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Bad weather makes 6 Vols miss practice

Six Tennessee players missed the first team meeting and practice Wednesday for the Cotton Bowl because of an ice storm that delayed flights.

The players were flying separately Tuesday and spent the night in Memphis. Tennessee faces Kansas State on Monday.

Starting wide receiver Cedrick Wilson, offensive tackle Reggie Coleman, linebacker Dominique Stevenson and defensive back Andre Lott had not arrived, and backup wide receiver Eric Parker and tailback Travis Stephens also missed practice. At least 30 players arrived late because of the weather.

"Obviously, I've been concerned about this," Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said. "First off, the safety of our players. Secondly, the continuity of our practices."

Once all the players are together, Fulmer doesn't expect any lingering effect.

FIESTA BOWL: The Oregon State offense views Monday's game as a contest between its speed and Notre Dame's power. The Irish were quick to disagree. "I think our defense is extremely fast. Maybe people think we aren't because the Notre Dame Stadium grass is so high," linebacker Anthony Denman said. "But every time we have played on a fast track we have shown how fast we are." Part of the perception might be a remnant of last season, Notre Dame defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said. The Irish defense played miserably as the team went 5-7. "I did not like the way the defense played last year. I don't stand for that," Mattison said. "I couldn't handle that." This season, he said, players have been willing to fill roles rather than try to be stars. The result has been a team that plays faster and with more confidence. "The coaches told us, "Even if you make a mistake, make it at 110 miles an hour,' " defensive tackle Lance Legree said.

HOLIDAY BOWL: It's finally official. Chris Simms will start at quarterback for Texas against Oregon on Friday. Not that it's much of surprise, considering Simms' 383 yards passing and three touchdowns in a season-ending win over Texas A&M. But coach Mack Brown had been coy about picking Simms to start. Major Applewhite, Texas' career passing leader, still was recovering from a sprained knee and trying to get back into the lineup. "Chris is going to start and if we're playing great, we'll continue that way," Brown said.

PEACH BOWL: Bill O'Brien plans one little change in Georgia Tech's high-powered offense. "We're going to come out in the Delaware Wing-T," O'Brien announced at the beginning of a news conference. He was only kidding, of course. O'Brien is under enough scrutiny without making major alterations before Friday's game against LSU, his first as offensive coordinator. The 31-year-old O'Brien was thrust into the play-calling role when Ralph Friedgen, regarded as the mastermind behind Georgia Tech's point-scoring exploits the past three seasons, took the head-coaching job at Maryland after the regular-season finale. "We're not going to change much," O'Brien said. "We're going to do the things that made us successful. That means varying formations, doing a lot of things in the running and passing games to keep the other team off balance. You're going to see it all. That's one of the things that makes us good."

ROSE BOWL: A year ago, Greg Carothers recalled with a smile, he probably was riding a bus to play in a basketball game somewhere in Montana for Helena Capital High School. Now, he's preparing to start at safety for Washington on Monday against Purdue. Carothers, a 19-year-old freshman, realizes the circumstances could be much better: He's replacing Curtis Williams, paralyzed from the neck down at the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose, Calif. "It's tough," Carothers said before the Huskies began practice. "When I first came to school, Curtis really helped me out, him and Ak (safety Hakim Akbar) were really cool about everything." The Huskies had one of the strongest safety tandems in the country before Williams suffered a severe spinal cord injury in a third-quarter collision with Stanford's Kerry Carter on Oct. 28.

SUN BOWL: Wisconsin wide receiver Chris Chambers' season began with hopes of a national title and the Fred Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top wide receiver. Then he broke a foot in camp, got caught up in the shoe scandal that rocked the program and returned from his missed month with a ton of doubts that robbed him briefly of his playmaking ability. Chambers salvaged his season, and the Badgers', with back-to-back 11-catch games that propelled Wisconsin to its seventh bowl game in eight seasons. The Badgers face UCLA on Friday. "I think all you have to do is take a look at the productivity of our offense once he came back," coach Barry Alvarez said. "Once he was full speed, we've been throwing the ball for over 200 yards every game. He's directly responsible for how our offense is functioning right now."