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Season kickoff

Get ready for one quirky college football season.

When Ohio State wants to be like Michigan, Tom Osborne watches Nebraska games on TV and Florida State goes with 26-year-old Chris Weinke at quarterback, you know this fall will be filled with firsts.

And it all begins this weekend with four games: Louisiana Tech at No. 4 Nebraska (4 p.m. today, Empire); No. 15 Colorado State at No. 23 Michigan State (4 p.m. today, ESPN2); Purdue at Southern California (2 p.m. Sunday, Ch. 7); and No. 2 Florida State vs. No. 14 Texas A&M (8 p.m. Monday, Ch. 7).

Speaking of firsts, the Bowl Championship Series emerged from the bowl alliance with a guaranteed matchup fans have been screaming for -- No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the final game of the season at the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 4 in Tempe, Ariz.

Then there's the Rose Bowl, which joins the Tostitos Fiesta, FedEx Orange and Nokia Sugar in the BCS and brings the Big Ten and Pac-10 with it. Along the way, the Rose found itself with another name for the first time -- the Rose Bowl, presented by AT&T.

Two new bowls have been added to the lineup, bringing the total to 22. There's the Music City Bowl in Nashville (Dec. 29); and a second postseason game in Honolulu, creating a doubleheader dubbed the Aloha Bowl Classics (Dec. 25).

Changes took place on campus, too. Longtime assistant Frank Solich is in at Nebraska after Osborne ended his 25-year head coaching career in style -- his 255th victory finished off a perfect season and brought a co-national title with Michigan.

"We're going to do everything we can to keep it going," Solich said. "We'll not change a lot of things, because it makes sense not to."

Solich has plenty of company as a first-year coach. Texas dumped John Mackovic and hired Mack Brown away from North Carolina, which promoted longtime assistant Carl Torbush; Southern California fired John Robinson and went for Paul Hackett; and Arkansas ousted Danny Ford and brought former Razorback Houston Nutt back home.

Also, Eddie Robinson finally retired after 55 seasons at Grambling, and former Super Bowl MVP Doug Williams returns to coach his alma mater.

For the first time in what seems like an eternity, Ron Powlus is not the quarterback at Notre Dame; Jarious Jackson is. But of greater significance, the Golden Dome was tarnished in the offseason when 66-year-old ex-assistant Joe Moore successfully sued over his 1996 dismissal by coach Bob Davie and an internal investigation turned up two rules violations that could bring NCAA sanctions.

"You just can't pay attention to it," Irish tackle Mike Rosenthal said. "It's never been a distraction."

Joe Paterno is two wins away from No. 300.


Prairie View -- 77 consecutive losses.

Illinois -- A school-record 17 consecutive losses, with No. 18 likely at Washington State. Beware Sept. 12, -- the Illini play host to I-AA Middle Tennessee State.

Nebraska opens the season with a 14-game winning streak, longest in the nation. Michigan is next with 12, followed by UCLA at 10.

Notre Dame-Navy: The Irish, after sweating out a 21-17 win last year, have an NCAA-record 34-game winning streak over the Midshipmen. The teams play Nov. 14.

Nebraska over Kansas State/Nebraska over Kansas -- The Cornhuskers have won 29 straight over both the Wildcats and the Jayhawks.

Gargantuan games

Each year, there are several regular-season games that helped decide the national title. Last season, there was Florida over Tennessee, LSU over Florida, Michigan over Penn State, Nebraska's miracle over Missouri, Michigan's annual win over Ohio State and Florida over Florida State. In '98, keep an eye on these tilts:

Ohio State at West Virginia (Sept. 5)

LSU at Florida (Oct. 10)

Nebraska at Kansas State (Nov. 14)

Michigan at Ohio State (Nov. 21)

Florida at Florida State (Nov. 21)

Standing 'O'

Nearly a year after he went into cardiac arrest while officiating last season's North Carolina-Virginia game, referee Jim Knight is set to return to his job.

On Sept. 3, the 52-year-old Knight is scheduled to be among the officials for the Virginia-Auburn game.

Last Sept. 27, Knight's heart stopped four times, three times on the field. His heart was restarted with electric shocks.

Extra points

In its first six years in the ACC, Florida St. is 47-1 against conference opponents, outscoring them by an average of 30.5 points per game (2,092-628).

Mike Price, who guided Washington State to its first Rose Bowl in 67 years, doubled his salary to nearly $465,000. Price showed up at Pac-10 media day earlier this month wearing his Rose Bowl watch. "It runs 67 years late and shorts me two seconds," Price said, a reference to the end of the '98 Rose Bowl, when time ran out as the Cougars were lining up for a final play.

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