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SPORTS WEEKEND

Game Of The Week

The Key Games In College Football

November 22, 1996

MICHIGAN (7-3, 4-3) at OHIO STATE (10-0, 7-0)

* KICKOFF: Saturday, 9 a.m., Channel 7.

* STORYLINE: Oh, nothing important here. Although Ohio State has clinched the Big Ten's Rose Bowl berth, Michigan can deal the Buckeyes a blow almost equal to last year's, when the Wolverines wrecked Ohio State's Rose Bowl and national title dreams with a 31-23 upset in Ann Arbor. As usual, Ohio State Coach John Cooper is a ball of nerves during Michigan week. Cooper is 1-6-1 against the Wolverines and is trying to play mind games, not saying whether he will start Stanley Jackson or Joe Germaine at quarterback.

* MICHIGAN UPDATE: The Wolverines might be more excited about this game if they weren't free-falling out of the bowl picture. After looking like an alliance team a few weeks ago, Michigan has lost in consecutive weeks to Purdue and Penn State. The Wolverines committed 10 turnovers in the two games.

* OHIO STATE UPDATE: The Buckeyes nearly pulled their annual choke a week early, needing a fourth-quarter defensive touchdown by Matt Finkes to break a 10-10 tie against Indiana last week in a 27-17 victory. Ohio State is not near the dominant team it appeared when it beat Notre Dame and Penn State on consecutive weekends earlier this season.

* EDGE TO OHIO STATE: If Cooper doesn't win this one in Columbus, he may be playing golf with Lou Holtz next fall. Cooper has a history of collapsing in big games, but he appears to be catching Michigan at the right time.

* THE LINE: Ohio State by 17.

KEY GAMES

USC (5-5, 3-4) at UCLA (4-6, 3-4)

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

* STORYLINE: John Robinson may want to amend his infamous prediction to the following: "We're going to win our last two games, watch a really good bowl on TV, and finish 7-5." The heat is on the USC coach.

* USC UPDATE: The Trojans had a week off to digest the season, and found themselves chugging bicarbonate of soda. The defense is good, the offense is a wreck, but you can't say we didn't warn you.

* UCLA UPDATE: If Bob Toledo weren't in his first year and playing with Terry Donahue's leftovers, you'd want a full accounting of a bizarre season in which the Bruins could look so good one week (38-14 over Washington State) and so awful the next (35-17 loss to Arizona).

* EDGE TO USC: Robinson has had two weeks to prepare and is facing a UCLA team that took a physical beating against Arizona last weekend.

* THE LINE: USC by 3.

*

ARIZONA STATE (10-0, 7-0) at ARIZONA (5-5, 3-4)

* KICKOFF: Saturday, 3:30 p.m., Fox Sports West.

* STORYLINE: Standing between the Sun Devils and destiny is this little road bump in Tucson. An Arizona State win sends the Sun Devils to Pasadena with a chance at the national championship. Arizona is 11-2-1 against Arizona State since 1981.

* ARIZONA STATE UPDATE: The Sun Devils have had two weeks to unravel the curse the Wildcats seem to hold over them.

* ARIZONA UPDATE: Last week's convincing win over UCLA sends them into Saturday's game with newfound confidence.

* EDGE TO ARIZONA STATE: The Sun Devils had an extra week to prepare for the game, and that should have been enough time for quarterback Jake Plummer to figure a way to break this jinx.

* THE LINE: Arizona State by 7.

*

AUBURN (7-3, 4-3) at ALABAMA (8-2, 5-2)

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

* STORYLINE: One of college football's great rivalries lost a little luster last week when the Tigers and Crimson Tide suffered crushing defeats.

* AUBURN UPDATE: The Tigers blew a 28-7 lead to Georgia last week and ended up losing in four overtimes, 56-49.

* ALABAMA UPDATE: The Crimson Tide lost to Mississippi State for only the second time in 39 years.

* EDGE TO ALABAMA: The Crimson Tide will win and celebrate for two weeks before losing to Florida in the Southeastern Conference title game.

* THE LINE: Alabama by 6.

*

WASHINGTON (8-2, 6-1) at WASHINGTON STATE (5-5, 3-4)

* KICKOFF: Saturday, 3:30 p.m., fX.

* STORYLINE: Anything can happen in the battle for the ol' Apple Cup, although these are teams headed in different directions. Washington has won five in a row since losing to Notre Dame; Washington State has lost three in a row.

* WASHINGTON UPDATE: The Huskies will be trying to impress Cotton Bowl officials, who have their choice of the WAC champion or the Pac-10 No. 2 team. Tailback Corey Dillon, the nation's sixth-leading rusher, set an NCAA record with 222 rushing yards in one quarter against San Jose State last week.

* WASHINGTON STATE UPDATE: The Cougars looked like a bowl team three weeks ago before consecutive lapses against USC, UCLA and Stanford.

* EDGE TO WASHINGTON: The Huskies have plenty to play for, but watch out. The game is at Pullman, where Washington has not won since 1990.

THE LINE ON THE REST

Stanford plus 2 1/2 at California

Oregon minus 9 at Oregon St.

Michigan St. plus 9 at Penn St.

Wisconsin minus 7 at Illinois

Iowa minus 11 at Minnesota

Indiana plus 7 at Purdue

Yale minus 5 at Harvard

Syracuse minus 31 at Temple

Rutgers plus 41 at Notre Dame

Boston College plus 22 at Miami

Maryland plus 34 at Florida St.

South Carolina plus 6 at Clemson

North Carolina minus 31 at Duke

Wake Forest plus 14 at N. Carolina St.

Navy plus 4 at Georgia Tech

West Virginia plus 5 at Virginia Tech

East Carolina minus 7 at Memphis

Kentucky plus 27 at Tennessee

Mississippi plus 13 at Georgia

Arkansas plus 6 at Mississippi St.

Tulane plus 24 at LSU

Texas Tech minus 11 at Oklahoma

Kansas minus 3 1/2 at Missouri

Iowa St. plus 20 1/2 at Kansas St.

Baylor minus 3 at Oklahoma St.

Tulsa plus 10 1/2 at Rice

BYU minus 6 at Utah

Fresno St. plus 14 at San Diego St.

Texas El Paso plus 20 at New Mexico

Idaho minus 10 1/2 at Boise St.

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