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SPORTS WEEKEND | WEEK 12 PRIMER

The Big Game Isn't Limited to Pasadena

November 20, 1998|CHRIS DUFRESNE

Pick one game on Big Game weekend? Impossible. It's tough enough to whittle it down to a fab four:

No. 2 Kansas State (10-0) at No. 19 Missouri (7-3)

Coming off an emotional victory over Nebraska and with Texas A&M looming in the Big 12 championship game, Kansas State faces its most dangerous test of the season. Missouri had a chance to beat Nebraska in Lincoln and last week lost by a field goal at Texas A&M. Key statistic: Kansas State's Michael Bishop has a 45-1 record as a starting quarterback in college.

Kentucky (7-3) at No. 1 Tennessee (10-0) 12:30 p.m., Channel 2

A game with huge national implications is underscored by a deeper emotion in the wake of a traffic accident last week that killed Christopher Scott Brock, Kentucky quarterback Tim Couch's best friend, and Kentucky player Arthur Steinmetz. Jason Watts, the Wildcats' starting center, survived the crash but has been charged with second-degree manslaughter and drunk driving.

No. 4 Florida (9-1) at No. 5 Florida State (10-1)

If two of the nation's top three teams lose one game between now and Dec. 6, the winner of Florida-Florida State is probably headed for a national title date in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 4. Tennessee has three games remaining, UCLA and Kansas State two each. Florida State has won 39 consecutive home games and boasts the nation's No. 1 defense, but must play its biggest game without quarterback Chris Weinke, sidelined for the season after undergoing neck surgery.

No. 11 Michigan (8-2) at No. 7 Ohio State (9-1) 9 a.m., Channel 7

Only a fool, or perhaps Lee Corso, would have predicted a month ago that the pressure in this game would be on Michigan. Yet, Michigan can earn a return trip to the Rose Bowl with a victory, whereas Ohio State needs a victory and a Wisconsin loss to Penn State to get to Pasadena. Ohio State Coach John Cooper is 1-8-1 against Michigan. With the Buckeyes having already blown their national title hopes, look for Ohio State to win.

Rating the TV Games

RATINGS

**** Don't leave the recliner

*** The yardwork can wait

** OK to flip to fishing show

* For arena football scouts only

** Boston College (4-6) at West Virginia (6-3), ESPN, 9 a.m.

Two weeks later, BC thinks it has a goal-line play that will work against Notre Dame.

Line: West Virginia by 14.

* Baylor (2-8) at Oklahoma State (4-6), FSW2, 9:30.

Baylor's No. 1 strength-of-schedule rating is scaring off recruits coast to coast.

Line: Oklahoma State by 13 1/2.

** Brigham Young (6-1) at Utah (5-2), ESPN2, 10:30.

Figures to have the shortest restroom lines in the country.

Line: Utah by 2 1/2.

** Louisiana State (4-5) at No. 10 Notre Dame (8-1), Channel 4, 10:30.

The good news is that neither school will be in the Independence Bowl this year.

Line: Notre Dame by 3.

*** Penn State (7-2) at Wisconsin (9-1), ESPN, noon.

It could be quite a fight; the game against Penn State should be good too.

Line: Even.

** Houston (3-7) at Tulane (9-0), FSW, 12:30 p.m.

Victory figures to trigger massive celebration on otherwise quiet Bourbon Street.

Line: Tulane by 15 1/2.

* South Carolina (1-9) at Clemson (2-8), ESPN2, 3.

Clemson kicks off festivities by firing its coach Wednesday.

Line: Clemson by 5 1/2.

*** No. 15 Oregon (8-2) at Oregon State (4-6), FSW, 3:30.

You can throw the records and raincoats out the window when these cross-forest rivals meet.

Line: Oregon by 9 1/2.

*** Auburn (3-7) at Alabama (6-4), ESPN, 4:30.

Former Alabama coach Bear Bryant once said: "I'd rather beat Auburn once than Ohio State five times."

Line: Alabama by 4.

* Northwestern (2-9) at Hawaii (0-10), FSW2, 8.

After getting beat up all year, finally a game . . . Hawaii can win.

Line: Northwestern by 16 1/2.

5 Things To Look For

1. Three Pac-10 schools scrambling to fight on. California, Arizona State and Washington, all 5-5, need final-game victories over traditional rivals for the six victories necessary to become bowl qualified. The Pac-10 has ties to the Rose, Holiday, Sun, Aloha and Oahu bowls, but the Las Vegas Bowl would probably take a sixth team for its game.

2. Yale at Harvard. It's the 115th year of the storied game and the 30th anniversary of the 1968 game in which Harvard staged a furious fourth-quarter rally and tied the game on a two-point conversion after time had expired. The headline in the Harvard student paper summed up the sentiment: "Harvard Beats Yale, 29-29."

3. An investigation of the investigation. In the police report filed on the locker room scuffle between Wisconsin players Pat Daley and Ron Dayne on Nov. 5, an eyewitness reported, "Aaron Gibson tried to break up the fight." At 6 feet 7 and 368 pounds, Gibson is the biggest, if not strongest, player in college football. So just how hard was he trying?

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