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SPORTS WEEKEND | WEEK 12 PRIMER

This Determines the Beast of SEC East

November 10, 2000|CHRIS DUFRESNE

Forget the players. This is more of a matchup between Lou Holtz and Steve Spurrier, two of the most successful and intriguing coaches of our time; two master tacticians and motivators.

With Spurrier and Holtz involved, Saturday's showdown for the Southeastern Conference's East Division title will be as much psychological as it physical.

"The game is played between the ears as much as anywhere else," Spurrier said.

Holtz has made believers of a South Carolina squad that had lost 21 consecutive games before this season. He has made a career of turning around programs, including Notre Dame, which he led to a national title in 1988 only three years after taking over Gerry Faust's 5-6 team.

Holtz is a classic sandbagger, constantly touting the virtues of his opponent while downplaying his team's talents.

This season Holtz has exploited his underdog tactics to pull off upsets against Georgia and Mississippi State, although his concerns about taking on Florida at Gainesville are certainly legitimate.

"The biggest concern I have is if the players believe they can win or not," Holtz said. "We've never been in this environment."

Holtz praised a Florida team that has flourished of late with stellar play of freshmen--quarterback Rex Grossman and receiver Jabar Gaffney.

"I think last year's Florida team and this year's early Florida team was not a typical Steve Spurrier team," Holtz said. "Now, I think they have a legitimate chance to win the national championship. Every day I try to come up with a different way we can win. Now I think the thought of the day I share with the staff is perhaps when Florida scores they'll put it up on the wrong side of the scoreboard."

Keep it coming, Lou.

You figure there is too much at stake for Spurrier's Gators to get lulled into a trap. Despite a sluggish start, Florida is No. 5 in this week's bowl championship series standings and still has a legitimate shot at the national title. If the Gators win Saturday, they play at Florida State next week and then in the SEC title game on Dec. 2 in Atlanta. Three wins over top opponents might give Florida a shot at the coveted No. 2 position in the BCS rankings.

RATING THE TV GAMES

The line: Florida by 14.

**** Whoa, Nellie

*** The yardwork can wait

** OK to pay bills while watching

* For XFL scouts only

** Penn State (4-6) at No. 20 Michigan (6-3), 9 a.m., ESPN.

Paterno has fewer gray hairs (52) than points Michigan gave up to Northwestern last week (54).

* The line: Michigan by 16.

** Houston (3-6) at East Carolina (5-3), 9 a.m., FSN.

Somewhere, this game means something to somebody.

* The line: East Carolina by 14 1/2.

*** Pittsburgh (5-3) at No. 2 Miami (7-1), 9 a.m., ESPN2.

Miami in a race against time and BCS computers.

* The line: Miami by 20.

** Iowa State (6-3) at Colorado (3-6), 12:30 p.m., FSN2.

Think Barnett regrets pulling up stakes in Evanston?

* The line: Colorado by 5.

*** Boston College (6-3) at No. 11 Notre Dame (6-2), 12:30 p.m., Channel 4.

Irish get a break as Eagle quarterback Hasselback will sit out game because of an injury.

* The line: Notre Dame by 9.

** Fresno State (5-3) at No. 18 Texas Christian (7-1), 12:30 p.m., FSN.

Texas Christian at a loss to explain last week's loss to San Jose State.

* The line: Texas Christian by 13.

** No. 13 Ohio State (7-2) at Illinois (5-4), 1 p.m., ESPN.

Ohio State has one eye on Illinois and the other on Michigan (Nov. 18).

* The line: Ohio State by 7.

*** Colorado State (8-1) at Air Force (6-3), 3 p.m., ESPN2.

As always in these Rocky Mountain affairs, we root for snow.

* The line: Colorado State by 3 1/2.

*** No. 4 Nebraska (8-1) at No. 16 Kansas State (8-2), 4 p.m., FSN.

Nebraska exacts revenge for face-mask wrenching 1998 defeat in Manhattan.

* The line: Nebraska by 4.

*** No. 14 Georgia (6-2) at No. 22 Auburn (7-2), 4:30 p.m., ESPN.

Auburn needs a victory to keep SEC West title hopes alive.

* The line: Auburn by 2.

*** Louisiana State (6-3) at Mississippi (6-2), 6 p.m., ESPN2.

A good SEC game in Oxford in November. What more do you want?

* The line: Mississippi by 2 1/2.

*** No. 10 Oregon State (8-1) at Arizona (5-4), 7:15 p.m., FSN.

CNN projects Oregon State win in second quarter, then has to retract.

* The line: Arizona by 1.

* Nevada (1-8) at Hawaii (1-7), 10:30 p.m., FSN2.

Based on overnight ratings, FSN re-ups Hawaii contract for an additional 50 years.

* The line: Hawaii by 13.

5 THINGS TO LOOK FOR

1. The Heisman shakedown: The trophy is Oklahoma quarterback Josh Heupel's to lose, a grass-roots campaign if there ever was one. If Oklahoma slips, Florida State quarterback Chris Weinke and Purdue quarterback Drew Brees can step up to snatch the award. Texas Christian tailback LaDainian Tomlinson's bid probably ended last week because his team lost to San Jose State, while Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch needs to beat Kansas State this weekend and win a rematch against Heupel in the Big 12 title game to restate his Heisman case.

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