Friday, December 13, 2002
Spotlight shines brightly on ACC
By Brent Musburger
Special to ABC Sports Online
It's never too early to talk about the four No. 1 seeds in the upcoming NCAA basketball tournament.
Defending champion Duke seems like a lock to be the No. 1 seed in the East. And folks, after the way the Blue Devils dismantled the Maryland Terrapins on Thursday night, that lock appears to be a little more secure.
On Saturday, we'll get another chance to see the Blue Devils when they host No. 13 Wake Forest (ABC, 1 p.m. ET).
The Florida Gators, with Billy Donovan, are ranked No. 2, and would be the top-seeded team in the South.
The Midwest is a wide-open battle with three Big 12 teams leading the charge -- Oklahoma, Kansas and Oklahoma State. Tuesday night, Kansas showed they are still the team to beat in that conference, as they leveled the Cowboys in Stillwater. Saturday, the Jayhawks are at home against a Sooner team that is carrying a 13-game win streak to Allen Fieldhouse (ABC, 1 p.m. ET).
The interesting thing about the Midwest Region right now is that not one Big Ten team is contending. Michigan State has fallen upon lean times as they attempt to rebuild, and the best teams in the conference appear to be Illinois and Iowa.
If you are looking for sleepers in the battle for the top seeds, look no further than 15-1 Cincinnati and 13-2 Southern California. Much like their football teams, the Pac-10 is having trouble getting national attention, largely because Arizona has slipped.
Three weeks left to recruit
|Jason Williams gives Duke a good shot to defend its title.|
The next big date in college football is National Signing Day on Feb. 6.
The battle in Florida is hot and heavy for Riviera Beach Suncoast High School running back/defensive back Devin Hester. His mother works at the post office in Rivera Beach, and she estimates her son has been averaging 10 letters a day. But a lot of schools can save on postage because Devin has narrowed his choices to Florida State and Miami.
He has received close to 500 letters from Miami alone in the last two years. Florida State prefers using some of its famous alums on cell phones: Peter Warrick and Deion Sanders are two who have called Hester. Deion even went so far as to tell that he would allow his No. 2 jersey to come out of retirement in Tallahassee if he would sign with the 'Noles.
Like Neon Deion, the youngster is a blur when they clock him at 40 yards. The last timing the school has is at 4.27. He rushed for nearly 1,000 yards, caught more than 20 passes and threw five halfback option passes, three for touchdowns.
By the way, he may also be the best defensive back prospect in the state of Florida.
Some other top prospects are leaving the state. Kansas State recruited a top-notch defensive tackle in Steve Kline and Rutgers recruited Darren Haliburton, the Suncoast quarterback who was handing the ball off to Hester.
What about he Gators? Well, they plucked defensive end Ray McDonald of Glades Central. There is so much talent in Florida that recruiters don't know where to show up next.
The most famous name headed to college next season is Gerald Riggs Jr. The son of former All-Pro running back Gerald is staying near his Chattanooga home, as he's headed to Tennessee.
For a lot of fans, this is the premier week in the NFL. Four well-rested teams -- Chicago, New England, Pittsburgh and St. Louis -- are awaiting the wild card weekend survivors.
Philadelphia at Chicago
Donovan McNabb is the key figure. The Eagle quarterback kept the Tampa Bay defense off-balance last week, and he could do the same at Soldier Field. The Eagles were 7-1 on the road this year.
Oakland at New England
I would be greatly surprised if the Raiders can survive a January Saturday night game in the New England weather. Jerry Rice and Tim Brown are not accustomed to catching the ball in 20-degree temperatures with a little snow falling. Based on weather alone, I give the Patriots a big edge in this one.
Baltimore at Pittsburgh
On Sunday, the fiercest game of the entire playoffs will unfold in Pittsburgh. The defending champion Ravens against the AFC's top-seeded Steelers. A year ago, I thought the most physical of playoff games took place in Nashville when the Ravens knocked out the Tennessee Titans. The Ravens remind me of a good heavyweight champion. They may lose, but they won't beat themselves, and the Steelers are equipped to take it to them with the Bus occupying Ray Lewis and Kordell Stewart dancing out to the flank.
If you like old-fashioned, low scoring, knock-them-down professional football, this is the game for you.
Green Bay at St. Louis
The war in Pittsburgh will be followed by the track meet in St. Louis. The Packers better show up with their lightest shoes and be prepared to chase down Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt. It's fast break football, and here's where not having a week off will hurt Green Bay.