When the major postseason bowls announced their pairings last Sunday, it seemed early. A pair of upsets six days later proved it.
No. 1 Notre Dame blew a two-touchdown halftime lead and lost to No. 18 Penn State, 24-21, on Saturday, ending the hope of No. 1 Notre Dame vs. No. 2 Colorado match in the Orange Bowl. And the Sugar Bowl is stuck with No. 8 Virginia, a 35-30 loser to Maryland.Despite those upsets, there will be no change in the pairings of the major bowls. Officials of the games and schools involved agreed - some dejectedly - they would adhere to agreements made in the last week.
That's good news for the Cotton Bowl. If No. 3 Miami and No. 7 Texas win their final two games, the Jan. 1 game in Dallas would bear on the national championship for the first time in seven years.
Not that Miami is especially happy about it.
"This just goes to prove: When you start screwing around with bowl games as early as they're screwing around with bowl games now, somebody is going to look like an idiot," Miami coach Dennis Erickson said. "I just wish they'd wait."
One presumes Erickson wasn't referring to his boss. Miami athletic director Sam Jankovich admitted Saturday he wished the Hurricanes could stay home Jan. 1 and play Colorado. Instead, they will play the Southwest Conference champion in Dallas.
"I still want to make the deal where the highest-ranked team goes to the Orange Bowl," Jankovich told the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel on Saturday, when the Hurricanes defeated Boston College, 42-12. "I know the chance is slight. I'm not optimistic, but I'm going to try anyway."
Blaming the bowls for making early agreements - the formal bid date is Nov. 24, but the NCAA allows informal agreements earlier - misses the point. The bowls want to put on a good television show. The schools want guaranteed paychecks.
The Orange Bowl will have Colorado, probably the next No. 1 team, and Notre Dame, the nation's most popular team. No egg on anyone's face there. In New Orleans, however, there's an omelet on the Superdome. The Sugar Bowl turned down the Big Ten Conference runner-up to invite the Cavaliers.
Notre Dame and the Orange Bowl agreed last Sunday to make a deal. Two sources in the bowl's hierarchy said the possibility the Irish could lose was discussed thoroughly before the invitation was extended.
To his credit, Jankovich also said Saturday there is integrity in the game. If the bowls and-or schools reneged on their agreements, there would many hard feelings, if not a lawsuit or two.
"It's our feeling that Miami will accept our invitation," Cotton Bowl president John Stuart said Saturday night. "Sam's a guy of great integrity. If we extend it, they will accept it. They agreed to do so. We do not anticipate any change."
Stuart chuckled. "Of course, this year, I don't count anything out," he said.
Instead of carrying their own title hopes into the Orange Bowl, the Fighting Irish (8-2) will carry the hopes of several other teams. No. 3 Miami, No. 4 Georgia Tech, No. 5 Brigham Young and No. 7 Texas will pull for the Irish, who, for a second consecutive season, stand between Colorado and a national championship. The Buffaloes (10-1-1) routed Kansas State, 64-3, on Saturday.