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Wednesday, January 4

   by Larry Ness - 01/04/2006

The first line of the AP story recapping last night's Orange Bowl called it a "game for the ages." What game was that reporter watching?

Did he notice the 7-0 score with just over four minutes left in the first half, before an 87-yard punt returned sparked a three-TD barrage before the break. How about the EIGHT consecutive possessions to open the second half before a team made a first down? Then, after Penn St took a 16-13 lead on a safety early in the 4th quarter, the Nittany Lions botched a snap on a 1st-and-goal at the four-yard line, losing an opportunity to go up by nine points with around eight minutes left!

Maybe he was referring to the fact that FSU had a grand total of SIX first downs before the team's game-tying drive in the fourth quarter? By the way, FSU finished with a total of 26 yards rushing and had 129 yards in penalties. The FSU kicker missed an extra-point in the first half and two FGs in overtime (there's something new for that school!).

As for Penn St, before kicking the game-winner in the third OT, its kicker missed a 29-yarder in regulation which would have won it and a 38-yarder in the 1st OT which also would have won the game! If that's a "game for the ages", let's pray tonight's Rose Bowl ISN'T!

My free play for Wednesday is the Orl Magic over the Tor Raptors at 7:05 ET. I have a HUGE play on tonight's Rose Bowl, the latest "Game of the Century!" In college hoops, it's another one of my coveted 15* plays plus a 12* CBB Underdog of the Month.

Speaking of the Rose Bowl, it's just the latest in a long line of "Games of the Century" and arguably, the biggest game since Nebraska/Oklahoma on Thanksgiving Day, 1971. If it can live up to that one, a 35-31 Nebraska win, no one will go home unsatisfied. Both teams went 12-0 this year and both average 50 PPG, making it the first time any bowl game has ever featured two teams averaging that many points.

Leinart and Bush both own Heismans and it's also the first time in college football history that Heisman-winning teammates have lined up together in the same game. Texas' Vince Young finished second to Reggie Bush, marking the FOURTH time in six years that a bowl game has featured both the Heisman winner and its runner-up. The list includes the 2001 Orange Bowl (Weinke-Heupel), the 2003 Orange Bowl (Palmer-Banks), the 2005 Orange Bowl (Leinart-Peterson) and now the 2006 Rose Bowl.

USC was just 6-6 ATS this year while Texas was 10-2, but the Trojans are a seven-point favorite and the total, which opened as high as 75, was down to 69 1/2, as of this morning.

The rest of Wednesday's sports schedule includes a nine-game NBA card and a five-game NHL slate. In college hoops, 30 games are on the menu, including 11-0 Pittsburgh (one of just SIX remaining unbeaten Division I-A schools), hosting 9-2 Notre Dame.

U Conn fell from the ranks of the unbeaten last night, losing 94-79 at Marquette, as a 10-point road favorite. Illinois (14-0), Duke and Florida (both 13-0), Ohio St (10-0) and Villanova (9-0), join Pittsburgh as college basketball's unbeatens. Pitt is favored tonight by 7 1/2 points. NFL coverage begins tomorrow.

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