phenom finally show his stuff. And then again, considering Paterno, he might not.

2. Troy Kopp, Pacific QB. Who? Good question, but he could be the best-kept secret in college football. Solid 6-foot-2, 200-pound junior who ranked third in total offense last season in Division I-A. School has flooded the media with a 10-page brochure promoting Kopp.

3. Matt Rodgers, Iowa QB. Follows in a long line of All-Big Ten Hawkeyes QBs who seemed to be on the periphery of Heisman $$ race. Plays enough patsies to pad stats, and enough top teams to gain credibility.

4. Russell White, California TB. Many believe that this 6-0, 210-pound junior is the best at his position in the country. But the Bears must find some blockers to open holes for White.

5. Shane Matthews, Florida QB. Was SEC Player of the Year last season, but the Gators didn't get a lot of national publicity because of probation. Could make a strong run at the end with season finale against Florida State.

5 COACHES WHO NEED TO WIN TO KEEP THE ALUMNI AT BAY

1. Tom Osborne, Nebraska. After last season's disappointing finish, there's a lot of pressure on Osborne. Winning nearly 10 games a year for 18 years, but losing in 4 straight bowls, has become a rather large bone of contention for Big Red fans.

2. John Cooper, Ohio State. Once a rising star in the business after successful stops at Tulsa and Arizona, Cooper's market value has plummeted during his first three years with the Buckeyes. If they don't put up a significant challenge in the Big Ten, it could be goodbye Columbus for Cooper.

3. Terry Donahue, UCLA. Some Bruins fans have tolerated the past two years, but Donahue's golden-boy image has been tarnished. He might not be in jeopardy if the Bruins underachieve again, but he might have one foot (and a leg) out the door.

4. Gene Stallings, Alabama. The Crimson Tide might have saved first-year coach Stallings from a long off-season by beating Auburn for the first time since 1985, but 7-5 seasons don't go a long way to satisfying the always unreasonable 'Bama fans. Just ask Bill Curry.

5. Jack Crowe, Arkansas. Another rookie coach who got off to a rocky start by going 3-8. Following in the footsteps of the ever-popular Ken Hatfield, as well as the always-successful Lou Holtz, the move to the SEC in 1992 doesn't bode well for Crowe unless the Razorbacks turn things around quickly.

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