College Football Roundup

Monday, October 16th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

First Miami, now Oklahoma.

A week after Miami beat Florida State to get back in the national championship hunt for the first time in years, Oklahoma joined the chase, too. The Sooners knocked off Kansas State 41-31 on Saturday and became instant title contenders.

``We feel we can beat the best teams in the nation,'' Oklahoma's Antwone Savage said. ``That's our main goal right now. We're just getting ready for Nebraska.''

The Sooners are off this weekend before playing host to top-ranked Nebraska in one of three gargantuan games over the next three weeks that most likely will determine who plays for the national title in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 3.

The lineup:

— No. 1 Nebraska (6-0) at No. 3 Oklahoma (6-0) on Oct. 28.

— No. 2 Virginia Tech (6-0) at No. 4 Miami (4-1) on Nov. 4.

— No. 5 Clemson (7-0) at No. 6 Florida State (6-1) on Nov. 4.

For those die-hard fans who want to catch all three, look for a late afternoon flight from Miami to Tallahassee — the Hurricanes play early, the Seminoles at night.

Of course, it's easy to make predictions. Having them work out is tough, as each Saturday this season has proven. Just ask K-State coach Bill Snyder or Ohio State coach John Cooper, whose Buckeyes were beaten by Minnesota 29-17.

At the midway point of the season, there are just five unbeaten teams — none in the Big Ten, Pac-10 or Southeastern conferences. Three once-beatens — all from the state of Florida — also are in the title chase. No. 8 Florida (5-1) is on the outside looking in, but should the Gators beat the Seminoles on Nov. 18 and win the SEC title, coach Steve Spurrier's team could sneak into the picture.

Here's a team-by-team look at how the road to Miami shapes up:

NEBRASKA (6-0, 3-0 Big 12)

The Cornhuskers had all cylinders firing Saturday as Eric Crouch ran for two TDs and threw for another in a 56-3 win at Texas Tech — the worst loss in the Red Raiders' history. The Huskers held Tech's pass-happy offense to 200 total yards.

Nebraska warms up for Oklahoma against Baylor next week. The Huskers have won seven in a row against the Sooners in one of the nation's top rivalries. But with the formation of the Big 12, the teams haven't played since 1997 (Nebraska won 69-7).

Even with a win, the Huskers aren't home free. Kansas is next, but a Nov. 4 trip to Kansas State looms before the regular-season finale against Colorado. The Big 12 title game is Dec. 2, with a possible rematch against Oklahoma.

OKLAHOMA (6-0, 3-0 Big 12)

Josh Heupel threw for 374 yards and two TDs as the Sooners left Manhattan with a 41-31 win over previously unbeaten Kansas State (6-1). Oklahoma, under second-year coach Bob Stoops, is a legitimate title contender. Last week, the Sooners beat Texas 63-14.

The Sooners are off next week, giving them an extra week to prepare for Nebraska, which has to come up with a pass defense capable of keeping Heupel in check. No one has done it yet. Oklahoma's last win against Nebraska was in 1990 — the Sooners are 1-9 against the Huskers since 1988.

After Nebraska, there are games against Baylor, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, with the Aggies on the road being the toughest test. Then comes the Big 12 title game.

Oklahoma has won six national titles, the most recent in 1985.

VIRGINIA TECH (6-0, 4-0 Big East)

Michael Vick and Virginia Tech beat West Virginia 48-20 last Thursday, but the Hokies' defense still has questions. Vick has not been super, but he's still the game's most exciting player and his team averages 45.8 points per game.

Virginia Tech is at Syracuse next Saturday, followed by a game against Pittsburgh before the Miami showdown for the Big East title and an automatic berth in a Bowl Championship Series game. The Hokies finish the season against Central Florida and Virginia.

MIAMI (4-1, 2-0 Big East)

Miami, four-time national title winners, is looking for its first crown since 1991. The Hurricanes were off over the weekend and next play Temple and Louisiana Tech before trying to end a five-game losing streak to Virginia Tech.

After the Hokies, it's Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Boston College. Then coach Butch Davis' team waits to see if the 'Canes end up in a title game on their home field.

CLEMSON (7-0, 5-0 ACC)

Clemson is off to its best start since its national title season of 1981. On Saturday, Woody Dantzler ran for two TDs and Alex Ardley tied a school record with three interceptions in a 35-14 win over Maryland.

The Tigers are at North Carolina and home to Georgia Tech the next two weeks before coach Tommy Bowden matches wits against his father, Bobby. Last year, son almost won before the Seminoles held on 17-14 en route to a national title. This time, both teams have title hopes.


Two years ago, the Seminoles proved a one-loss team could get into the title game. They eventually lost to Tennessee in the Fiesta Bowl, but made it there after UCLA and Kansas State lost perfect records on the final day of the regular season.

Chris Weinke passed for five TDs and a school-record 536 yards in Saturday's 63-14 win over Duke. Next up is Virginia and NC State before Clemson comes to town. Then it's Wake Forest and the annual finale against Florida — at Tallahassee this year. Should the 'Noles run the table, they could very well be back to defend their title.

Which leaves the Gators (6-1, 4-1 SEC). Rex Grossman threw five TDs passes on Florida's first five possessions in a 38-7 win over Auburn.

If Florida wins out against Georgia in two weeks, Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Florida State, then takes the SEC title game, the Gators might be in line for the Orange Bowl.

TCU, despite its 5-0 record and No. 11 ranking, remains a title-game long shot based on a weak overall schedule.

``There's just so much football left out there that I don't know what's going to happen,'' Bobby Bowden said. ``This year is far from over.

``We've got to hope some other people ahead of us lose and we've got to win.''


. ... Ron Johnson made the big catches to help No. 22 Minnesota (5-2, 3-1) beat No. 14 Ohio State (5-1, 2-1 Big Ten) for the first time since 1981 and for the first time in Columbus since 1949. Johnson had eight catches for 163 yards and a TD. ... With Purdue's 41-28 win at Northwestern, there's a four-way tie for first place in the Big Ten — Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern and Purdue have 3-1 league records; Ohio State is 2-1. ... The Pac-10 staged two triple OT games Saturday night — California beat No. 23 UCLA 46-38 and No. 21 Arizona survived Washington State 53-47. ... Arizona (5-1) and No. 7 Oregon (5-1), a 28-17 winner over USC, are tied for the Pac-10 lead with 3-0 league records. The Wildcats are at the Ducks next Saturday. ... Notre Dame (4-2) made it 37 in a row over Navy with a 45-14 victory. Navy is 0-6 for the first time since 1992. ... Army, too, is winless after dropping its 10th straight, 42-21 to East Carolina. The Cadets are 0-6. ... Temple's 48-14 win over Rutgers was its biggest road win in 18 years. ... Coach Lou Holtz continued his miracle-working as South Carolina (6-1, 4-1 SEC) became bowl eligible with a 27-7 win over Arkansas.