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The Inside Track | ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

If You're Keeping Score at Home, You Must Be Tired

November 05, 2001|Chris Dufresne

The routs were on, from Gainesville to Waco, and the message was clear:

Vanderbilt, you're about to get run over by a Peterbilt.

This was supposed to be a kinder, gentler season.

Bowl championship series coordinator John Swofford said so last spring. As a condition of remaining in the BCS, computer operators were told to eliminate and/or greatly diminish margin of victory in their rankings or risk expulsion.

"I think we all agree it should not play a significant role," Swofford said then.

The New York Times and Dunkel computers got the heave-ho because they would not adjust. Two computer operators altered their formulas to stay in the BCS, while others promised to cap the margin of victory limit.

Result?

Saturday, the top five teams vying for the national championship points race outscored their opponents by the aggregate sum of 267-30.

Our coaches know the score, in fact, some ought to wear wrist bracelets that read WWSD: What Would Steve ( Spurrier ) Do?

Margin of victory has been diminished, but not eviscerated. Four of the eight BCS computers still factor how badly a team stomps an opponent.

The subjective writers' and coaches' polls, of course, are heavily influenced by victory margins. It's one reason Washington can be 7-1 and still fighting to win over their hearts. The Huskies simply win too many close games to be taken seriously.

In a sport where .32 of a computer point can mean the difference of your team playing for the national title or not, piling on points still matters.

Saturday, the first weekend in college football's stretch drive, it was time to step on a few throats:

1. Miami 38, Temple 0

2. Nebraska 51, Kansas 7

3. Oklahoma 58, Tulsa 0

4. Florida 71, Vanderbilt 13

5. Texas 49, Baylor 10

Not even blood ties mattered. Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden, who survived a too-close 17-14 win at Clemson two years ago, beat the Tigers, 54-7, last year in Tallahassee and 41-27 last weekend in Death Valley.

Clemson is coached by Tommy Bowden, Bobby's son.

Turns out Miami might have backed off a tad early. In leaving Temple an ounce of dignity, Miami actually lost traction on No.1 in Sunday's coaches' poll. After a 38-point win, Miami's lead over No. 2 Nebraska slipped from 32 points to 23.

Some of these run-ups were surely unintended consequences. Brigham Young, which scored 56 points against Colorado State, needs to score 50 to insure victory.

Have you seen BYU's defense?

Also, Washington Coach Rick Neuheisel was probably not playing to the polls when Willie Hurst scored a meaningless touchdown with four seconds left in a 42-28 win over Stanford.

Washington did call time out with 10 seconds left, facing a fourth-and-one at the Stanford 15, but Neuheisel had a legitimate concern. Had quarterback Cody Pickett taken a knee, the clock would have stopped and Stanford would have taken over, down by seven, with a few ticks left.

No matter the intent, the late score probably had a positive impact on some poll voters who might have rewarded Washington for a 14-point win without knowing it was a 28-28 game with five minutes left.

BCS lip service aside, there is still no incentive for coaches in national title races to shut down their offenses, especially with Florida Coach Spurrier setting the tone.

Spurrier is, arguably, the nation's best coach, and smart enough to know points count, on the field and off.

Against Mississippi State earlier this year, Florida tacked on a late touchdown to push the Gators past the 50-point plateau. Spurrier admitted they were payback points for his equipment kid, injured in a post-game melee after last year's loss to the Bulldogs.

Saturday, Spurrier yanked starting quarterback Rex Grossman after the Gators built a 44-0 lead on Vanderbilt. Problem: backup quarterback Brock Berlin is talented and itching to play, so how could you begrudge that six-yard scoring pass that pushed Florida past 70 points?

Sportsmanlike or not, Florida's lopsided wins have helped get the Gators back in the national title race and almost made us forget they lost a game to ordinary Auburn.

Rose Bowl Tracking Poll

In the game this week: Florida-Nebraska. Think Spurrier would use Nebraska's 62-24 public flogging of Florida in the 1995 national title game as motivation?

Still has a float in the parade: Miami, Oklahoma, Texas, Tennessee, Washington.

Miami's BCS stock will rise as its schedule improves, but has to worry that a less-than-impressive win would result in Nebraska passing the Hurricanes in the polls.

Texas, still lounging around the BCS pool, got another break with Michigan's loss to Michigan State.

Washington displaces Stanford as the Pac-10 team with an outside shot at earning a spot in the national title game, even though Oregon has the inside track to winning the conference title and playing in the Fiesta Bowl.

Say what?

Oregon and Washington don't play this year. If the schools win out and end up tied for the Pac-10 title, Oregon gets the conference's automatic BCS bid based on tie-breaker procedures. The first, head-to-head, doesn't apply. The second tiebreaker is non-conference record. Should Washington win at Miami on Nov. 24, no easy trick, both schools would be unbeaten in non-conference play.

The title would then be based on which team last appeared in the Rose Bowl. Washington went last year, so Oregon would get the nod.

If Washington wins out, however, it could technically finish second in the Pac-10 race but represent the conference in the Rose Bowl for the national title should the Huskies finish No. 1 or No. 2 in the final BCS standings.

Washington's Rose Bowl chances are better than Oregon's because wins against Miami and Washington State would give them a tremendous boost in the BCS standings.

As we always say in BCS matters, go figure.

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