UA b’ball taking a backseat

With all the hoopla over still another coach at Alabama, it has gone almost over-looked that seven Southeastern Conference teams, including Auburn, will be appearing in bowl games within the next week.

Also, it doesn’t seem quite right that the Crimson Tide basketball team has ascended to poll heights never before reached, and yet that has taken a back seat to the football doings at Tuscaloosa.

However, since the basketball season is far from ended and since we have college football for just a few more days, let’s look this week at those seven bowl games, plus one other, the big one for the national title.

Mississippi (6-6) and Nebraska (7-6) in the Independence Bowl at Shreveport this Friday &045; There was a time when a 6-6 team wouldn’t even be considered for post-season play and also when Nebraska would consider a trip to Shreveport an insult. But here they are, with almost nothing on the line except home-state pride. The Cornhuskers will handle Eli Manning and his Rebels.

Arkansas (9-4) and Minnesota (7-5) in the Music City Bowl at Nashville next Monday &045; The Razorbacks have been a strange team this season, looking awful at times and yet making it to the SEC title game in Atlanta, where Georgia made them look awful again. Minnesota is not a good team and Arkansas will win.

Tennessee (8-4) and Maryland (10-3) in the Peach Bowl at Atlanta on New Year’s Eve &045; The Terrapins are a slight favorite but they don’t have the bowl tradition that Tennessee has. The Vols, although they slipped a notch or two this season, will prevail.

Four SEC teams will be in action on New Year’s Day.

Florida (8-4) against Michigan (9-3) in the Outback Bowl at Tampa &045; The Gators, defeated by both Miami and Florida State, will have enough firepower to win this one, but you’d better not be sleeping off a hangover or you’ll miss this brunch-time game.

Louisiana (8-4) against Texas (10-2) in the Cotton Bowl at Dallas &045; This is another 10 a.m. game, and you’d better watch the first part if you like LSU because Texas will soon put this one away.

Auburn (8-4) against Penn State (9-3) in the Capitol One Bowl at Orlando &045; The Nittany Lions have perhaps the nation’s best runner in Larry Johnson while Auburn quarterback Jason Campbell sprang to life in the Tigers’ victory over Alabama. Uncharacteristically, Penn State can pass this year as well as run. The mountain Lions will defeat the Tigers from the Plain.

Georgia (12-1) against Florida State (9-4) in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans &045; Were it not for a seven-point loss to Florida, the Bulldogs probably would be playing for the national title. Still, they are the highest-ranked SEC team this season.

The Bulldogs will be going against an FSU team that has seemed more like a soap opera in recent days. Georgia is riding high this year, the highest in a long time, and that will continue in the Big Easy.

Now for the game for all the marbles, Miami (12-0) against Ohio State (13-0) in the Fiesta Bowl at Tempe on Jan. 3 &045; The fact that these are the only undefeated teams in major football shows how difficult it is to go unscathed for an entire season. The Hurricanes have survived some major tests while the Buckeyes made it this far by the skin of their shinny-shin-shin. Miami will leave Arizona with another national title.

(Hoyt Harwell is a retired Associated Press Correspondent who covered major sports in Alabama for 26 years. Harwell lives in Hoover. (e-mail: hharwell@bellsouth.net