Neb., Penn State share top honors

October 31, 1994|By Gene Wojciechowski | Gene Wojciechowski,Los Angeles Times

If he were a salesman, Nebraska offensive tackle Zach Wiegert would be the soft-sell variety. Asked Saturday if he thought the unbeaten Cornhuskers deserved to be ranked No. 1 in the polls, Wiegert showed remarkable restraint for a player whose team had humiliated second-ranked Colorado, 24-7.

"I just hope all the voters watched the game; that's all I'm going to say," said Wiegert, who then declined to speculate about the vote.

Guess what? Someone watched.

In yet another ballot flip-flop, the Associated Press voters bumped Penn State (7-0) from the top spot and moved Nebraska there from the No. 3 position. As it turns out, enough of the 62 writers and broadcasters who vote thought more of the Cornhuskers' victory than the Nittany Lions' 63-14 rout of then-No. 21 Ohio State.

The upper reaches of the USA Today-CNN coaches poll remained the same, by the slimmest of margins. For the third consecutive week, Penn State (32 first-place votes, 1,520 points) stayed at No. 1, followed by Nebraska (30 and 1,518).

The mandate in the AP poll was also hardly unanimous. Nebraska received 33 first-place votes and 1,520 points. Penn State had 28 first-place votes and 1,514 points.

If Nebraska and Penn State remain unbeaten, the Cornhuskers would return to the Orange Bowl and most likely play Miami Jan. 2, whereas the Nittany Lions would travel to the Rose Bowl for a Jan. 2 appearance against the Pacific 10 Conference champion. At the moment, Oregon, Washington State, Arizona and USC are tied for the lead. Bowl victories by both Nebraska and Penn State might result in yet another split national championship, which would be the third since 1990.

For now, though, neither Cornhuskers coach Tom Osborne nor Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno is pleading his team's case. If anything, they say they couldn't care less about the polls . . . for now. Come Jan. 3, when the final results are released, they will care.

"I think at the end of the year, after everyone's played all their games, if I feel [that we're No. 1], I'll say it," Paterno said. "I think you win it by playing the season out."

Osborne said: "All we want to do is play well. If people think we deserve to be No. 1, great. If not, then we've done all we can."

Osborne was talking about an Orange Bowl trip, not the weekly (( rankings. Ask him about the polls, and he grimaces.

Paterno was no different after the victory against Ohio State. He said he didn't hear Osborne pushing for No. 1, so why should he? Anyway, he said, there were too many games left to worry about rankings.

However, neither team plays an opponent currently ranked in the AP Top 25 the rest of the way. Nebraska is home against Kansas on Saturday, then finishes at Iowa State and Oklahoma. Penn State travels to Indiana and Illinois before closing with home games against Northwestern and Michigan State.

Osborne and Paterno don't need to campaign; Colorado and Ohio State will do it for them.

Buffaloes coach Bill McCartney, who said his team was whipped pure and simple, cast his vote for Nebraska. Colorado never had a chance, a theme echoed by Buffaloes players.

"There is nothing I can say," tight end Christian Fauria said. "We played horrible, and they played great. Right now, there's not much we can do. We just have to give credit to Nebraska."

There is little doubt whom Buckeyes coach John Cooper chose as No. 1. After watching Penn State score 63 points -- the first time that has happened to a Buckeyes team since 1902 -- Cooper was in awe.

"I hope they're as good as I think they are -- and I think they are," he said. "I knew going into the ballgame they were a great offensive team. They may be the best offensive team I've seen since I've been in coaching. We couldn't stop them."

Penn State, in only its second season in the Big Ten, has won 12 consecutive games, the nation's second-longest winning streak. And not since 1985, when Iowa was unbeaten after seven games, has a Big Ten team been ranked No. 1 this late in the season.

Completing the AP Top 10 were Auburn, which earned one first-place vote, followed by Florida, Miami, Alabama, Colorado, Florida State, Utah and Syracuse.

POLLS APART

The Associated Press poll of sportswriters and sportscasters and the USA Today-CNN poll of coaches resulted in a split decision on who's No. 1 in college football. In the Bowl Coalition rankings, which combine the two polls, Nebraska has a slight edge on Penn State. (Auburn, which is on probation, is not eligible for the coaches' poll and has its AP points doubled for the coalition poll.)

AP

Team .. .. .. .. .. .. Pts.

Neb. (9-0) .. .. .. 1,520

2. Penn St. (7-0) . .. 1,514

3. Auburn (8-0) ... .. 1,427

4. Florida (6-1) 1,322

5. Miami (6-1) 1,267

USA Today-CNN

Team .. .. .. .. .. .. Pts.

Penn State .. .. .. 1,520

2. Nebraska . .. .. .. 1,518

3. Miami . .. .. .. .. 1,373

Ala. (8-0) .. .. .. 1,358

5. Florida .. .. .. .. 1,313

Bowl Coalition

Team .. .. .. .. .. .. Pts.

Nebraska . .. .. .. 3,038

2. Penn State .. .. .. 3,034

3. Auburn . . .. .. .. 2,854

Miami . .. .. .. .. 2,640

Florida .. .. .. .. 2,635

REMAINING ROAD

The remaining schedules for the top three teams in the Associated Press poll:

No. 1 NEBRASKA Nov. 5 .. .. Kansas

Nov. 12 . .. at Iowa State

Nov. 25 . .. at Oklahoma

No. 2 PENN STATE Nov. 5 .. .. at Indiana

Nov. 12 . .. at Illinois

Nov. 19 . .. Northwestern

Nov. 26 . .. Michigan State

No. 3 AUBURN Nov. 5 .. .. East Carolina

Nov. 12 . .. Georgia

Nov. 19 . .. at Alabama

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