From the Sidelines

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 3, 2000

LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / September 3, 2000

The second weekend of college football games kicks off today and chances of the Top 25 undergoing a dramatic change are the same as your car getting struck by lightning at a Virginia Tech game.

Actually, after what happened that week, they might not be that good.

The local bakery will not have as many cupcakes tomorrow morning as there are on the schedule today. San Jose State, Bowling Green, Ball State, GeorgiaSouthern, Akron, Idaho, Central Michigan, The Citadel and Middle Tennessee State are among the pastries that Top 25 teams will be feasting upon today.

For a local flavor, Western Carolina could be an appetizer for LSU before the Tigers began to get into the meat of their schedule.

Today’s games are a win-win-lose situation for all involved. The Top 25 teamsget to work out any early-season kinks while picking up an easy “W”. Theunderdogs get a nice payday for playing in a hostile environment. But collegefootball fans lose by being left with a bunch of blowouts.

There are a few games that should still be interesting after the bands leave the field at halftime. No. 3 Alabama travels to UCLA, No. 13 Tennessee playshost to No. 22 Southern Mississippi, No. 23 Colorado and Colorado State havean early-season intrastate battle and No. 25 Texas A & M heads north toplay Notre Dame.

Alabama can take a lesson from UCLA when the Crimson Tide make their first visit to the Rose Bowl in 54 years. A year ago, it was the Bruins whowere highly ranked as the season began. But UCLA failed to deliver on itspreseason hype, fading to a 6-6 finish. Alabama’s vaunted defense will get anice test but the Tide should be able to pull this one out late.

Poor Tennessee. Not only are the Vols having to replace Tee Martin atquarterback and Jamal Lewis at running back but they have to open the season against a Southern Mississippi team that has become known for pulling upsets. Tennessee may be one of the most overrated teams at thispoint, Southern Miss one of the most underrated. It all spells another upsetin the making for the Golden Eagles.

On the subject of overrated teams, Texas A & M may be another team that fits that description. And the Aggies have to travel to South Bend to face anIrish team that is under the gun as the season opens. That’s usually when theIrish play their best. Notre Dame may struggle with an early season stretchbut they pick up one victory here.

Colorado and Colorado State saw more action last year after the game than during it. The Rams romped past the Colorado last season. The Buffalos willget their revenge and then some today.

On the local front, the most intriguing matchup is Tulane at No. 18 Ole Miss.Are the Rebels as good as their preseason rankings? Will Deuce McAllister began his Heisman run early? Or will Tulane show improvement from last season and end both speculations? It will be closer than the line indicates but the Rebels should pull this one out.

Southern travels to face an old nemesis in Northwestern Louisiana. Thevisitor has not won a game in this series since 1994. With the Demonsstarting the season with a new coach, Steve Roberts, for the first time in 18 years, look for the Jaguars to break that streak.

LSU opens the Nick Saban era in newly expanded Tiger Stadium against Western Carolina, a Division I-AA school. The last time the Tigers played aDivision I-AA school, they defeated Arkansas State, 70-14, in 1991, Curley Hallman’s first season. Before anybody begins thinking about blowout,remember that both teams were 3-8 last season. A blowout would be nicefor Tiger fans but any kind of victory would be huge for a Tiger team trying to gain confidence for the long haul.

As for the rest of the schedule, it’s a good thing the major programs have such intensive offseason conditioning programs. Because they will fatten upfeasting on the cupcakes on their schedules this week.

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