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NATIONAL COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Falls in standings

If you want to be a Bowl Championship Series team that will play for the national championship in the Sugar Bowl, take one step forward. Not so fast Virginia Tech. Sorry, Miami. And Florida State? Just hold back a minute, please.

Those three national championship wannabes are sitting at home today wondering what went wrong. For Virginia Tech and Miami, the odds of earning a BCS bowl berth are in question. Florida State still can get a BCS invite because the Seminoles have clinched at least a tie for the Atlantic Coast Conference title and are probably headed to the Orange Bowl.

Virginia Tech's 31-28 loss to Pittsburgh Saturday night was not stunning. The Hokies were coming off an emotional 31-7 win over Miami and were playing on the road against a very good team.

Miami's 10-6 loss to Tennessee was stunning. The Hurricanes suddenly look ordinary. All of their winning streaks --regular season, Big East, and home games -- are now gone. They are likely to wind up in the Gator Bowl, which is a long way from their dreams of a meeting in New Orleans with Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.

Another stunner was Clemson's 26-10 win over Florida State.

The real winner Saturday was Southern Cal, which didn't play. Half of the contending teams that already had one loss and were challenging the Trojans for a Sugar Bowl invite now have two losses. Still lurking and stalking are LSU, which did not play, and defending national champion Ohio State, which again took care of business by knocking off Michigan State, 33-23.

If Ohio State can handle Purdue Saturday in Columbus, it sets up a Big Ten matchup with Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl implications against Michigan Nov. 22.

Hmmm, Ohio State vs. Michigan with something at stake. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

The BCS standings released today will reflect the tightening of the race behind Oklahoma, which now probably can afford to lose a game and still make reservations for New Orleans. USC still will be in second, but Ohio State and LSU are breathing down the Trojans' necks.

Reality check

Will someone have a sitdown with Miami tight end Kellen Winslow? As talented as he may be, his mouth is getting him in trouble. Equating Saturday's loss to Tennessee to war and calling himself a soldier is ridiculous. Winslow apologized yesterday, but maybe he needs to be told again what war really means . . . So you want to leave the Big East? Well, Saturday was not a good day for defectors Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College. In addition to the aforementioned losses by Miami and Virginia Tech, West Virginia dealt BC its fifth loss . . . Clemson's victory took some of the heat off Tigers coach Tommy Bowden, who had been hearing talk of his demise for the past several days. "I told him his job ought to be good for another five days," said Tommy's father, Florida State boss Bobby. "Yeah, that's about right," said Tommy, whose first Bowden Bowl victory came on his father's 74th birthday.

Bowling alley

Does BC deserve a bowl invite if it beats Rutgers next week to get to the necessary six wins? Probably not. Here's why. BC has losses to Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Miami, and West Virginia. The Eagles don't deserve to go to a bowl game ahead of those teams. Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech, and Miami are the only Big East teams currently bowl eligible. West Virginia is one win away and still has a chance to get the conference's BCS slot. Syracuse needs one win. If the Mountaineers and Orangemen come up with that victory, the Eagles probably will be shut out from the Big East's five bowl tie-ins. Of course, if BC wins its last two games at Rutgers and Virginia Tech, the Eagles can keep their "Drive for Five" bowl mantra alive . . . Do you think Alabama fans are smiling this morning? First the Tide beats Mississippi State. Then hated-rival Auburn is beaten by Mississippi. And then Texas A&M, coached by Tide defector Dennis Franchione loses to Oklahoma, 77-0, which is the worst defeat in Aggie history . . . Oklahoma State coach Les Miles must be wondering what is going on with his Cowboys. Two weeks ago OSU was 7-1 and thinking about challenging Oklahoma. That was before the Sooners ripped Oklahoma State, 52-9, Nov. 1, and then Texas came to Stillwater Saturday and walked away with a 55-16 win. That's two losses in which the Cowboys have been outscored, 107-25. OSU looks like a team that is going south, or so we've been told . . . Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops might have a long memory. Consider that the two teams that beat the Sooners last year, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M, were crushed by the Sooners this year by a combined 129-9.

Material from wire services was used in this report.

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