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ROSE BOWL / Michigan 21, Washington State 16 | NOTES

January 02, 1998|BILL DWYRE

With Washington State losing to Michigan in the Rose Bowl and UCLA, ranked higher in the national polls than the Pacific 10 champion Cougars and winning its 10th consecutive game in the Cotton Bowl, the inevitable question of "what if" arose.

What if UCLA had not chosen to change its scheduled Nov. 8 game against Washington State at Pullman to Aug. 30, where it was able to take home a check for $220,230 for its share of the ABC network telecast, but where it also took home a 37-34 defeat?

What if UCLA had resisted the money, resisted the chance for national TV exposure and the boost for recruiting that comes with that; had resisted the chance to avoid the foibles of a chilly November game in Pullman?

What if UCLA had taken the then red-hot Cade McNown, in the midst of the winning streak, to Washington State for a conference title showdown and won, making Thursday's Rose Bowl No. 1 Michigan vs. UCLA--rather than versus Washington State?

Of course, nobody knows. Nor can anybody easily fault the Bruins for being less than clairvoyant. Coach Bob Toledo liked the TV exposure, and so did his players, who were allowed to vote on the change. And who was to know that the Bruins were going to get better and better as they went along?

Bruin Athletic Director Peter Dalis probably answers the "what ifs" best.

When asked about it back in November, he said "We should have won the ballgame anyway."

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At Rose Bowl game time, the temperature was 37 degrees in Pullman, 32 degrees in Ann Arbor and 75 degrees with 34% humidity in Pasadena. One of the writers from the Midwest spotted a wisp of a cloud in the distance at halftime and said he was disgusted.

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How good is Michigan's defense? Here's one measurement:

When Leaf connected with McKenzie on the 15-yard scoring pass in the first quarter, it marked the first touchdown that had been scored against the Wolverines in the first half of a game since archrival Michigan State did it back on Oct. 25, six games ago.

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