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Gators, other 6-5 teams crawl into bowls; Brown's Heisman edge

By Ross AtkinStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / December 10, 1987



Florida must feel a little awkward about playing in the Aloha Bowl against UCLA on Christmas Day. In losing three of their last four games the Gators didn't exactly finish the regular season in a blaze of glory. These defeats were at the hands of other bowl-bound teams (Auburn, Georgia, and Florida State), but somehow a 6-5 record doesn't seem to merit playing a 12th game. Florida isn't the only school that crawled into a bowl berth. Other 6-5 teams preparing for post-season trips are Texas, Tulane, and West Virginia. Meanwhile, Colorado, Wake Forest, and Texas-El Paso, all of which were 7-4, must be wondering why they are staying home.

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Partly, at least, the answer lies in the urgency felt by less-prominent bowls, which scramble to find the best-available opponents, even if it means courting and making early commitments to borderline teams. Then, too, certain teams and players hold the potential to produce greater numbers of spectators or TV viewers.

Florida is an alluring team because of Emmitt Smith, the sensational running back, who once led the nation with 144.43 yards a game. Smith gained his first 1,000 yards in seven games, faster than any other player, including Herschel Walker, Tony Dorsett, and Bo Jackson, ever did, and at one point even appeared to be a Heisman Trophy candidate. That was before Auburn and Georgia held him to 72 and 46 yards in back-to-back games. Still, he is something special, a fact that could heighten interest in an Aloha Bowl in which people can compare the precocious freshman with UCLA's accomplished senior tailback, Gaston Green. Briefly speaking

Although the Notre Dame mystique has taken some broadsides in recent years, the football program has never quit being a major media focus. Wide receiver and kick returner Tim Brown appeared to benefit from that attention when 1,050 voters, mostly media people, made him the seventh Notre Dame player to win the Heisman Trophy. During CBS's coverage of Saturday's trophy presentation, broadcaster Jim Nantz raised this point when he asked the new winner about the impact of playing on TV more than the other candidates. Brown fielded the question beautifully when he replied, ``I'm not going to sit here and apologize for making the decision to go to Notre Dame.''

Syracuse quarterback Don McPherson, who led his team to a perfect 11-0 season and a Sugar Bowl berth, was a distant second in the Heisman voting with 831 points compared to Brown's 1,442. McPherson didn't close the gap nearly as much as some had anticipated, but that may have been because about a third of the ballots were returned before Brown had a disappointing final game against second-ranked Miami.

An undefeated streak of historic proportions was snapped in the second round of the Division III playoffs, when Dayton handed Augustana College of Rock Is-land, Ill., its first loss since the 1982 Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl, the Division III championship game. Four-time national champion Augustana was just three games away from tying the University of Washington's all-time record of 63 straight games without defeat, set from 1907 to 1917, before Dayton burst the bubble with a 38-36 decision. Losing after being so close to a national mark had to be especially disappointing, but it doesn't undermine the hard-earned respect for the Augustana program, which coach Bob Reade believes is a key objective. ``You can have the greatest ideals in the world,'' he says, ``but people won't believe you unless you're a success.''

Elbert (Ickey) Woods of Nevada-Las Vegas knew exactly what he needed to win this year's major-college rushing title, and he managed to get it, though barely. To overtake Pittsburgh's Craig Heyward, Woods had to gain 184 yards in the Rebels' final game, against Northern Illinois. He got 186, to raise his average to 150.73 yards a game, slightly better than Heyward's 150.45 in one of the closest finishes ever.

Football bowl schedule (All times are Eastern)

Dec. 12 California - Fresno (4:30 p.m., ESPN) San Jose St. (10-1) vs. E. Mich. (9-2)

Dec. 19 Independence - Shreveport, La. (8 p.m., see local listings) Tulane (6-5) vs. Washington (6-4-1)

Dec. 22 All-American - Birmingham, Ala. (8 p.m., see local listings) BYU (8-3) vs. Virginia (7-4)

Dec. 25 Sun - El Paso, Texas (2:30 p.m., CBS) Okla. St. (9-2) vs. West Virginia (6-5) Aloha - Honolulu (3:45 p.m., ABC) Florida (6-5) vs. UCLA (9-2)

Dec. 29 Liberty - Memphis (8 p.m., see local listings) Arkansas (9-3) vs. Georgia (8-3)

Dec. 30 Freedom - Anaheim, Calif. (8 p.m., see local listings) Arizona St. (6-4-1) vs. Air Force (9-3) Holiday - San Diego (7:30 p.m., ESPN) Iowa (8-3) vs. Wyoming (10-2)

Dec. 31 Gator - Jacksonville, Fla. (2:30 p.m., CBS) South Carolina (8-3) vs. LSU (9-1-1) Bluebonnet - Houston (9 p.m., see local listings) Pittsburgh (8-3) vs. Texas (6-5)

Jan. 1 Florida Citrus - Orlando (noon, ABC) Penn State (8-3) vs. Clemson (9-2) Cotton - Dallas (1:30 p.m., CBS) Texas A&M (9-2) vs. Notre Dame (8-3) Fiesta - Tempe, Ariz. (1:30 p.m., NBC) Nebraska (10-1) vs. Florida St. (10-1) Sugar - New Orleans (3:30 p.m., ABC) Auburn (9-1-1) vs. Syracuse (11-0) Rose - Pasadena, Calif. (5 p.m., NBC) Michigan St. (8-2-1) vs. So. Calif. (8-3) Orange - Miami (8:30, NBC) Oklahoma (11-0) vs. Miami (11-0)

Jan. 2 Peach - Atlanta (1 p.m., see local listings) Tennessee (9-2-1) vs. Indiana (8-3) Hall of Fame - Tampa, Fla. (1 p.m., NBC) Alabama (7-4) vs. Michigan (7-4)