- The Washington Times - Monday, November 7, 2005

BLACKSBURG, Va. — The people who run the Bowl Championship Series would never admit it, but a sense of relief must have come over them as Virginia Tech and UCLA both had their unbeaten seasons come to an emphatic halt.

The number of unbeaten major college football teams is down to three — Southern Cal, Texas and Alabama — and the Crimson Tide is dragging a hurting offense down the stretch. One loss by either of the three clears up all the potential controversy and sets up a perfect Rose Bowl matchup.

Then again, if two of those teams lose, oh what a mess for the BCS.

Miami and Arizona cleared some of the clouds around the national title picture Saturday.

The Wildcats did in the Bruins in resounding fashion — Arizona 52, UCLA 14 was the shocking final.

“I’m just frustrated, that’s the biggest thing — to go out there and put on a performance like that,” said UCLA quarterback Drew Olson, whose team finally put itself in a hole too deep to overcome.

The Hurricanes did the BCS the biggest favor.

Virginia Tech was creeping up on Texas and USC in the BCS standings. A perfect regular season by the Hokies had the potential to recreate last year’s three-doesn’t-fit into two BCS scenario, with Tech playing the role of left-out Auburn.

Miami put all that to rest with a 27-7 win in Lane Stadium. And while the Hurricanes were at it, they put an end to any talk of Marcus Vick sneaking off with a Heisman Trophy in his first season as the Hokies’ starting quarterback.

Most important for Miami, though, is the Hurricanes have championships in their grasp again. They control the Coastal Division race in the ACC. Win out and a spot in the conference’s first title game is theirs. Catch a break or two and Miami could be playing in the Rose Bowl.

“This puts us right where we want to be — things will get real interesting,” Miami coach Larry Coker said after his team played party-pooper in Blacksburg.

Interesting indeed.

USC and Texas each have three games left, including the Big 12 title game for the Longhorns, and remain on track for a Rose Bowl showdown.

Alabama has two games and a possible SEC championship tilt. But the Tide have scored only one offensive touchdown in their last three SEC victories. With LSU coming to Tuscaloosa next week and a trip to Auburn the week after, just getting to Atlanta on Dec.3 is going to be a daunting task for the Tide.

Still, it’s possible an unbeaten SEC champion will be left out of the BCS title game for a second straight season in favor of the Pac-10 and Big 12 champs.

But for those who root for chaos in the hope that it will lead to the BCS being blown up — it’s not going to happen anytime soon, by the way — try this one on for size.

There are now nine one-loss teams in the six power conferences. It’s possible there could be as many 11 one-loss squads and no unbeatens after the regular season.

If two of the remaining unbeatens fall and one team finishes the regular season perfect, which one-loss team moves to the head of the pack and into the Rose Bowl? Miami? The Hurricanes’ only loss came way back on Labor Day at Florida State. Penn State? Joe Paterno’s Nittany Lions are a last-play of the game touchdown at Michigan away from being unbeaten? LSU? The Tigers second-half collapse against Tennessee is their only blemish.

And how far would USC or Texas fall if they stumble down the stretch? Could the Trojans or Longhorns sustain a close loss and still play for a national title?

Don’t get too comfortable BCS guys. There are still plenty of pratfalls possible.

What’s ahead

Florida — The Gators, coming off a double overtime win over Vanderbilt, head to South Carolina to face their former leader Saturday. Steve Spurrier’s Gamecocks can end Florida’s SEC title hopes.

Penn State — The Nittany Lions get a week off to celebrate their 35-14 win over Wisconsin before playing for the Big Ten title on Nov.19 at Michigan State.

USC — The Trojans return to the scene of their last loss when they play at California on Saturday. USC has won 31 consecutive games since dropping a 34-31 overtime decision against the Golden Bears on Sept. 27, 2003.

Tennessee — The Vols sunk to 3-5 after a 41-21 loss at Notre Dame. They need to win home games against Memphis and Vanderbilt and a road game at Kentucky to avoid being left out of a bowl for the first time since the 1988 season.

Notre Dame — The Fighting Irish need to beat Navy, Syracuse and Stanford to become eligible for a BCS bowl.

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