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    Michigan, Nebraska Split National Title

    By Richard Rosenblatt
    AP Football Writer
    Saturday, January 3, 1998; 5:14 a.m. EST

    NEW YORK (AP) -- Who's No. 1?

    Michigan, after a close call in the Rose Bowl, or Nebraska, after routing Tennessee in the Orange Bowl?


    For the third time in the 1990s, college football's national title was split -- Michigan (12-0) was declared the overwhelming No. 1 in The Associated Press poll and Nebraska (13-0) narrowly finished atop the coaches' poll early today.

    In the AP poll, the Wolverines won their first national championship in a half century by a margin more convincing than their 21-16 Rose Bowl victory over Washington State.

    Michigan received 51 first-place votes and 1,731 points from a national panel of 70 sports writers and broadcasters in winning its first AP championship since 1948. Going into the bowl games, Michigan led Nebraska by 68 first-place votes and 68 points.

    In the USA Today/ESPN coaches' poll, Nebraska had 32 first-place votes and 1,520 points; Michigan 30 first-place votes and 1,516 points. Before the bowl games, Michigan led the Huskers by 45 first-place votes and 47 points.

    Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said that while he was disappointed with the split, ``we're still thrilled to be honored by The Associated Press.''

    ``When you consider all the great teams that we've had at Michigan, and the fact it's been 50 years in a rich football tradition since we've won it ... I think every guy who has played at Michigan takes great pride in this.''

    The Cornhuskers closed the gap considerably from the AP's final regular-season poll, but still fell short, getting 18 first-place votes and 1,698 points.

    In the final poll, Michigan came out ahead by 33 first-place votes and 33 points. Seven voters split their ballot.

    Following the Rose Bowl, Michigan quarterback Brian Griese asked: ``Is there anything else you want us to do?''

    The AP poll voters answered: No.

    The coaches disagreed.

    It was the Cornhuskers' 42-17 win over Tennessee that allowed coach Tom Osborne a share of the national title - he's won three in four years - in his final game before retiring.

    ``There's quite a bit of cheering and hugging, even a few tears and a whole lot of screaming,'' Osborne's son, Mike, said. ``It's quite a way to go out. A big night.''

    The coach withheld comment on the polls until his news conference this morning.

    The other split polls occurred in 1990 and 1991; Miami was the AP champion and Washington No. 1 in the coaches' poll in '91; and Colorado was No. 1 in the AP poll while the coaches had Georgia Tech in '90.

    The rest of the AP poll had Florida State (11-1), a 31-14 winner over Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl, No. 3, followed by No. 4 Florida and No. 5 UCLA. The Gators (10-2) beat Penn State 21-6 in the Citrus Bowl and the Bruins (10-2) beat Texas A&M 26-23 in the Cotton Bowl. The Seminoles finished in the top four an 11th consecutive season.

    North Carolina (11-1), a 42-3 winner over Virginia Tech in the Gator Bowl, was No. 6, followed by No. 7 Tennessee (11-2), No. 8 Kansas State (11-1), No. 9 Washington State (10-2) and No. 10 Georgia (10-2). Kansas State beat Syracuse 35-18 in the Fiesta Bowl and Georgia topped Wisconsin 33-6 in the Outback Bowl.

    Auburn was No. 11, followed by Ohio State, LSU, Arizona State, Purdue, Penn State, Colorado State, Washington, Southern Mississippi, Texas A&M, Syracuse, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma State and Georgia Tech.

    The Wolverines, coming off four straight four-loss seasons, were ranked No. 14 in the preseason poll and steadily moved up, reaching No. 8 after opening the season with a 27-3 win over Colorado and climbing to No. 4 after a 23-7 victory over Michigan State on Oct. 25.

    Until the final poll, the biggest day of the season occurred Nov. 9 -- when the Wolverines jumped over Nebraska and into the top spot. On Nov. 8, Michigan beat a No. 2 Penn State 34-8 and a No. 1 Nebraska beat an unranked Missouri 45-38 in overtime after tying the game on a miracle TD catch by Matt Davison at the end of regulation.

    Unlike 1994, when Penn State lost out on a national title to Nebraska despite a perfect season, the Huskers this season captured a share by beating a team ranked No. 3, while the Wolverines barely beat a team ranked No. 8.

    © Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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