Friday, December 13, 2002
Lobbying for a Title
By Marc Connolly
ABC Sports Online
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The question du jour being asked around the Valley of the Sun doesn't have anything to do with what showed up under the tree or New Year's resolutions. Instead, everyone wants to know what will happen to the survivor of Tuesday's tasty Colorado-Oregon Tostitos Fiesta Bowl matchup should Miami lose to Nebraska two nights later in the Rose Bowl.
Does the winner deserve a share of the national championship?
"Of course," was the resounding answer heard from a slew of Duck and Buffalo players throughout a fairly relaxed Media Day -- if there is such a thing -- held at Sun Devil Stadium on Sunday morning. Surprisingly, there was a total lack of the company line answer about how "we have to take care of business on Tuesday, and not worry about things we can't control." Remember, these teams, no matter what they are quoted as saying, are still quietly fuming over not being invited to Pasadena.
Due to such apparent angst, it's not even a question as to whether the winner should get a share of the national championship as far as the players are concerned. Yet, due to the situations of both teams, the arguments differ greatly.
Oregon's rationale centers around the Ducks being the best of the one-loss teams, which seems to be the easier case to make. Colorado's defense is more about why Nebraska shouldn't and the Buffs should if the controversial scenario should unfold.
Colorado quarterback Bobby Pesavento acted as if it was simple logic, while sitting upon a podium squinting his eyes in the bright sunshine.
"Head to head, everyone saw who won when Colorado played Nebraska," said the 6-foot-5, 225-pound senior. "We also beat the No. 1 BCS team (Nebraska) and the No. 3 BCS team (Texas). If we beat Oregon, then we'd have beaten the No. 2 BCS team as well."
Not a bad point. And it's what the Buffalo players have bought into. In their minds, the simple decision that AP voters would have to make is simply which team is better -- Nebraska or Colorado?
"Colorado, because on November 23rd Nebraska got run out of the stadium," said senior running back Cortlen Johnson of the 62-36 shocker in Boulder. "Everyone can look back that. If Nebraska beats the No. 1 country, so what, we beat Nebraska. And we beat three top five teams in three consecutive games. So, if that doesn't solve anything, than nothing will. I guess we might as well go to a playoff system."
"We beat Nebraska," said strong safety Michael Lewis. "I'll leave it at that. I'll leave it up to the writers or whomever, but we beat Nebraska."
The Buffs even have answers for the "Colorado lost two games" argument.
"One of our losses kind of cancels out considering we faced the same team in the Big 12 Championship and beat them," said All-American right tackle Victor Rogers. "And it's hard to beat a team as good as Texas two times in a row."
Of course, Oregon believes it will have as much of a right to the national championship as the Huskers should it beat Colorado and Nebraska beat Miami.
"I don't think we'd have to make a case," said quarterback Joey Harrington. "We're the Pac-10 conference champion, we (will have beat) the hottest team in the country, and we have one loss. I don't think Nebraska has anything over us at that point.
Unlike the Colorado players -- particularly free safety Robbie Robinson, Rogers and Johnson, who say they won't watch the Rose Bowl because they can't bring themselves to cheer on their bitter rivals from Lincoln -- Harrington said he's already made plans to stay in the Phoenix area to watch the game with a whole gang of friends, roommates and family members.
"I'll be glued," said the Pac-10's Player of the Year and Heisman finalist.
Justin Peelle, Oregon's all-conference tight end, will also be glued because he feels that Nebraska wouldn't have a case should they win.
"We won our league, they finished third," he said. "Plus, we would have just beaten a team they got blown out by."
Not getting to the Big 12 Championship is something that Oregon's finest can't seem to get past.
"We deserve it. Nebraska didn't even win its conference," said sophomore free safety Keith Lewis. "I really believe the winner of this game deserves to be co-national champs.
"I look at the Rose Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl as co-national championship games. The only difference is, one is played on the first (Fiesta) and one is played on the third (Rose)."
Marc Connolly is a senior writer for ABC Sports Online. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
|RB Chris Brown is just one option in Colorado's explosive offense.|