No. 1 Hurricanes will clinch berth in BCS title matchup
By Richard Rosenblatt
The way this kooky season is going, it seems only fitting two teams from Florida could wind up playing for the national championship in California.
No. 1 Miami can clinch a spot in the Rose Bowl with a victory over No. 14 Virginia Tech Saturday, while No. 2 Florida can take a giant step toward the Bowl Championship Series' title game in Pasadena by beating No. 5 Tennessee at The Swamp.
The Hurricanes (10-0) and Gators (9-1), also first and second in the BCS standings, are double-digit favorites against traditionally dangerous foes. But that doesn't mean victory will come easily:
Miami hasn't won in Blacksburg since 1992 (0-3), and dropped five in a row in the series until last year's 41-21 win at the Orange Bowl.
"You can't look past a Virginia Tech team, especially in Blacksburg, because you'll end up crying and sitting home like Nebraska or Oklahoma," cornerback Markese Fitzgerald said.
Tennessee has lost seven straight in Gainesville since a '71 win, but came close in '99 before losing 23-21.
This time around, the game has added meaning not only does the winner advance to the SEC title game (as usual), but there's a good chance the league champion will play for the national championship, too. Tennessee-Florida originally was scheduled for Sept. 15, but was postponed after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"Usually it's us or them. Actually, it's always us or them," Gators coach Steve Spurrier said of the SEC race. "Having it at the end does create a lot more excitement."
Also in the national title chase are No. 3 Texas and No. 4 Oregon, with No. 6 Nebraska and No. 7 Colorado considered long shots.
The Longhorns (10-1) play the Buffaloes (9-2) for the Big 12 title in a most unlikely rematch. This was supposed to be an Oklahoma-Nebraska rematch with the winner clinching a spot in the Rose Bowl.
But the Huskers and Sooners both lost last week, and the 'Horns and Buffs are only too happy to play another game with a reasonable chance of ending up in the Rose Bowl. Texas beat Colorado, 41-7, six weeks ago.
And then there's Oregon (9-1), which closes against Oregon State (5-5) in the Civil War. The Ducks are set to play in the Fiesta Bowl as the Pac-10 Conference's top team, but a title chance could materialize with a big win over the Beavers plus losses by the teams ranked above them.
Nebraska (11-1) completed its season and only can sit back and hope all the teams ranked above them lose. The Huskers are fourth in the BCS standings, which determine the teams who play in the Rose Bowl.
No. 1 Miami (minus 13 1/2) at No. 14 Virginia Tech: 'Canes outscored last two opponents 124-7 ... MIAMI, 35-13.
No. 5 Tennessee (plus 18) at No. 2 Florida: Gators' defense shuts down Vols QB Clausen ... FLORIDA, 41-17.
No. 3 Texas (minus 8 1/2) vs. No. 9 Colorado: 'Horns QB Simms must keep passes out of Buffs' hands ... TEXAS, 31-21.
Oregon State (plus 10 1/2) at No. 4 Oregon: Civil War is Beavers' last chance to save season ... OREGON STATE, 37-31.
No. 10 BYU (minus 4) at Mississippi State: Cougars lose unbeaten season in cowbell country ... MISSISSIPPI STATE, 31-28.
No. 12 Stanford (minus 20) at San Jose State: Cardinal out to end three-game losing streak vs. Spartans ... STANFORD, 44-18.
Houston (plus 31 1/2) at No. 16 Georgia: Dawgs won't get caught napping ... GEORGIA, 49-10.
No. 20 Marshall (minus 3) at Toledo (tomorrow): Herd finds road tough in trying for fifth straight MAC title ... TOLEDO, 28-24.
No. 25 Auburn (plus 7) at No. 22 LSU: Winner plays for SEC title; Visitors have won four of past five ... LSU, 34-31.
Army (minus 1 1/2) vs. Navy at Philadelphia: Winless Navy? ... ARMY, 21-17.
Georgia Tech (plus 11 1/2) at Florida State: Winner avoids five-loss season ... FLORIDA STATE, 34-31.
Notre Dame (plus 1) at Purdue: Irish coach Davie's final game? ... PURDUE, 31-17.