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BCS: If Volunteers lose, Nebraska back in

Posted: Tuesday, December 04, 2001

Nebraska is perhaps on the verge of its greatest comeback ever thanks to the Bowl Championship Series standings.

The Cornhuskers, all but out of the national title chase after a 62-36 loss to Colorado on Nov. 23, would play No. 1 Miami in the BCS championship game if LSU beats Tennessee on Saturday.

The BCS standings confirmed as much Monday, ranking Miami first, Tennessee second and Nebraska third -- ahead of fourth-place Colorado, the team it lost to by 26 points -- and fifth-place Oregon.

Expect Huskers fans everywhere to learn the words to ''Tiger Rag'' and tune in when LSU (8-3) plays Tennessee (10-1) for the Southeastern Conference title on the final night of the regular season.

The Vols, favored by seven points, can prevent what is certain to create a huge controversy by winning and moving on to play the Hurricanes at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

Miami (11-0) has 2.50 points in the BCS rankings, Tennessee (10-1) 4.79 points, Nebraska (11-1) 8.39 points, Colorado (10-2) 9.88 points, and Pac-10 champion Oregon (10-1) has 10.44 points.

Nebraska coach Frank Solich said his team deserves to be third in the standings, adding that unlike Miami, Tennessee and Oregon, his team didn't have any close-call victories.

''All of the games we won, we won by at least 10 points. We did not have to win a game by having a lucky bounce or a field goal at the end,'' Solich said. ''None of them came down to a 2-point conversion or went into overtime. The games were really decided either before or the middle of the fourth quarter.''

And what about the loss to the Buffaloes? ''We should have and could have played better,'' he said. ''Colorado is an excellent football team and that is playing outstanding right now.''

BCS officials must be hoping for a Vols victory to avoid explaining how a team can play for a national title even though it couldn't even win its own division of the Big 12 Conference.

Jerry Palm, who runs a Web site that closely monitors the BCS standings, says Oregon will have the biggest beef.

''The reaction if Nebraska gets in will be bad,'' Palm said. ''It's hard to understand how a team that doesn't qualify for a conference title gets to play for a national title. Oregon has a stronger argument since Colorado has two losses and that's tough to overcome. But that's kind of the way it goes in the BCS.''

An LSU win also creates the possibility of split national champions. If Oregon wins its BCS game and Nebraska beats Miami in the Rose Bowl, the Ducks could be voted No. 1 in the final AP poll.

''It's very difficult to see how a two-loss team (Colorado) can be ranked ahead of a one-loss team, especially since at one time the Pac-10 represented almost one-third of all teams ranked in the BCS standings,'' Oregon coach Mike Bellotti said.

''There still exists a bias when it comes to college football on the West Coast. I know the computers that make up the BCS were supposed to eliminate that, but you still have people inputing the data into the computers.''

The AP voters cast their final Top 25 ballots following the Rose Bowl, and all I-A team are eligible to finish No. 1. Not so in the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll, which automatically crowns the Rose Bowl winner its national champion.

The BCS standings, set up to determine which teams play in a title game, use a formula that incorporates the AP media and coaches' polls, eight computers, strength of schedule, won-lost record and bonus points for big wins.

The BCS aligns six major conference champions with four big bowl games, the Rose, Sugar, Fiesta and Orange. Two at-large teams are then selected to fill out the field.

Nebraska moved into contention following a series of upsets on Saturday. Florida and Texas, second and third in last week's BCS standings, fell out of contention with losses. That allowed the Huskers to improve from fourth to third and the Vols from sixth to second.

Miami's 2.50-point breakdown was: 1 point for poll average, 1 point for computer average, .60 for strength of schedule, 0 for won-loss record and a .1 bonus point deduction for a 65-7 win over Washington on Nov. 24. The Hurricanes clinched a Rose Bowl spot with a 26-24 win over Virginia Tech on Saturday.

The bonus award -- new this season -- is based on a sliding scale from 1.5 points for beating a first-place team down to .1 for a win over the 15th-place team. The bonus is awarded after the other elements are calculated.

Tennessee (4.79) had 2 points for poll average, 2.83 points for computer average, .16 for strength of schedule, 1 for won-loss record and a 1.2 point bonus deduction for beating sixth-place Florida 34-32 on Saturday.

Nebraska (8.39) had 4.5 points for poll average, 2.67 for computer average, 0.72 for strength of schedule, 1 for won-loss record and a .5 bonus deduction for beating 11th-place Oklahoma 20-10 on Oct. 27.

The final BCS standings will be released Dec. 9.



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