Sugar Bowl Bound Diplomats? ESPN Radio's Dan Patrick Explains the Diplomats Path to the BCS Title

LANCASTER, PA -- For Franklin & Marshall College head football coach Shawn Halloran and the Diplomats, the 2003 season was one of ups, downs and four victories as the team downed Oberlin, Dickinson, Ursinus and Gettysburg to finish fourth in the Centennial Conference.

Overall, Franklin & Marshall concluded the year with three Conference wins for the first time since 1998 (4-3) as the team finished 3-3 (4-6 overall) and recorded three home victories in a season for the first time since 1997.

But according to a breakdown presented on the Dan Patrick Show on ESPN Radio earlier today, the Diplomats should be among the contenders for a bid to the Sugar Bowl and the championship of the Bowl Championship Series.

The topic came to be on Patrick's show as Darrell Davis of Fulton, Missouri forwarded an email from his son, a student at McPherson College in Kansas, to conclusively prove the Bulldogs deserve a bid to the Sugar Bowl bid more than Oklahoma, LSU or USC. Ignoring the fact that McPherson beat Kansas Wesleyan WHO BEAT Bethel WHO BEAT Whitworth WHO BEAT Menlo WHO BEAT Cal-Lutheran WHO BEAT Pomona WHO BEAT Trinity (TX) WHO BEAT Centre WHO BEAT Franklin & Marshall, here is a breakdown by team proving the Diplomats should be headed to New Orleans to play for the BCS title based on wins:

(1) Oklahoma: Coached by Bob Stoops, Oklahoma led Division I in defense allowing a miserly 255.6 yards per game. On offense, the Sooners have proven they can move the ball behind the play of Heisman candidate Jason White who has 40 touchdown passes this year. However, how would the Sooners defense fair against the calculated passing attack of the Diplomats led by All-America wide receiver Justin Salton (Sr., Gillette, NJ/Watchung Hills).

A unanimous All-Centennial Conference first team selection for the second straight year following first team honors as a junior, Salton rewrote the Centennial Conference record book finishing the season with new Conference single season (84) and career (241) receptions records to earn offensive MVP honors.

This year, he caught a Centennial Conference record 84 catches for 968 yards, eclipsing the previous CC and Franklin & Marshall record of 77 catches that he established last season. In addition, he closed his career with 241 catches for 3,146 yards to establish new Centennial Conference, Franklin & Marshall and Eastern College Athletic Conference records in career receptions erasing the previous record of 33 for 3,846 yards held by ranklin & Marshall College's Dale Amos '90.

The second CC receiver to gain 3,000 yards or 200 receptions in a career, he ranks sixth in Centennial Conference history in career touchdowns as the fifth-year senior finished with 23.

A D3football.com All-America preseason selection and a nominee for the 2003 Gagliardi Award, the equivalent in Division III of the Heisman Award, Salton finished as the 2002 and 2003 Centennial Conference Offensive Player of the Year runner-up.

Statistically, Salton recorded several top five finishes on the Diplomats' record board as he caught 13 passes versus the #1 nationally ranked pass defense of Division III Johns Hopkins to tie for the second best receiving performance in school history. He followed the mark up with 11 catches for 149 yards at Ursinus in a 37-17 for the fifth best performance in the annals of Franklin & Marshall College. For his performance at Ursinus, in which he grabbed 42 and 27 yard TD receptions, he was named the November 9 Centennial Conference Offensive Player of the Week.

In single season touchdown passes, he pulled down nine this year for the fourth best performance in school history, and combined with Matt Wagaman (Sr., Lititz, PA/Warwick) on 379 catches for 4,952 yards to obliterate the Conference career catches mark by a pair of receivers.

Part of the "Dynamic Duo" receiving corps, he was one-half of the best pair of receivers in Conference history as Wagaman and Salton become the first receiving tandem that each has over 100 career catches.

According to Patrick and Davis, the Diplomats would be ranked ahead of the Sooners using the logic that Franklin & Marshall beat Gettysburg College WHO BEAT Waynesburg College WHO BEAT Frostburg State WHO BEAT Salisbury State WHO BEAT Catholic University WHO BEAT LaSalle WHO BEAT Marist College WHO BEAT Central Connecticut State WHO BEAT Monmouth (NJ) WHO BEAT Georgetown WHO BEAT Cornell WHO BEAT Bucknell WHO BEAT Towson State WHO BEAT Lafayette College WHO BEAT Princeton WHO BEAT Brown WHO BEAT Yale WHO BEAT Columbia WHO BEAT Harvard WHO BEAT Northeastern WHO BEAT Maine WHO BEAT Villanova WHO BEAT Temple WHO BEAT Middle Tennessee State WHO BEAT Troy State WHO BEAT Marshall WHO BEAT Kansas State WHO BEAT Oklahoma.

