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SPOTLIGHT / WEEK 12

There's So Little to Spare During This Bowl Season

November 25, 2001

Nebraska and Oklahoma made sure that the bowl championship series will have to endure the biggest mess since its inception in 1998.

But as college football's elite scramble for the prestigious eight spots in the bowl championship series--only Maryland, Oregon and Illinois are officially in so far--the rest of the field playing this bowl season also seems to be dealing with one of the most bizarre postseason pictures in recent memory.

With so much still left to be decided among the top teams, it has kept others from accepting outright invitations to many of the smaller bowls, forcing some into conditional agreements.

As of today--not including the outcome of Air Force's late Saturday game at Hawaii--61 teams are bowl eligible with as many as nine more ready to join the fray. That means because there are only 50 bowl slots, there is potential for 20 teams to be left at home once all the invitations are handed out.

With Notre Dame losing its chance for a bowl in a loss at Stanford, there still are several "major" schools that could be out in the cold even if they are eligible for postseason.

One interesting possibility is Oregon State. The Beavers must defeat Oregon to become bowl eligible. If that happens, it would give the Pacific 10 Conference seven eligible teams. If you're a bowl with an at-large slot--Humanitarian and Silicon Valley--do you go after a reeling UCLA team or a hot Oregon State team?

Alabama is another big name in a bind. If the Crimson Tide defeats Southern Mississippi on Thursday to become eligible, how can a bowl ignore the tradition--and likely fans--the school would bring to a bowl game?

Michigan State's loss to Penn State on Saturday created two interesting storylines. The Spartans now must defeat Missouri to become eligible and easily could be left home. Penn State, on the other hand, can become eligible with a victory against Virginia. Would a bowl really turn down the chance to entertain Joe Pa?

The scenarios are endless. Anyone for a playoff?

What Now, Nebraska?

No. 2 Nebraska's 62-36 drubbing against No. 14 Colorado sent the Cornhuskers tumbling from the top of the national championship heap and possibly out of the BCS.

The Huskers' best hope is for a BCS at-large bowl berth, and even that won't be easy after such a late and stunning loss.

"I'm not sure how it all works out," Coach Frank Solich said.

The Huskers, who won't play again until their bowl game, can only watch and hope some of the teams ahead of them stumble.

It probably would take at least four major upsets to get Nebraska back into the picture.

"It's going to take a while for it to wear off. It really is," Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch said. "That's just being honest."

Longing Longhorns

Texas Coach Mack Brown was channel surfing through college football Saturday, hoping his team would get a break.

It wasn't too long before his television was locked in on the second half of Oklahoma State's 16-13 upset of Oklahoma.

His phone was ringing off the hook as the final seconds ticked down. Brown's fifth-ranked Longhorns were now Big 12 South Division champs and headed to the conference title game next Saturday against Colorado.

"Our two sons and my wife were screaming and shouting like they were on the sidelines," Brown said. "We had some unsportsmanlike conduct there I think."

Panther Has His Tongue

It's true that after winning the Biletnikoff Award and having an All-American season in 2000, much was expected of Pittsburgh receiver Antonio Bryant in 2001.

And until Saturday against West Virginia, Bryant's junior year had been mostly a disappointment, caused in part by a nagging ankle injury.

Apparently, West Virginia cornerback Richard Bryant (no relation) didn't view the Panther receiver as much of a threat to the Mountaineers' nation-leading pass defense that had allowed 122.2 yards per game and held opponents to fewer than 100 yards passing five times this season.

"I don't know anything about the guy," Richard Bryant said days before the game. "I'll have to wait until I watch some film and get back to you. All I know is, I'll be the best guy named Bryant on the field Saturday. Most definitely."

Antonio Bryant had a 27-yard scoring catch among his 11 receptions for 186 yards as Pittsburgh defeated West Virginia, 23-17, at Morgantown, W.Va.

Afterward, Antonio Bryant read Richard Bryant's quotes out loud to reporters and said, "He must not have watched me before. But I'll leave it up to you who was better. I have nothing to say."

Shockingly, Richard Bryant declined to talk afterward.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

BOWL-ELIGIBLE TEAMS

Atlantic Coast: Maryland, Florida State, Georgia Tech, North Carolina State, Wake Forest, *North Carolina State, *Clemson.

Big East: Miami, Syracuse, Virginia Tech, Boston College, *Pittsburgh.

Big Ten: Illinois, Michigan, Purdue, Ohio State, Iowa, *Michigan State, *Penn State.

Big 12: Colorado, Texas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Iowa State, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Kansas State.

Conference USA: Louisville, Alabama Birmingham, East Carolina, Southern Mississippi, Cincinnati, *Texas Christian.

Mid American: Marshall, Miami (Ohio), Bowling Green, Kent State, Toledo, Northern Illinois.

Mountain West: Brigham Young, Colorado State, Utah, New Mexico, **Air Force.

Pacific 10: Oregon, Washington State, Washington, Stanford, USC, UCLA, *Oregon State.

Southeastern: Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia, Auburn, Louisiana State, Arkansas, Mississippi, *Alabama.

Sun Belt: North Texas, Middle Tennessee.

Western Athletic: Louisiana Tech, Fresno State, Boise State, Rice, Hawaii.

Independents: South Florida, Troy State, Central Florida.

* Indicates team still must win remaining game to become bowl eligible.

** Indicates Air Force had to defeat Hawaii late Saturday and Utah this week to become bowl eligible.

*

Compiled by Jim Barrero

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