Polls may force Fiesta showdown Nebraska looks for title opening


What's good for Miami is bad for the Orange Bowl. Nebraska's Tom Osborne has renewed the call for a national tournament. Last week, the Fiesta Bowl was considering a New Year's Day with Kansas State as an invited guest, but now it's contemplating its third national championship game in eight years.

What would the bowl selection process be without a little confusion?

No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Notre Dame are playing the "Game of the Century" in South Bend, Ind., Saturday, but college football's national championship won't be finalized for another seven weeks. Despite the coalition agreement that will determine a possible national championship and match-ups in five other bowl games, pollsters still have a very large say.

The bowl coalition -- which will cement its selections in Atlanta on Dec. 5 -- opened for business last year with the Associated Press writers' poll as its yardstick. This year, it will combine the AP poll with the USA Today/CNN poll of coaches, and the coalition poll is pointing to a national title for the Fiesta.

The writers have Miami as No. 3, but the coaches have Nebraska there, and the Hurricanes have an edge in the combined coalition poll.

Whenever the top two poll positions are occupied by any combination of Notre Dame and the champions of the Atlantic Coast Conference (Florida State) and Big East (where Miami is unbeaten), they must play the national championship game at the Fiesta Bowl.

The prospect of Florida State-Miami, Notre Dame-Miami, or even Florida State-Notre Dame -- what if they tie Saturday, or it's decided by a late conversion? -- playing New Year's Day in Tempe, Ariz., for the national title doesn't sit well with Nebraska. The Cornhuskers are 9-0, and they don't understand how people can vote them behind Miami, which lost 28-10 to Florida State.

There are whispered complaints that the AP writers have a hidden agenda, the argument being that because Nebraska has blown out in five straight bowl games, people don't want to cover another New Year's Day dud in Miami involving the Cornhuskers.

"There might be a feeling among the writers that traditionally Nebraska hasn't fared well," said Pete Tribble, executive director of the Orange Bowl. "Sometimes, everyone's so focused on trying to create a matchup between No. 1 and No. 2. You never know what's in the minds of the writers."

Osborne came right out Monday during the Big Eight Conference coaches' teleconference and questioned the writers' qualifications.

"I know there are a lot of voters out there who have a very limited view of college football," said Osborne. "They see two or three teams in their area but not much else. They're going to be very instrumental in who does what."

Nebraska is rooting for West Virginia to beat Miami next week. That would open the door for the Cornhuskers to move up to No. 2 and meet the Florida State-Notre Dame winner in the Orange Bowl, one of the three coalition bowl games with a conference affiliation in the loop for a national championship game.

In the days before the coalition, the Fiesta Bowl lined up Penn State-Miami to determine the 1986 national champion and Notre Dame-West Virginia at the end of the '88 season. The Fiesta squirted again to the top of the heap last week, when the Rose and Sugar Bowls saw their importance diminish with then-No. 3 Ohio State's tie at Wisconsin and then-No. 5 Alabama's loss to LSU.


The poll will be used to determine the picking order for the Cotton, Orange, Sugar and Fiesta Bowls. Point totals will be determined by combining the Associated Press and USA Today/CNN polls. Each poll has 62 members, with points based on 25 for a first-place vote through one for 25th:

Team ........ ........ Rec. .... Points

1. Florida State ..... 9-0 ..... 3,098

2. Notre Dame ........ 9-0 ..... 2,956

3. Miami ..... ....... 7-1 ..... 2,747

4. Nebraska .......... 9-0 ..... 2,703

5. Ohio State ....... 8-0-1 .... 2,495

6. Tennessee ........ 7-1-1 .... 2,4449

7. x-Auburn .......... 9-0 ..... 2,394

8. Florida ........... 7-1 ..... 2,237

9. Texas A&M; ......... 7-1 ..... 2,172

10. West Virginia .... 8-0 ..... 1,158

11. UCLA .... ........ 7-2 ..... 1,937

12. Alabama ......... 7-1-1 .... 1,827

13. Arizona .......... 8-1 ..... 1,636

14. Wisconsin ....... 7-1-1 .... 1,516

15. North Carolina ... 8-2 ..... 1,396

16. Penn State ....... 6-2 ..... 1,336

17. Virginia ......... 7-2 ..... 1,004

18. Oklahoma ......... 7-2 ....... 966

19. Indiana .......... 7-2 ....... 844

20. Louisville ....... 7-2 ....... 695

21. Wyoming .......... 7-1 ....... 648

22. Colorado ........ 5-3-1 ...... 600

23. Boston Coll. ..... 6-2 ....... 588

24. Kansas State .... 6-2-1 ...... 337

25. Southern Cal ..... 6-4 ....... 172

x -- not eligible for the USA Today/CNN poll because of bowl sanctions.


* Whenever Notre Dame, the Atlantic Coast Conference and Big East champions are Nos. 1 and 2 in the coalition poll (combined final regular-season polls of The Associated Press and USA Today/CNN), they must play the national championship game in the Fiesta Bowl.

* Whenever the No. 1 or No. 2 team in the coalition poll comes from among Notre Dame, the ACC or Big East champion, and the host conference champion from among the Sugar (Southeastern), Cotton (Southwest) or Orange (Big Eight) bowl is ranked No. 1 or No. 2, those teams must play in the bowl of the host conference champion.

* Barring the above circumstances, the Orange, Sugar and Cotton bowls will select opponents based on the order of their respective host conference champions in the final coalition poll. Following that selection, the Fiesta Bowl will have two selections from the remaining pool of teams.

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