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Putting Other Big Games to Shame

SPORTS WEEKEND | WEEK 13 PRIMER

GAME OF THE WEEK: No. 1 Florida State (10-0) at No. 3 Florida (9-1). Saturday, 12:30 p.m. PST, Channel 2

November 19, 1999|CHRIS DUFRESNE

They have to stop meeting like this. Don't they?

While we pretend in L.A. that UCLA-USC is still a rivalry, Florida schools play for more than bragging rights.

This is the 12th Florida-Florida State game of the decade and both teams have been ranked in the top 10 each time.

In 1996, Florida State thought it knocked Florida out of the national title race with a November win, only to lose a rematch to the Gators by 32 points in the Sugar Bowl for the national title.

In 1997 Florida used a two-quarterback platoon system to wreck Florida State's title hopes. Last year, Florida State parlayed a victory over Florida into a national title game matchup against Tennessee.

It goes on and on.

Once again, everything is at stake. Seminole Coach Bobby Bowden has won 302 games but has never had an undefeated season.

Florida stands in his way.

"You'd think I'm due after 46 years," Bowden said. "I sure would love to have one. But if we could only win one of the next two, I'd love to win the next one."

A Florida State win cinches a spot in the Jan. 4 Sugar Bowl and another national title shot for Bowden.

It's a two-step process for Florida, which needs to beat Florida State and win the Southeastern Conference title game to get to New Orleans.

The Gators, though formidable, are struggling, their once-vaunted passing attack is a shambles. Last week against South Carolina, Coach Steve Spurrier benched Doug Johnson and started Jesse Palmer at quarterback, yet still managed only 161 passing yards against the 0-10 Gamecocks.

"We're not as mighty as a lot of people think we are," Spurrier keeps saying.

The defense, though, has rescued Spurrier in victories against inferior teams: Vanderbilt and South Carolina.

"We've had some good breaks this year," Spurrier said, "and hopefully it will continue."

* Line: Florida State by 3.

5 THINGS TO LOOK FOR

1. Greetings for Pete's sake. Receiver Peter Warrick expects an earful from fans at the Swamp on Saturday when Florida State faces Florida. "I don't like playing away, not since I got in trouble," Warrick said this week. Warrick, who sat out two games after being arrested in October for his part in a department store clothing scam, has been the subject of taunts and barbs from opposing crowds at Clemson and Virginia. Warrick said Virginia fans doused him with beer. He expects more of the same in Gainesville. "Oh man, I know it's going to be the same way as Clemson and Virginia."

2. What's at stake: Stanford goes to the Rose Bowl with a win over Cal; Notre Dame and Ohio State become bowl ineligible with losses to Boston College and Michigan; the winner of Southern Mississippi-Louisville gets the Liberty Bowl bid; Virginia Tech clinches the Big East title with a win over Temple, and there's a Humanitarian Bowl bid for the winner of Idaho-Boise State.

3. A merciful end. There's no way to undo South Carolina's 0-10 season, and one of the worst years of Lou Holtz's life, but a win over archrival Clemson would help. Nothing has gone right for Holtz in his celebrated return to coaching. His wife, Beth, had a relapse of cancer, his team has been depleted by injuries, his son Skip, the team's offensive coordinator, was hospitalized because of stomach pains and last week, his mother died at age 82.

4. A last charge from Little Joe. Georgia Tech publicists are making a last-ditch Heisman plea for quarterback Joe Hamilton. While most have conceded the race to Wisconsin's Ron Dayne, who has concluded his regular season, Hamilton still has two games left: against Wake Forest this week and Georgia on Nov. 27. The publicists note that Hamilton, with an efficiency rating of 182.8, has a chance to break the NCAA record of 183.8, and has already led Georgia Tech to a school-record 50 touchdowns this year.

5. Notre Dame fans pining for Y2K. At 5-5 with two games left, the Irish risk finishing with a losing record for the first time since 1986, Holtz's first year. As for things getting better in 2000, don't hold your breath. Notre Dame breaks in a new quarterback, Arnaz Battle, and opens the season against Texas A&M, Nebraska, Purdue and Michigan State.

RATING THE TV GAMES

**** Whoa, Nellie

*** Fix the car tomorrow

** OK to watch golf infomercials

* For WWF scouts only

** Ohio State (6-5) at Michigan (8-2), 9 a.m., Channel 7. Cooper a little tight this week with Micron PC Bowl at stake. Line: Michigan by 12 1/2.

** Purdue (6-4) at Indiana (4-6), 9 a.m., ESPN. Halftime contest winner receives weekend hunting trip with Bob Knight. Line: Purdue by 12 1/2.

** Virginia Tech (9-0) at Temple (2-7), 9 a.m., ESPN2. If Temple wins again this year, we're alerting the feds. Line: Virginia Tech by 29.

** Oklahoma (6-3) at Texas Tech (5-5), 9:30 a.m., FSN2. Tech is a wreck after last week's 51-point loss to Texas. Line: Oklahoma by 13.

** Boston College (7-2) at Notre Dame (5-5), 11:30 a.m., Channel 4. NBC may cut away in fourth quarter to telecast of "Rudy." Line: Notre Dame by 9 1/2.

*** Southern Mississippi (7-3) at Louisville (7-3), noon, FSN. There's nothing like a game with the Liberty Bowl on the line. Line: Southern Mississippi by 4 1/2.

*** Georgia (6-3) at Mississippi (7-2), 3 p.m., ESPN2. Quincy Carter may leave at halftime to pursue baseball career. Line: Mississippi by 5 1/2.

*** Oregon State (7-3) at Oregon (7-3), 3:30 p.m., FSN. Pull up a tree stump and enjoy the festivities. Line: Oregon by 6.

* Alcorn State (3-6) vs. Jackson State (8-2), 4 p.m., BET. Frankly, one of these teams doesn't stand an acorn's chance. Line: None.

*** Mississippi State (8-1) at Arkansas (6-3), 6 p.m., ESPN2. Don't miss this showdown between Dogs vs. Hogs we're calling "True Grits." Line: Arkansas by 7.

*** Alabama (8-2) at Auburn (5-5), 4:30 p.m., ESPN. Could mark the biggest statewide shutdown until Y2K. Line: Alabama by 4.

** Navy (4-6) at Hawaii (7-3), 8 p.m., FSN2. Hey, from Pearl Harbor, Navy can almost walk to the game. Line: Navy by 3.

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