Originally created 12/03/01

Huskers still have a title chance



Some college football fans prefer the season to end in an orderly fashion. Others enjoy complete chaos.

Three breathtaking two-point games involving the nation's top teams, though, has fans pondering the same question: How will the national title chase play out after the final big game of the regular season next Saturday?

The options are limited:

-If No. 2 Tennessee (10-1) beats No. 21 LSU (8-3) in the Southeastern Conference title game, the Volunteers will play No. 1 Miami (11-0) in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 3. There could be no argument with the Bowl Championship Series standings, which determine who plays for a national title.

The Vols knocked Florida out of title contention with a 34-32 win on Saturday, while the Hurricanes beat Virginia Tech 26-24. The Gators and Hokies both missed 2-point conversions in the fourth quarter that would have tied the score.

-If LSU wins, don't be surprised if No. 4 Nebraska (11-1) sneaks into second place over No. 3 Oregon (10-1) in the final BCS standings and winds up playing Miami.

Should the Huskers get in, it would be the BCS' worst nightmare, and party time for those who love college football controversy.

How does a team that can't win its own division, much less a conference title, play for a national title over a league champion?

Nebraska was beaten by Colorado 62-36 two weeks ago, and the Buffs (10-2) won the Big 12 title Saturday with a 39-37 win over Texas.

In fact, if the Huskers play in Pasadena, they would do so over three one-loss conference champions (Maryland, Oregon and Illinois). Oregon beat Oregon State 17-14 on Saturday to win the Pac-10 outright, while Maryland (10-1) is the ACC winner and Illinois (10-1) the Big Ten champion.

Should Tennessee fall, the AP media and the coaches' polls are likely to rank Miami first and Oregon second next week, creating a scenario similar to last season. Miami was No. 2 in the AP's final regular-season poll, but No. 3 Florida State was the team that got to play Oklahoma for the national title.

The BCS standings are based on a formula that incorporates the AP media and coaches' polls, eight computer polls, strength of schedule, won-lost record and bonus points for wins over top teams.

In the AP media poll on Sunday, Miami was a unanimous No. 1, with Tennessee second, Oregon third, Colorado fourth and Nebraska fifth. In the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll, it was Miami, Tennessee, Oregon, Nebraska and Colorado.

When the BCS standings are released Monday, Miami and Tennessee will be first and second, with the battle for third too close to call between Oregon and Nebraska. Florida and Texas, second and third last week, will drop out of contention.

Last week, the Huskers were fourth in the BCS standing, ahead of the Ducks by .39 points.

"My feeling is if LSU beats Tennessee, then Nebraska will edge out Oregon and play Miami," predicts Jerry Palm, who has his own Web site that monitors the BCS standings. "It's really close, but Nebraska already is ahead of Oregon in the BCS. By beating Oregon State by three points, Oregon didn't help itself much.

"And Colorado, with two losses, has too much ground to make up. That extra loss really hurts them."

A Tennessee win on Saturday, and the BCS games should be:

Rose: Miami vs. Tennessee

Sugar: Nebraska vs. Illinois

Orange: Florida vs. Maryland

Fiesta: Oregon vs. Colorado

If LSU wins, this is what the big bowls could look like:

Rose: Miami vs. Nebraska

Sugar: LSU vs. Illinois

Orange: Florida vs. Maryland

Fiesta: Oregon vs. Colorado

For those who want to keep order, start singing "Rocky Top."

For all the others, the chant should be, "Go, Tigers!"