The weakness of the Big East may cause more complaints about the bowl alliance this year, especially from the Western Athletic Conference.
Virginia Tech, No.22 in the Associated Press poll, is the highest ranked Big East team, and the Hokies lost at home to Miami of Ohio. Nonetheless, the Big East will receive one of the six berths to the three elite bowls, even if none of its teams is ranked in the final regular-season poll.Meanwhile, Air Force is undefeated and ranked 18th, and its remaining schedule - Fresno State, San Jose State, Hawaii, Army, Wyoming - suggests it could be 12-0 heading into the WAC title game. A subsequent victory in the championship game - and there is no one in the WAC Mountain Division noticeably better than the Falcons - and Air Force would be 13-0 and probably ranked in or near the top 10. But Air Force probably would be denied an alliance bowl bid.
The WAC has worked out an agreement whereby its champion would earn an alliance bowl berth if it is ranked in the top six, but that does not take effect until next season, and Air Force, with its schedule, probably would not break into the top six anyway.
"The format in place is vulnerable to having an unworthy team," said WAC commissioner Karl Benson. "The conference champ should at least have a certain ranking."
It would not be unreasonable to suggest that a conference champ has to be ranked in the top 20 in both or either poll to earn an automatic berth, especially if there are other teams without automatic berths that are ranked higher.
PICKING THE BOWLS: Nebraska seems a shoo-in to wind up in the January 2 Orange Bowl, the top bowl this season. The undefeated Huskers do not play another ranked team until the Big 12 title game, where their opponent probably will be Texas A&M or Oklahoma State. Their Orange Bowl opponent could be the winner of the November 8 Atlantic Coast Conference game between Florida State and North Carolina (although the Seminoles also have a November 22 road game against Florida left). The Big Ten champ (Penn State?) is not part of the alliance and must go to the Rose Bowl, so the Orange Bowl may not be a national championship game.
The two at-large alliance bowl picks could come from among three conference runners-up - Big Ten, Southeastern Conference, ACC.
RUNNING NOTES: Penn State's Curtis Enis does not have impressive statistics. That's because he carried the ball only 64 times for 354 yards in the Nittany Lions' first four lopsided wins. He did not carry the ball in the fourth quarter of a game until Saturday's win over Ohio State, when he had 114 of his 211 yards in the fourth quarter. One may conclude that he was rested and strong for the crucial fourth-quarter performance.
- Despite having just 46 yards in the first two games (he missed Game 2 against Boise State), Wisconsin's Ron Dayne now has 947 yards rushing. He also surpassed the 3,000-yard mark for his career, doing it in 19 games to break the mark of Herschel Walker, who had 3,000 after 20 games. Dayne, with five games left in his sophomore season, is one of just three players in Div. I history to rush for more than 3,000 yards in his freshman and sophomore seasons, joining Walker and Marshall Faulk. Dayne has eight 200-yard games; the Big Ten record was five.
BANDIT PRACTICE: Louisiana State used its Bandits to good effect in its upset of No. 1 Florida. In obvious passing situations, the Tigers would substitute six little-used players - two defensive ends, three linebackers and a defensive tackle - with instructions to rush the quarterback like crazy. The unit is called the Bandits, and on one play it forced Florida quarterback Doug Johnson to hurry a pass. That resulted in an interception by Cedric Donaldson, who returned it 31 yards for a touchdown and a 21-14 LSU lead. A fumble on the ensuing kickoff set up another LSU touchdown.
SURPRISES: Oklahoma State coach Bob Simmons, passed over for Colorado's head coaching job after being the Buffaloes' assistant head coach in 1994, beat Colorado on Saturday to stay unbeaten.
- Rice and unbeaten New Mexico meet this week, with the winner becoming the front-runner to win the WAC Mountain Division.
- Washington State (5-0) has a chance at its first Rose Bowl berth in 67 years; it lost to Alabama in the 1931 Rose Bowl.