BYU, the football team that is always bigger than its opponent, suddenly can't even claim that advantage.

The Buckeyes are BIG.The starting 22 offensive and defensive players for Ohio State, the Cougars' opponent in Thursday's Thrifty Car Rental Holiday Bowl, weigh a grand total of 5,318 pounds - to BYU's 5,110. That may not seem like much, but it averages to nearly 10 pounds per player.

In the defensive secondary, BYU's four starters average 176. OSU's lightest guy is 188; they average 193.

At running back, BYU's starting tandem of Jamal Willis and Kalin Hall weigh 220 and 210, respectively. OSU has a 225-pound tailback in Raymont Harris and a 242-pound fullback in Jeff Cothran.

On the offensive line, BYU's opponents have marveled for the past couple of seasons about the Cougars' jumbo tackles, Eli Herring (335) and Mike Empey (300). The Buckeyes start three 300-pounders.

"We do bring some big guys," said OSU safety Chico Nelson. "It gets cold in the winter back there, and all those big guys do is eat and hibernate."

BABY BOWL: Backup offensive guard Tim Hanshaw's wife, Rachelle, gave birth to a girl, Alexis, here on Christmas Day. Mrs. Hanshaw had been to Disneyland on Christmas Eve with some of the other players' wives, and after a day of riding the rides, returned to San Diego and went into labor.

The bowl birth is not a first for BYU, however. In 1983, Brenda Fowler, wife of backup quarterback Blaine Fowler, accomplished the same feat. Somehow, we're not surprised.

BUCKS BOWL: For a change, BYU figures to make some money on a bowl game. Last year, the Cougs reportedly lost more than $50,000 by playing in the Aloha Bowl, what with the high cost of travel, lodging, and everything else in Honolulu.

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One BYU source said that in the Cougars' first eight trips to the Holiday Bowl, they lost about $10,000 per year. The reason: The rule that they had to share the payoff with other teams in the WAC. The net result of that was that teams that went 0-11 and stayed home for the holidays made more from the bowl than did BYU.

The Holiday Bowl pays $1.7 million to each team. The Freedom and Copper bowls, by comparison, pay just $700,000.

WOULD WOODY?: A writer from Ohio asked BYU coach LaVell Edwards if he hd ever met the late Woody Hayes, the legendary Buckeye coach known for his passion for the rushing offense. When Edwards said he hadn't met Hayes, the writer responded, "So Woody never had a chance to tell you that this passing stuff is all nonsense?" Edwards replied, "No, but if he'd had a chance, I'm sure he would have."

SHORT STUFF: One of the speakers at BYU's Sunday night fireside meeting was Travis McGuire, a freshman tailback for the Buckeyes and a convert to the LDS Church . . . A graphic in USA Today noted that BYU ranks third in the country in consecutive bowl appearances. First is Nebraska, 25; then Michigan, 19; BYU, 18; Florida State, 12; and Miami, 11.

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