It's Nebraska! Huskers in BCS title game against No. 1 Miami

Monday, December 10th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Nebraska will play for a national title after all.

In an astounding turn certain to send out a cry for a playoff or changes in the Bowl Championship Series, the Cornhuskers squeezed into second place over Colorado in the final BCS standings on Sunday.

Even though the Buffaloes routed the Huskers 62-36 three weeks ago, Nebraska won the points battle that counted most and will play undefeated Miami in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 3.

Thanks to LSU's 31-20 upset of Tennessee in Saturday night's Southeastern Conference title game, the Huskers were the BCS computer's choice _ by a scant five hundredths of a point. A win by the Vols would have sent them to Pasadena instead.

In the final ranking, Miami finished first with 2.62 points, Nebraska second with 7.23 points, Colorado third at 7.28 and Oregon fourth with 8.67 points.

``Colorado and Oregon are great teams,'' Nebraska coach Frank Solich said. ``Anytime you don't have two clear-cut, undefeated teams, you're going to have controversy.''

Nebraska (11-1) was No. 4 in both the AP media poll and the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll on Sunday, but held the edge over No. 2 Oregon (10-1) and No. 3 Colorado (10-2) in the computer ratings portion of the BCS formula.

Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch and the Huskers, in fact, didn't even win their conference _ Colorado took the Big 12. But Nebraska will go to the Rose Bowl as an at-large team, the first time that's happened in the BCS's four-year history. The winner of that game is automatically crowned the coaches' champion.

``How you're playing at this point _ seems to me that should be thought of,'' Colorado coach Gary Barnett said.

Oregon and Colorado will play in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1, with the possibility of the winner claiming the No. 1 ranking in the final AP poll. AP voters will turn in their ballots right after the Rose Bowl, and all teams are eligible for the title.

The Ducks and Buffaloes seem to have legitimate gripes about being left out of the Rose.

_Oregon won the Pac-10 Conference title and finished No. 2 in the polls, part of the BCS' complex formula for determining its top teams.

_Colorado won the Big 12 Conference with a 39-37 upset of Texas on Dec. 1, a week after beating Nebraska, and finished No. 3 in the polls.

Tennessee's loss was a costly one, dropping the Vols (10-2) out of the BCS picture and into the Citrus Bowl against Michigan (8-3). If that wasn't enough, the Orange Bowl chose Florida (9-2) _ 34-32 losers to the Vols on Dec. 1 _ to play Atlantic Coast Conference champion Maryland (10-1) on Jan. 2.

The Sugar Bowl will match SEC champion LSU (9-3) against Big Ten champion Illinois (10-1).

The BCS standings were devised by SEC commissioner Roy Kramer in 1998 in hopes of ensuring that the top two teams play for a national title. The rankings use a formula that incorporates the AP media and the coaches polls, eight computers, strength of schedule, won-lost record and bonus points for big wins.

Problems in the BCS arise when only one teams finishes with a perfect record. Oklahoma was the only unbeaten team last year, and the BCS computer picked a one-loss Florida State to play the Sooners over a one-loss Miami even though the Hurricanes beat the Seminoles during the season.

The BCS then tweaked the formula to give a team bonus points for a quality win. The Buffs, despite big wins over Nebraska and Texas, could not overcome two losses and an unfriendly computer or two.

Oregon, despite its No. 2 ranking in the polls, lost out in the computer category and strength of schedule categories.