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COLLEGE FOOTBALL SPOTLIGHT / WEEK 9

BCS Hardly A-OK This Time

October 22, 2000

The insanity is about to begin.

In case it has escaped your attention, the first Bowl Championship Series rankings will be released at halftime of ABC's Monday Night Football telecast between the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets.

And with it will begin the debate regarding the merits of the system that ultimately crowns a national champion through its compilation of power ratings, media and coach rankings, computer programs and mathematical formulas that would make anyone's head spin.

New Year's Eve in October?

Still, despite the never-ending cries for a national playoff, the third-year plan seems to have partially quenched the thirst of fans, players and coaches who aren't satisfied by title with a "mythical" label tagged to it.

The BCS has been fortunate in its first two years of operation to come up with games--Florida State-Virginia Tech last season and Tennessee-Florida State in 1998--that most agreed should have been the teams playing for the title.

It likely won't wrap up into such a tidy package in 2000. With only five teams still undefeated and tough games for most on the horizon, the chances for a one-loss team to be playing in the Orange Bowl Jan. 3 are increasing with every passing week.

The trouble is, which one-loss team is most deserving? Can a system of formulas really extrapolate accurately if Miami's loss to Washington means more than Florida State's loss to Miami?

The challenge is definitely there, but here is a look at the team's that figure to be in the mix for the national championship game in Miami:

* Nebraska. The No. 1 Cornhuskers will be atop the BCS rankings Monday, but a Saturday game at Oklahoma could ruin everything if things don't go Nebraska's way.

* Virginia Tech. The Hokies have been sluggish and have worn out their Cinderella status. A near disaster at Syracuse on Saturday would've have ended things already. A Nov. 4 game at Miami will oust one or the other from the championship picture.

* Oklahoma. Even if the Sooners beat Nebraska, a Nov. 11 game at Texas A&M and the Big 12 title game await.

* Miami. The first of the once-beaten teams that still have a shot could run the table and play at neighboring Pro Player Stadium for the title. If that isn't incentive, we don't what is.

* Florida State. A loss in a Nov. 4 game against Clemson or two weeks later against Florida will knock the Seminoles out.

* Clemson. Not to repeat ourselves, but a Tiger loss to Florida State will quiet their roar. They are a team that only will make it with an unblemished record.

* Florida. Plenty of chances for the Gators to stumble again. They play Georgia on Saturday and close the season with South Carolina at home and Florida State on the road.

* Oregon. The Ducks were a longshot even before their victory against Arizona. The Civil War in Corvallis against Oregon State on Nov. 18 also could be their undoing.

So you see, the picture isn't quite so clear.

About the only team you can really say controls its destiny is Nebraska. But even the Cornhuskers aren't a lock, already having been taking to overtime by Notre Dame.

Something tells us that regardless of which teams end up in Miami, it won't quite be so unanimous.

'WHOA NELLIE!' WHAT HAPPENED TO RIVALRY

Looking back to most any season, when the Alabama-Tennessee game was mentioned, usually it meant there was some sort of huge payoff in the mix for the winner of what has become one of college football's premier rivalries.

But that changed this season with the teams limping into Saturday's matchup without a chance for anything close to a national title. More to the point, it was two teams battling to salvage their seasons.

Amazingly, Tennessee's 20-10 victory Saturday at Knoxville was the Volunteers' first Southeastern Conference victory in four games. Alabama slipped to 3-2 in conference play after beginning the season with talk of playing in the Orange Bowl at season's end.

That the Volunteers were led by a California kid, freshman Casey Clausen (Alemany High) at quarterback, seems to drill right at the heart of what southern football once was. They don't usually take too kindly to outsiders infiltrating, but Clausen's two-touchdown performance is definitely the way to endear himself over the long haul.

Still, the fact that nothing more than pride, for the most part, was on the line is tough to fathom in this series.

"It's been tough on everybody," Tennessee Coach Phillip Fulmer told The Tennessean leading up to the game. "We're treading in unfamiliar waters."

No doubt. But of the two teams, Alabama had the most to lose since the Crimson Tide seemed to have had the best chance at making many forget about its disastrous start.

"We're not out of the doghouse yet," Alabama guard Griff Redmill told the Mobile-Register days before the game. "We've got a long way to go. We've played one good ballgame. We've started digging our way out of the hole, but we're not nearly where we need to be yet."

The hole just got deeper.

THERE'S NO HOLDING THIS TIGER ANYMORE

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