This is not going to come as any great shock to anyone who knows Tom Holmoe's past.

He's predicting that the San Francisco 49ers will win the Super Bowl. Again.Even if he is retired.

After graduating from BYU in 1982, Holmoe played seven years in the NFL, all of them as a cornerback for

the 49ers. He retired at the end of last season. His knee told him enough was enough and Holmoe reluctantly agreed. Retiring from some jobs is easy. But retiring as a 49er wasn't. For the seven years Holmoe was there the team went to the playoffs every time, and won three Super Bowls. Holmoe has the jewelry to prove it.

But he was put on injured reserve at the conclusion of

last season, just before the playoffs were to begin. He'd strained his left leg again - the usual result of not having an anterior cruciate ligament in his knee.

The team flew Holmoe and his wife to New Orleans for the Super Bowl game just the same, and he stood on the sidelines in street clothes. He'd paid enough dues during the regular season that he felt a full-fledged part of the game even if he couldn't play in it - as he had in Super Bowl XIX against the Dolphins and Super Bowl XXIII against the Bengals (in the game against the Dolphins, Holmoe's contribution as a nickel back was a major factor in San Francisco's dominance).They gave him his full Super Bowl share after the game and then he really felt a full-fledged part.

He took that check and signed up for graduate school at BYU. Since September he has been working toward a masters degree in athletic administration, as well as serving as a graduate assistant football coach.

Now, as this year's NFL playoffs begin, instead of studying somebody's passing scheme, Holmoe is studying Business Law and How to Detect Steroids 101, and other subjects aspiring college administrators study these days.

He took time out this past week to suggest that the 49ers are a good bet to three-peat.

"It's a great football team," he says. "They've replaced the guys who left or retired with better players. I'm not there, for instance. They went out and signed Greg Cox from the Giants and Dave Waymer from the Saints. Both are excellent players."

And despite the fact the Niners are trying to do what no team has ever done - win three Super Bowls in a row - Holmoe thinks that the pressure, curiously, is not on them.

"There are a lot of other things going on this year," he says. "The Raiders, they have a lot of pressure on them, trying to satisfy all that tradition. The Bills have a lot of pressure, and so do the Giants, trying to come back to the Super Bowl form they once had."

Holmoe has kept in touch with several of his 49er teammates, and with others in the organization, and says things seem to be as normal as ever for this time of year. "There's a little fighting going on, and some egos coming out," he says. "Sounds like business as usual."

In the first round of the playoffs this weekend, Holmoe likes the Redskins, the Dolphins, the Bengals, and the Bears.

It's true, the Redskins and Dolphins already played their first-round games, beating the Eagles and Chiefs, respectively, yesterday. It's also true - you'll have to trust this - that Holmoe picked the winners last Thursday.

Today, he sees the Bears being too much for the Saints at Soldier Field in Chicago. "A dome team playing in Chicago? I don't think they stand a chance," is his scouting report.

He also sees Cincinnati being better than another dome team, the Houston Oilers. "Cincy is erratic, but explosive," he says. "And Houston doesn't have Warren Moon."

Holmoe thinks three of the four teams with first-round byes, namely the 49ers, Giants and Bills, are in good shape to make it the conference championship games. He's not so sure about the Raiders, whose talent he assesses as being a couple of notches below their anticipations.

He predicts that the Bills will eventually win the AFC, and the 49ers the NFC.

That will set up a Bills-49ers Super Bowl in Tampa Bay on Jan. 27 - which, translated, means another chance for San Francisco to show off.

If that prediction turns out to be prophetic, how will Holmoe feel, not being there? "I wasn't fighting against retiring," he says. "I wasn't at the top of my game because of my knee. I left on my own and I left on good terms, and I was always thankful for being able to play as long as I did. Being in three Super Bowls, I think I had my share."