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College Football | SPOTLIGHT / WEEK 12

Iowa Tries to Buck System

November 17, 2002|Robyn Norwood | Times Staff Writer

Think of all an Ohio State loss would have meant.

As the ball was juggled in the hands of an Illinois receiver, the entire bowl season seemed up in the air.

But Ohio State -- No. 1 in the BCS standings but sinking fast in almost everyone's true estimation -- survived an upset bid Saturday after the Illini's Walter Young failed to control an overtime pass in the end zone before falling out of bounds.

It was one of two close calls in the end zone as Illinois tried to match Ohio State in overtime.

But the Buckeyes held on for a 23-16 victory that leaves them only a victory over Michigan Saturday from playing for the national championship in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 3 -- no matter how many people think they're not one of the best two teams in the country.

Had Ohio State lost, the implications would have been wide.

Besides assuring that a one-loss team would play for the national title, it would have put Iowa in the Rose Bowl as Big Ten champion and moved USC a little bit closer to Pasadena. (Washington State would have been a threat to move from No. 3 in the BCS standings to No. 2 and a place in the title game, giving USC another avenue to the Rose Bowl besides taking care of its own business and hoping Washington State loses its final two games.)

And considering that visiting Iowa fans in Minneapolis tore down one goal post at the Metrodome and tried to carry an upright out of the stadium after the Hawkeyes' 45-21 victory over Minnesota clinched a mere tie for the Big Ten title, Iowa fans might have stormed the Mall of America if Ohio State had lost, thereby guaranteeing the Hawkeyes a trip to Pasadena.

"I've never seen 25,000 of the opposing team's fans at a home game," Minnesota quarterback Asad Abdul-Khaliq said of the half-Hawkeye crowd of 65,184. "That just shows the type of team they've had. If I was an Iowa fan, I'd go anywhere, too."

The big boost to Iowa's Rose Bowl prospects, surprisingly, came in Lubbock, Texas.

Texas Tech's 42-38 upset of Texas will drop the two-loss Longhorns from the picture, and they had been a threat to block an Iowa-Rose Bowl match.

(Among the minutiae of the BCS rules is a provision that a team that finishes third or fourth in the BCS standings but doesn't win its conference is guaranteed one of the two at-large berths. If Texas earned one, and with Notre Dame guaranteed the other if it finishes in the top six, that would have boxed out Iowa even though Rose Bowl officials suggest they plan to choose Iowa over Notre Dame if given the option.)

Pshew, that's another one of those paragraphs that makes a playoff system sound great.

In any case, all those distant Iowa relatives who live in Long Beach -- once known as Iowa-by-the-Sea -- might want to get the sofa bed ready.

The Hawkeyes are probably headed West, but give it an asterisk: There's still a chance Iowa could be boxed out of an at-large berth.

One thing about Iowa is certain: The Hawkeyes are already in the clubhouse at 11-1 with their regular season complete, and they don't figure to be going anywhere but up from their No. 6 BCS ranking.



The pregame preparations for rivals Oregon and Washington included a lot of verbal calisthenics.

Oregon safety Keith Lewis called Washington quarterback Cody Pickett "overrated."

All Pickett did was pass for 316 yards and four touchdowns and break the Pac-10 single-season passing yardage record in Washington's 42-14 victory.

There's plenty of bad blood left for next season. The day before the game, Oregon Coach Mike Bellotti responded to Washington Coach Rick Neuheisel's claim he meant it as a compliment when he called Oregon a "propaganda machine," saying he didn't consider it a compliment at all.

"No, I did not," Bellotti said. "Propaganda in my mind usually has something to do with untruths, and all we do here is tell the truth about the record and everything else."

That record, after the blowout loss to the Huskies, is 7-4.


Happy Returns

Kentucky's Derek Abney set an NCAA record with his sixth kick return for a touchdown this season -- this one a 95-yard kickoff return against Vanderbilt.

Abney, a 5-foot-10, 175-pound junior, has returned four punts and two kickoffs for touchdowns.


Under the Knife

Tennessee receiver Kelley Washington, who almost made himself available for the NFL draft after last season, will have surgery next week to fuse two vertebrae.

Washington played in only two games because of injuries but had 23 catches for 443 yards. He had 64 receptions for 1,010 yards last season.


Upset of the Day

Defending NCAA Division I-AA champion Montana had its winning streak end at 24 games in a 30-21 loss to Eastern Washington (6-5). Montana hadn't lost since a Sept. 8, 2001, to Division I-A Hawaii.



All Eyes on Buckeyes

Saturday will mark the 13th time since 1944 that Ohio State has gone into its game against Michigan undefeated.



1996--Michigan 13, Ohio State 9

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