Outlook rosy for Miami, Florida

Losses by Nebraska, Oklahoma shuffle BCS

Fla. pair on No. 1 path

November 25, 2001|By Randall Mell | Randall Mell,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

MIAMI - The Miami Hurricanes and Florida Gators are on track to meet Jan. 3 in a national championship showdown in the Rose Bowl.

Thanks to a pair of Big 12 upsets over the weekend, Miami and Florida need only win out to lock up spots in Pasadena, Calif.

The Hurricanes (10-0) and Gators (9-1) are poised to pull down the top two rankings, respectively, in the new BCS poll scheduled to come out tomorrow. If the Hurricanes win at Virginia Tech in their regular-season finale Saturday, and the Gators win at home against Tennessee on Saturday and in the Southeastern Conference championship in Atlanta the following weekend, the two teams will garner more than enough BCS points to play for the national title.

The Hurricanes were No. 2 in the last BCS standings and Florida No. 4, but they're positioned to take the top spots after No. 1 Nebraska was routed by Colorado on Friday, 62-36, and No. 3 Oklahoma lost to Oklahoma State yesterday, 16-13.

Miami pounded Washington, 65-7, last night. Florida was idle.

Oregon (9-1) is likely to become the new No. 3 in the BCS poll, but the Ducks are a distant third, four BCS points behind the Gators. Oregon's lone remaining game is Saturday against Oregon State. Tennessee (9-1) and Texas (10-1) appear the only other teams left with credible chances at the national title game should Miami or Florida falter.

The Hurricanes and Gators have met 50 times in some emotionally charged grudge matches dating back to 1938, but they've never played with more at stake than what will be up for grabs if they get to Pasadena. The series is tied 25-25.

Florida players watching on television yesterday as a 3-7 Oklahoma State squad knocked off the Sooners couldn't contain their excitement.

"Half of my teammates have already called me," Florida junior cornerback Lito Shepard said from his parents' home in Jacksonville. "I knew there was a chance, but I didn't think it would be like this. It's all working out for us. We control our own destiny."

Miami routed Florida, 37-20, in last season's Sugar Bowl, marking the first time the two teams had met in 13 years. Florida officials ended the series after the SEC expanded from a six- to seven-game schedule in 1988.

If the Gators defeat Tennessee on Saturday, they will meet the winner of Saturday's Auburn-LSU game in the SEC championship.

While there are no guarantees Miami and Florida will meet, the Rose Bowl matchup looks more certain than matchups in the Orange, Sugar or Fiesta bowls.

"It's confusing," said Art Hertz, a member of the Orange Bowl's football committee. "We had our plans mapped out Monday, but with these weekend upsets, our planning's totally out of sync."

Ohio State's upset of Michigan gave Illinois one of the eight BCS bowl spots as the Big Ten champ. Miami (Big East), Maryland (Atlantic Coast Conference) and Oregon (Pac-10) also have locked up spots. The other four teams have yet to be determined.

Florida, Tennessee, LSU and Auburn remain in the hunt as the SEC champion.

Colorado and Texas remain in the hunt as the Big 12 champion. Two at-large teams will fill out the remaining berths. Nebraska, Texas, Colorado, Tennessee and BYU are vying for those spots.

Randall Mell is a reporter for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

Bowl schedule

Dec. 18 New Orleans Bowl, Sun Belt vs. MWC, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)

Dec. 19 GMAC Bowl at Mobile, Ala., MAC vs. CUSA, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)

Dec. 20 Tangerine Bowl, ACC vs. Big East, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Dec. 25 Las Vegas Bowl, Pac-10 vs. MWC, 3:30 p.m. (ABC)

Dec. 27 Seattle Bowl, ACC vs. Pac-10, 4 p.m. (ESPN)

Dec. 27 Independence Bowl at Shreveport, La., Big 12 vs. SEC, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Dec. 28 Galleryfurniture.com Bowl at Houston, Big 12 vs. CUSA, 1:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Dec. 28 Music City Bowl at Nashville, Tenn., Big East vs. SEC, 5 p.m. (ESPN)

Dec. 28 Holiday Bowl at San Diego, Big 12 vs. Pac-10, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Dec. 29 Motor City Bowl at Pontiac, Mich., MAC vs. CUSA, Noon (ESPN)

Dec. 29 Alamo Bowl at San Antonio, Big 12 vs. Big Ten, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Dec. 29 Insight.com Bowl at Phoenix, Big 12 vs. Big East, 5:30 p.m. (ESPN2)

Dec. 31 Sun Bowl at El Paso, Texas, Pac-10 vs. Big Ten, Noon (CBS)

Dec. 31 Humanitarian Bowl at Boise, Idaho, At-large vs. WAC, 12:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Dec. 31 Silicon Valley Classic, at San Jose, Calif., WAC vs. At-large, 3 p.m. (FOXSN)

Dec. 31 Liberty Bowl at Memphis, Tenn., MWC vs. CUSA, 4 p.m. (ESPN)

Dec. 31 Peach Bowl at Atlanta, ACC vs. SEC, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Jan. 1 Outback Bowl at Tampa, Fla., Big Ten vs. SEC, 11 a.m. (ESPN)

Jan. 1 Cotton Bowl at Dallas, SEC vs. Big 12, 11 a.m. (FOX)

Jan. 1 Gator Bowl at Jacksonville, Fla., Big East vs. ACC, 12:30 p.m. (NBC)

Jan. 1 Citrus Bowl at Orlando, Fla., Big Ten vs. SEC, 1 p.m. (ABC)

Jan. 1 Fiesta Bowl at Tempe, Ariz., BCS Big 12 vs. BCS Pac-10, 4:30 p.m. (ABC)

Jan. 1 Sugar Bowl at New Orleans, BCS vs. BCS, 8:30 p.m. (ABC)

Jan. 2 Orange Bowl at Miami, BCS vs. BCS, 8 p.m. (ABC)

Jan. 3 Rose Bowl at Pasadena, Calif., BCS 1 vs. BCS 2, 8 p.m. (ABC)

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