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Plenty At Stake On Rivalry Day

Sat., Nov. 22, 1997

This is the way it should be on the Saturday before Thanksgiving: UCLA having to beat USC for a chance at a Rose Bowl entry pass, Michigan needing to whack Ohio State to move within a victory of its first national title since 1948, Washington State having to put a media quarantine on its players after receiver Chris Jackson said of Washington, “We’re going to kill them …”

The only bump on Florida State’s road to a national title game in the Orange Bowl is supposed to be Florida, coached by antagonist/ genius Steve Spurrier, who denied the Seminoles the title last year.

“We don’t like them, they don’t like us; it should be a heck of a game,” Spurrier said.

Auburn is 8-2, fighting for a spot in an alliance bowl, but has never been more fearful of a 4-6 team than it is of Alabama.

It’s all on the line: conference titles, Victory Bells, Apple Cups, Governor’s Cups, Old Oaken Buckets, Beer Barrels, egos, reputations, jobs, pride.

In Columbus, Ohio State coach John Cooper almost blew a gasket when Buckeye receiver David Boston said of Michigan star cornerback Charles Woodson, “He ain’t no Shawn Springs.” Boston then boldly predicted a landslide Ohio State victory.

Them’s fightin’ words

Mark Blaudschun of the Boston Globe takes Notre Dame to task for seeking a bowl game with, at best, a 7-5 record:

It’s amazing how a team’s perception can change in a year. Last year Notre Dam, fresh from a stunning 27-20 loss to Southern California, finished with a somewhat respectable 8-3 record.

But when someone mentioned a bowl game, the Irish said, no thanks.

Fast-forward to this week. Notre Dame, buried by just about everyone after a 1-4 start, has risen like a phoenix the past several weeks. With two games remaining - today against West Virginia and next week in Hawaii - the Irish can finish with a somewhat respectable 7-5 record, and … here’s where perception comes into play … go to a bowl game.

What bowl? Well, let’s see, there’s the tradition-bound Motor City Bowl, in its first year of existence in Pontiac, Mich. There’s the Independence Bowl in beautiful Shreveport, La. There’s the Bowl in Tucson, Ariz. And there’s the Liberty Bowl in Memphis.

Is that prestige or what? What about quality opponents, another former Notre Dame criterion? Well, Marshall, Toledo, Southern Mississippi, Mississippi, and Air Force are some of the likely candidates.

It all comes down to perception. When you are hungry for a postseason game, you are not as choosy about the menu.

Flag the conference, not the teams

This week is the 100th anniversary of The Big Game, the San Francisco Bay area showdown between California and Stanford.

As part of the festivities, officials from both schools wanted to stage an elaborate halftime show that would last 30 minutes, 10 minutes longer than the NCAA’s mandated halftime.

The schools asked the Pacific-10 for an exemption and were turned down.

So both teams plan to come out of the locker room 10 minutes late. As the home team, Stanford will be assessed a 15-yard penalty. California will decline, and the second half will get under way.

USC has plenty on line, too

Seventh-ranked UCLA and its high-octane offense can reach the Rose Bowl by beating USC today, but only if Washington State loses to Washington.

This is a game that has more angles than a hexagon - not the least of which is John Robinson’s future as USC’s coach, five seasons after coming back to USC talking about a return to glory.

Robinson, took matters into his own hands in October by saying he would resign after the season if the Trojans didn’t turn things around.

Decision time is arriving, and an ugly loss by the Trojans would erase much of the momentum from winning four of five since Robinson’s speech.

But with a victory, the Trojans would be 7-4, with victories over Notre Dame and UCLA for the first time since 1981.

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