Archive for Saturday, August 16, 2008

Bulls formidable foe

August 16, 2008


While the nation's best nonconference game in 2008 likely will take place when Ohio State and Southern California tangle Sept. 13 in Los Angeles, the most intriguing matchup might very well be Kansas University's trip to South Florida the day before.

When ESPN elected recently to air the Jayhawks-Bulls contest on national TV, the World Wide Leader picked up a game with a trunkload of storylines.

Both programs, seemingly out of nowhere, spent at least a week at No. 2 in the polls a year ago. Both are coached by men brought up under former Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder. And both - if various preseason polls are to be trusted - will be among the country's top teams by season's end.

Offensively, the Bulls are led by quarterback Matt Grothe, who has been the team's leading passer and rusher in each of the past two seasons. The junior-to-be finished '07 with 2,670 yards and 14 touchdowns in the air - adding 872 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground - but also tossed 14 interceptions, a big reason the Bulls sputtered to a 9-4 finish.

Sophomore Mike Ford, a former Florida prep standout, will join senior Benjamin Williams in the backfield, while a strong crop of receivers - led by sophomore Carlton Mitchell (537 yards, four touchdowns) - will give Grothe plenty of targets.

Before faltering late last season, the Bulls were the feel-good story in college football. In only 11 years of existence, the South Florida program advanced to the brink of national greatness, thanks largely to the efforts of head coach Jim Leavitt.

And with 20 starters returning this season (yes, 20), things only appear to be getting better.

Bomar leads Sam Houston State into Lawrence

It is not likely that the name Sam Houston State often strikes fear into the heart of a Division-I opponent - let alone one coming from a conference like the Big 12, let alone one coming off a 12-1 season and Orange Bowl victory.

Despite their relative obscurity in the world of big-time college football, however, the Bearkats will arrive in Lawrence on Sept. 20 with a ringer of sorts in the form of former Oklahoma University quarterback Rhett Bomar.

After a messy fall from grace two years ago - Bomar and a teammate were dismissed from OU team after they were reportedly paid for work not performed at a local car dealership - the former No. 1-rated high school quarterback in the country is attempting to reinvent himself in Huntsville, Texas.

In 2007, his first season with the Bearkats after NCAA sanctions forced him to miss the '06 season, Bomar passed for 2,209 yards and 10 touchdowns before suffering a knee injury that also forced him to miss spring practice.

FIU looks to improve on 1-11 season

When Florida International held off North Texas for a 38-19 victory in last year's season finale, it marked a high point for the Golden Panthers' program.

Of course, when your season highlight consists of snapping a 23-game losing streak - the longest in the nation at that point - you've still got a ways to go.

And so it is that FIU will take on Kansas on Aug. 30 at Memorial Stadium, hoping, if nothing else, to build upon last year's sliver of success.

On paper, things don't exactly look great for the Golden Panthers. They are 0-3 against Big 12 Conference opponents and 1-5 all-time in road openers (FIU has only fielded a team since 2002). The Golden Panthers were outscored by an average of 24 points last season, and in last year's matchup with the Jayhawks, they limped back to the Sunshine State following a 55-3 thumping.

It's not all bad in Miami, however. The Golden Panthers' offense will be engineered by new offensive coordinator and former Purdue assistant Bill Legg, who plans to implement a spread-style attack meant to take advantage of dual-threat quarterback Wayne Younger (1,357 yards passing, 536 yards rushing in '07).

Louisiana Tech middle of WAC pack

It wasn't long ago that the WAC was an afterthought on the national college football landscape, a conference to be annually gobbled up by the Goliaths of the country's top conferences.

But thanks to the recent surge of programs like Boise State and Hawaii, both of which have competed in a BCS bowl game in the past two years, the WAC suddenly isn't all that, well, whack.

Which brings us to Kansas University's Sept. 6 game against visiting WAC affiliate Louisiana Tech.

The Bulldogs are not exactly world-beaters - they finished 5-7 overall last year and 4-4 in conference play - but they're not bottom-dwellers, either.

In the first season under coach Derek Dooley, son of legendary Georgia coach Vince Dooley, Louisiana Tech improved by two victories from '06. The Bulldogs came within a whisker of knocking off Hawaii last year (the Warriors kicked a 49-yard field goal with 1:34 left in the game to force overtime). And thanks to a rushing attack that returns Patrick Jackson (950 yards last season) and back-up Daniel Porter (six touchdowns in just 99 carries), there's reason for hope in the eyes of many of the team's fans.


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