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Bowl bet: Take the over in boredom

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Back by popular demand (mine) are this year's bow predictions, and it cannot be overstressed, under penalty of fine, incarceration or both, that in no way, shape or form is the inside information and expert opinions expressed herein to be purloined for the purpose of wagering. Hang tough, gang, Keno is just around the corner.

Between 8 o'clock this evening and midnight Friday, a skein of just 76 hours, 15 games will be played, most of which will probably be a dim memory by the time the NFL playoff wild-card games cue up early Saturday afternoon.

As per usual, dress is casual during viewing, which includes pajamas until at least the start of the Rose Bowl game New Year's Day.

TONIGHT . . . Copper Bowl: Washington State (8-3) vs. Utah (6-5). Cougars have a quarterback, Drew Bledsoe, and that should certainly be enough against a team that proved to be the only victory on 1-10 Texas-El Paso's dance card. But wait, what if Bledsoe proves to be no better than another Pullman product playing hereabouts, Mark Rypien, has been lately?

Freedom Bowl: Southern Cal (6-4-1) vs. Fresno State (8-4). Word has it that the question the producer, Raycom, will be putting to the audience at halftime on its 900 number is, "Should the football be inflated to 14 pounds of air pressure?" The over/under on this one is 62 points, so at least there will be some exciting plays to watch on news highlight shows.

TOMORROW . . . Holiday Bowl: Illinois (6-4-1) vs. Hawaii (10-2). Any team that lost to Northwestern at its homecoming, as the Illini did, should be campused, not frolicking in San Diego. The Rainbows from here to Molokai.

THURSDAY . . . Independence Bowl (yes, the Poulan Weed-Eater Bowl): Wake Forest vs. Oregon. OK, I'll be the one to ask, who cares who wins this one? Someone started a pool in the office in which participants were asked to predict when the Demon Deacons and Ducks would next meet and the earliest date was 2063.

John Hancock Bowl: Arizona vs. Baylor. Wasn't this the prestigious and tradition-bound Sun Bowl at one time? No wonder they're hiding it in the middle of the afternoon Thursday. Clearly, this is one of those games where you don't toss out the record book, you toss out the TV.

Gator Bowl: Florida (8-4) vs. North Carolina State (9-2-1). The Gators finished third in the state, blew the SEC title, got hammered by conference also-rans Tennessee and Mississippi State and got belted by underdog Notre Dame in last year's Sugar Bowl. Why are they still playing? Word in Gainesville is the team can't return until it wins a game.

Liberty Bowl: Air Force (7-4) vs. Mississippi (8-3). Another one of those look-what-the-cat-dragged-in matchups. Is this the bowl Navy has a one-third chance of hosting if it can beat out the Fly Boys and Infantry? Shocking. The Falcs will triumph through the simple experience of trying harder.

NEW YEAR'S DAY . . . Hall of Fame Bowl: Boston College (8-2-1) vs. Tennessee (8-3). Folks have been waiting for a replay of the 1941 Sugar Bowl between these guys for decades, only they didn't know it. B.C. won, 19-13, but the Vols will reverse that with at least a touchdown to spare.

Cotton Bowl: Texas A&M; vs. Notre Dame. Do you want to know the real reason why the bowl committee in Dallas didn't want a rematch of last year's Aggies-Florida State fiasco? The score was 10-2, Seminoles, and there were 13 turnovers in the game. Meanwhile the Irish are the lower-rated team, but favored by four points, which tells you something about the Southwest Conference, doesn't it?

Florida Citrus Bowl: Georgia (9-2) vs. Ohio State (8-2-1). A game likely to interest only loyal alums, but Garrison Hearst of the Dawgs with his 1,547 yards rushing is certainly worth a peek. Georgia's two losses were by five points, the Buckeyes only six; otherwise, these guys might have been playing elsewhere and for a much larger check. Dawgs by two.

Blockbuster Bowl: Penn State (7-4) vs. Stanford (9-3). Forget the squeamish feeling of unworthiness you get knowing you're watching an unqualified genius at work, Cardinal Bill Walsh. Enjoy the spiffy uniforms of the Nittany Lions and try to figure out if Joe Paterno will wear a white or blue oxford button-down shirt. State by a whisker.

Fiesta Bowl: Syracuse (9-2) vs. Colorado (9-1-1). I suppose you could say the Orangemen will be looking to uphold the reputation of Eastern football if there is any such thing now that University Park, Pa., is considered to be in the Midwest. Hopefully, Colorado's bison mascot is field broken by now; otherwise, he makes for a slippery field. 'Cuse by a deuce.

Orange Bowl: Nebraska (9-2) vs. Florida State (10-1). Once, just once, it should be incumbent upon the Cornhuskers to recognize their duty and act accordingly, refusing the invitation to get stampeded in Miami. They got shut out by Miami last year, 20-0, but this one won't be as close.

Rose Bowl: Michigan (8-0-3) vs. Washington (9-2). Oh boy, "the granddaddy" of them all, a game that had national championship written all over it a while back gone to pot. Pity. Oh well, the schools and conferences will have to content themselves with the $13 million payoff. As everybody knows, the Wolverines rarely win a game staged west of the Mississippi, but the Huskies were remiss in not asking for a continuance after winning their first eight games. Sorry, Michigan, another tie.

Sugar Bowl: Alabama (12-0) vs. Miami (11-0). If the truth be known, the Hurricanes were tended a wild-card bid to the NFL playoffs. So was Notre Dame, but it said the TV contract was insufficient. There was a rumor Keith Jackson would not be doing the battle of No. 1 and No. 2 for ABC but, fortunately, it's erroneous. So go to it, horse.

SATURDAY . . . Peach Bowl: North Carolina (8-3) vs. Mississippi State (7-4) in one of those "another bout will follow the main event" matchups. So don't ask why the game goes Jan. 2, just enjoy or avoid. State coach Jackie Sherrill is said to be arranging for the team to sit in on an operation to remove corns, bunions, spurs and tar from a guy's feet to get them revved for action. Probably going to be a good game with the Bulldogs defense proving too tough.

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