Upset Saturday puts Rutgers, Boise State into sweet spots

Auburn, Cal, Texas lose grip on championship hopes

National Analysis

College football

November 13, 2006|By Mike Huguenin | Mike Huguenin,ORLANDO SENTINEL

It always seems to happen this way: What appears to be an unassuming Saturday with a few OK matchups but none that really stands out instead turns out to have a seismic impact on the national-title race.

Saturday was that kind of day.

Three of the top eight teams in the Bowl Championship Series standings lost; add that to No. 3 Louisville's loss Thursday to Rutgers, and half of the top eight - and three of the top six - fell out of the title picture.

Instead of dreaming about a possible trip to Glendale, Ariz., for a game against the Michigan-Ohio State winner, Auburn, California, Louisville and Texas instead are preparing for trips to "lesser" bowls. Still, all but Auburn have shots at other BCS bowls - just not the big one.

Louisville is the only one of the quartet that stayed in the BCS top 10, and the Cardinals still may be attractive enough - obviously, assuming they don't lose again - to garner an at-large BCS bid. And Cal and Texas still have good shots to win their conference titles and the resultant automatic BCS bids.

The most interesting aspect of this week's BCS standings is that Rutgers - a team that, according to the NCAA, has played the nation's 36th-toughest schedule - is ranked second in the cumulative computer rankings, behind only Michigan. The high computer ranking puts Rutgers sixth overall in the BCS.

Also of interest is that Boise State (10-0) is 12th this week. Finishing in the top 12 guarantees the Broncos a BCS berth. In addition, they're ahead of the top-ranked teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference (Wake Forest at No. 16) and the Big 12 (Texas at No. 13).

If any non-BCS league champ is ranked ahead of a BCS-league champ in the final standings released Dec. 3, that non-BCS team is guaranteed a spot in a BCS bowl.

What if?

Remember Oklahoma's 34-33 overtime loss to Oregon on Sept. 16 - the one in which the Pacific-10 officiating crew made two horrible calls that benefited the homestanding Ducks?

Throw out that loss and the Sooners are 9-1 and in the thick of the national title hunt.

Grid bits

Washington started the season 4-1 and looked in good shape to earn its first bowl bid since 2002. But the Huskies have since lost six in a row and hit rock-bottom Saturday by losing to previously winless Stanford.

"You always get that question, `Is it a step back?'" Huskies coach Tyrone Willingham said. "In this case, I have to say, `Yes, it is.' I felt like this was a ballgame that we could win, and then we could position ourselves to go into next week [against Washington State] and still have a chance at a bowl-eligible season. We didn't respond." ...

You think South Florida receivers like redshirt freshman quarterback Matt Grothe? He completed passes to 10 receivers among his first 14 completions in Saturday's 27-10 victory over Syracuse. The Bulls improved to 7-3 with the victory. They finish the regular season with road games against Louisville and West Virginia. ...

Maryland became the first team to beat Florida State and Miami in the same season since Florida in 1985. ... Notre Dame's victory over Air Force gives the Irish back-to-back nine-victory seasons for the first time in 13 years.

Mike Huguenin writes for the Orlando Sentinel.

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