All Is Not Yet Lost
Thanks to the new bowl formula, teams with one defeat need not give up their title dreams
Attempts this early in the season to apply the abstruse Bowl Championship Series formula—which will determine the No.-l-versus-No.-2 matchup in the Fiesta Bowl-produce little more than a headache, but some things are becoming clear. One is that even with one loss, strong teams like Florida State, which beat then-No. 18 Southern Cal 30-10 last Saturday, and Florida, which outgunned Kentucky 51-35, aren't out of the picture. Another is that, when it comes to comparing conferences, the SEC is strong, the Pac-10 is deep, and the Big Ten is in deep trouble.
?Given the quality of their SEC opponents, neither Florida (3-1) nor the loser of the game this week between unbeatens Georgia and LSU should give up hope of a berth in the Fiesta. Each of those teams' strong strength-of-schedule rating (a factor in the Bowl Championship Series formula along with a team's standing in the two polls and various computer rankings and its won-lost record) will help to offset a single defeat.
?Though USC and Washington suffered awful beatings by non-conference opponents last Saturday, the Pac-10 is 8-3 against the Big Ten, the Big 12 and the ACC. Oregon, Arizona and UCLA remain unbeaten and figure to enhance their Bowl Championship Series ratings because their strength of schedule will be increased by the strong performances of the other teams in the Pac-10.
?Given the Big Ten's 4-10 record against teams from the power conferences and Notre Dame, the loser of the Ohio State-Perm State game this Saturday can make other plans for Jan. 4. The Fiesta won't be calling.
?Of the 19 teams that enter October unbeaten, Marshall, Miami ( Ohio) and Tulane will never be ranked high enough to reach the Fiesta Bowl. Three others are unblemished only by the grace of their September schedules: Minnesota, Texas Tech and Wisconsin will falter at some point. That leaves 13 teams with a genuine chance to finish unbeaten and earn a spot in the title game.
Well, maybe not. By season's end, it's possible that the Florida-Florida State winner or Syracuse, currently the next most prominent team with one loss, will be ranked high enough and have a schedule rating strong enough to come out ahead of an unbeaten team in the race for a Fiesta Bowl berth.
To curtail all the speculation surrounding strength of schedule—one scenario has an unbeaten, top-ranked Ohio State losing a berth in the Fiesta and a shot at the national title due to the Big Ten's weakness—SEC assistant commissioner Charles Bloom, who played a large role in developing the BCS formula, said on Sunday that the release of the schedule ratings will be moved up from Nov. 15 to as early as Oct. 25.
In the Wake Of the Storm
Hurricane Georges swept past South Florida and into the Gulf of Mexico last Friday, leaving the weather in Miami typically calm and balmy on Saturday, when the Hurricanes had been scheduled to play UCLA. No matter. For Miami administrators and players, many of whom had endured the devastation wrought by Hurricane Andrew in 1992, the decision last Thursday to call off the game against the Bruins was the right one. "In Andrew, I lost my house, my socks—everything," Hurricanes athletic director Paul Dee said last Thursday. "You're going to make decisions a little more conservatively after going through that."