Friday, November 21, 2003

Rivalries, rivalries, rivalries, all day and night, tomorrow. By evening's end, we will have a pretty good idea who will be playing Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl (and yes, even if the Sooners lose, either at TTech tomorrow or in the Big-12 Title game vs. K-State or Mizzou, they're still going), as well as seeing resolution to some friendly (and not-so-friendly) alumni wagers.

Ohio State-Michigan: The only game featuring two teams ranked in the Top 10, with the Big-10 title on the line. Jim Tressel promised OSU's fans that they would be proud of their team in this game, and he's delivered so far. By all accounts, the Maize and Blue should be the pick; they are the hottest team in the country east of the 110 Freeway, they're playing at The Big House, and they've had two years to think about being the humiliation of being the first Wolverine squad in a generation to lose consecutive games to the Buckeyes.

Ohio State is playing only their fourth road game of the season (something the NY Times computer probably didn't factor in), and fans who compared the skin-of-their-teeth victory over Purdue last Saturday with Michigan's blow-out against the same team three weeks ago can be excused for wondering how they got rated so high in the BCS. Well, as Rudy Tomjanovich (Michigan, '70) said a few years back (and repeated ad infinitum by the Zenmaster last year), "never underestimate the heart of a champion." Also, never overestimate a team qb'd by John Navarre.

UCLA-USC: It is mind-boggling how the Trojans got to be a 22-point favorite (a record for this game). I know this is hard to believe for anyone who has followed them the last couple of years, but the Bruins actually have a winning record. That is to say, more often than not this year, when they have stepped on to the field, they are more likely to outscore their opponents than to be outscored. Heard of Oklahoma? UCLA actually went to Norman and led the number one team in the country well into the second quarter. They got beat by a ton, but remember, that was the game the Sooners had one player run back three punts for touchdowns, as well as an interception-TD for good measure. Remember that team from the Bay Area, CAL? You know, the one that beat SC? I do; the one time this season I saw my alma mater play, they dominated in every category but the final score.

The Bruins have a pretty decent defense, and if they remain fired-up well into the game, they could force Matt Leinart into doing something he has yet to do: win a close one. If SC is scoreboard-watching, or looking ahead to their game against Oregon State in two weeks, they could suffer the ultimate let-down for a Pac-10 school: a berth in the Holiday Bowl.

LSU-Ole Miss: One of those SEC games that means nothing to anyone north of the Mason-Dixon line, but which is sure to attract the attention of the voters-that-Howard Dean-wants, the Confederate Flag waving, moonshine-swilling, n-word dropping demographic. This year, though, it counts to the rest of us as well, more so than whichever clowns those states just elected governor. LSU is ranked third in the polls, fourth in the BCS, but is behind the Rebels in the SEC West standings. In short, they are SC's insurance policy in case OSU wins tomorrow; if the Bayou Bengals remain in the three-hole in both polls, and if Wazzou wins the Apple Cup tomorrow, the Trojans will pass the Buckeyes.

Eli Manning should, by all accounts, be the Heisman Trophy frontrunner, prevailing where his father and brother failed, and now he gets the chance, at home, to make history. Note to SC fans: if the Buckeyes lose, than watch out for LSU; with three tough games left (assuming they win tomorrow) against very tough opponents, including Arkansas and, probably, Georgia in the SEC Championship, they could easily pass USC in the computer rankings as well.

CAL-Stanford: The Big Game. Enuff said. GO BEARS !!!


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