From the Sidelines

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 30, 1999

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / August 30, 1999

Most sports are like a child around a swimming pool for the first time.

They carefully stick their toes into the water before slowly dipping themselves in. While there are intriguing matchups at the beginning of theseason, very seldom do they have an impact on the eventual championships.

Not so with college football. The sport dives right into the deep end of thepool this weekend with a couple of matchups that could have a major impact on the BCS at the end of the season.

In a game that could knock one team from championship consideration even before most of the nation kicks off, fourth-ranked Arizona plays No. 3Penn State in the Pigskin Classic. This could be the biggest season-opening game since No. 1 Florida State lost to Miami (Fla.) in the late1980s.

Speaking of those Seminoles, they open the season at home against Louisiana Tech. Before anybody thinks this will be a cakewalk, recall ayear ago the Bulldogs threw a scare into Nebraska in the first game with Tim Rattay finding Troy Edwards all over the field. Plus injuries arehampering the Seminoles going into the season.

Another game that will leave a very good team with one loss is the Kickoff Classic between No. 9 Ohio State and No. 12 Miami (Fla.). OhioState is having to deal with its yearly exodus of top stars to the NFL and has had to replace a number of players at the skill positions. Miami, withformer Destrehan star Edward Reed starting at strong safety, has overcome NCAA sanctions to once again become a title contender.

In other games this week, look for improving Kansas to give No. 18 NotreDame a tough time. Ditto for North Carolina State against No. 17 Texas.As the season gets underway, I like Florida State to capture all the marbles at the end of the season, especially if quarterback Chris Weinke can come all the way back. Weinke has the weapons to work with,including running back Travis Minor of Baton Rouge and wide receiver Peter Warrick, who may be the first pick in the NFL draft next April.

Defensively, there may not be a better unit in the country with seven starters returning from a year ago. And maybe its bias because I am a fanbut I see a Top 25 finish for Tulane and (gasp) a Top 10 finish for LSU. Ifthe Green Wave can go undefeated in the Superdome again and pull an upset from trips to Southern Mississippi, Syracuse, Ole Miss and Houston, they will be bowl bound once again.

Up in Baton Rouge, the Tigers are a team that could finish anywhere between 4-7 again or 8-3. But they are also one quite capable of going 10-1. The quarterback situation may finally be settled and if the line canimprove, Tiger Stadium’s 75th year might be a memorable one.

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