Halftime report on college football 2000


Thursday, October 19th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6



Strike up The Pride of Oklahoma Marching Band _ ``Boomer Sooner'' seems like the appropriate background music, yes? _ it's time for a look at who's hot and who's not; who's breaking through and who's breaking down; and who's still on the road to the national championship through the first half of the season.

___

WHO'S HOT

1. Josh Heupel (pronounced HYPE-pull): Not only has the Oklahoma quarterback moved to the top of the Heisman Trophy list, the lefty has the third-ranked Sooners 6-0 for the first time since 1987. He completed 29 of 37 passes for 374 yards and two touchdowns in last week's 41-31 win at then-No. 2 Kansas State. A week earlier, he directed the Sooners to a 63-14 win over then-No. 11 Texas. Heupel, who has thrown for 1,894 yards and 11 TDs, leads the Sooners against No. 1 Nebraska on Oct. 28, with the winner moving closer to a national title shot. If OU wins, Heupel will be the hottest name in college football.

2. South Carolina: The goal posts went down twice at Brice-Williams Stadium, once on opening day when coach Lou Holtz's Gamecocks ended a 21-game losing streak; the second when they beat Georgia and ended an 18-game Southeastern Conference losing streak. The Gamecocks (6-1) have qualified for a bowl _ which would be their 10th in 107 seasons _ are ranked No. 18 and still have a chance to win the SEC championship. All this after a first year under Holtz that ended 0-11.

3. Woody Dantzler: In a word, wow! The 5-foot-11, 190-pound all-purpose threat is operating Clemson's wide-open offense to perfection. The fifth-ranked Tigers are 7-0 and off to their best start since their national-title season of 1981. Like Heupel, Dantzler is on the short list of Heisman contenders. His derring-do is the reason the Tigers are averaging 43.9 points per game. He is sixth nationally in all-purpose yards at 298.6 per game _ 1,271 yards passing, 819 yards rushing.

4. Notre Dame: With coach Bob Davie's job hinging on the first five games of the season, the Fighting Irish went 3-2 _ beating Texas A&M, Purdue and Stanford, barely losing to both Nebraska (in overtime) and Michigan State. The Irish are on their third quarterback, too, in freshman Matt LoVecchio. Davie's job appears safe, and with the soft part of the schedule remaining, the Irish (4-2) could end up 9-2 and in a Bowl Championship Series game.

5. Big East Conference: The so-called weak link of the six major leagues in the BCS family has Virginia Tech at No. 2 and Miami at No. 4 in the AP poll. The winner of the Nov. 4 matchup between the Hurricanes and Hokies has a good chance to play for the national title (the Hokies made it to the title game in '99). Also, Pittsburgh is 4-1, Boston College 4-2 and even Temple has a bowl shot at 4-3 _ the most wins for the Owls since 1990.

Honorable mention: No. 11 TCU (5-0) and running back LaDainian Tomlinson, the nation's leading rusher; Big 12 Conference for having three teams _ Nebraska, Oklahoma and Kansas State in the Top 10.

___

WHO'S NOT

1. Florida State kickers: Wide Right III. Can you believe it? When All-American Sebastian Janikowski left for the NFL, Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden said kicker would be the toughest hole to fill. He was right. First, freshman Brett Cimorelli won the job, but an injury sidelined him early on. Matt Munyon took over and missed the biggest kick of the season so far _ a 49-yarder that sailed wide right as time expired in the Seminoles' 27-24 loss to Miami. He also missed a short field goal earlier in the game, leaving him 3 of 8. In last week's win over Duke, Chance Gwaltney replaced Munyon and hit 9 of 9 extra points _ but missed a 37-yard field goal attempt.

2. Penn State coach Joe Paterno: Entering the season, JoePa needed seven wins to pass Bear Bryant to become major college's winningest coach. His Lions are 2-5 _ the school's worst start since 1936. Toledo, Pittsburgh and Minnesota are among Penn State's conquerers. What's wrong? Is it the retirement of defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky after 30 years? Quarterback Rashard Casey's pending legal problems? Not enough talent? Probably a little of all three.

3. Texas coach Mack Brown: His decision not to decide on a starting quarterback may be the reason the Longhorns are just 4-2. The theory seemed to be that sophomore Chris Simms would start, leave shortly thereafter for Major Applewhite, and somehow it would all work itself out and Texas would win, win, win. Well the 'Horns lost at Stanford, then were embarrassed by Oklahoma 63-14. After that one, Brown apologized to Texas fans everywhere for the abysmal effort. Now that Applewhite, last season's co-Big 12 offensive player of the year, has been tabbed the starter, Texas could finish strong enough for a decent bowl game.

4. Big Ten, Southeastern conferences: One week, there were no SEC teams in the Top 10 _ the first time that happened since 1988; this week there are no Big Ten teams in the Top 10 for the first time since 1990. In the SEC, the usual title suspects are suspect themselves: defending champ Alabama is 3-3 after opening the season ranked No. 3; No. 8 Florida lost to Mississippi State and still has Georgia and Florida State to play; and Tennessee is 2-3 with losses to Florida, LSU and Georgia. On Saturday, Alabama is at Tennessee. Purdue, with the inside track to the Rose Bowl, is tied with three others, including Minnesota and Northwestern, for the Big Ten lead.

5. Army, Navy: Army, under new coach Todd Berry, is 0-6 and owners of a 10-game losing streak; Navy, under coach Charlie Weatherbie, is 0-6 for the first time since 1992. Not to worry, though, one team will not go winless _ it's Army vs. Navy on Dec. 2.

Honorable mention: Colorado (1-5); BYU, 3-4 in coach LaVell Edwards' 29th and final season.

___

BREAKTHROUGHS

1. Oklahoma (6-0): The 41-31 win over K-State has the Sooners in the national title hunt for the first time since '88.

2. South Carolina (6-1) : With his Gamecocks still in contention for the SEC title, Lou Holtz is coach of the half-year.

3. Miami (4-1) : A 27-24 win over then-No. 1 Florida State has the Hurricanes looking for their first title since '91.

4. Clemson (7-0): In just his second season, coach Tommy Bowden has his Tigers gunning for their first title since '81.

5. Northwestern (5-2): Even with the loss to Purdue, Wildcats are unexpected Big Ten title contenders.

Honorable mention: Oregon (5-1).

___

BREAKDOWNS

1. Penn State (2-5) _ Likely to wind up as the worst season in Joe Paterno's 35 years as coach.

2. USC (3-3) _ Ranked as high as No. 8 before dropping three in a row.

3. Wisconsin (4-3) _ Player suspensions took a toll on preseason No. 4 team.

4. Tennessee (2-3) _ Lost too many players to NFL and can't settle on a quarterback.

5. Alabama (3-3) _ No. 3 in preseason poll; lost to UCLA, Southern Miss and Arkansas.

Honorable mention: Marshall (2-4).

___

EYE-OPENERS

1. Toledo 24, Penn State 6 (Sept. 2)

2. Nebraska 27, Notre Dame 24 in overtime (Sept. 9)

3. South Carolina 24, Georgia 10 (Sept. 9)

4. Miami 27, Florida State 24 (Oct. 7)

5. Oklahoma 63, Texas 14 (Oct. 7)

Honorable mention: UCLA 35, Alabama 24 (Sept. 2); Northwestern 47, Wisconsin 44, 2 OTs (Sept. 23); Mississippi State 47, Florida 35 (Sept. 30).

__

TOP QUOTE

``We have two plays when he's in the game, the one we call and the one he winds up turning it into.'' _ Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer after quarterback Michael Vick ran for 210 yards in a 48-34 victory over Boston College on Sept. 30.