Another unhappy commish
By Mitch Vingle, Special to CNNSI.com
While the regular season elevated the Big East, many think the league's upper tier duo -- Miami and Virginia Tech -- got the shaft.
Miami defeated Florida State, yet the latter is headed to an Orange Bowl showdown with Oklahoma. Meanwhile, Tech, which won 10 games and fared well in last season's title game, was squeezed out of the Bowl Championship Series games.
Yet while Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese is upset with the Miami situation, he said he's not going to pull a "Pac 10," whose commissioner threatened to leave the BCS.
"The Miami situation is hard for me to accept," said Tranghese. "I can understand a computer rating Florida State ahead of Miami, but I don't understand how Florida State can be ranked ahead of an undefeated Oklahoma, which played a very tough schedule.
"It's clearly something we need to look at."
The commish isn't as upset as some Tech fans that the Hokies dropped to the Gator Bowl.
"The Tech situation is something that's occurred every single year we've had the BCS," said Tranghese. "Someone has been in the top five or six and then left out. You have to look at geography and market strength. We've talked about it every year. But when we've met about getting stricter, people have been unwilling to do so.
"The bowl system has never been fair. Virginia Tech clearly got squeezed. But it's because of geography. Had the Fiesta and Orange bowls been reversed, Oregon State would have been left out."
Tranghese, however, would like to see at least one change: margin of victory eliminated from BCS computer analysis.
"That's clearly something we need to look at," said the commissioner. "The point differential is something I've never felt comfortable with. And this year it may have been the difference in getting Miami into the Orange Bowl.
"I think it's a component that needs to be ignored."
'Canes go for biggest honor of allTranghese pointed out that Tech can still finish as one of the nation's top five teams, and, more importantly to his league, UM can still win a share of the national championship. Although the coaches' poll is cemented to the BCS, the Associated Press writers' poll could crown Miami if Florida State beats Oklahoma.
The Hurricanes, however, will have to take out Florida, a team they haven't faced since 1987, in the Sugar Bowl.
Miami coach Butch Davis gave his team three weeks off after a Nov. 25 win against Boston College. And said the time off was beneficial.
"You can tell there's an extra amount of enthusiasm," said the coach after his Dec. 15 practice. "A lot of guys got a chance to get well and get re-energized. ... But they were anxious to get back."
Since the end of the season many Hurricanes have been busy picking up awards. Linebacker Dan Morgan became the first player in college football history to win the Chuck Bednarik, Bronko Nagurski and Dick Butkus awards. Receiver Santana Moss made most first-team All-America lists. And defensive back Ed Reed was a first team Associated Press and CNNSI.com All-America.
But Davis said he's not worried his team will got caught celebrating in the party capital of New Orleans.
"We have kids with an awful lot of maturity," said the coach. "They understand what's at stake and how to conduct themselves."
Miami averaged 42.6 points (second among Division I-A teams) and 460.8 yards (fifth) during the regular season. But 24 of the 49 games in the UM-UF series have been decided by a touchdown or less.
Also, Miami will be without senior fullback Will McPartland, who will travel to the Sugar Bowl but won't play. McPartland is suffering from equilibrium problems that stem from concussions. He missed the final two regular season games.
Don't overlook the passVirginia Tech will be meeting Clemson for the third straight season. The matchup in Jacksonville, Fla., however, will be the first bowl game of the stretch.
The Hokies have won the last two games, taking a 31-11 decision in 1999 and a 37-0 shutout in '98.
An area to watch in this game is Clemson's passing game. Tech is tied for third in the country after making 23 interceptions, while Tigers quarterbacks have thrown nine, including six from starter Woodrow Danzler.
Danzler and Tech's Michael Vick, however, may be the top two running quarterbacks in the country. Vick set a Big East record for QBs with 210 yards rushing against Boston College, while Dantzler has an ACC record of 220 yards, set against Virginia.
Panthers expected to air it outPittsburgh tries to continue its climb back to respectability when it faces 8-3 Iowa State in the Insight.com Bowl.
The 7-4 Panthers have had many success stories this season. Back Kevan Barlow rushed for more than 1,000 yards and established himself as an upper level NFL prospect. True freshman Shawntae Smith stepped in and was outstanding at cornerback. Bryan Knight made a name for himself from his defensive end spot.
But perhaps the league's best story is wideout Antonio Bryant, who led the nation in receiving with 130.2 yards per game and won the Biletnikoff Award. The last sophomore to win the award was Randy Moss.
"I couldn't believe it," said Bryant, who caught 68 passes and scored 11 touchdowns. Pitt averaged 269.5 passing yards this season (18th nationally), while the Cyclones' passing defense is 51st.
The two schools have never met in football.
Anxiety reigns in MorgantownThe Music City Bowl is the last for West Virginia coach Don Nehlen, who is retiring after the game. But there has been anything but a smooth handoff in Morgantown as the 6-5 Mountaineers prepare for 8-3 Mississippi.
New WVU coach Rich Rodriguez set up shop in the school's press box. Many of Nehlen's assistants, who expected to stick, are out. And more than a few Mountaineers players are skittish about next season.
"It's just that a lot of guys are nervous," said WVU tackle Tanner Russell. "They're scared of how different the program is going to be as far as conditioning and things like that.
"Some guys wonder where they'll fit in with [Rodriguez's] system... Everybody knows we need to put this behind us."
WVU and Ole Miss have never met in football. Safety Rick Sherrod (shoulder) is the only Mountaineer questionable for the game.
Mitch Vingle covers the Big East for the Charleston (W. Va.) Gazette.