Teams lacking a certain something have discovered startling freshman talents over the first few weeks of the college football season, whether it was Emmitt Smith rejuvenating Florida, Tennessee unveiling Reggie Cobb, or Texas A&M turning to Lance Pavlas.

By far the most impressive is Smith, and the most surprising thing about him is that Florida waited this long to start him. In his first start, he was named Southeastern Conference player of the week after he rushed for 224 yards and scored two touchdowns in a 23-14 upset at Alabama.

Going into the season, Smith was merely a backup behind Octavius Gould, and made his first start only because Gould fractured ribs in a loss to Miami.

"You've got to realize he's only been here about a month," Gators Coach Galen Hall said. "We wanted to bring him along slowly."

But Smith wants to go faster. His 224 yards set a Florida single-game record. Considered the nation's best high school player out of Escambia High in Pensacola, Fla., Smith gained 8,084 yards and averaged 179.7 a game over his career, third-best ever for a high school player. He rushed for more than 100 yards in his last 28 high school starts, and the Alabama game now makes that 29. Also, with 1,127 carries in high school, he fumbled just six times.

"He's got great speed and vision," Hall said. "It's hard to get a clear shot at him."

Tennessee's Cobb is a redshirt freshman who also was a designated backup until an injury to tailback Keith David forced him into use. Cobb has since carried 52 times for 291 yards and three touchdowns, and has caught four passes for 98 more yards and two touchdowns.

Cobb, somewhat overlooked as a high school player out of Knoxville after breaking his leg his senior year, may be one of the chief reasons Tennessee is back in the rankings. He lends some reliability and complications to a pass-oriented game.

"What we've been needing is a back who can break the big one and go all the way," Volunteers Coach Johnny Majors said.

Other freshmen, some redshirts and some not, have been regularly jumping in. Clemson's Todd Allen, a redshirt, has started two games and rushed for 240 yards and two touchdowns on 51 carries. His gains of 29 yards led Clemson's 53-yard drive to a last second field goal that beat Georgia last week.

When Texas A&M senior Craig Stump had his problems against Washington last week, redshirt freshman Lance Pavlas came in to complete 13 of 19 passes and upset Washington. But Pavlas probably won't become a full-time starter, he'll just spell Stump on occasion.

The Tiger Who Studies Owls

Louisiana State has a scholar athlete in senior Nacho Albergamo, a preseason all-America at center and pre-med and zoology major who is co-author of a research paper on the diet of the common barn owl soon to be published in a scientific journal.

Before the snickering starts, it should be mentioned that Albergamo has a 3.4 grade point average. The results of his ornithology research, performed while studying the owls that nest in the Memorial Tower on the LSU campus, will be published in Southwestern Naturalist.

The news of Albergamo's accomplishment is a late breaking story. LSU publicists held it for a few days because they deemed it inappropriate to announce it last weekend when LSU played the Rice Owls.

The Southwest Conference in London?

Great Britain's new fascination with football has reached the Southwest Conference. How about a Texas Christian-Texas game played in London next season?

The SWC is talking with an international promotional agency and a British cable television company, International Broadcasting Systems, about sending a conference game to London early next season. Texas and TCU are two schools that have been mentioned as possibilities, TCU Sports Information Director Glen Stone said.

However, Stone added the potential game is still in the interest-only stage. SWC Assistant Commissioner Rick Baker would not discuss the possibility or whether talks were being held except to say, "Basically, until we have a statement to make, we have no comment."

In More Conventional Scheduling . . .

Alabama and Brigham Young have agreed to play a potentially interesting intersectional series. The Crimson Tide will play in Provo, Utah, on Oct. 28, 1995. Brigham Young will visit Tuscaloosa on Oct. 5, 1996.