Saturday was a sad day for the bowl alliance and a happy day for the Rose Bowl.
In the last cycle of its current three-year agreement, the bowl alliance is trying to match the nation's two top-ranked teams in a national-championship game. But the Big Ten and Pacific-10 conferences, which send their champions to the Rose Bowl, are not alliance members.
The bowl alliance absorbed several body blows in Week 3, with the Big 12 Conference serving as the main victim. Teams from the Big Ten and Pac-10 recorded impressive and shocking victories at home and on the road. Yesterday's polls listed four teams from those leagues in the top 10.
The biggest mover was Washington, which vaulted past Florida in the Associated Press (writers) poll. The top two teams in the AP poll, Penn State and Washington, would not play in the alliance's 1-vs.-2 game in the Orange Bowl if those rankings hold for the season.
Big Ten teams Michigan and Purdue, with respective victories over Colorado and Notre Dame, squashed two alliance teams' title hopes. And unranked UCLA did the unthinkable, embarrassing Texas, 66-3, in Austin. The Pac-10's Arizona State ruined Miami's home opener.
The worst home loss in school history dropped the Longhorns from No. 11 to unranked status in the AP poll. The Irish, ranked No. 12 last week, also dropped from the AP rankings.
Two of the Big 12's remaining ranked teams, Nebraska and Kansas State, struggled to beat underdog nonconference opponents. The No. 7 Cornhuskers, the Big 12's best hope as championship contenders, face a critical game Saturday at second-ranked Washington.
It has been 29 years (Ohio State in 1968) since a Big Ten team won the national championship. And recently, the league's top teams have not displayed much staying power. But top-ranked Penn State, No. 8 Michigan and No. 9 Ohio State all are exhibiting speed and power.
ZTC The Wolverines' 27-3 shackling of a touted Colorado team should set off alarm bells in the Big Ten. Michigan's defense, which held the Buffaloes to 224 yards, is fast and aggressive; it resembles the units that have come out of Florida, Florida State and Miami.
"A lot of people are going to say and write that we're great," defensive end Glen Steele said. "We're not even going to listen to that."
The Big Ten's Michigan State and the Pac-10's Washington State are undefeated and showing signs of being strong surprise teams. That indicates the depth of both leagues, but also suggests that those conferences could be so balanced that their top teams will beat each other up.
Washington State (2-0) moved into the AP Top 25 at No. 19 -- the Cougars' first ranking since the 1994 final poll. Washington State beat Southern California, 28-21, knocking the Trojans out of the Top 25.
UCLA cracked the Top 25 at No. 24 after their big win, their first poll appearance since the 10th week of the 1995 season.
Georgia (2-0) moved into the poll at No. 25 -- its first ranking since the fourth week of 1995.
Pub Date: 9/15/97