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The Inside Track | ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Finally, the Bowl Picture Becomes a Bit Murkier

November 26, 2001|Chris Dufresne

Now that was the kind of madness we had in mind.

It kick-started Friday, when the Colorado offense went Charlton Heston on Nebraska, parting the famed defensive "Blackshirts" for 380 rushing yards in a 62-36 romp, continued into the weekend as Oklahoma lost to Oklahoma State and finished up with Saturday night live in Miami, where Washington went from the Apple Cup to the Apple Dumpling Gang in a 65-7 loss to Miami.

You couldn't keep track of the winners and losers because they were changing faster than dimples on Michael Jackson's face.

Example: On Friday, No. 2 Nebraska's stunning loss clearly knocked the Cornhuskers out of the national title race and a $13-million bowl championship series game.

In the locker room afterward, Cornhusker Athletic Director Bill Byrne was touting his team's Holiday Bowl credentials, citing the school's 38,000-strong fan base in Southern California.

"You don't want any bad losses late, and we had one," Byrne said of the Colorado defeat.

Yet, when Oklahoma and Michigan lost Saturday, Nebraska probably moved back into a BCS game (more on that later).

Also, thanks to the horrid nature of Nebraska's loss, Texas had all but secured a spot in the Sugar Bowl with its 21-7 win over Texas A&M.

That was before Oklahoma's stunning defeat, though, which handed Texas the Big 12 South Division title. Now, Texas has to play Colorado next week in the Big 12 title game.

This is a risk/reward proposition the Longhorns will gladly take, because a win keeps Texas' national title hopes alive. A loss to Colorado, however, probably knocks Texas out of a BCS bowl.

Florida?

Florida made more news in an off week than a school should be allowed.

Gator Coach Steve Spurrier, whose thoughts tend to run unfiltered straight to his mouth, spent the time poring over Florida State game tape as if it were the Zapruder film, convinced that the archrivals from Tallahassee were bigger cheap-shot artists than Moe, Larry and Curly.

Then, in a 24-hour span, Nebraska and Oklahoma had fallen and the Gators were vaulted into a control-your-own Rose Bowl status.

Rose Bowl Tracking Poll

In the game this week: Miami versus Florida. This is about as clear-cut as the Rose Bowl race has been since September.

With Nebraska and Oklahoma losing, today's BCS standings probably will look like this: Miami, Florida, Texas, Oregon, Tennessee.

Miami clinches a Rose Bowl bid if it beats Virginia Tech on Saturday at Blacksburg, no simple task given that the last time Miami went on the road it failed to score an offensive touchdown in an 18-7 win at Boston College. Fair to say Miami's offense is back on track after scoring 124 points in consecutive home wins against Syracuse and Washington, although it may have been premature for Hurricane players to be accepting roses from fans Saturday.

We've been touting Florida for weeks as the one-loss team to watch and weekend events have put the Gators in command position: Beat Tennessee next week in Gainesville and either Louisiana State or Auburn in the Southeastern Conference title game Dec. 8 and Florida will earn a Rose Bowl bid.

If either Miami or Florida loses, the second Rose Bowl spot will come down to a three-way points battle among Texas, Oregon and Tennessee.

Texas appears to hold the upper hand now, but probably will finish with no quality points if it defeats Colorado.

Oregon will get a bounce if it beats Oregon State next week in Eugene, but Texas and Oregon may get leapfrogged if Tennessee finishes the season by defeating Florida and then winning the SEC title game.

Oregon needs Miami or Texas to lose next week, and the Tennessee-Florida winner to lose in the SEC title game.

Our best guess at the major bowl picture: Rose: Florida vs. Miami; Fiesta: Oregon vs. Texas or Colorado; Sugar: Tennessee vs. Illinois; Orange: Nebraska vs. Maryland.

Major bowl loser: Brigham Young. The Cougars are 11-0 and one of two unbeaten teams in Division I, but their at-large hopes are tied to the Fiesta Bowl, which is contracted to match the Pacific 10 and Big 12 title winners this season and would get an at-large pick only if either champion was lost to the Rose Bowl.

That seemed a sure bet with Nebraska and Oklahoma controlling their futures, but now BYU must hope either Oregon or Texas sneaks into the Rose.

Major bowl loser II: Stanford. It's almost comical how the Cardinal has been locked out of the BCS and into the Seattle Bowl. Stanford improved to 8-2 with its win over Notre Dame and will assuredly lock up a top-10 BCS finish with a victory over San Jose State next week.

If Oregon State upsets Oregon next week, there will be a four-way tie for first in the Pac-10: Oregon, Washington, Washington State and Stanford. But the Cardinal loses all tiebreakers even though it beat Oregon.

If Oregon wins, there will be a three-way tie for second in the Pac-10 among Washington, Washington State and Stanford. Yet, because Stanford lost to both Washington schools, it gets knocked out of the BCS.

Minor Bowl loser: Holiday. The San Diego-based bowl already has made an agreement with Washington, which doesn't look so hot given the Huskies' most recent performance.

You know how bowls work, of course. The Holiday locked up Washington early because it wanted to get a head start on ticket sales for the Dec. 28 game and take advantage of a package promotion that would include Pacific Northwest fans enjoying the Seattle Seahawks playing the Chargers in San Diego on Dec. 30.

The Holiday Bowl could get saved with Colorado vs. Washington, a matchup of Husky Coach Rick Neuheisel against his former school.

Neuheisel couldn't wait to get Colorado off the schedule, yet it's undeniable Neuheisel vs. Gary Barnett would have great appeal and be a potential ratings bonanza.

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