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On the Mike: Let's start bowling
By Mike Diegnan

Respond to On the Mike.

It feels like Christmas, counting down the days until we finally open the gifts under the tree.

Since August, all we have heard about is BCS, BCS poll, and computer rankings. Finally, next Monday we can say who the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country are ... that is, for a week -- when the next BCS rankings come out.

The BCS rankings officially start the second half of the season. Here is a preview of what to expect.

Games to watch
There are five games -- two in the Big XII alone -- that will have the greatest impact on the BCS.

Dan Alexander
Dan Alexander and the Cornhuskers must beat Oklahoma and Kansas State in the regular season to keep their No. 1 ranking.
  • Nebraska at Oklahoma -- Oct. 28
    Doesn't it feel like the mid-'80s? First Wide Right, now Oklahoma-Nebraska. OU alumni have waited for a team like this since Barry Switzer left for Dallas.

  • Virginia Tech at Miami -- Nov. 4
    The 'Canes exorcised one demon already this season when they beat FSU for the first time in six years, but that was against a lame Chris Weinke and a sicker kicking game. They have lost five straight to Va. Tech and must devise a strategy to limit Michael Vick's effectiveness.

  • Clemson at Florida State -- Nov. 4
    Clemson has lost some of its momentum in recent weeks, but Tommy Bowden's club should have plenty of gas for FSU. The Tigers gave Bobby Bowden his biggest scare in '99.

  • Nebraska at Kansas State -- Nov. 11
    K-State is 1-19 against Top 10 teams since Bill Snyder became head coach. The wild-card is the Big XII Championship Game. This game is considered a postseason game in the Big XII, but it could be the difference between a trip to Miami and one to Dallas for Oklahoma, Nebraska or Kansas State. To go undefeated, Nebraska or Oklahoma would have to win their own regular season matchup as well as a trip to K-State. Oklahoma passed phase one. These three teams are the front-runners to reach the Big XII Championship Game. Only a team of destiny could win all these games, something we don't seem to have this year.

  • Florida at Florida State -- Nov. 18
    Steve Spurrier is 0-4-1 in Tallahassee. If QB Rex Grossman is the real deal, he may have a shot at ending that streak.

    Upset possibilities
    In a year when no team is invulnerable to upset, each of the Top 10 teams in the country have lowly-ranked opponents that they must be wary of.

    Nebraska: Colorado, Nov. 24
    Virginia Tech: Virginia, Nov. 25
    Clemson: South Carolina, Nov. 18
    Oklahoma at Texas A&M, Nov. 11
    Miami: Pittsburgh, Nov. 11
    Florida State: at N.C. State, Oct. 28
    Florida: South Carolina, Nov. 11
    Kansas State: Iowa State, Nov. 4
    Washington: Arizona, Nov. 4
    TCU: at San Jose State, Nov. 4

    Players to watch
    Right now, it looks like eight teams have a legitimate shot to be in Miami. Here are key players for each team's run.

    Nebraska: Erwin Swiney. Nebraska's junior right corner will have major tests against K-State and Oklahoma. At 6-foot, 185-pounds, he matches up well against K-State's Aaron Lockett, but will not have that advantage against OU's Andre Woolfolk and Antwone Savage.

    Virginia Tech: Eric Green. The true freshman from Clewiston, Fla. (about 75 miles from Coral Gables) moved into the starting lineup when CB Larry Austin tore his ACL against Temple two weeks ago. Green has three interceptions in six games, but expect Miami to challenge the 18-year-old.

    Clemson: Woody Dantzler. The quarterback has gained notoriety for his quest at 2,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing. He must not allow that to distract him and continue to lead Tommy Bowden's no-huddle offense with amazing swiftness. In the past two weeks, the Tigers have turned the ball over five times, allowing N.C. State and Maryland to stay close. He'll need to be flawless against Florida State's pressure.

    Oklahoma: Scott Kempenich. The right offensive tackle has the hopes of all Sooner faithful praying for him to make his blocks and stay healthy. Against Kansas State, Josh Heupel was sacked five times and hit numerous more. To beat Nebraska, Kempenich and Co. must do a better job of protecting their leader.

    Ken Dorsey
    QB Ken Dorsey leads a powerful Hurricane offense.
    Miami: Ken Dorsey. The 'Canes have only one game standing in their way from playing in their home city. Last year's game against Virginia Tech was lost on special teams and turnovers. Dorsey was outstanding in the win over Florida State; he'll need to duplicate that against the Hokies.

    Florida State: Chance Gwaltney. As evidenced by a 41-5 pass-to-run ratio against Duke in the first half, Chris Weinke is going to lead the Seminoles through the air. That solves the problem of FSU's running game, but the bigger question is the kicking game. Gwaltney has regained the starting kicking job. With games against Clemson and Florida remaining, the 'Noles can't afford to miss wide right again.

    Florida: Jabar Gaffney. The freshman wide receiver has spent half of the season in Steve Spurrier's doghouse, and the other half enjoying the spoils of being Florida's top receiver. Gaffney is quickly joining the list of UF's great wideouts, and will need to hook up often with another freshman, Rex Grossman, to keep the Gators on pace heading into the showdown in Tallahassee with FSU.

    Kansas State: Aaron Lockett. K-State won't beat Nebraska and get a shot to play in the Big XII title game if he drops as many passes as he did against Oklahoma. Even in desperation mode in the second half, Jonathan Beasley only threw his way three times after completing just one of seven throws intended for him in the first.

    Who will be in Miami?
    That being said, the most important question is -- who will be playing in Miami on Jan. 3 for the national title?

    Drum roll, please ? No. 1 Virginia Tech vs. No. 2 Florida State.

    As for the other BCS bowls, expect these matchups to expect:

    Rose: Oregon vs. Purdue
    Sugar: Alabama vs. Nebraska
    Fiesta: Kansas State vs. Clemson

    Next week, we will have bowl projections for every bowl game.

    Mike Diegnan is the editor of  

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