The WAC is in the middle of the Heisman hype again this year thanks to the exploits of BYU's Ty Detmer. Remember last year, Air Force QB Dee Dowis was the favorite of a lot of folks until he bombed on national TV against Notre Dame.
Detmer has been the Heisman favorite since Day 1 and right now it seems his to win or lose. However, just as it's difficult to stay No. 1 all year long, it's tough to stay the Heisman favorite all season. How many times has the pre-season favorite ended up winning the award? Lately, not often.Last year there was no preseason consensus choice, but Houston's Andre Ware certainly wasn't on any preseason list. The year before the same held true for Oklahoma State's Barry Sanders, who was a virtual unknown heading into the '88 season, before overshadowing preseason picks Troy Aikman and Rodney Peete.
In 1987, it was pick a color, any color between Tim Brown, Lorenzo White and Gaston Green and Brown ended up the winner. However in '86, Miami's Vinny Testaverde was the preseason pick and he solidified his award in September with a great game against Notre Dame and won the Heisman going away.
So there is hope for Detmer as the preseason favorite.
GOLDEN ARM: Detmer isn't one of the five national finalists for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, although San Diego State's Dan McGwire is, along with Virginia's Shawn Moore, Miami's Craig Erickson, Oregon's Bill Musgrave and Louisville's Browning Nagel.
That's because you must be a senior to qualify for the award, given by the Kentucky Chapter of the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame.
Detmer, I'm sure, will be glad to take the Heisman and let the others fight over the coveted Golden Arm trophy.
BEST MARK: The WAC is on its way to its best non-conference record in more than 20 years.
Going into this weekend, WAC teams stand 17-13 against non-league competition, a .567 percentage. The league hasn't finished a season that high since 1969 when it had a .620 mark (18-11) against non-WAC teams.
The WAC has six non-league games left and should be favored in four of them - Pacific at Hawaii, Tulsa at Colorado State, CSU at Louisiana Tech and Utah State at BYU. Air Force at Army is a toss-up and San Diego State will be a decided underdog against Miami on Dec. 1, even though it is in San Diego.
Even if it goes 3-3 the rest of the way, the WAC will finish with a .555 percentage slightly better than the .552 mark of 1982, which is the best mark since '69.
GOPHER REBOUND: One of those non-conference WAC wins was Utah's 35-29 victory over Minnesota Sept. 8. The luster of that win was lost two weeks later when the Gophers were drilled by Nebraska 56-0.
But look what's happened to Minnesota since. They defeated Big Ten also-rans Purdue and Northwestern and last week blanked previously-unbeaten Indiana 12-0. That put the Gophers in a tie for first in the Big Ten at 3-0 and 4-2 overall.
According to the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune, there are several reasons for the turnaround, including a change at quarterback and running back. But a big reason for the Gophers' turnaround is a change in the defense. And it's not anything positive in regards to former Ute assistant Tom Gadd.
"After the Nebraska debacle, (Coach John) Gutekunst sensed his young defense was losing faith in new defensive coordinator Tom Gadd," reported the Star Tribune. "So he went back to what he knows best: coaching defense, as he had done for Virginia Tech, Duke and Lou Holtz. He let offensive coordinator Jim Hueber have his headset, rolled up his sleeves and helped Gadd convince the defensive players to do their jobs, trust the guys next to them and have faith in the system. Presto the Gophers are 3-0 since . . . and have yielded an average of 10.6 points a game."
SATURDAY PICKS: San Diego State has its second straight bye and is joined by Colorado State on the sidelines this week.
Utah (3-4, 1-3) at Air Force (3-4, 1-3), Noon - The Falcons have won five straight in this series by an average score of 46-33. The Utes are getting better, but will still fall short . . . Air Force 37-30.
New Mexico (2-6, 1-2) at BYU (5-1, 3-0), 1:30 p.m. - The Lobos have played some bad games this year, but never two in a row. So expect them to bounce back a little this week, but still lose . . . BYU 38-20.
Wyoming (8-0, 4-0) at UTEP (3-5, 1-4), 7 p.m. - Anyone at Rice Stadium last week knows UTEP isn't a great team. But Weber proved the Cowboys aren't all the great either . . . Wyoming 28-17.
Pacific (3-4) at Hawaii (3-3), 11 p.m. - The numbers Pacific has been putting up the last two weeks are enough to scare anyone (62 and 67 points), but Hawaii's better than Fullerton (1-7) and New Mexico State (0-7) . . . Hawaii 45-32.