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Sunday, October 14, 2001
Fresno State the winner -- and loser -- this week

By Brad Edwards
Special to

It won't happen this year.

If a team with the same record bumps Miami out of the BCS Championship Game, it will not be Florida State. The Hurricanes made certain of that on Saturday.

And, at least for one day, Miami fans were able to enjoy a significant and decisive victory without worrying about things like computers and strength of schedule. But that day is now over, and it's time to see what the win did for the Canes and their national title hopes.

Miami gained some ground, but how much? Here's a look inside the BCS.

Stock up: Fresno State
The Bulldogs kept their dream alive by the slimmest of margins Saturday night, putting together an improbable game-tying drive and then beating Colorado State in overtime. It capped a great day of results for Fresno State, which saw key schedule strength games also go its way. Five Fresno opponents played against teams the Bulldogs do not play -- and all won.

Fresno State's Key Opponents
Opponent Saturday's result
Colorado beat Texas A&M
Oregon State beat Arizona
Wisconsin beat Ohio State
Rice beat Navy
Hawaii beat UTEP

Although the overall schedule strength of the Bulldogs will gradually fall as they play more conference games in the WAC, any more days like this will surely help them offset that decline. The Fresno train is still predominantly hitched to Colorado, Oregon State and Wisconsin, which all gave the Bulldogs renewed optimism with their latest performances.

Stock down: Fresno State
Okay, we know there is a big difference between being the hunters and being the hunted, and that it is more difficult when you are getting your opponent's best game each and every week. So, welcome to the Top 10! If Fresno State wants to get consideration as one of the best teams in the nation at the end of the year, it's time for them to start playing like they belong there.

There are still four computers that consider margin of victory, and they are not impressed with a three-point win over a team with a losing record. Even more importantly, voters do consider style points when forming their personal impression of a team. Many people assume that if Fresno State just wins its games, it will continue to move up in the polls as each team ahead of it gets knocked off. Not true.

One look at this week's coaches poll says it all. Florida lost and did not fall behind the Bulldogs. Texas and Michigan both had impressive wins and jumped over them, despite already having one loss on their records. The reality is that most programs with a big name will require two losses in order to finish the season ranked behind an undefeated Fresno State in the polls. And the more the Bulldogs struggle against unranked opposition, the more difficult it will be for them to advance within the Top 10.

Under the radar
Now that Florida has been removed from the ranks of the unbeaten, we can stop talking about the possibility of four major-conference teams finishing with a perfect record. Three, however, seems to be a realistic scenario. For those of you not keeping score at home, the Big Ten and SEC have no remaining unbeaten teams; the ACC has only Maryland. But the Big East, Big 12 and Pac-10 have some heavyweights that are standing tall and moving well. These teams will square off in the coming weeks, and the victors will likely emerge as the favorites to reach Pasadena.

Undefeated Teams
Meeting Later this Season

Oct. 27 Oklahoma at Nebraska Oct. 27 Oregon at Washington St. Nov. 3 UCLA at Washington St. Nov. 10 Oregon at UCLA Dec. 1 Miami at Virginia Tech

While you can look at this list and see the potential for three teams emerging unscathed, you can also envision an equally good chance that only one makes it out successfully. The Oklahoma-Nebraska winner would have to survive a few more dangerous conference foes before facing another Top-10 team in the Big 12 title game (possibly a rematch). Meanwhile, the round-robin playoff between the Ducks, Cougars and Bruins could hand each team a loss -- and even if it doesn't, there are plenty of potholes lurking throughout the rest of the Pac-10 schedule. The easiest roads belong to Miami and Virginia Tech. Looking at the remaining games realistically, it would take a significant upset to prevent one of those two from finishing the regular season with a perfect record.

Hurricanes and Hokies, unite! It is time to start pulling against the other teams listed above. All that stands between the Big East and a trip to the Rose Bowl (besides the aforementioned upset) is the chance that two of those schools -- most specifically Oklahoma and UCLA -- also go undefeated. Even if Miami is ranked No. 1 in both polls, there is still a possibility that the Sooners and Bruins could muster enough points from computer ratings, schedule strength and quality wins to make up the difference in poll average. UCLA is a dangerous team to Miami because of the favor the Bruins already have in the computers, and now they are a step closer in the polls after Florida's loss.

If the season ended today...
Last week, the BCS Group decided to push back the initial release of the official rankings from October 15 to October 22. It was a curious decision, considering a lack of high-profile games next weekend that could cause a shakeup near the top. The most controversial topic will be Miami's BCS position, which does not figure to see a significant change with the Hurricanes entering an open date.

What you see is what you get. Don't expect next Monday's official release to look too different from this.

Unofficial BCS Standings

1. Oklahoma
3. Nebraska
4. Oregon
5. Miami
6. Virginia Tech
7. Fresno State
8. Michigan
9. Texas
10. Florida

Inside the BCS computers
Miami's relatively weak ratings are keeping the Hurricanes down in the overall standings, but things might be better if not for some changes made by the BCS Group in the offseason.

One of the new computers belongs to Wes Colley, who has Miami ranked 13th; the ousted Dunkel Index, however, has them at No. 1. The revised Kenneth Massey ratings have the Hurricanes ranked 21st, while his old version (used in the BCS last year) has them ranked best in the nation. Richard Billingsley's old version might also have Miami as the top team if he still calculated it, because his revised edition -- without scoring margin -- has them at No. 3, their best ranking in any of the active computers.

The other rating removed in the offseason was that of the New York Times, which has Miami 19th. The other new computer belongs to Peter Wolfe, who is holding his rankings until next week to coincide with the official release of the BCS.

Miami No. 1 Anderson-Hester 14 UCLA Billingsley 3 Oklahoma Colley 13 UCLA Massey 21 UCLA Matthews 9 UCLA Rothman 7 Oklahoma Sagarin 6 UCLA Wolfe N/A N/A *-Peter Wolfes ratings will be released Oct. 22.

BCS Game of the Week: Colorado at Texas
As of now, neither team looks to be a player in the national title race, but this game does hold some significance to the schedule strength of Oklahoma, Nebraska and Fresno State. The Sooners have already beaten Texas and stand to receive very valuable bonus points in the BCS if the Longhorns can run the table and finish 10-1. And because OU does not play Colorado in the regular season, the Sooners want some help from their bitter rivals across the Red River.

On the other side of the fence, Nebraska and Fresno State both have Colorado as an opponent but don't play Texas. The Cornhuskers need a Buffaloes victory for a slight improvement in schedule strength. Fresno State, however, really needs Colorado to win all of its remaining games, which would undoubtedly make the Buffs a Top-15 BCS team. This, in turn, would give the Bulldogs some bonus points and a much-needed boost in their chances to reach a major bowl.

Brad Edwards is a college football researcher for ESPN. Inside the BCS appears weekly.