When the last pass has been thrown tonight, the game of Bowl Dominoes will start getting serious and the question, "will there be a national championship game in one of the bowls?" may be close to being answered.
The major players in this year's game of musical bowls are the Florida Citrus and the Orange. That's because they have the two teams capable of staging a national title game - No. 1 and unbeaten Virginia and No. 3 and unbeaten Nebraska.Both teams have their toughest games of the season today - Viginia meets No. 16 Georgia Tech and Nebraska faces No. 9 Colorado. Should they both lose, the only bowl left to stage a national title game would be the Sugar Bowl, and that's assuming No. 4 Auburn remains unbeaten. That's a pretty big assumption since Auburn has been imitating Harry Houdini on a weekly basis. The magic to escape with a victory may not be there in Gainesville, Florida, today, where Auburn faces the 15th-ranked Florida Gators.
If Virginia wins, the Cavaliers likely will face No. 2 Notre Dame on New Year's Day in the Citrus Bowl, unless the Irish stumble against Tennessee in Knoxville next Saturday. Then, Virginia may exercise a clause in the Citrus Bowl contract and go to Miami to play Nebraska in a possible No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup. If the Cavs lose in the next three weeks, Notre Dame is probably Orange Bowl bound.
Miami, if it doesn't wind up in the Orange Bowl (Nebraska has reportedly already contacted the Orange Bowl Committee about finding somebody besides Miami to oppose the Cornhuskers since the Orange Bowl is played on Miami's home field), is reportedly interested in facing the Southwest Conference representative in the Cotton Bowl. The Sugar Bowl is interested in the Big-10 runner-up, Nebraska and Notre Dame. That leaves the Fiesta Bowl scrambling for marquee teams and it's reportedly interested in Colorado, Tennesseee, Penn State, the loser of the Virginia-Georgia Tech game and, like everybody else, Notre Dame. It's dream matchup would be Notre Dame against anybody. The Irish would probably have to be 8-3 to become Fiesta Bowl material.
The Rose Bowl, of course, matches the Pac-10 champion against the Big Ten champion.
The rest of the bowls will wait until the big boys decide what teams they want and then they'll start a second-tier scramble to get their teams.
HOLIDAY BOWL UPDATE: The winner of today's Indiana-Michigan State game, particularly if it's Michigan State, might be considered the favorite to gain a berth opposite the WAC champion.
The Spartans have a so-so 3-3-1 record but the losses have been close and to ranked teams - 20-19 to Notre Dame, 15-13 to Illinois and 12-7 to Iowa. Included is a 28-27 victory over then No. 1-ranked Michigan. After facing the 4-2-1 Hoosiers, the Spartans have the easiest part of their schedule for the final three games - at Minnesota, at Northwestern and Wisconsin at home.
Holiday Bowl official Richard Circuit states the bowl is hoping to invite a team that hasn't been to San Diego before, which favors the Spartans, Tennessee and Texas A&M. Colorado is an outside shot should the Buffaloes get buried by Nebraska. In that case, the Fiesta Bowl might look elsewhere.
If BYU doesn't win the WAC, the Citrus and Fiesta bowls may be options as well as a number of lesser bowls. The Citrus Bowl will have a representative at today's BYU-Air Force game.
DETMER VS. KLINGLER: Through seven games the yardage is almost the same - Houston's David Klingler has passed for 2,990 yards to 2,977 for BYU's Ty Detmer. Klingler has, however, thrown 86 more passes - 410 to 324. Projecting Detmer's yardage for 86 more passes would give him 3,751.
LOCAL FORECASTS: BYU tries to ground the Falcons in Colorado Springs, puzzling Utah faces well-rested San Diego State in San Diego, resurgent Utah State hosts winless New Mexico State and Weber State has a bye.
A Halloween brownie smudge notwithstanding, the Tupperware ball sees the following:
BYU 38, Air Force 17
Blustery, snowy weather and smaller Falcons may mean a big day for Cougar running backs Peter Tuipulotu and Mike Salido. Tight end Chris Smith is due to have a monster game. Ty Detmer should get the time to pick apart Falcon defense even in the snow and wind - it's Ducks he has problems with, not Falcons.
San Diego State 55, Utah 27
Utah is coming off an embarrassing performance against Air Force. It may not get better this week as San Diego State has had three weeks to prepare for this game (it last played Oct. 13) and has one of the top offensive teams in the nation.
Utah State 34, New Mexico State 17
Utah State has reached the point where it can be down a little and still prevail against a so-so team. It's doubtful the Aggies will be up for New Mexico State after big games against Fresno, San Jose State and UNLV, but they still should win handily.