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A Repeat of ’97 Would Be Quite a Feat

Hey, Missouri, wasn’t last year’s game a kick?

Nearly a year after Nebraska parlayed a once-in-a-century miracle play into a share of the national title, the schools reunite in Lincoln.

If Nebraska wanted to further rile Missouri, the Cornhuskers would come out for warmups wearing soccer uniforms.

Backdrop: Leading, 38-31, last Nov. 8 in Columbia, Missouri appeared headed for a major upset. But with seven seconds left and the ball at the Missouri 12, Nebraska quarterback Scott Frost fired a pass to receiver Shevin Wiggins. Wiggins bobbled the ball at the goal line but, as he was falling down, kicked it back over his head. Matt Davison, minding his own business, scooped the ball up before it hit the ground. Not exactly the way then-coach Tom Osborne had drawn it up.

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The Cornhuskers won in overtime, 45-38.

Nebraska dropped from No. 1 to No. 3 in both polls after the “win,” but recovered to win a share of the national title.

“It was a strange feeling,” Missouri Coach Larry Smith said this week. “We knew that we had lost the game, but we weren’t beaten, that’s basically the way to put it.”

Smith has gone, oh, minutes without thinking of last year’s game, confessing the the biggest mistake he made was winning the overtime toss and electing to go on defense. That’s the rule of thumb, but Missouri’s defense was still in shock.

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Nebraska scored in three plays in overtime, held on defense and stormed away with the luckiest win in school history.

Both schools enter Saturday’s game somewhat suspect. Missouri led Ohio State at the half before losing, 35-14, and quarterback Corby Jones has been hobbled by injury.

Nebraska nearly lost to Oklahoma State on Oct. 3 before losing the next week to Texas A&M;, 28-21.

Whither the Cornhuskers? Nebraska rebounded for a 41-0 win last week over Kansas, boasts a 45-game home winning streak and still has designs on getting back into the national title race.

Line: Nebraska by 19.

Rating the TV Games

RATINGS

RATINGS

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**** Don’t leave the recliner

*** The yardwork can wait

** OK to flip to fishing show.

* For arena football scouts only

** Indiana (3-3) at Michigan (4-2), 9 a.m., ESPN

After allowing chunks of yards in losses to option quarterbacks Jarious Jackson and Donovan McNabb, Wolverine defense braces for Hoosiers’ Antwaan Randle-El.

Line: Michigan by 14.

** No. 1 Ohio State (6-0) at Northwestern (2-5), 9 a.m., ESPN2

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Plan to have squads from banner 1995 season play instead quashed by bureaucratic red tape and eligibility concerns.

Line: Ohio State by 27 1/2.

** Army (2-4) at No. 18 Notre Dame (4-1), 11:30, Channel 4

After nearly replacing “Here Come the Irish” with reruns of “Friends” last year, NBC orders five more episodes of Notre Dame football.

Line: Notre Dame by 25.

** Alabama (4-2) at No. 2 Tennessee (5-0), 12:30, Channel 2

What looks like an exciting, storied, epic battle between traditional SEC powers is actually a Tennessee wipeout waiting to happen.

Line: Tennessee by 17 1/2.

** East Carolina (4-2) at Southern Mississippi (3-3), 12:30 p.m., FSW

After Oct. 3 loss to Tulane, Southern Mississippi hasn’t missed in wins over Louisville and Army.

Line: Southern Mississippi by 9.

** No. 24 Mississippi State (5-1) at Louisiana State (3-3), 3 p.m., ESPN2

During halftime, LSU proudly accepts a third-consecutive ESPY for “Team most likely to disappoint.”

Line: LSU by 8.

*** No. 6 Florida State (6-1) at No. 20 Georgia Tech (5-1), 4 p.m., ESPN

Seminoles travel to Atlanta to take back what’s rightfully theirs--first place in the ACC.

Line: Florida State by 12 1/2.

** Baylor (2-4) at Texas (4-2), 4 p.m, FX

Ricky Williams continues his assault on Tony Dorsett’s NCAA rushing record; Baylor continues its assault on mediocrity.

Line: Texas by 16 1/2.

** No. 17 Colorado (6-1) at Kansas (2-5), 4 p.m. FSW

Using time-lapse photography, scientists chart Rick Neuheisel’s inchworm offense as it works its way toward field-goal range.

Line: Colorado by 7 1/2.

* New Mexico (2-4) at Hawaii (0-6), 9 p.m., FSW2

Fred vonAppen’s Hawaii squad is vonRotten, making this trip to the islands von big waste of time.

Line: New Mexico by 7.

5 Things To Look For

1. A police blotter report from Morgantown, W.Va. A few weeks after home fans were penalized for throwing whiskey bottles on the field during a game, West Virginia thought it would be good idea to honor the school’s 1998 NCAA championship rifle team at halftime of Saturday’s game against Miami. Whiskey and guns? Let’s hope those muskets aren’t loaded.

2. Justin Fargas getting the start for Michigan against Indiana. It was an impressive showing last Saturday for three Southern California tailbacks--Fargas, DeShaun Foster and Reuben Droughns. Only Fargas, however, escaped without injury. The former Notre Dame High star gained 120 yards in 31 carries against Northwestern.