So the Sooners are afterthoughts, as the Diplomats should earn a spot over Oklahoma.

(2) LSU: Coached by Nick Saban, the Tigers are ranked #2 in defense with 259.5 yards allowed and a Division I low 10.8 points per game, slightly better than Oklahoma's third best 14.9 points per game. On offense, LSU, like the Sooners, brings a lot of offensive firepower to the BCS. Led by quarterback Matt Mauck with 28 touchdown passes, LSU has been hot lately and would pose a difficult challenge for the Diplomats.

However, the Franklin & Marshall defense behind former University of Pennsylvania assistant coach Tony Thompson, would be up to the task as the Diplomats "D" limited Gettysburg College to 13 points in the regular season finale as the Diplomats beat the Bullets WHO BEAT Waynesburg College WHO BEAT Frostburg State WHO BEAT Salisbury State WHO BEAT Catholic University WHO BEAT LaSalle WHO BEAT Marist College WHO BEAT Central Connecticut State WHO BEAT Monmouth (NJ) WHO BEAT Georgetown WHO BEAT Cornell WHO BEAT Bucknell WHO BEAT Towson State WHO BEAT Lafayette College WHO BEAT Princeton WHO BEAT Brown WHO BEAT Yale WHO BEAT Columbia WHO BEAT Harvard WHO BEAT Northeastern WHO BEAT Maine WHO BEAT Villanova WHO BEAT Temple WHO BEAT Middle Tennessee State WHO BEAT Troy State WHO BEAT Marshall WHO BEAT Kansas State WHO BEAT California WHO BEAT USC WHO BEAT Auburn WHO BEAT Tennessee WHO BEAT Florida WHO BEAT LSU

Leading the charge for the Blue and White would be All-Centennial Conference honorable mention linebacker Andy Rehring (Sr., State College, PA/State College) who became F&M's all-time leading tackler with 337 hits as he finished with 97 tackles this season. Historically, he finished three tackles short of becoming the first player in school history to record a string of three consecutive 100-tackle seasons and broke the school record for most tackles-for-loss in a game with six for 22 yards, shattering the previous mark of five set by 2001 & 2002 All-Conference defensive lineman Chris Gallino '03 in 2000 versus McDaniel.

A four time CC Defensive Honor Roll recipient and a team captain in 2003, he earned Player of the Week honors on October 25 for finishing with a career high 18 tackles in an overtime win over Dickinson as he combined with All-Centennial Conference second team linebacker Matt Capone (Jr., Scarsdale, NY/Scarsdale) for a touchdown saving tackle on the final play in overtime.

He recorded his second game saving play of the year in the Diplomats' final contest of the season as he forced a fumble which All-Centennial Conference honorable mention defensive lineman Chris White (Sr., Vestal, NY/Vestal) recovered in the final minute of the game to stop a Gettysburg drive and preserve a 14-13 victory over the Bullets.

Overall, he concluded the year ranked second in the Conference in fumbles forced with two while adding 11 tackles for loss of 37 yards to raise his career total to 28 TFLs for 100 yards.

(3) USC - The Division I underdog in the BCS as the #1 Trojans were relegated to the Rose Bowl versus Michigan, the University of Southern California under head coach Pete Carroll is the most potent scoring team among the top three teams in the BCS with an average of 42.2 points per game. On offense, USC brings a balanced attack to the field behind quarterback Matt Leinart as the Trojans possess game-breaking receivers in Mike Williams, Keary Colbert and Steve Smith, in addition to a dangerous running duo of Reggie Bush and Lendale White.

But the Diplomats, using Patrick and Davis' logic, would topple the Trojans in a head to head meeting as Franklin & Marshall beat Gettysburg College WHO BEAT Waynesburg College WHO BEAT Frostburg State WHO BEAT Salisbury State WHO BEAT Catholic University WHO BEAT LaSalle WHO BEAT Marist College WHO BEAT Central Connecticut State WHO BEAT Monmouth (NJ) WHO BEAT Georgetown WHO BEAT Cornell WHO BEAT Bucknell WHO BEAT Towson State WHO BEAT Lafayette College WHO BEAT Princeton WHO BEAT Brown WHO BEAT Yale WHO BEAT Columbia WHO BEAT Harvard WHO BEAT Northeastern WHO BEAT Maine WHO BEAT Villanova WHO BEAT Temple WHO BEAT Middle Tennessee State WHO BEAT Troy State WHO BEAT Marshall WHO BEAT Kansas State WHO BEAT California WHO BEAT USC.

But to shut down the Trojans' offense, the Diplomats would need a strong performance from punter/place-kicker Dan Eggertsson (Jr., Royal Palm, FL/Suncoast) to win the battle of field position and the game.

