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SPORTS WEEKEND | WEEK 13 PRIMER

Game of the Week for the Bruins Too

November 27, 1998|CHRIS DUFRESNE

With UCLA players gathered around their televisions back in Westwood, Miami heads north to Syracuse to play the most important game in . . .

UCLA history?

Before turning their anger on Miami for a Dec. 5 showdown in Florida, the Bruins need to root like the dickens for the Hurricanes to defeat the Orangemen.

The higher Miami is ranked entering the Dec. 5 game, the better chance UCLA will have in its strength-of-schedule war with Kansas State in the bowl championship series rankings.

Miami and Syracuse have plenty to play for too. The winner of today's game wins the Big East title and earns an automatic bid into a BCS bowl, mostly likely the Orange.

Miami has won six of the last seven in the series and the last three at Syracuse but will need to overcome the emotion surrounding Orangemen quarterback Donovan McNabb, playing his last home game.

An ugly early season loss at North Carolina State on ESPN took McNabb out of the Heisman Trophy race, but the senior has generally been brilliant, no more so than in leading his team to a last-second win against Virginia Tech two weeks ago.

Miami has already clinched a bowl bid. The Hurricanes' two losses were to Florida State and Virginia Tech, schools with a combined 19-3 record.

Junior Edgerrin James has rushed for 749 yards and 11 touchdowns in his last four games.

Miami Coach Butch Davis knows the key to victory will be his defense's ability to contain the Syracuse quarterback.

"It seems like Donovan McNabb has been there for about 10 years," Davis said. "It seems like he was there before I came to Miami and I know he's been there all four years that I've been at Miami. He's a very unique individual, with the uncanny ability to make plays to win."

UCLA hopes not.

A showdown in Austin city limits. Texas tailback Ricky Williams merely needs 63 yards to break Tony Dorsett's career rushing mark of 6,082 yards and Texas A&M linebacker Dat Nguyen has 60 minutes in which to stop him. Breaking Dorsett's mark probably will clinch the Heisman Trophy for Williams while Nguyen is a finalist for the Butkus Award. When was the last time Heisman and Butkus winners met on the field? Last year: Michigan's Charles Woodson (Heisman) vs. Ohio State's Andy Katzenmoyer (Butkus).

Florida State sneaking in the back door. The 11-1 Seminoles might be the nation's best team at this point but need two losses from three unbeaten schools-- Tennessee, UCLA or Kansas State--to get to the national title game. Tennessee will probably easily roll over Vanderbilt on Saturday and win the Southeastern Conference title game on Dec. 5, but Kansas State and UCLA are vulnerable in tough Dec. 5 games against Texas A&M and Miami, respectively.

Stoops to Iowa. Florida defensive coordinator Bobby Stoops reportedly interviewed for the vacant Oklahoma job this week, but it might have been a stop-over on his way to Iowa City, where Stoops is a good bet to take over for Iowa coach Hayden Fry. Stoops played defensive back for Fry and has long been considered the heir apparent.

A Notre Dame roster. With Jarious Jackson out of Saturday's USC game because of a knee injury, the Irish take on the Trojans with a couple of no-names at quarterback named Arnas Battle and Eric Chappell. The two have combined for one pass completion in two attempts. The good news for Notre Dame is that Beano Cook has tabbed neither to win two Heismans.

A brewing BCS war. If Notre Dame beats USC and wins a major bowl bid at the expense of Ohio State, Buckeye Athletic Director Andy Geiger says he will cry foul. "If they [BCS] jump over us to get Notre Dame, I will defend this system for about a nanosecond," Geiger told the Columbus Dispatch. "I will be Mr. Playoff at that point."

Rating the TV Games

RATINGS

**** Don't leave the recliner

*** The yardwork can wait

** OK to flip to fishing show.

* For pro scouts only

TODAY

*** No. 6 Texas A&M (10-1) at Texas (7-3), 8 a.m., Channel 7

The closest college football gets to Breakfast at Wimbledon.

Line: Texas A&M by 2

** Louisiana State (4-6) at

No. 13 Arkansas (8-2), 11:30 a.m., Channel 2

Two SEC schools gather to wallow over close-call loses and mutual disappointments.

Line: Arkansas by 6

** Colorado (7-3) at No. 14 Nebraska (8-3), 11:30 a.m., Channel 7

Rick Neuheisel's kids hope to hand Nebraska its first four-loss season since 1968.

Line: Nebraska by 20

** Arizona State (5-5) at No. 7 Arizona (10-1), 3:30 p.m., FSW

Arizona may earn a Rose Bowl bid with a win; Arizona State needs victory to stay in the Las Vegas Bowl hunt.

Line: Arizona by 10 1/2

SATURDAY

*** No. 17 Georgia Tech (8-2) at No. 12 Georgia (8-2), 9 a.m., Channel 2

Georgia Tech has lost seven in a row in this heated rivalry. USC knows the feeling.

Line: Georgia by 3

*** No. 16 Virginia (8-2) at No. 20 Virginia Tech (8-2), 9 a.m., ESPN

Both schools are bowl bound, but that won't prevent the usual clawing and scratching.

Line: Virginia Tech by 2 1/2

*** Michigan State (6-5) at No. 23 Penn State (7-3), 10 a.m., Channel 7

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