3. A ray of hope. Four of the five remaining winless Division I-A schools--Kent, Nevada Las Vegas, Hawaii and Vanderbilt--have a chance to win this weekend. Kent plays at 1-5 Bowling Green, UNLV is at 2-5 Southern Methodist, Hawaii hosts 2-5 New Mexico and Vanderbilt hosts 1-6 South Carolina. What about 0-6 Cincinnati? The Bearcats should be 0-7 after a loss to 5-1 Miami of Ohio.

4. Notre Dame’s march to Pasadena. After an open date, the 4-1 Irish begin a four-game stretch against Army (2-4), Baylor (2-4), Boston College (3-3) and Navy (2-4). With the Rose Bowl possibly losing No. 1 Ohio State and/or No. 2 UCLA to the Fiesta Bowl, Notre Dame would be attractive compensation. Note: If it comes down to a choice between a 10-1 Notre Dame and 11-0 Wisconsin for one slot, the Rose would be compelled to take the Badgers despite protestations.

5. The fine print in Terry Bowden’s contract. If the 1-5 Auburn coach doesn’t beat high-octane Louisiana Tech on Saturday, word is Bowden’s job may be in jeopardy. Hard to believe for a man who won his first 20 games at Auburn.

CHRIS DUFRESNE’S TOP 25

1. Ohio State (6-0): To hype Heisman chances, Germaine tries to get stomach flu for Northwestern game.

2. UCLA (5-0):Pac-10 office orders all UCLA centers to come equipped with airline vomit bags.

3. Tennessee (5-0): Team suspects Vol-hater Spurrier is lone coach who cast No. 1 vote for UCLA.

4. Florida State (6-1): Looks like another ho-hum, one-loss, top-five finish.

5. Florida (6-1): To address team’s fumbling problem, Spurrier meets with rep from Velcro industry.

6. Texas A&M; (6-1): Tell us, why are Aggies ranked below Nebraska in all those other polls?

7. Nebraska (6-1): Still trying to pick up pieces after 41-0 win over Kansas.

8. Kansas State (6-0): Rankman getting back to “Dear Idiot” e-mail just as fast as an idiot can.

9. Wisconsin (7-0): Hey, the 7-0 Badgers of 1912 couldn’t pass a lick, either.

10. Penn State (5-1): Linebacker combo of Short and Arrington could stop water from running.

11. Oregon (5-1): Because of nitwits at ABC, only 18% of nation saw your heartbreaking effort against UCLA.

12. Georgia (5-1): Champ Bailey vs. Tim Couch a great Heisman showdown . . . three weeks ago.

13. Arizona (6-1): Only Pac-10/Big Ten school never to have gone to Rose Bowl gets bumped by Irish? Stay tuned.

14. Notre Dame (4-1): At emergency meeting, Rose Bowl changes this year’s parade theme to “the Leprechaun.”

15. Colorado (6-1): After winning three Big 12 games by two points, Neuheisel installs three-point line to increase scoring.

16. West Virginia (4-1): FYI: Other Virginias headed south in poll for the winter.

17. Arkansas (6-0): Picked to finish last in SEC West by conference media and Linda Tripp.

18. Tulane (5-0): Please, Tommy, take the Oklahoma job before they give it back to that bootlegger’s son!

19. Syracuse (4-2): “McNabb for Heisman” T-shirts on sale in book store for $1.99.

20. Mississippi State (5-1): Hmmm. Bulldogs must have slipped into poll while Rankman was out getting the mail.

21. Georgia Tech (5-1): To better understand Florida State, defense gives up 600 yards in last week’s Virginia win.

22. Virginia (5-1): Oops, we were two weeks early in predicting this collapse.

23. Texas Tech (6-1): To avoid further confusion, Ricky Williams legally changes name to Cade McNown.

24. Missouri (5-1): Show-me school ready to kick some last-second Nebraska behind.

25: USC (5-2): Yankees sweep World Series, but Paul Hackett still insists Padres are the better team.

THE OTHER GAMES

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FAVORITE LINE UNDERDOG at Washington 16 1/2 OregonSt. at Arizona 33 NELouisiana at Boston College 14 Navy at Duke 2 1/2 Clemson Tulane 19 at Rutgers at Marshall 30 Ball St. Toledo 6 atAkron W. Michigan 4 at Cent. Michigan at Bowling Green 20 Kent North Carolina 4 atWakeForest at Virginia 10 1/2 N.CarolinaSt. at Purdue 25 Illinois at Texas A&M; 9 TexasTech Miami, Ohio 14 atCincinnati at BYU 18 1/2 SanJoseSt. at Colorado St. 13 1/2 TCU at Louisville 13 Memphis Wisconsin 6 1/2 atIowa at Kansas St. 34 1/2 IowaSt. at Wyoming 7 1/2 Rice Air Force 11 atTulsa at SMU 20 UNLV at West Virginia 4 1/2 Miami Michigan St. 7 atMinnesota at E. Michigan 10 1/2 Illinois Georgia 1 at Kentucky at Oklahoma St. 9 Oklahoma South Carolina 7 atVanderbilt Utah 2 1/2 atSanDiegoSt. at Fresno St. 10 1/2 Texas ElPaso at Auburn 7 1/2 LouisianaTech at Mississippi 26 ArkansasSt. Virginia Tech 21 atAla. Birm. Houston 3 1/2 atNorthTexas Central Florida 26 atSWLouisiana at Boise St. 2 UtahSt.

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