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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: THE BOWL GAMES : Fill Up Your Bowl and Munch on This

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Bowl-o-rama continues today with coaches Joe Paterno of Penn State and Rich Brooks of Oregon trying not to, uh, rain on each other’s parade. And with Florida State vs. Florida in the Burt vs. Loni of bowl games. And with a character named Spike Dykes bringing in a herd of big ‘uns from the panhandle to manhandle them city slickers from USC.

For someone else today, Nebraska, the children of the corn, a party is in progress after Sunday night’s Orange Bowl outcome.

So kick back and see what happens. Right about now, the floats are lining up along the pavement of Pasadena and the grand marshal, golfer Chi Chi Rodriguez, is laboring to discern any difference between a Rose Parade and the PGA Senior Tour. (In both, more people ride than walk.)

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To the question, “Who has the best college football team in America?” I have no good answer. None. I haven’t ruled out anybody but Oregon State and Georgetown.

Mainly, I’m pleased that college football players haven’t gone out on strike.

What I do know is that we need a playoff and we need one now. There has to be a better system than the one that leads to Danny Sheridan, the lizard of odds, consulted regularly by gambling outlets CNN and USA Today, saying, “It’s unfair, but if Nebraska wins by one point and Penn State wins, 100-0, Nebraska will be voted No. 1, not Penn State.”

This is simply my opinion, but if Penn State defeats Oregon today, 100-0, several things will happen: (1) Penn State will be voted No. 1; (2) Oregon will not be voted No. 2; (3) Rich Brooks will have to buy Joe Paterno a new pair of pants; and (4) USA Today will run a phone poll, asking: “Do You Like Roses, Yes or No?”

An NCAA football tournament is a must. Paterno says so and I’m with Joe. Paterno guidance suggested. Joe thinks we should get ourselves a Final Four and slug this thing out right there on the gridiron, with Penn State, Nebraska and any two Florida schools as this season’s finalists and President Clinton still pulling for Arkansas.

This No. 1 stuff is just too arbitrary. It’s like Penn State linebacker Brian Gelzheiser (gesundheit) was saying the other day, “If one Division I team goes undefeated and another goes undefeated, how can you say one team is better than the other?”

You can’t. Gelzheiser’s Law is absolutely correct. You can’t call one undefeated team superior to another undefeated team.

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(Unless of course one of those undefeated teams is on probation for illegally shopping for socks for a recruit at Foot Locker.)

Choosing between two unbeaten teams is impossible, although some people prefer to keep things this way. To quote Arizona State’s athletic director, Charles Harris, who is on the NCAA committee that runs the Division I basketball tournament, “It’s a little like who was the better home-run hitter, Roger Maris or Babe Ruth. It’s part of the charm of the sport. I don’t think there is anything wrong with having more than one winner.”

Mr. Harris also apparently prefers having co-Presidents Clinton and Bush.

I don’t know how else to end this endless rumble except head-to-head. Who’s better? Who knows? Penn State beat USC, USC beat Washington, Washington beat Miami. Then again, remember how close Penn State came to losing to Illinois? Well, Illinois lost to Washington State, which lost to USC, which lost to Oregon. I guess that would have made Oregon about a 100-point favorite over Penn State today.

What we need is a College Super Bowl. We put the guys from Penn State around banquet tables and stick nameplates in front of them: COLLINS. CARTER. GELZHEISER. And then we stick about 10,000 media people in front of them to ask important questions, like: “How much beef at Lawry’s did you eat?” or: “This guy Penn, who WAS he?” Then we hire Michael Jackson to sing at halftime by popping out of the field like a groundhog.

A College Super Bowl could be a wonderful thing. Miami’s players would probably punch out Notre Dame’s leprechaun, while Lou Holtz would probably say that Notre Dame is like Boston College, only smaller. Alabama could make a rare visit to one of our lovely Northern or Western regions of the United States, and it would really be interesting having a Final Four to which we don’t invite Duke.

For the time being, we must settle for today’s Kellogg’s variety pack of bowl food: the USF&G; Sugar Bowl, the IBM OS/2 Fiesta Bowl, the Mobil Cotton Bowl, the We Don’t Sell Our Name to Nobody Rose Bowl, the Hall of Fame Bowl, the CompUSA Florida Citrus Bowl and the Carquest Bowl.

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I’m picking Florida, Colorado, USC, Penn State over Oregon, 100-99, and I don’t know who’s playing in the other three games.

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