What a wacky football season it's been so far.

As the halfway mark arrives, 10 or more teams still have a shot at the national championship.It's so wacky that the No. 1-ranked team, Michigan, already has a loss.

The Wolverines are hardly a consensus pick, as seven teams this week received first-place votes.

The prediction here is that one of the following three teams will win the national championship:

Michigan, Virginia or Miami.

Forget about Nebraska. Forget about Notre Dame. And, yes, Cougar fans, forget about BYU.

Nebraska has two killer Big Eight games coming up - at home against Colorado on Nov. 3 and at undefeated Oklahoma on Nov. 23. Even if the Cornhuskers survive those two and go into the Orange Bowl 11-0, they'd probably have to play Miami, which after beating Florida State last week has now won 34 games in a row on its home field - which happens to be where the Orange Bowl is held.

There's no let up for Notre Dame. The stunning upset by Stanford last week may be the first of three losses for the Irish this season. Even if they defeat Miami in South Bend on Oct. 20, they still have to play at Tennessee on Nov. 10 and at Southern Cal on Nov. 24.

The No. 9-ranked (UPI poll) Cougars would have an outside shot at leapfrogging to No. 1 by season's end except for one factor: the WAC champion is locked into the Sea World Holiday Bowl. So, even if BYU beat Colorado State, New Mexico, Air Force, Wyoming, Utah, Utah State and Hawaii, and climbed to say No. 4 or 5 by regular season's end, the Cougars would not be eligible to play a No. 1 or No. 2 Virginia in the Florida Citrus Bowl or a highly ranked Auburn or Tennessee in the Sugar Bowl. They would most likely play a No. 15 to No. 25 team in the San Diego-based bowl since the higher-ranked teams would be going to the more lucrative New Year's Day bowls.

If you go by the theory the No. 1 team stays No. 1 until beaten - or in Michigan's case until beaten again - then the Wolverines are the only team that doesn't need help. Their toughest game - the one they lost to Notre Dame - is out of the way and they only play one Top 15 team the rest of the season. They host No. 11 Illinois on Nov. 10. With no more regular season losses, a victory over a Washington or USC in the Rose Bowl would give them the title.

Virginia could make a case for being No. 1 if it goes through the remainder of its season unbeaten, then wins its bowl game. The Cavaliers have the weakest schedule of the top contenders and play the one Top 25 team left on their schedule - Georgia Tech - at home on Nov. 3.

Preseason No. 1 Miami is in good position despite its opening season loss to BYU. The Hurricanes have already regained most of the ranking they lost, climbing to No. 3 with their win over the Seminoles. They basically have a one-game elimination tournament for the national championship - Oct. 20 against Notre Dame - before a date in a New Year's Day bowl.


LOCAL FORECASTS: The crystal ball has been taking a beating - last week the forecast was that Utah State would keep the game against Oregon close. And of course the week before it was predicted BYU would roast the Ducks, so the crystal ball is being traded in for a Tupperware ball - you can't see anything but it's a snap to clean. On with the forecasts.

BYU 42, Colorado State 24

Will Ty Detmer and his hand return to form after the debacle in Eugene? Yes. Will tight end Chris Smith continue to make bold, bulletin-board material statements like "We'll score more next week" (which he stated the week before the Oregon game after the Cougs scored 62 points against San Diego State and "We won't lose again" (after the 32-16 loss to the Quackers)? Absolutely. And, is this a bad time for Earle Bruce's Rams to be playing BYU? Yes. The Rams, 3-0 in WAC play, are a talented bunch but the Cougs feel they have something to prove after the Duck Disaster and will begin the healing process today.

Fresno State 48, Utah State 17

If BYU is mad for losing to Oregon, how must Fresno State feel after getting jolted 73-18 by Northern Illinois? The disappointing Aggies are a perfect team for the Bulldogs to regroup against.

Weber State 31, Montana 27

A tough one to call. Though winless in Big Sky play, visiting Montana was the preseason favorite and knocked off Oregon State in Corvallis. The surprising Wildcats are ranked 18th in the nation in Div. I-AA after their win last week over Eastern Washington. Squinting into the Tupperware ball shows that Weber quarterback Jamie Martin will have another good game and lead his team to victory.