SUNDAY 12/29

NFC Wild Card Game

When the San Francisco 49ers last won a Super Bowl (1995) their
top rusher was Ricky Watters and their defensive coordinator was
Ray Rhodes. Watters and Rhodes are now with the Philadelphia
Eagles--Rhodes as head coach--and they return to their former
Bay Area haunts to face the Niners in the weekend's best NFL
playoff matchup. Watters (right) is All-World brash, but his
legs move even faster than his mouth: He led the NFC in total
yards (1,855) in '96. To win, the 49ers, headed by ferocious
defensive tackle Bryant Young, must eighty-six number 32.



Wake Forest at Utah

Here's a New Year's Eve twist: Tune in and watch the ball being
tossed up instead of dropped. Celebrate two highly ranked teams
and their 6'10" senior All-Americas--Tim Duncan, the center for
the Demon Deacons, and Keith Van Horn, a forward for the Utes.
Van Horn (right) is a deadly perimeter shooter, while inside
force Duncan has blocked at least one shot in every college game
he's ever played. Wake gets an edge thanks to forward Ricky
Peral, a 6'10" banger who will make Van Horn work hard for his

ESPN, 9:30 PM


Citrus Bowl

Who do you suppose will come out first, Tennessee's Peyton
Manning or ABC's Ellen DeGeneres? Today's game against 9-2
Northwestern could be the final Volunteer effort for Manning,
Tennessee's heralded junior quarterback (20 touchdown passes in
1996) and possible top pick in next April's NFL draft. By game's
end Manning and the 9-2 Vols will be well acquainted with
Wildcats senior linebacker Pat Fitzgerald, winner of his second
Bronko Nagurski Award as the nation's best defensive player. If
Northwestern has any Cinderella charm remaining from '95, you
have to like its chances in Orlando.


Rose Bowl

The granddaddy of 'em all may produce the national champion if
11-0 Arizona State beats 10-1 Ohio State in Pasadena and Florida
State loses to Florida in the Sugar Bowl. The Sun Devils are led
by quarterback Jake (the Snake) Plummer, who in October on this
same field passed for one touchdown, ran for another and caught
a third--all in the fourth quarter--in a 42-34 defeat of UCLA.
Blocking Arizona State's path is Buckeyes offensive tackle
Orlando Pace (left), whom SI's Tim Layden calls "the nation's
best college football player."

ABC, 4:30 PM


Sugar Bowl

Florida-Florida State, the Rematch--with an unofficial national
title at stake. On Nov. 30 in Tallahassee, Danny Wuerffel, the
Gators' Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, was sacked six times
and knocked down 20 more as the Seminoles (11-0) vaulted to the
top of the national rankings with a 24-21 win. Another such
mauling of Wuerffel, in prime time no less, could elicit a TV-14
rating. If Florida (11-1 for the season but 1-2 in Sugar Bowls
under coach Steve Spurrier) hopes to win in New Orleans, the
Gators must keep Danny off his fanny. On offense Florida State
will rely on fluid senior tailback Warrick Dunn (185 yards
rushing in the first game).



If you've had your fill of football, an antidote is to tune in
to CBS's Too Hot to Skate on Jan. 4 at 8 p.m. For this
exhibition, sequined Olympic gold medalists Oksana Baiul, Scott
Hamilton and Katarina Witt headline the show from Caesars Palace
in Las Vegas. The four showgirls who join Kurt Browning for his
number lend new meaning to the term figure skating.

All times Eastern. Schedules are subject to change.

COLOR PHOTO: DAMIAN STROHMEYER [Ricky Watters] COLOR PHOTO: JOHN W. MCDONOUGH [Keith Van Horn] COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER [Orlando Pace] COLOR PHOTO: DAMIAN STROHMEYER [University of Florida football player and Florida State University football player in game]