Originally created 11/18/99

College picks: Florida State-Florida is about national titles

Unlike some of Saturday's rivalry games, Florida-Florida State needs no gimmick. It's not The Game or the Big Game or the Apple Cup. There are no barrels, baskets or buckets on the line, either.

When the top-ranked Seminoles (10-0) and third-ranked Gators (9-1) meet in The Swamp, they'll play for one prize -- a ticket to the national championship game.

In four of the past six seasons, the Florida-Florida State winner has played for the national title. The teams even met for the title in the Sugar Bowl after the Seminoles beat the Gators in the '96 regular season.

Florida State won its only national title in 1993, while Florida won its championship in '96.

"We are looking forward to the game, a typical game," Gators coach Steve Spurrier said. "FSU is usually 10-0 or 9-1, we are usually 9-1. We have been 10-0 a couple times coming into it. Each team has an opportunity to keep on going in the national picture."

If the Seminoles win, they are a virtual lock to finish first in the final BCS standings, which determine the teams in its national title game (the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 4). If the Gators win, they would then need to win the SEC title game on Dec. 4 to put themselves in a strong position to play for another championship.

OK, OK. The winner get the Governor's Cup, but so do lots of other games between state rivals.

The Seminoles seem to have the edge, at least at quarterback. Chris Weinke has thrown for 2,840 yards and 24 touchdowns, including six last week against Maryland. He lines up against the Gators for the first time.

"Hands down, it's the biggest game of my career," said Weinke, who missed the final few games of last season with a neck injury.

The Gators counter with Doug Johnson -- and Jesse Palmer. A cranky Spurrier indicated this week Johnson will start, but Palmer will play, too. The two may even alternate every play, just like Johnson and Noah Brindise did when the Gators beat the 'Noles 32-29 in '97.

Johnson has thrown for 2,360 yards and 19 TDs, but has just three TD passes -- and five interceptions -- in the Gators' last five games. In last week's 20-3 win over South Carolina, Johnson sat and Palmer played the whole game.

While the Seminoles are counting on an offense featuring wide receiver Peter Warrick, the Gators are hoping their defense will come through. The Gators give up 17.1 points a game and the rushing defense is fourth nationally at 71.6 yards a game.

Several other rivalry games will decide conference titles and major bowl bids.

In the Big Game, Stanford (6-3, 6-1) needs a win over California (4-6, 3-4) to clinch the Pac-10 title and a Rose Bowl berth against Wisconsin.

The Cardinal have won the last four meetings, and in '98 knocked Cal out of a bowl berth with a 10-3 win.

If Cal wins, then Oregon or Washington could earn a trip to Pasadena. Oregon State visits Oregon in the Civil War, and Washington State is at Washington for the Apple Cup.

Also, No. 8 Alabama (8-2, 6-1 SEC) is at Auburn (5-5, 2-5) in the Iron Bowl needing a win over its rival to earn a trip to the league title game against Florida; and No. 19 Purdue (6-4, 3-4 Big Ten) visits Indiana (4-6, 3-4) for the Old Oaken Bucket.

The picks:

No. 1 Florida State (minus 3 1/2 ) at No. 3 Florida
Visiting team last won in '93, when 'Noles won at The Swamp. ... FLORIDA STATE, 27-21.

No. 2 Virginia Tech (minus 29) at Temple
Hokies set to gobble up Owls after last year's shocking loss. ... VIRGINIA TECH, 52-14.

No. 7 Tennessee (minus 12 1/2 ) at Kentucky
Vols have won last 14 meetings. ... TENNESSEE, 31-24.

No. 8 Alabama (minus 3 1/2 ) at Auburn
'Bama needs win to get to SEC title game; Tigers need win to be bowl eligible. ... AUBURN, 27-24.

Missouri (plus 24) at No. 9 Kansas State
K-State takes out frustrations on disappointing Tigers. ... KANSAS STATE, 38-10.

Ohio State (plus 12 1/2 ) at No. 10 Michigan
Buckeyes have chance to knock Wolverines out of BCS game. ... MICHIGAN, 34-14.

No. 12 Mississippi State (plus 7) at No. 22 Arkansas
Bulldogs need win to keep slim SEC title hopes alive. ... ARKANSAS, 27-17.

No. 13 Penn State (plus 1 1/2 ) at No. 15 Michigan State
Hey JoePa, let QB Rashard Casey play! ... PENN STATE, 31-30.

No. 14 Georgia Tech (minus 10) at Wake Forest
Tech put up 63 points against Wake in '98. ... GEORGIA TECH, 45-28.

No. 21 Georgia (plus 5 1/2 ) at No. 16 Mississippi
Rebels looking for eighth win under David Cutcliffe, former Vols assistant ... MISSISSIPPI, 27-24.

No. 17 Minnesota (minus 20) at Iowa
Golden Gophers set to close out sensational season with a big win. ... MINNESOTA, 41-17.

No. 18 Southern Mississippi (minus 4 1/2 ) at Louisville
Winner clinches Liberty Bowl berth as C-USA's rep. ... LOUISVILLE, 35-28.

Utah (plus 6 1/2 ) at No. 19 BYU
Cougars need win to clinch inaugural Mountain West title and trip to Liberty Bowl. ... BYU, 34-24.

No. 19 Purdue (minus 12) at Indiana
For the Old Oaken Bucket. ... PURDUE, 35-21.

North Carolina State (plus 8 1/2 ) at No. 23 East Carolina
Pirates QB David Garrard up against a tough pass defense. ... EAST CAROLINA, 31-21.

No. 25 Boston College (plus 9 1/2 ) at Notre Dame
Have the Irish given up? ... NOTRE DAME, 31-24.

-- -- --

Last week: 14-5 (straight up); 9-8 (vs. points)

Season: 154-43 (straight up); 105-92-1 (vs. points)


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