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College Football | SPOTLIGHT / WEEK 10

Clearing Out Pretenders

November 03, 2002|Rob Fernas | Times Staff Writer

Suppose your team finished the regular season undefeated and was denied a chance to play for the national championship.

"You'd be screaming bloody murder," Notre Dame Coach Tyrone Willingham said last week.

Willingham won't have to worry after Notre Dame, in a staggering display of offensive ineptitude, went belly-up Saturday against Boston College.

Virginia Tech, Georgia and North Carolina State also suffered their first losses, to Pittsburgh, Florida and Georgia Tech, respectively. Suddenly, the road to the national title game doesn't look so log-jammed.

There were eight undefeated Division I teams before Saturday, creating a potentially troubling scenario for the bowl championship series, which matches the top two teams in a national championship game -- this year it's the Fiesta Bowl.

But only four undefeated teams remain, and one of them, Bowling Green, is not a realistic contender because it plays outside of BCS consideration in the Mid-American Conference.

That leaves Oklahoma, Miami and Ohio State. Oklahoma and Miami occupy the top two spots in the BCS rankings and have the best chance of meeting for the national title if they win out. That could leave an unbeaten Ohio State on the outside, with the Buckeyes having to settle for a spot in the Rose Bowl.

History would indicate that someone else will stumble. Since the BCS system started in 1998, there have never been more than two major undefeated teams at the end of the regular season.

In the meantime, BCS coordinator Michael Tranghese is preaching patience. "The BCS poll still determines who plays in the national championship game," said Tranghese, Big East commissioner. "And, yes, there will be controversy. But this is the system."

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He Forgot His Rally Monkey

Dusty Baker enjoyed his first visit to the Notre Dame campus, but he might have to wait awhile to be invited back.

Baker, manager of the San Francisco Giants, addressed the Notre Dame pep rally Friday night. Then he and his father, Johnnie Baker Sr., watched Saturday's game as guests of Willingham. The Irish promptly lost, 14-7, to Boston College.

"Man, I feel bad," Baker said. "I didn't go here and I don't coach here, but I feel bad. I wish they could have won."

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Spartans Get Smoked

Michigan got rid of the bad taste from last year's controversial loss to Michigan State by pounding the Spartans, 49-3, at Ann Arbor.

In handing Michigan State its worst defeat since 1947, the Wolverines avenged last season's 26-24 loss that was marred by questionable timekeeping at the finish.

With no timeouts, Michigan State quarterback Jeff Smoker scrambled to the Michigan two and spiked the ball to stop the clock and set up a final play. Replays showed that the clock should have expired, but officials ruled that one second remained, allowing Smoker to throw a game-winning, two-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Duckett.

"It was on my mind a lot during spring ball and two-a-days," said Michigan running back B.J. Askew, who rushed for a career-best 149 yards in 32 carries and scored two touchdowns. "That made it even more important for us to win this one."

Said Wolverine cornerback Marlin Jackson: "There was no controversy this year, just a straight-up whipping."

Most of the controversy leading up to Saturday's game centered on Smoker, who was indefinitely suspended Oct. 24 for breaking an unspecified team rule. The suspension led to a barrage of unsubstantiated reports that Smoker was in trouble with the law.

Michigan State, meanwhile, appears to be playing out the string after losing for the sixth time in its last seven games.

"It's too late for a turnaround," said Charles Rogers, the Spartans' standout receiver. "We'll be lucky if we win another game."

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In the End, a Hart-Breaker

From the mouths of babes....

Before making his first start for Rutgers, freshman quarterback Ryan Hart made it clear he wasn't intimidated about facing No. 1 Miami.

"They've got weaknesses just like any other team in the country, and we're going to capitalize on them," Hart said.

What sounded like a brash prediction became a startling reality when lowly Rutgers took a 17-14 lead into the fourth quarter, before Miami rallied for a 42-17 victory.

"For three quarters, we led the No. 1 team in the country," Rutgers Coach Greg Schiano said. "When we figure out how to do it for four quarters, then we'll be the No. 1 team in the country someday."

Rutgers still has a ways to go. The Scarlet Knights had their Big East losing streak extended to 20 games, while Miami pushed its overall winning streak to 30, a school record. The Hurricanes have never lost to Rutgers, winning the last three games by a combined score of 167-23.

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Passing Into History

Perhaps only an injury can stop Texas Tech quarterback Kliff Kingsbury, who continued his assault on the record book in a 62-11 victory over Baylor.

Kingsbury passed for 373 yards and three touchdowns, moving to eighth on the NCAA career passing list with 10,969 yards.

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