A 2003 All-Centennial Conference honorable mention selection while leading the Conference with a 36.9 punting average, Eggertsson topped the CC in average for nine of the season's 10 weeks in 2003. A member of the November 16 Centennial Conference Honor Roll, he made the play of the game punting 40 yards to the Gettysburg one-yard line with 3:14 remaining in the season finale to seal the Diplomats' victory.

A member of the 2003 Franklin & Marshall Men's Golf Centennial Conference Championship team, he recorded a Conference best 14 punts inside the 20 yard line and nailed the third longest punt in school history with a 70-yarder at Centre College as he finished the year with 58 kicks for 2,142 yards.

On the offensive line, All-Centennial Conference second team right tackle Dan Eberstein (Sr., Flemington, NJ/Hunterdon Central), All-CC honorable mention tightend Dan Houseman (Sr., Wyomissing, PA/Wyomissing) and All-CC honorable mention center Tom Rapone (Sr., Wayne, NJ/Wayne Valley) would need to hold off the pass rush to give All-CC second team quarterback Jeff Harner (Fr., Mohrsville, PA/Schuylkill Valley) time to connect with Salton and Wagaman.

On offense, Rapone, a 2003 captain, and Eberstein anchored a Diplomats' line which provided protection as Franklin & Marshall finished the season ranked second in the Conference in passing offense with an average of 199.4 yards per game.

At tightend, Houseman, a 2003 All-CC honorable mention selection, caught 23 passes for 169 yards on the year and reeled in a one-yard toss from tailback Scott Stephen (Jr., Glen Rock, NJ/Glen Rock) for the game winning touchdown versus Gettysburg.

His performance tied for the most single season receptions by a tightend in Franklin & Marshall College history as he equaled two-time All-CC first team selection Andy Gilburg '01.

A CoSIDA Academic All-America selection, he had a breakout game at Johns Hopkins as he caught four passes for 49 yards versus the #1 nationally ranked pass of the Blue Jays in only his sixteenth game after being converted from defensive line to tightend at the conclusion of the 2001 season.

A solid blocker, he did not allow a sack and concluded the year ranked 10th in the Conference in receptions per game with 2.88 per contest. Notably, he was the only tightend to rank in the top 15 in the Conference in receptions.

A transfer from West Chester of Pennsylvania, Harner stepped into the starting quarterback role beginning with the first game of the season and finished the year ranked among the Conference's best in passing average (2nd, 138.0 ypg), touchdown passes (3rd, 8) and total offense (3rd, 148.8 ypg).

Historically, he tied for second all-time in single game completions with 27 for 306 yards versus the #1 nationally ranked pass defense of Johns Hopkins. Further, he guided a pass offense that finished third all-time in school history in yardage (1,994) and as the Diplomats completed an all-time school record 181 passes breaking the record of 174 from the 1992 season.

A possible showdown with Oklahoma, LSU or USC would mark the Diplomats' first non-scheduled Division I matchup of the season. On September 21, Franklin & Marshall was to host the Georgetown University junior varsity team in a scrimmage. However, due to scheduling conflicts, the game was cancelled.

A bowl game would be familiar to F&M's Halloran as the former Boston College and St. Louis Cardinals quarterback was named the 1985 Hall of Fame Bowl Most Valuable Player award for leading the Eagles over Georgia.

The ABC Television Network Comeback Player of the Year in 1986 and a three-time winner of the New England Sportswriters' Gold Helmet Award, he also claimed the O'Melia Award as the outstanding player in the 1985 BC-Holy Cross game, the Jerry Nason Award for senior achievement in 1986 and was inducted into the B.C. Athletics Hall of Fame in 2002.

He first came to national prominence as a member of the Boston College football team from 1982-1987 where he served two years as the back-up quarterback to 1984 Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie, before earning the starting job in 1985.

Among a litany of superb passers in B.C. history, he ranks third behind Flutie and Glenn Foley in Boston College's all-time passing yardage statistics, with 5,252 yards. Both Flutie and Foley exceeded the 10,000-yard mark, but each had almost a full four years of play to accomplish the feat. Three times Halloran threw for more than 400 yards in a game, and three times he tossed four touchdown passes in a single contest.

He ranks fifth all-time in touchdown passes with 30, second to Mike Kruczek in completion percentage (57.5%) and third in career completions with 416, his individual season and game marks include most attempts (423), and completions (234) in a season; and a tie with Red Harris for most attempts in a game (57).

More information on the breakdown is available online at http://espnradio.espn.go.com/espnradio/ story?storyId=1681332

Franklin & Marshall will open the 2004 season on September 4 at home versus Bethany College. Game time is set for 1:00 p.m.