A bowl loss by Buffaloes could set off stampede for No. 1 College football notebook

November 26, 1990|By Ray Parrillo | Ray Parrillo,Knight-Ridder

Some advice to college football fans who will argue over who's the best team in the nation after the flurry of bowl games have concluded: Loosen up those vocal cords.

After Penn State survived Pitt 22-17 on Saturday at Beaver Stadium, coach Joe Paterno described a sequence of postseason events that he felt could conceivably give the 10th-ranked Lions a national championship. But the Penn State scenario is only one in what may become a jungle of "We're No. 1" chants.

Looking at it through blue-and-white-colored glasses, Paterno said that if No. 8 Florida State beats No. 6 Florida this week and if No. 7 Notre Dame beats top-ranked Colorado in the Orange Bowl and if Penn State (9-2) beats Florida State in the Blockbuster Bowl, then "we can yell as loud as Miami [for No. 1 honors]. We'll have 10 straight wins."

Here are the cases for, and against, several teams that can legitimately lay claim to No. 1 if Notre Dame knocks off Colorado's Buffaloes:

* Third-ranked Miami (8-2) has the, uh, poll position if it beats San Diego State on Saturday, then tops Texas in the Cotton Bowl. If so, the Hurricanes will become the first team with two losses to be voted the national champion. The argument against Miami is that it will have beaten just three quality teams -- Iowa, Florida State and Texas.

* Fourth-ranked Brigham Young (10-1) can claim No. 1 if it beats Hawaii on Saturday and Texas A&M in the Holiday Bowl. The argument for the Cougars is that they defeated Miami and that they will have finished with one loss fewer than the 'Canes. The case against BYU is its soft Western Athletic Conference schedule.

* Second-ranked Georgia Tech (9-0-1) can claim No. 1 if it beats Georgia on Saturday and No. 19 Nebraska in the Citrus Bowl. If so, the Yellow Jackets will be the only undefeated Division I-A team in the country. Another factor in their favor: They beat Virginia in Charlottesville when the Cavaliers were ranked No. 1 and healthy. The arguments against the Yellow Jackets are that 13-13 tie with mediocre North Carolina and their relatively weak schedule. Tech's cause wasn't helped much by Nebraska's miserable showing in that 45-10 blowout loss to Oklahoma on Friday.

* Florida (9-1) can claim No. 1 if it beats Florida State on Saturday. The Gators have already proven that they are the best team in the Southeastern Conference. The arguments against them are that their only loss was a 45-3 humiliation by Tennessee and that they are on NCAA probation and ineligible to play in a bowl game.

* Fifth-ranked Texas (9-1) will have a strong argument for No. 1 if it beats tough Texas A&M on Saturday and Miami in the Cotton Bowl. The Longhorns topped Penn State in early September. They also pounded Houston when the Cougars were undefeated and edged Oklahoma when the Sooners were unbeaten. Their loss was to Colorado, 29-22, largely because of a blocked punt near the end of the game.

* Notre Dame (9-2) can get into the screaming match if it beats Colorado, even if Miami tops Texas. After all, the Irish did defeat Miami, and they would have the same record but against a tougher schedule.

In the end, though, it's a playoff system that's most worth shouting for.

* TY FOR THE HEISMAN: The Heisman Trophy will be awarded Saturday at New York's Downtown Athletic Club. If it goes to the most exciting, most publicized player in the nation, then Notre Dame's Raghib "Rocket" Ismail, the junior all-purpose back, will win it. If it goes to the best player in the nation, as it should, then it will go to BYU quarterback Ty Detmer.

Detmer played through a midseason hand injury and still had a better year than Andre Ware, the Houston quarterback who won the Heisman last season with numbers that were then considered all but unapproachable.

In a 45-10 victory over Utah State on Saturday, Detmer, a junior from San Antonio, Texas, set an NCAA single-season passing record for yards (4,869) and probably will become the first Division I-A quarterback to surpass 5,000 yards. Detmer needs 26 completions to equal Ware's single-season standard of 365, and Detmer has thrown 61 fewer passes.

As for consistency, Detmer has thrown for 300 or more yards in an NCAA-record 23 straight games.

That Detmer plays in the defense-less Western Athletic Conference shouldn't be held against him. He devastated a good Penn State defense for 576 yards in last year's Holiday Bowl and picked Miami apart in September.

* EXTRA POINTS: Ohio State's 16-13 loss to Michigan not only cost the Buckeyes a berth in the Rose Bowl, but it also placed coach John Cooper's job in doubt. University president Gordon Gee placed Cooper's future in the hands of athletic director Jim Jones, who said, "I don't know what will happen." . . . The biggest loser over the weekend was probably the Sugar Bowl, which is stuck with three-time loser Virginia.

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