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SPORTS WEEKEND

Game Of The Week

The Key Games In College Football

November 08, 1996

CALIFORNIA (6-2, 3-2) at ARIZONA STATE (9-0, 6-0)

* KICKOFF: Saturday, 3:30 p.m., Channel 9.

* STORYLINE: The Sun Devils can clinch their first Rose Bowl trip since 1986 and also keep their dream season, national championship hopes alive with a victory. A few weeks ago, when Cal was 5-0, this was shaping up as a battle for the Pacific 10 Conference championship. But then the Bears dropped games on consecutive weekends to Washington State and UCLA to fall off the pace.

* CAL UPDATE: Thanks/no thanks to the NCAA's new tiebreaker rule, the Bears are coming off one of the wildest games ever played, a 56-55 overtime victory over Arizona in which quarterback Pat Barnes threw for eight touchdowns and 503 yards, both school records. Barnes needs four touchdowns to tie Mike Pagel's Pac-10 season record of 29.

* ARIZONA STATE UPDATE: The Sun Devils overcame a 14-9 halftime deficit last weekend in Corvallis and beat lowly Oregon State, 29-14, averting a potential disaster in this season of dreams. Quarterback Jake Plummer had an off game, but expect him to rebound strongly against a porous Cal defense. Running back Terry Battle has been spectacular since stepping in for injured starter Michael Martin against USC.

* EDGE TO ARIZONA STATE: If you don't believe in destiny, consider: The last time Arizona State went to the Rose Bowl, it clinched the berth against Cal in the 10th week of the season. Deja vu? Prediction: ASU 76, Cal 75, 10 overtimes.

* THE LINE: Arizona State by 15.

OTHER GAMES

ALABAMA (7-1, 4-1) at LOUISIANA STATE (6-1, 4-1)

* KICKOFF: Saturday, 4:30 p.m., ESPN.

* STORYLINE: This is a showdown in the Southeastern Conference's Eastern Division, the winner likely to earn the right to lose to Florida in the conference title game on Dec. 7. Alabama's national title hopes evaporated two weeks ago with a tough loss at Tennessee. The Tigers' only defeat this season was an ugly 56-13 mauling by the Gators.

* ALABAMA UPDATE: This is a typical Gene Stallings team--tough, determined, almost impossible to watch. The offense is an afterthought to a very impressive defense led by strong safety Kevin Jackson and linebacker Dwayne Rudd. The offense averages 350 yards per game.

* LOUISIANA STATE UPDATE: Gerry DiNardo can probably swipe SEC coach-of-the-year honors from Florida's Steve Spurrier with a victory over the Crimson Tide. Running back Kevin Faulk is averaging 121 yards a game and the team ranks first in the conference in rushing yards.

* EDGE TO ALABAMA: Bottom line is, the Crimson Tide hasn't lost in Baton Rouge since the first term of the Nixon administration. This is a critical game for Stallings because Alabama still has to play archrival Auburn.

* THE LINE: LSU by 3 1/2.

*

WASHINGTON STATE (5-3, 3-2) at UCLA (3-5, 2-3)

* KICKOFF: Saturday, 12:30 p.m., Channel 7.

* STORYLINE: The Bruins continue to confound the sages: They play Tennessee and Arizona State tough, beat Cal, then lose at home to Stanford? It has been that kind of season for first-year Coach Bob Toledo.

* WASHINGTON STATE UPDATE: The Cougars had a bye after their near upset of USC two weeks ago, and should be well rested as they make a late-season run toward a berth in the Sun or Aloha Bowl.

* UCLA UPDATE: Is Toledo's patience wearing thin with sophomore quarterback Cade McNown? Is it time for the Bruins to look at backup Steve Buck?

* EDGE TO WASHINGTON STATE: In their last three games, the Cougars have crushed Oregon State, 24-3; beaten previously undefeated Cal, 21-18, and taken USC to the wire before losing, 29-24.

* THE LINE: UCLA by 4.

*

NORTHWESTERN (7-2, 5-1) at IOWA (6-2, 4-1)

* KICKOFF: Saturday, 12:30 p.m.

* STORYLINE: A battle for the Citrus Bowl? That plum is reserved for the Big Ten runner-up, but things could change if the alliance nabs the loser of Ohio State-Michigan to play in Fiesta Bowl.

* NORTHWESTERN UPDATE: The Wildcats came unhinged in Saturday's 34-9 loss to Penn State. Northwestern will need to shore up a secondary that allowed Penn State's Wally Richardson to look like a great quarterback. He's not.

* IOWA UPDATE: Iowa is led by unheralded Tim Dwight, one of the nation's most exciting receiver-kick returners.

* EDGE TO IOWA: The unraveling of Northwestern at State College was not a pretty sight, perhaps a sign of a slump after winning 13 consecutive Big Ten games.

* THE LINE: Iowa by 6.

*

USC (5-4, 3-3) at STANFORD (3-5, 2-3)

* KICKOFF: Saturday, 7:15 p.m., Fox Sports West.

* STORYLINE: The team that dreamed of contending for a national championship now needs a victory simply to stay in the Aloha Bowl hunt. Also, a team needs six victories over Division I schools to qualify for a bowl. Check the Trojans' record.

* USC UPDATE: A week after thinking they had found their vaunted running game at Pullman, the Trojans returned home and ran backward--minus-14 yards rushing--in a crippling home loss to Washington. As Coach John Robinson put it: "Red Grange would not have run well Saturday against Washington." Yeah, but Red Grange must be at least 100 now.

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