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The Inside Track | Chris Dufresne ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Irish's Debacle in Green Rubs Off on Some Others

November 04, 2002|Chris Dufresne

Never again (this week) will we second-guess Coach Tyrone Willingham's aesthetic license, a la Oscar de la Renta, to outfit his runway models any way he sees fit, because it turns out the green jerseys Notre Dame broke out for the all-important Boston College loss Saturday may have contained a magical, time-release formula.

No wonder they're selling T-shirts on campus that proclaim "If there's a Willingham, there's a way," even if that route is now the hard way.

The donning of Irish jerseys may end up making Mr. Blackwell's list for Worst BCS Fashion Decisions, for this outbreak of Green Sleeves led only to a five-turnover, on-field disaster.

"Have they lost with the green jerseys?" Boston College Coach Tom O'Brien quipped after the Eagles' 14-7 upset win in South Bend, Ind.

Uh, yeah, in fact the last time the Irish wore green, at the 1999 Gator Bowl.

"So I guess it doesn't make any difference," O'Brien said.

Point taken, yet as Irish players left Notre Dame Stadium believing their hopes for a national title had been dashed, the green pixie dust started dropping on undefeated teams around the country.

At night's end, four of the eight undefeated schools had been defeated, completely retouching the national-title picture and putting the Irish back in focus.

North Carolina State lost while the sun was still out, but it was two under-the-light upsets, Pittsburgh over Virginia Tech and Florida over Georgia, that opened an avenue for a one-loss team making it to the Jan. 3 Fiesta Bowl.

Saturday's college carnage left Oklahoma, Miami and Ohio State as the only undefeated teams in the chase -- Bowling Green is 8-0 but doesn't have enough schedule muscle to make a bowl championship series fight.

The Buckeyes were the weekend's big winners, likely to jump to at least No. 3 in today's third BCS rankings, with a chance to eventually surpass No. 2 Miami, which stayed at No. 1 in the coaches' poll but fell to second in the writers'.

If two of the three undefeated schools in the hunt lose a game in the next month, the No. 2 slot in the Fiesta Bowl will go to a one-loss team, and who's to say that team could not be 11-1 Notre Dame?

Even before the losses suffered by Virginia Tech and Georgia put Notre Dame back in the equation, Willingham predicted the Irish had not fumbled (seven times) their chances.

"Really, amazingly, we don't have to change our focus," he said. "That may alarm some of you."

It five-alarmed some of us, to be honest, but that's why Willingham is coach of college football's premier program and we're not.

With the title race as wide open as a romp through the Kansas secondary, here are the important dates to watch in the coming weeks:

Nov. 9 -- Miami at Tennessee. Miami has won 30 consecutive games but has looked vulnerable of late, most recently playing footsie with Rutgers for three quarters Saturday before winning, 42-17. Tennessee isn't all that anymore, but you can bet the Volunteers will do everything they can next weekend to protect Fort Knoxville.

Nov. 23 -- Michigan at Ohio State. The Buckeyes figure to be 12-0 headed into this annual scrum, at Columbus this year. Michigan has a history of knocking Ohio State out of the national-title picture -- a major reason why John Cooper is no longer coach.

Nov. 30 -- Oklahoma at Oklahoma State. You laugh, but last year, in Norman, Oklahoma State handed the defending national champions a shocking defeat.

Nov. 30 -- Notre Dame at USC. If the BCS winds change direction again, the Irish could still be headed to Los Angeles with a national-title berth at stake, although seven points on offense doesn't figure to cut it against USC. In the Pacific 10 Conference, see, teams score these things called "touchdowns."

Dec. 7 -- Virginia Tech at Miami. Assuming Miami survives next week's trip to Tennessee and remains undefeated, Virginia Tech gets a last chance to scramble the final BCS standings, which will be released Dec. 8.

Dec. 7 -- Okahoma vs. Colorado (Big 12 title game). This is the way the Big 12 title game is shaping up. Ask Texas if rematch games are killers. Last year, the Longhorns beat Colorado, 41-7, in the regular season but lost to the Buffaloes in the Big 12 championship. All it cost Mack Brown's team was a chance to play Miami for the national title.

Saturday, Oklahoma took care of Colorado in Norman, but the rematch would be played, yee-ha, at a neutral site in Houston.

Dec. 7 -- Washington State at UCLA. The schools moved this game to accommodate ABC; it could turn out to be a ratings winner if the Cougars need the win to clinch the Rose Bowl. If things go completely nuts, there may be a scenario in which one-loss Washington State is playing for a berth in the Fiesta Bowl.

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