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Archive for Monday, December 1, 2003

No. 1 Oklahoma lock for Sugar Bowl berth

December 1, 2003

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About the only thing No. 1 Oklahoma has to play for in the Big 12 title game is uniform color.

The Sooners have such a safe lead in the BCS standings that they are projected to go to the Sugar Bowl even if they lose to Kansas State Saturday in Kansas City, Mo. The only difference would be that Oklahoma probably would drop to No. 2 and wouldn't have its choice of uniforms.

"I think they'd still be the No. 1 team in the computers if they lose," BCS expert Jerry Palm said. "They might be third in the polls, but they would have the strongest strength of schedule of the three teams by a lot and a quality win over Texas."

Oklahoma's Sugar Bowl opponent still is up in the air, with Southern California and LSU battling for the second spot. The Trojans will enter the final week with a slight edge in the BCS standings over the Tigers, but it might not hold when the bowl bids are given Sunday.

While USC (10-1) finishes the season Saturday against Oregon State (7-4), LSU (11-1) has a rematch against No. 5 Georgia (10-2) in the SEC title game. The more difficult matchup will serve as an advantage for the Tigers -- assuming they can win -- by boosting their strength of schedule and helping their computer rankings.

LSU probably will need to be ahead of USC in at least five of the seven computers to pass the Trojans.

In an oddity, the No. 2 team in the Colley Matrix computer could be determined by the Notre Dame-Syracuse game, assuming LSU and USC win. An Irish win would give the No. 2 spot to the Trojans, who beat Notre Dame this season, while an Orangemen win would give the edge to LSU, according to Palm.

If both one-loss teams lose, Michigan (10-2) or Georgia most likely would go to the Sugar Bowl, with the Wolverines having a slight edge.

Here's a projected look at the other BCS matchups, assuming USC and Oklahoma play in the Sugar Bowl Jan. 4:

Rose Bowl: Michigan vs. Florida State. The Rose Bowl wouldn't mind if USC got passed by LSU in the BCS standings, setting up the traditional Pac-10 vs. Big Ten matchup. If not, the Rose Bowl will settle for the winningest team (Michigan) vs. the winningest coach (Bobby Bowden) in Division I-A history.

Fiesta Bowl: SEC champion vs. Texas. The Fiesta Bowl will get the first choice if Oklahoma remains first in the BCS. The pick could be Texas to avoid the chance of a matchup between two teams from the Southeast region. The SEC champion will be an attractive choice as well. If Kansas State beats Oklahoma, the Wildcats will take Texas' spot here.

Orange Bowl: Miami vs. Ohio State. The Orange Bowl always likes to have a Florida anchor for its game, and this rematch of last year's title game in the Fiesta Bowl is a good one. The Hurricanes haven't been to the hometown Orange Bowl in nine seasons, and a trip this year will complete a BCS tour for Miami's senior class. The Hurricanes played in the Sugar Bowl in 2001, the Rose in '02, and the Fiesta last season. Ohio State has made one trip to the Orange, beating Colorado, 27-10, under coach Woody Hayes in 1977.

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