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All quiet on what would have been a big Saturday

By BOB HARIG

© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 15, 2001


On what was supposed to be the biggest day of the state's college football season, the huge stadiums in Miami, Gainesville and Tallahassee will be empty. More than 200,000 fans would have filled those venues, with millions more watching on television. The catastrophic events of Tuesday made such clashes meaningless at this time.

No. 1 Miami was to play No. 13 Washington at the Orange Bowl. No. 2 Florida had a showdown planned with SEC rival and No. 8 Tennessee at Florida Field. And No. 6 Florida State was to get a visit from No. 10 Georgia Tech at Doak Campbell Stadium.

It was to be quite a day in Florida:

Now the games must wait, to be played another day. Their meaning will change, the dynamics will be different. In time, the players will get back to the business of playing football. And they will look back at today and wonder.

Would they have fared better had the big game been played today? Or are they better off waiting?

A closer look at each:

Miami vs. Washington -- Clearly, it would have been better for the Hurricanes to play this game now. They are on a roll, having knocked out Penn State and Rutgers easily, allowing just one touchdown. Washington has played just one game, a victory over Michigan, but the proposed Nov. 24 rescheduling gives the Huskies more time to catch up to the Hurricanes, who will not have a week off before a Big East game at Virginia Tech on Dec. 1. The Hurricanes don't play again until Sept. 27 at Pittsburgh.

Florida vs. Tennessee -- Again, the Gators would have been better off to play now. They are ahead of the Volunteers, who could grow into a much better team by a Nov. 24 makeup, one date that has been discussed. And should Florida, as expected, be good enough to play for the SEC title, the Gators would face a stretch of Florida State, Tennessee and the SEC title game in consecutive weeks. There has been talk, however, of scheduling the SEC title game a week later, on Dec. 8.

Florida State vs. Georgia Tech -- For the Seminoles, this could be a good break. They were set to face a surging team coming off of two impressive offensive performances. And every bit of work that redshirt freshman quarterback Chris Rix can get before a big game is crucial. The Seminoles have an extra week of practice before facing 0-3 North Carolina. The Georgia Tech game tentatively has been rescheduled for Dec. 1, two weeks after the Florida game.

TRAVEL WOES: Before all of Division I-A finally decided Thursday to scrap this weekend's games, there was plenty of scurrying by the networks trying to cover them.

ESPN's Chris Fowler, who hosts College Gameday, began driving to Bristol, Conn., from his home in Colorado on Thursday morning. He was unsure if he could make it with the air travel situation.

Until the Illinois-Louisville game was canceled, ESPN did not know who would work it today. The network was unsure which crew could get to Champaign, Ill., in time. CBS got a bus to take a production crew from New York for the Florida-Tennessee game. Analyst Todd Blackledge started driving from Canton, Ohio. Presumably, he turned around when the news came.

JOE, HAVE YOU MET SPURRIER?: When the season resumes, don't count on Rex Grossman hanging on to the starting quarterback job at Florida. It's simply not in coach Steve Spurrier's nature. Then there is Purdue coach Joe Tiller.

With the departure of record-setting Drew Brees, Tiller had a decision to make going into this season. But he gave the job to redshirt freshman Brandon Hance, though Carl Buergler is a senior. Buergler is also a bench-warmer, unless there is an injury.

"I've never used two quarterbacks," said Tiller, a coach for six seasons at Wyoming and the past five at Purdue. "My philosophy is if you think you have two quarterbacks, that usually means you don't have any.

"At that position, it's important that you have a clear-cut, well-defined, well-identified leader of your football team."

KICKING VANDY: It wasn't pretty, but Alabama's victory at Vanderbilt last week was its 17th straight over the Commodores. Neal Thomas kicked four field goals in five tries in a 12-9 win. It was Alabama's first victory without a touchdown since 1990, when Philip Doyle kicked three field goals in a 9-6 win over Tennessee.

Alabama has scored one touchdown in its past three SEC games, dating to last season. It came in a win at Mississippi State; it then did not score a touchdown against Auburn or Vanderbilt.

-- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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