Suddenly, many have title dreams

Rutgers remains long shot, but its upset thrusts pack into picture Bowl Championship Series

November 11, 2006|By Bill Ordine | Bill Ordine,Sun reporter

No. 15 Rutgers' improbable comeback win over No. 3 Louisville on Thursday might not be enough to propel the undefeated Scarlet Knights into college football's national championship picture, but it sure raised a lot of other teams' hopes.

With experts conceding the No. 1 berth at season's end to the winner of the Michigan-Ohio State game next Saturday, previously unbeaten Louisville had the inside track to the No. 2 spot in the Bowl Championship Series standings. That would have put the Cardinals in the national title game Jan. 8 in Glendale, Ariz.

Now, 8-1 Louisville joins a herd of one-loss teams that includes, among others, Florida, Texas, Southern California, California, West Virginia, Auburn and Notre Dame.

As far as the 9-0 Knights are concerned, their perfect mark puts them in a similar situation as 9-0 Boise State - an unblemished record compiled against lesser-caliber opponents.

Still, some who have input in the BCS ratings believe Rutgers will rise dramatically from its current No. 13 position as a result of its 28-25 win over Louisville.

Jeff Sagarin publishes several different rankings but in the one the BCS uses (which doesn't account for margins of victory), Rutgers leaped from 12th to third. The BCS composite rating is composed of several polls and computer rankings.

But Sagarin emphasizes that other teams will have better opportunities to move up in the BCS standings.

He points out that USC (seventh in the most recent BCS ratings) could soar with wins over California (eighth), Notre Dame (ninth) and Oregon (20th).

"Nobody else is in a position to gobble up so many points," he said.

Conversely, Notre Dame could move up with a win over USC, especially if Michigan (the only team to beat the Irish) wins out.

For Rutgers to continue its astonishing ride, it needs to beat West Virginia (7-1 and 10th in the BCS). Even at that, the Knights likely could do no better than an invitation as an at-large in a major bowl because the champion from its conference, the Big East, doesn't have a BCS bowl affiliation.

"I just don't think voters will believe in [Rutgers]," said Jerry Palm of CollegeBCS.com. "They'll get into the top 10, but they'll be closer to No. 10 than to No. 5, and it's tough to get to No. 2 from there."

For 7-2 Maryland (23rd in the BCS), the Rutgers win means little. The ACC champion gets an automatic bid to the Jan. 2 Orange Bowl.

"Actually, we're probably one of the few conferences it didn't affect because we really don't have a one-loss team besides Wake Forest that would be in the running for [the national championship], and Wake is ranked fairly low," said Mike Finn, the ACC's associate commissioner for football operations.

The Demon Deacons are ranked 19th in the BCS and finish the season against the Terrapins on Nov. 25.

While Texas (fifth) is ranked high, a so-so remaining schedule could hurt the Longhorns. Meanwhile, a team such as Arkansas (11th), with Tennessee and LSU remaining on its schedule, could improve its chances with wins against those tough teams.

"We went from having one team [Louisville] with a clear shot to having no one with a clear shot," Palm said. "It's pretty open - even Rutgers, though their chances are slim."

bill.ordine@baltsun.com

Sun reporters Christian Ewell, Childs Walker and Heather A. Dinich contributed to this article.

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