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Some voters still undecided

1/2/2004

NEW ORLEANS -- While the overwhelming sentiment is that the 65 writers who vote in the Associated Press poll are likely to keep USC at No. 1, in part because they believe the Trojans are the best team and in part because they would drool over the chaos, not everyone is planning on falling in line.

In the most recent AP poll, 26 of the 65 writers gave first-place votes to LSU or Oklahoma. The remaining votes went to USC. Baton Rouge advocate columnist Scott Rabalais was one of them, voting LSU No. 1, USC No. 2 and Oklahoma No. 3.

Rabalais' final AP poll will depend on what happens Sunday. If LSU wins, he said, the Tigers will remain in his top spot. If they lose, he'll put USC No. 1 and Oklahoma No. 2.

"Unless Oklahoma really just kills (LSU)," Rabalais said, "It just bothers me that they didn't win their conference championship. I have a hard time with that. But I think people will vote for USC just to spite the BCS."

Rabalais said that for much of the season, he got e-mails and phone calls from rabid Tiger fans, urging him to put the Trojans at the bottom of his Top 25, just because of how much it could help LSU.

"But I try to be objective," he said. "I always want my vote to be within one vote of where LSU comes out. That way, they can't say I'm a homer and they can't say I was too difficult."

On Friday, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops was somewhat critical of the entire polling system all together. While he admits all the argument is great for college football, he added that the polls are anything but scientific.

With coaches, it's the challenge of taking time out of a busy schedule to see what everyone else did.

"You get home at 3:30 in the morning from a night road game and then you've got to see who won and lost," he said.

When told of the perception that PR directors fill out coaches polls, Stoops, who fills out his own poll said, "Some of you guys might have your wives doing it, who knows?"

If the two teams do end up splitting the national championship, nobody seems to mind. Most Oklahoma and LSU players pointed Friday to the fact that the official national championship trophy will be on one of their sidelines. LSU cornerback Travis Daniels took a different mental approach.

"It's kinda like winning the lottery jackpot for $200 million and then being told that you have to share," Daniels said. "When you've got that much money, it's not that big of a deal. You don't mind letting somebody else share the wealth."

So what about settling all this on the field, somewhere in the middle of the Arizona desert? The players and coaches would be for it.

"I think we'd drive there if we had to," Stoops said. "LSU would do the same thing. And so would USC. Anybody in our situation would never worry about playing somebody else."

Said Oklahoma offensive lineman Jammal Brown:

"As long as it was alright with coach, I'd take them anytime, anywhere," Brown said. "And that's not just me, that's everybody talking. That's what everybody wants."

Stoops, though, reminded reporters that his players are students, not professionals. And Oklahoma returns to classes on Jan. 12.

"It all sounds good, but on the other half, is it fair for these guys," he said. "Is it fair to take more time to train them for another game?"

Skee-Ball Anyone?

Six-foot-six, 313-pound Oklahoma offensive lineman Jerome Brown, on how much he's enjoyed Bourbon Street this week:

"Man, that place just isn't for me. I don't drink; I don't enjoy getting shoved by all those people. I'm more of a Chuck-E-Cheese or Celebration Station kind of guy.

"On Bourbon Street, I saw like a she-man and these midgets running around. I don't go for that stuff. Too many freaks."

And later, on his overall stay in New Orleans: "It's a great place, but man it's too big. I haven't seen any grass yet."

Can I Start

LSU punter Donnie Jones couldn't resist the opportunity to stick a microphone in front of normally stoic head coach Nick Saban during Friday's media day.

Asked Jones: "Umm, coach, there's been a report that Donnie Jones has taken a few snaps in practice and has really looked good. Any chance he'll get the start on Sunday?"

Saban: "At what position?"

Jones: "Quarterback."

Saban: "Ummmm -- no. Absolutely not." The coach went on to add, "If our specialists, our kickers and punters and long snappers would stay as focused as the rest of the team we might be alright."

Wayne Drehs is a staff writer at ESPN.com. He can be reached at wayne.drehs@espn3.com.