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Archive for Monday, November 19, 2001

Bowl picture taking shape

November 19, 2001

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— Clinton Portis was smiling in the Miami locker room, poking fun at those who doubted the Hurricanes were national-championship material.

Soft schedule. Nearly lost to Boston College. And this week, even after Saturday's 59-0 rout of Syracuse, the running back was trying to figure the next knock on Miami:

"Now something's going to be wrong with Syracuse," he said. "They'll say Syracuse wasn't so tough."

Easy, big fellow.

On Sunday, No. 1 Miami (9-0) increased its lead over idle Nebraska (11-0) in the AP media poll, and also regained the top spot in the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll a week after losing it to Nebraska.

When the BCS standings are released today, expect second-place Miami to gain significant ground on Nebraska, while also pulling away from third-place Oklahoma.

"If we go 11-0 and don't play in the Rose Bowl, then something's wrong," Portis said.

For now, all seems right in the BCS world. If Miami and Nebraska complete perfect seasons, it'll be Hurricanes-Huskers for the national title. No arguments, no controversy.

But just when all the pieces appear to be falling into place, something is bound to happen to scramble things up. That's just the way college football works, at least until there's a playoff system.

If form holds, it looks like nine teams are fighting for eight BCS slots, with either undefeated BYU or a one-loss Illinois being left out.

Using the theory that Miami and Nebraska win out, here's one scenario, with predicted final regular-season records:

Rose Bowl: Miami (11-0) vs. Nebraska (13-0). Far from a gimme. The Hurricanes still have to beat No. 12 Washington at home on Saturday, and No. 16 Virginia Tech in Blacksburg on Dec. 1. The Huskers need to beat No. 14 Colorado in Boulder on Friday, then win the Big 12 title game on Dec. 1. The likely opponent? Oklahoma, 20-10 losers to Nebraska on Oct. 27.

Sugar Bowl: Florida (11-1) vs. Texas (11-1). Sounds like a pretty good national title game, too. The Gators still need to beat No. 7 Tennessee on Dec. 1 at The Swamp, then win the SEC title game on Dec 8. The opponent? Probably Auburn, which dealt the Gators their only loss. The Longhorns close at Texas A&M on Friday, and will likely gain the edge over Oklahoma, which would be finishing with a second loss to Nebraska.

Orange Bowl: Maryland (10-1) vs. Michigan (9-2). The Terps clinched one of six automatic BCS berths as ACC champions; the Wolverines will clinch the Big Ten spot with a win over Ohio State on Saturday. Even if Illinois finishes 10-1 overall and ties Michigan for first, the Wolverines own the tiebreaker a win over the Illini.

Fiesta Bowl: Oregon (10-1) vs. BYU (13-0). Yes, BYU. Bowl officials are interested in an unbeaten team, and the Cougars should qualify for a spot by moving into the top 12 in the BCS standings. They are currently 13th. An 11-2 Oklahoma would be a strong choice, but BCS bylaws limit conferences to only two teams (Nebraska and Texas are the two other Big 12 teams). Illinois may end up 10-1, but is on the outside looking in.

Miami was overpowering against Syracuse, which came to the Orange Bowl with an eight-game winning streak and a No. 14 ranking. The Hurricanes were coming off an 18-7 win at Boston College, a team poised to win the game in the final minute before an interception turned into an 80-yard TD by Miami's Ed Reed.

"This football team is a little scary when it hits on all cylinders," Canes rookie coach Larry Coker said. "This team was challenged and they wanted to make a statement."

Mission accomplished.

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