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SPORTS WEEKEND

Game Of The Week

The Key Games In College Football

December 06, 1996

NEBRASKA (10-1, 8-0) vs. TEXAS (7-4, 6-2) at St. Louis

* KICKOFF: Saturday, 10 a.m., Channel 7.

* STORYLINE: The first Big 12 Conference championship game--the one coaches voted, 12-0, against playing--takes place in the Trans World Dome. The North Division champion Cornhuskers can simplify the mind-numbing bowl picture with a victory over the South Division champion Longhorns. A Nebraska victory puts the Cornhuskers in the Sugar Bowl against No. 1 Florida State with a chance to win a third consecutive national title. Texas is playing only a spoilers' role here, having rebounded too late to be a national factor.

* NEBRASKA UPDATE: Left for dead in the Arizona desert after a 19-0 loss to Arizona State on Sept. 21, Tom Osborne's team has rallied to get back in the national title race. Yet the Cornhuskers are tapping far too deep into their well of extraordinary tailbacks. With Ahman Green and Damon Benning ailing, Nebraska will have to rely again on freshman DeAngelo Evans, and even he is bothered by a groin pull. The loss of linebacker Terrell Farley to another drunk-driving arrest hurts an otherwise extraordinary defense.

* TEXAS UPDATE: A month ago, the Longhorns were a shambles, dropping to 3-4 after a loss at Colorado. But Texas has won four in a row, capturing the South Division with a 51-15 victory last weekend over rival Texas A&M. Quarterback James Brown has passed for 2,115 yards and 16 touchdowns, and tailback Ricky Williams has rushed for 1,265 yards.

* EDGE TO NEBRASKA: The Cornhuskers have won nine consecutive games since the Arizona State loss, quarterback Scott Frost is finally getting the hang of the option offense, and the defense is nails, even without Farley.

* THE LINE: Nebraska by 21.

KEY GAMES

FLORIDA (10-1, 8-0) vs. ALABAMA (9-2, 6-2) at Atlanta

* KICKOFF: Saturday, 5 p.m., Channel 7.

* STORYLINE: Eastern Division champion Florida can keep its national title hopes alive and claim a fourth consecutive Southeastern Conference title with a victory over Western champion Alabama at the Georgia Dome. The winner automatically qualifies for an alliance bowl, probably the Orange, with the loser probably facing Northwestern in the Citrus.

* FLORIDA UPDATE: The Gators are reeling after last week's 24-21 loss to archrival Florida State in Tallahassee, but still have plenty to play for. A victory over Alabama coupled with a Nebraska loss probably earns Florida a rematch with Florida State in the Sugar Bowl.

* ALABAMA UPDATE: The Crimson Tide tries to send retiring Coach Gene Stallings out in style. Defensive coordinator Mike Dubose is expected to be named Stallings' successor on Monday and could cinch the deal if his sixth-rated defense can shut down Florida's offense.

* EDGE TO ALABAMA: The Crimson Tide has not played since its Nov. 23 win over Auburn, and the Gators are a physical wreck after last week's loss to Florida State. The loss of Collins on the line is critical for Florida, which could not protect Wuerffel last week with Collins in the lineup. Alabama's defense is comparable to Florida State's.

* THE LINE: Florida by 15.

*

WYOMING (10-1, 7-1) vs. BRIGHAM YOUNG (12-1, 8-0) at Las Vegas

* KICKOFF: Saturday, 1:30 p.m., Channel 7.

* STORYLINE: It's officially known as the Western Athletic Conference title game, although it could be called the "Credibility Bowl" as Pacific Division champion Wyoming meets Mountain winner BYU in a game with enormous national consequences. A BYU victory would almost force the bowl alliance to take the Cougars as one of two at-large picks, although the powers that be are already trying to make a case for 9-2 Colorado instead. Such is the fragile state of the non-alliance WAC that the loser of this game might get shut out of a bowl.

* WYOMING UPDATE: If not for a last-minute loss to San Diego State on Nov. 7, the Cowboys would be unbeaten and fighting for an alliance berth themselves. It has been such a great season for Wyoming that Coach Joe Tiller parlayed the success into landing the Purdue job. Quarterback Josh Wallwork leads the nation in total offense at 355.5 yards per game. * BYU UPDATE: The Cougars have won 18 WAC titles, but none will be as important as this one. If BYU wins, it carries the WAC banner into a potential political battle with the alliance. If BYU finishes 13-1 and does not get the alliance slot, the WAC has threatened legal action. BYU is led by quarterback Steve Sarkisian, the nation's passing leader with a rating of 177.3.

* EDGE TO BYU: This should be a typical, high-scoring WAC affair, although the Cougars are the more balanced team. * THE LINE: BYU by 9.

*

ARMY (9-1) vs. NAVY (8-2) at Philadelphia

* KICKOFF: Saturday, 9 a.m., Channel 2.

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