A Texas newspaper poll of the nation's 112 Division I-A football coaches suggest a majority of the coaches - but just barely a majority - are in favor of a college football playoff.

In fact, the 66 participating coaches who responded to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram survey were almost evenly divided in their opinion of a postseason playoff. Of the 66, 34 coaches were for a Division I-A playoff, while 32 were against the idea.Just as uncertain were results of how many teams should be involved in a projected playoff format. Six coaches preferred a two-team playoff, nine desired a four-team series, six opted for an eight-team format, and only three coaches wanted to see a 12-team system. However, the most votes - 14 - were cast for a 16-team postseason playoff.

Other results: a majority of responding coaches want to speed up the game; nearly all want a form of the bowl system to be retained if a playoff is instituted; and coaches by a 2-to-1 margin didn't want their voting in polls to be made public.

- BAY AREA BOWLING: The NCAA is considering an application for a bowl game that would be held as early as December 1999 at San Francisco's 3Com Park.

The bid has been put forth by Paul Feller, whose company owns the rights to the Freedom Bowl, which was played in Anaheim from 1984-94. That bowl had a Pac-10 participant for eight of its 11 games, and the conference likely would be part of any reborn Freedom Bowl.

Feller says the game would be held either Dec. 29 or Jan. 2, and his company has had discussions with the Pac-10, the new split-off group from the WAConference and the Big Ten.

- CASTING FOR COACHES: In the aforementioned Star-Telegram poll, BYU's LaVell Edwards was fourth behind Penn State's Joe Paterno, Florida's Steve Spurrier and Florida State's Bobby Bowden as the coaches most regarded as the best in a must-win game. And BYU's Norm Chow was among 22 assistants receiving votes as the next potential head coach - Florida defensive coordinator Bobby Stoops was the clear-cut favorite.

- 'BONE-LESS 'BAMA: What in the wishbone-unveiling name of Bear Bryant has gotten into 'Bama? In the opening series of its 38-31 victory over BYU, Alabama used plays where the Tide a) lined up four wideouts, b) brought in two tight ends for a fullback dive, and c) deployed defensive back Fernando Bryant as one of five receivers on a quarterback draw.

- FOR OPENERS: The biggest losers from last weekend's opening slate of college football action could easily be Michigan (36-20 to Notre Dame) and Arizona State (42-38 to Washington). The Top 10 duo were two of the favorites to make a run at the Fiesta Bowl, site of the Bowl Championship series finale on Jan. 4 that is expected to determine the national championship. Now, they have to readjust and, realistically, hope to win their respective conferences and meet in the Rose Bowl.

- CRAMPED STYLE: Muscle cramps plaguing the players seemed to be the norm at many college openers last week. One SEC trainer says creatine, a popular supplement taken by athletes, has a diuretic effect, which means fluids pass through the body more quickly. That could contribute to cramping.

Quipped Alabama coach Mike DuBose: "John David (Phillips) was cramping in his throwing hand. I don't know that I've ever seen a quarterback cramp in his throwing hand - not at Alabama, anyway."

- HOME-BOUND HUSKIES: Washington's new-look spread passing offense was designed in part after QB Brock Huard decided to stay with the Huskies for another season. UW plays five of its next six games at home, and the Huskies have this week off before hosting BYU on Sept. 19

- ROUT 66: Not only is Saturday's Texas-UCLA one of the weekend's top matchups involving ranked teams, it's also a chance for the Longhorns to avenge their 66-3 loss last year, the most lopsided home football defeat in school history.

TWO-MINUTE WAC DRILL: Before giving TCU too much credit for its 31-21 come-from-behind triumph over the Big 12's Iowa State, remember the contest featured two teams that each won only one game last season . . . . One-time BYU QB wanna-be Brian Vye completed 12 of 16 passes for 196 yards in leading San Jose State to its 35-23 upset victory Saturday at Stanford, with the Cardinal favored by 18 points . . . . With its disappointing 42-14 loss to Colorado at Denver's Mile High Stadium ending its 10-win streak, former No. 15 Colorado State dropped clear out of the AP Top 25 poll, leaving the WAC with no ranked team. CSU, Air Force, Utah and BYU continue to receive votes . . . . UTEP gave up 251 rushing yards to Ricky Williams - the one from Texas Tech, not the more-heralded player of the same name who stars for the University of Texas . . . . Last week's WAC players of the week included Air Force cornerback Tim Curry, AFA punter Jason Kirkland and TCU tailback Bais Mitchell in the Mountain Division. In the Pacific Division, the SJSU duo of Vye and Casey LeBlanc were honored with Utah linebacker Kautai Olevao, who had 14 tackles, six solo stops and a fumble recovery in the U.'s 20-12 win over Utah State . . . TCU has backed out of a three-game series from 2000-2002, saying its struggling program isn't healthy enough to face a perennial national power. Nebraska agreed to waive a $10,000 forfeit fee.