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August 23, 2007
Olin's Notebook: Keeping the streak alive
» MORE: COUNTDOWN TO KICKOFF ARCHIVE
Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. Click his name to send him a question for his weekly mailbag.
Aug. 8: New tradition
Aug. 15: No. 2 not so bad
Given a choice, Kentucky quarterback Andre' Woodson would rather ignore his streak.
Like a pitcher with a no-hitter in progress, Woodson won't even acknowledge that he enters the college football season with a school-record 162 consecutive passes without an interception unless someone else mentions it.
And as sure as there is bluegrass in Lexington, someone will.
"I haven't really thought about it," Woodson said of his streak. "I have heard about it, but I try not to think about it. That's when you tend to mess up a little bit."
A list of streaks and milestones annually accompany the arrival of football season as programs and coaches approach significant or historic victories. Players and teams seek to extend the success - or end the failures - of previous seasons.
There are always running backs with streaks of 100-yard rushing games like Georgia Tech's Tashard Choice, who has the nation's current longest streak with seven.
There are always teams on a roll, like Auburn - which this year hopes to extend its five-game winning streak against rival Alabama.
And there are typically teams like Vanderbilt, which hasn't played in a bowl game in 25 years, striving to end dubious streaks.
Yet of all the active streaks and attainable milestones for this season, none may be more important than Woodson's. His stretch of interception-free pass attempts dates back to the second half of the Wildcats' 24-20 upset of Georgia last season.
After throwing two interceptions that day, Woodson did not have a pass picked off in the next four games. Kentucky went 3-1 in that span.
Avoiding turnovers was a huge factor in the Wildcats' eight-victory showing of '06. Protecting the ball figures to be a big key to maintaining success this year.
As a sophomore in 2005, Woodson threw just six touchdown passes and six interceptions and averaged an interception in every 42. 1 attempts. Kentucky finished 3-8 that season.
Last year, his first under the tutelage of quarterbacks coach Randy Sanders, Woodson threw 31 touchdown passes and seven interceptions while averaging 59.8 attempts between picks.
"Coach Sanders just stresses how important it is to be needy not greedy," Woodson said. "A lot of times in a game it's smart to take the drop-off to the running back several times until eventually something opens up down field.
"I just try to make smart decisions. A lot of times you want to make big plays or throw deep balls, but it's better to be consistent, dump it off and go to the smart choices."
Maintaining that mentality may be difficult after all the offseason attention Woodson received. He was a consensus choice as the preseason All-Southeastern Conference quarterback and was even named preseason All-American by ESPN.
Some might feel the need to live up to the hype after receiving so much acclaim, yet Woodson vows to stay with the approach that made him successful.
"A lot of times you find yourself wanting to go down field, get the big play and the crowd goes wild," he said. "But I have to focus on what's important and make smart decisions. If the cornerback is off on one side and the other corner is pressing, you go at the corner that is off."
That's the approach that enabled Woodson to post the lowest interception ratio in Southeastern Conference history and put together a school-record streak.
Sooner or later his streak will end, but Woodson doesn't really want to talk about it.
Here's a list of some other significant streaks and milestones to look for this season:
What is the last state other than California, Texas and Florida to have three teams ranked in the final Associated Press Top 25 poll? (Answer at the end of the column.)
The final AP poll of 2003 included three teams from Ohio. Ohio State ranked fourth, Miami University was 10th and Bowling Green was 23rd.
Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.