Seeing Red

It took a while and created quite a stir, but the University of Miami football team finally knows who will oppose them in the Rose Bowl, Jan. 3. The 11-0 Hurricanes, who are coming off their sixth undefeated regular season in school history, will face the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the national championship game at Pasadena, California after an unexpected last several weeks of the season that caused a lot of movement in the Bowl Championship Series standings.

Despite losing their final regular season game by 26 points at Colorado and failing to win the Big 12 Conference, the Cornhuskers will be heading out west after being bumped to No. 2 in the final BCS rankings. Colorado (10-2) and Oregon (11-1), who will face each other in the Fiesta Bowl Jan. 1, finished No. 3 and No. 4, behind the Cornhuskers. Florida finished at No. 5 (13.09).

Florida, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Texas and the Cornhuskers were all a possible victory away from getting a spot in the Rose Bowl before suffering losses. The Cornhuskers squeezed into the game by .05 of a point over the Buffaloes as a result of the Tennessee Volunteers falling in the SEC Championship game.

The BCS standings were started in 1998 to determine a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup for the national championship. The teams are chosen based on a formula that includes both major polls, eight computer rankings, won-loss records, strength-of-schedule and bonus points for wins over teams in the BCS top-15.

The BCS's final installment for this season might be the topic of conversation long after the conclusion of the season , especially in Boulder, Colorado and Eugene, Oregon. But the Hurricanes also know what it's like to be left out of the title game and are just glad they're going to be a part of it this year.

"It really didn't matter to us who we ended up with in the Rose Bowl," said junior defensive back Phillip Buchanon said. "We took care of our business-winning all our games- and going were we wanted to be at the end of the season. One more and our goal will be set."

"I can't really speak for those other teams that didn't make it, but I can tell you it would have been a real disappointment if we were going anywhere besides Pasadena. We wanted this opportunity real bad."

By winning all their regular season games, the Hurricanes were the only team that avoided having their BCS standing put in jeopardy. But the Hurricanes can relate to the feelings being expressed in Oregon and Colorado.

Last year it was Miami who missed out on the national championship game after being passed by Florida State in the final BCS standings despite a 27-24 victory over the Seminoles earlier in the season. The Hurricanes ended up a 37-20 winner against Florida in the Sugar Bowl, while Florida State lost to Oklahoma in the title game.

UM head coach Larry Coker is thrilled about going to the Rose Bowl and not having to discuss the BCS.

"It's a great opportunity to be going to the Rose Bowl and I extremely proud of our players and everybody associated with this program," Coker said. "I think we did all we could do to be in this position (going undefeated and playing in the Rose Bowl)."

Coker said during a press conference to accept the Rose Bowl invite he expected a Nebraska team that would come out and try to prove of a point because of the questions surrounding their selection to the contest.

"They're going to be angry, I can tell you that," Coker said. "Nebraska certainly wants to show people around the country they're a great team and deserve to be playing in the game."

The Hurricanes have an all-time mark of 4-5 against the Cornhuskers, but have beaten Nebraska in three out of five bowl games. Nebraska, who won three national titles in the 1990's, defeated UM 24-17 in the 1995 Orange Bowl Classic, the last meeting between both schools. Miami beat Nebraska in the1992, 1989 and 1984 Orange Bowl games. Miami's 31-30 victory over the Cornhuskers in 1984 gave the Hurricanes their first national title in school history. Nebraska edged Miami 36-34 in the 1962 Gotham Bowl.

It was the Hurricanes last year. Now a year later, it's the Hurricanes next opponent that is the center of controversy surrounding the BCS.

Nebraska earned the Rose Bowl berth with a 7.23 points average slightly beating out Colorado's 7.28. Not only did the Buffaloes score a convincing win over Nebraska, they then defeated Texas in the Big 12 championship game. Should have Colorado been a point higher in any of the computer rankings they would be making travel plans for Pasadena, instead of Nebraska.

Colorado's strength-of-schedule ranked second compared to Nebraska ‘s 14th out of 117 Division-IA schools and the Buffaloes were ahead of the Cornhuskers in both of the final regular-season major polls (No. 3 to No. 4). The eight computers used to determine an average rating also had Nebraska in front of Colorado by over two points (2.17 to 4.50).

But with a victory over Oregon and a Nebraska upset of Miami, Colorado could end up splitting the national championship with the Cornhuskers. The AP voters (media) will give the championship to the Colorado-Oregon winner and the coaches would name the Cornhusker the national champion. Not exactly a consolation prize for Colorado head coach Gary Barnett, who was upset the final BCS standings.

"This takes a little luster off my support for the BCS," said Barnett. "I really thought the system would work and I put a lot of trust in it. It didn't work in our favor."

Oregon, No. 2 in the AP and ESPN/USA Today coaches polls, ended the regular season with a 17-14 victory over Oregon State and five-game winning streak. The Ducks did not drop a game after Oct. 20 (49-42 to Stanford) on their way to the Pac-10 Conference championship. The Ducks strength-of-schedule ranked 31st in the country.

Oregon head coach Mike Bellotti wasn't too complimentary of the final BCS tally.

"I don't want to take away anything from Nebraska or Colorado, they're both great football teams," said Bellotti. "But one of them has two losses and the other didn't win it's conference championship. We have the No. 2 team in both polls, but apparently that doesn't mean too much." BCS representative John Swofford said he would prefer clear No. 1 and No. 2 teams, but went on to say the system is very well calculated and complete.

"We believe the BCS is thorough and what it kicked out was Nebraska. If I were at either of those schools I would feel the same way, but that's the reason we have this formula." For the Hurricanes, starting quarterback Ken Dorsey, from Orinda, and linebacker D.J. Williams, from Concord, Ca., will be going home. But after a few days of sight seeing and pleasantries it will be all business.

"We're going to Pasadena with one thing in mind- winning a national championship," said defensive back James Lewis.

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