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Duel of the place-kickers; Illini rebound; Michigan QB shines

When it comes to kicking extra points, Alabama's Van Tiffin is about as automatic as they come. He has booted 130 in a row to break the old NCAA record of 125 set by Oklahoma's Uwe von Schamann from 1976 to 1978. Ah, but right behind Tiffin is another Sooner, Tim Lashar, who has run his streak to 129 straight conversions with 11 extra points in Oklahoma's 77-0 obliteration of Missouri.

Both Lashar and Tiffin are seniors with two regular-season games remaining, and which one emerges with the career record basically comes down to which team scores the most touchdowns. Alabama meets Temple and Auburn, while Oklahoma faces Colorado and Nebraska. Illinois clamps down, but so does Indiana

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Michigan coach Bo Schembechler seemed to be speaking through his cap when he said, ``Illinois is capable of a big defensive effort.'' The Illini certainly didn't produce one in losing to Michigan, 69-13. Then again, maybe Bo was right, because last week Illinois upset 16th-ranked Iowa, 20-16. ``It almost feels like we won the national championship,'' said Illini coach Mike White after his team's third win of the season. ``I don't know if there's a victory that's felt better since I've been here.''

The euphoria could be short lived if Illinois doesn't brace itself for Saturday's game against Indiana, which is 6-3 and assured of its first winning season since 1980. Winless just two years ago, the Hoosiers have made such rapid progress under coach Bill Mallory that his contract has been extended three years. Mallory has stabilized the program and solidified the defense, which last week held Michigan State four times inside the 10-yard line without yielding a point. Briefly speaking

While everybody gushes over the spectacular play of Miami's Vinny Testaverde, a Heisman shoo-in, some people have overlooked Michigan quarterback Jim Harbaugh. He too is having quite a season and is right off Testaverde's shoulder in the national ratings for passing efficiency. Harbaugh actually has a better completion percentage (66.49) and more yards per completion (10.45). Best of all as far as coach Schembechler is concerned, Michigan has gone unbeaten in its last 15 games behind Harbaugh, the longest current, major-college streak in the nation. The second-ranked Wolverines square off Nov. 22 with Ohio State to determine which school represents the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl.

A long, spiraling punt is a thing of beauty, and more and more players seem to be arching the skies with these visual treats. Proper technique certainly helps, and when the ball lands on hard, artificial-turf surfaces, the punter's average can get a lift from a good roll. Both factors have perhaps contributed to the wealth of long-distance punters in today's game. Eight are averaging better than 44 yards a punt, led by Michigan State's Greg Montgomery, who transferred from Penn State. The Spartan junior launched a 86-yarder against the wind earlier this season and owns a 47.82-yard average.

After UCLA's loss to Stanford paved the way for Arizona State to make its first-ever trip to the Rose Bowl, UCLA athletic director Pete Dalis summed up the Bruins' bowl situation thus: ``We're going to have a bowl of cereal tomorrow.''

Quarterback Kerwin Bell has been pure magic for the Florida Gators. Two weeks ago he led Florida to a wild, come-from-behind victory over highly ranked Auburn. Last Saturday it was more of the same, as he completed 20 of 31 passes and helped the Gators erase a 16-3 deficit and beat Georgia, 31-19. His heroics are reminiscent of another Florida signal caller, Steve Spurrier, the 1966 Heisman Trophy winner.

The oldest rivalry in the South also happens to be one of the best. Georgia and Auburn have played 89 times since 1892, and the bragging rights have been sliced right down the middle, with the teams even at 41-41-7. They go at it again tomorrow in a nationally televised ESPN game (7:45 Eastern time).

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Storm warning: The Miami Hurricanes play host to the Tulsa Golden Hurricane on Saturday. Top-ranked Miami is expected to win fairly easily in a reversal of their only other match-up. That occurred in 1944, with Tulsa sweeping the Floridians off their feet, 48-2.

By the time LSU and Mississippi State take the field Saturday evening, the turf at Mississippi Memorial Stadium in Jackson should be fairly torn up. That's because the Tennessee-Mississippi game will be played at the same facility several hours earlier. The two-game format (not really a doubleheader because of separate admissions) hasn't been used at Jackson since 1977, but it had become something of a biennial tradition before that.

Both games could have a bearing on the Southeastern Conference championship, with LSU (6-2) and Mississippi (6-2-1) both in contention. The Ole Miss Rebels, however, beat LSU last weekend, 21-19, and could lock up at least a tie for their first league title since 1963 with two season-ending victories. If they get by Tennessee, the last hurdle will be Mississippi State back in Jackson. In a strange scheduling quirk, Ole Miss doesn't have to play two of the other conference contenders, Alabama and Auburn.

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