WAS MIAMI'S SLIP SHOWING?
Assuming that Miami registers an easy win over Brigham Young on Saturday, let's consider the following scenario: If Notre Dame beats West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 2, the unbeaten Irish will win the national championship. But what if the Mountaineers win in a squeaker while No. 2 Miami stampedes over Big Eight champ Nebraska in the Orange Bowl? Do you give the crown to West Virginia, or do you move the Hurricanes to the top and make the Mountaineers settle for No. 2? Hmmmmm.
Sorry, Miami, but the vote here would go to West Virginia. Yes, Hurricanes, we hear you: If you defeat Nebraska, you would have wins over the champion, or cochamp, of four major conferences—the others being Michigan of the Big Ten, SEC cochamp Louisiana State and Arkansas of the Southwest Conference 18-16 last Saturday in Miami.
Yes, West Virginia has only two wins over teams with winning records ( Syracuse and Pitt), only one of which is going to a bowl ( Syracuse, headed for a Hall of Fame date with LSU). But there's something compelling about an unbeaten team that takes on No. 1, head-to-head, under all that pressure, and wins.
Besides, as 'Canes detractors will point out, didn't Miami's narrow escape against Arkansas prove that it's slipping at season's end? Maybe. After all, these Razorbacks were, more or less, the same bunch of Hogs who lost to Miami 51-7 last season.
"About the only time we were enthusiastic was at the end of the game," Miami coach Jimmy Johnson lamented. "I've been telling them all week that Arkansas was better than 51-7. But they just weren't listening to me."
The Hurricanes' winning margin came on Carlos Huerta's 20-yard field goal with 5:38 to play. On the previous play, Razorback Steve Atwater dropped what seemed a certain interception in the end zone. "The ball was a little high," said Atwater afterward, "but I should have had it."
Miami had 26 first downs (to six for Arkansas), 438 yards in total offense (to 186), and quarterback Steve Walsh threw a Hurricane-record 33 completions. But the Hogs' D twice stopped Miami on downs inside their 30 and held the 'Canes to their fewest points since their 14-10 loss to Penn State in the '87 Fiesta Bowl.
"If we had won this game, I'd be fighting to say our team is as deserving of Number 1 as anybody," said coach Ken Hatfield. Even the fact that the Razorbacks came so close ought to put such a big dent in Miami's reputation that there's only one logical conclusion: The No. 1 team in the land is the winner of Notre Dame-West Virginia. Period.
THE ENVELOPE, PLEASE