Does anybody have a spare crystal ball? How about a Ouija board that specializes in predicting the outcome of college football games? Mickey Holmes needs one.
Holmes, the executive director of the USF&G; Sugar Bowl, would like to know whether there's a national championship game in his immediate future. One between the top two teams in the country.
"We're just going to have to wait like everyone else," Holmes said yesterday from New Orleans. "That's one of the things we wanted from the coalition. And that's what we got."
Said Mobil Cotton Bowl executive director Jim Brock: "Everyone wants to do what's right for the coalition. If it doesn't work, we might as well get ready for a playoff. A lot of things are going into this."
In the past, a Sugar Bowl matchup between top-ranked Miami and No. 2 Alabama already might have been set up for New Year's Day. It might not have been announced. The ink still might have been wet. But the two teams would have gotten their invitations.
That was before the establishment of the coalition, an amalgam of high-profile conferences, teams and bowl games. It has turned the chaos and confusion of Novembers past into a waiting game this season.
Bowl invitations won't come out until Dec. 6, the day after the Southeastern Conference championship game. That's about two weeks, and several cases of heartburn, later than before.
"This is fun, rather than to have everything churning inside, hoping that the teams you invited keep winning," Holmes said.
Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese, a prime mover behind the coalition, said the wait will be worth it. "Bowls will have a better opportunity to make better games," Tranghese said.
"You know," said Holmes, "there could be a short distance between the castle and the moat."
Possible bowl matchups
If Miami and Alabama finish unbeaten, it will set the stage for the first postseason battle of the top two unbeatens since the Hurricanes lost to No. 2 Penn State in the 1987 Fiesta Bowl. If Miami falls, Notre Dame looms as a possible opponent.
This could be the game if Alabama loses between now and Dec. 6 while Miami and No. 4 Texas A&M; keep winning. The Aggies still have to play archrival Texas in Austin in the regular-season finale Nov. 26. Notre Dame, at No. 7, likely will be A&M;'s opponent if Miami and Alabama play for the title.
Right now, it looks like No. 5 Florida State against No. 7 Nebraska. But should Miami lose, and the Seminoles keep winning, the Atlantic Coast Conference champion Seminoles could end up with a shot at that elusive national championship against Alabama in New Orleans.
The crash you heard Saturday was the bottom falling out of a possible national championship matchup between Washington and Michigan. The Huskies dropped from first to sixth with their 16-3 loss at Arizona, while No. 3 Michigan needs a lot of help now to win it all even it finishes the regular season 10-0-1.
Conferences involved ACC, Big East, Southwest, Southeastern, Big Eight, Pac-10.
Teams involved Conference champion and runners-up from ACC, Big Eight, SWC, Big East, SEC champion, Pac-10 runner-up and Notre Dame. This year only, Penn State is in Blockbuster.
Bowls involved Tier 1: Sugar, Cotton, Orange, Fiesta. Tier 2: Gator, Blockbuster, John Hancock.
Tier 1 The highest-ranked host team among the Sugar, Cotton and Orange has first choice of opponent from ACC champion, Big East team and Notre Dame. The other two host teams then choose in order of Associated Press ranking. The Fiesta Bowl then picks the next two highest-ranked from coalition.
Tier 2 Gator Bowl will pick No. 3 SEC team against remaining teams from coalition. Blockbuster will pick from remaining coalition teams to play Penn State. John Hancock will pick coalition team against another coalition team or another Division I-A team with at least six victories.