Relax, Nebraska: Fla. State has done its share of choking

December 30, 1993|By Phil Jackman

The TV Repairman:

Now that everyone, including ricksaw drivers in downtown Saigon, has cashed in on the opportunity to skewer Nebraska and its claim that it belongs in the "National Championship" game at the Orange Bowl New Year's Day, it's time to review the credentials of the opponent, Florida State.

Say what you will about the Seminoles, and the oddsmakers have, installing them as a 17-point favorite, but FSU has been in monster contests before . . . and choked. Choked hugely, in fact, the last time being just six weeks ago.

Let's speculate and allow that all the favorites in the major bowls Saturday are victorious and Florida State and Notre Dame finish with 12-1 records with Nebraska and West Virginia a step behind at 11-1. So which team figures to get a unanimous vote for the mythical title?

But, wait, isn't an on-the-field clash the ideal way to determine No. 1, and weren't the Irish the team that smacked the Seminoles much more solidly than the final tally of 31-24 indicates?

Any arguments against N.D. drawing strong consideration for the top spot should they join other teams with one loss because it lost to Boston College are ridiculous. If they end with at least as many victories as anyone else after having beaten a team (FSU) that was erroneously being touted as among the best ever in college ball, the Irish have a valid claim to at least a draw.

* In case you're new at this gig and assuming you don't have three TV sets at your disposal, here's a game plan for Saturday viewing:

It's dangerous to whet the appetite for football viewing by watching a football game. What makes this true is the throwaway game might be a better contest than the long-anticipated big showdown. Such is hardly the case with the Hall of Fame Bowl pitting Michigan and North Carolina State, but you never can tell. Warm up the tube by watching either a rodeo on TNN (The Nashville Network) or the Fiesta and Rose parades in the late morning.

The Fiesta and Citrus bowls at 1 p.m. are a toss-up, Miami vs. Arizona in the former and Penn State vs. Tennessee in the latter being dream matchups for fans tired of runaways and 39-38 games.

A half-hour behind these games, affording the audience the opportunity to see the conclusion of the B.C.-Virginia game, is the Carquest Bowl. Anyone able to name the previous name/sponsor of this "classic" knows his video stores.

Just as at 1 o'clock, NBC and ABC go head-to-head again at 4 p.m., Notre Dame playing Texas A&M on its network (NDBC) in the Cotton Bowl and Wisconsin taking on UCLA in the Rose for the pleasure of broadcaster Keith Jackson.

The Orange Bowl, Nebraska-Florida State on NBC, gets a half-hour head start at 8 p.m. on the Sugar Bowl, West Virginia vs. Florida, the folks at ABC perhaps thinking that it should take much more time than that for the Seminoles to have the game completely under control.

The real pro (alias channel switcher) always knows when to flip to another game. For instance, when Arizona, Penn State, Texas A&M or Nebraska has the ball.

Of course, a large portion of these suggestions fly out the window if there's a jump-rope aficianado in the house because ESPN is carrying the Double Dutch national championship at 2:30 p.m. and it's a barnburner.

* Wait a minute, it took ESPN2 three months to figure out that young men, its target group, were not home watching television on Friday and Saturday nights? Consequently, the Deuce's "SportsNight" is switching from prime time to 5-6:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday -- obviously for all you young dudes with tellys in your limos during drive time.

* Hey, wait another minute! The United States winning the Ryder Cup from Europe over three tough days of competition got fewer votes than Jeff King winning the Iditarod in balloting for Associated Press Sports Story of the Year?

* After 17 weeks and 15 games apiece, just a dozen of the 28 teams in the NFL have been eliminated from playoff consideration, a situation the NHL could have set up for pro football years ago had it been contacted.

As opposed to phony-hype showdowns between wretched teams with .500 records for that last wild-card spot, however, CBS gives us a jewel Sunday at 1 p.m.: the Giants and Cowboys match 11-4 records for the NFC East title, the home-field advantage throughout January and the sworn duty to pour a huge bucket of water over the winning coach in 20-degree weather.

All the other NFL games on the weekend, beginning with tomorrow's 3 p.m. clash between the Vikings and Redskins on CBS and ending (finally) with the Eagles at the 49ers on ABC's "Monday Night Football," have slight playoff implications. Which we no doubt will be made fully aware of at least 50 times by announcers strapped for anything else to say.

* As happens annually, a couple of broadcasters got into the college-football-should-have-a-playoff discussion, ESPN's Gary Danielson leading the way by saying there's "a need for a 16-team" format.

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