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Sports Weekend | WEEK 9 PRIMER

Race for Second Place Could Mean Roses

October 30, 1998|CHRIS DUFRESNE

Having blown chances to upend UCLA--both schools lost second-half leads to the Bruins--the Ducks and Wildcats face off in Tucson in a game with intriguing possibilities.

The winner remains alive for the Rose Bowl, particularly if UCLA goes to the Fiesta Bowl. The Rose Bowl would be hard-pressed to deny either a 10-1 Oregon or 10-1 Arizona a trip to Pasadena--it would be the first appearance for the Wildcats.

One problem for Arizona. Oregon has won four in a row in this series, three since Mike Bellotti took over for Rich Brooks in 1995.

"It's a combination of real hard work and a little bit of luck," Bellotti said of the streak. "Our kids have played very well against Arizona. They beat us pretty badly physically in '93 (31-10). Since that time, our kids have said, 'That's not going to happen again.' "

Oregon showed its national staying power last week when, stung by an emotional overtime defeat by UCLA and the loss of tailback Reuben Droughns because of a season-ending injury, the Ducks rebounded for a hard-fought victory over USC in Eugene.

With Droughns out, however, Oregon has to lean even more heavily on quarterback Akili Smith's considerable running skills.

Although the Pac-10 boasts a leading Heisman contender in UCLA's Cade McNown, it was no slight this week when Arizona Coach Dick Tomey said of Smith, "I think, at this point in time, he's having the best year of any quarterback in the league."

Tomey and Bellotti have taken different paths to success. Bellotti junked the quarterback platoon system he used last year and handed the job to Smith, with remarkable results.

Tomey has stuck with his two-quarterback attack of Keith Smith and Ortege Jenkins, who have combined for 1,889 yards and 11 touchdown passes.

With the Ducks wounded at running back, Arizona is now the more balanced team, led by running back Trung Canidate's 494 yards in 105 carries.

Line: Arizona by 1 1/2

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

** No. 22 Michigan (5-2) at Minnesota (4-3), 9 a.m., ESPN

They'll need a cut doctor at ringside as the Jerry Quarry-like Wolverines slug their way to another unimpressive win.

Line: Michigan by 12 1/2.

** Northwestern (2-6) at Michigan State (3-4), 9 a.m., ESPN2

Game may be delayed several minutes as Wildcats arrive late from Gamblers Anonymous meeting.

Line: Michigan State by 10 1/2.

** No. 4 Kansas State (7-0) at Kansas (3-5), 9:30 a.m., FSW2

Only one more exhibition game after this before Kansas State plays Nebraska for bragging rights among the flat states.

Line: Kansas State by 25.

** Baylor (2-5) at No. 16 Notre Dame (5-1), 11:30 a.m., Channel 4

Schools meet for the first time since 1925, when Knute Rockne's boys knocked the Bears off the schedule with a 41-0 pounding.

Line: Notre Dame by 15.

*** No. 6 Florida (6-1) vs. No. 11 Georgia (6-1), 12:30, Channel 2

Meeting is billed as "The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party," but the loser's season will be on the rocks.

Line: Florida by 12.

** Boston College (3-4) at No. 25 Miami (4-2), 3 p.m., ESPN2

B.C. hasn't beaten Miami since that pint-sized quarterback now playing for Buffalo let go a game-winning heave in 1984.

Line: Miami by 15.

** No. 8 Texas A&M (7-1) at Oklahoma State (3-4), 4 p.m., FSW

Last year's loss to A&M cost the Cowboys the Big 12 South title. Can you say revenge?

Line: Texas A&M by 5 1/2.

* Alabama State (2-5) vs. Alabama A&M (4-4), 4 p.m., BET

In this epic Southwestern Conference battle of Alabamas with appendages, go with A&M over State.

Line: None.

** North Carolina (3-3) at No. 5 Florida State (7-1), 4:30 p.m., ESPN

Last year's meeting was a battle of top-10 unbeatens. This year's meeting is not.

Line: Florida State by 27.

* Wyoming (6-1) at Texas Christian (4-3), 6 p.m., ESPN2

In a game as appealing as a saddle burn, Wyoming seeks to win the last 16-team WAC title.

Line: Wyoming by 3 1/2.

5 Things To Look For

1. The Heisman race to shake out. This is a critical stretch for Ricky Williams. The Texas tailback has been less than stellar against stiff competition. He rushed for 43 yards against Kansas State and was held in check by UCLA before scoring three times in the fourth quarter against backups. Saturday, though, Williams faces Nebraska in Lincoln, followed by games against Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Texas A&M, schools that are allowing opponents 2.9 yards a carry.

2. Stanford's Tree. As of press time, the costume for the school's mascot remained missing, presumed to be stolen. Gee, we can't imagine what cross-bay rival might be responsible. Stanford officials have warned students not to retaliate by kidnapping Oski, Cal's mascot, but could you blame the kids?

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