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The Inside Track | Chris Dufresne / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

UCLA, Texas May Reach the Second-Chance Point

October 24, 2005|Chris Dufresne

Texas hasn't won a national title in 35 years and UCLA hasn't won since 1954, but it's not because the schools aren't trying.

Texas has put so much into winning and facilities and being better than Oklahoma that the Austin campus looks like a Steve Wynn property.

So far, though, it just hasn't clicked. Since Texas won the coaches' share of the 1970 title under Darrell Royal, archrival Oklahoma has won four national titles and pretty much rubbed Texas' nose in it.

It has been worse for UCLA, which is still living off that half-loaf, the coaches' title under Red Sanders during the Eisenhower administration, while USC has continually needed to open new wings to house its football trophy hardware.

OK, men, let's put the 2003 AP trophy in that corner, move 1962 over there and someone help me drag the bust of John McKay so we can put it next to Pete Carroll's!

UCLA's general, even-keeled reaction to all this?

Rats!

So it's interesting to see how this season may be shaping up in the aftermath of another shake-out weekend, which began with seven unbeaten teams and ended with six and Texas and UCLA still in the mix.

We're not saying Texas and UCLA are going to meet in the Jan. 4 Rose Bowl for the national title, but there's some weird karma going on here.

No schools in the short history of the bowl championship series have longed for "do-over" chances more than these programs.

Texas needed one play to reach the title game in 2001; UCLA needed one tackle in 1998.

And now, cue the sci-fi music.

To reach this year's title game, it appears Texas might have to defeat Colorado in the Big 12 Conference title game for the chance to play for the BCS title in the Rose Bowl.

Texas may have to overcome -- again -- the fact it crushed Colorado in the regular season.

And wasn't that just the way it unfolded in 2001?

That year, Texas needed only to win a rematch with Colorado, which it had defeated, 41-7, in the regular season, to play Miami in the Rose Bowl.

Instead, in the ultimate Nightmare on Sixth Street scenario, Texas lost to Colorado in the Big 12 title game, 39-37. Longhorn fans remember it as the game in which Coach Mack Brown waited too long to replace struggling quarterback Chris Simms with miracle man Major Applewhite, who nearly directed a comeback win.

It sure looks as though Texas is going to meet Colorado again this year -- with the Rose Bowl at stake.

"We have a chance to be special," Brown said of his team after Saturday's 52-17 romp against Texas Tech.

How special remains to be seen.

UCLA, meanwhile, is 7-0 after a 51-28 thrashing of Oregon State and is starting to jog foggy memories of 1998, that Bob Toledo-coached carnival ride that ended in a sad clown face at Miami.

Toledo was eventually fired for losing too many exciting games and replaced by Karl Dorrell, who was going to restore discipline and defense.

Dorrell's first win, remember, was 6-3 against Illinois.

Yet, in Year 3 of his tenure, UCLA is now playing a lot of games down to its cuticles. The Bruins have given up 109 points in the last three games and won. They came from behind to win three consecutive games before Saturday's comparative breather.

Drew Olson's six touchdown passes against Oregon State rekindled sonnets of '98 and Cade McNown's heaving a pass into the mist to beat Oregon State.

And, just as in 1998, UCLA will need luck to get where it wants to go and probably will have to make a tackle when it counts.

There are five undefeated teams ahead of UCLA in the rankings, with the Bruins needing to get to No. 2 or No. 1.

That prospect seemed all but impossible until Saturday, when undefeated Georgia squeezed by Arkansas but lost starting quarterback D.J. Shockley to injury with a huge game against Florida next weekend.

And, for the second week in a row, Alabama needed a last-second field goal to remain unbeaten, but, with a struggling offense, how can the Crimson Tide stay that way with Louisiana State, Auburn and a possible Southeastern Conference title game still to play?

No. 3 Virginia Tech stands unscathed in UCLA's way, but the Hokies still have to play Boston College, Miami and maybe Florida State.

This isn't going to be easy. UCLA has to keep winning, needs USC to do the same and hope the BCS gods part the seas.

But if UCLA could somehow upend No. 1 USC on Dec. 3, who knows?

Stranger things have happened in the BCS.

We know because we've seen them.

One year, it was Miami 49, UCLA 45.

Weekend Wrap

Streaks and stuff: Division III Mount Union of Ohio had won 110 consecutive regular-season games dating to 1994 before Saturday's loss to Ohio Northern.

Mount Union holds the NCAA record for consecutive wins with 55.

Oklahoma holds the major-college mark with 47.

USC has won 29 in a row.

Gene Chizik has won 22 straight games as a defensive coordinator at Auburn and now at Texas.

Let's get this straight: Stanford lost to Division I-AA UC Davis in September. UC Davis has lost to New Hampshire, Portland State and South Dakota State. Stanford is now 4-2 after Saturday's win over Arizona State, which blew a 21-3, second-half lead against USC in Tempe on Oct. 1. Yeah, that all makes sense.

Stanford could now be this season's biggest dream wrecker. The Cardinal plays UCLA and USC in consecutive weeks and plays host to Notre Dame to end the season Nov. 26. The Irish could be playing for their ninth win and a probable BCS bid. This is the last year in the BCS contract that independent Notre Dame would get to keep the entire major-bowl paycheck (between $14 million and $17 million), so let's hope it comes down to one last play, right?

Let this be a lesson: California's comeback win over Washington State in Berkeley on Saturday night proves you never, ever switch channels on a late-night Pac-10 game even when you think for sure it's over.

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