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Tigers, Mountaineers one win away from BCS Championship Game

NEW YORK -- Missouri and West Virginia have one more step to
take before bumping into each other in New Orleans.

The Tigers and Mountaineers hold the top two spots in the Bowl
Championship Series standings released Sunday with a week left in a
topsy-turvy regular season.

The Tigers play Oklahoma (10-2) in the Big 12 championship game
at San Antonio on Saturday and the Mountaineers face rival
Pittsburgh (4-7) at home. If both win, it'll be Missouri-West
Virginia in a most unlikely BCS championship game Jan. 7 at the
Superdome.

A month ago, neither team was even in the top five of the BCS
standings, but a string of upsets have left Chase Daniel and the
Tigers and Pat White and the Mountaineers in control of their own
destinies.

"I've been telling the guys, the more you win, the more that's
at stake," West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez said Sunday in a
conference call with reporters.

If either Missouri (11-1) or West Virginia (10-1) trip up next
week, third-place Ohio State (11-1) is poised to take advantage and
play in its second straight title game.

If the Tigers and Mountaineers both lose, the national title
picture gets very murky.

Georgia was fourth in the standings, followed by Kansas (11-1).
Neither will play in their conference title games, but both still
have a shot to play for a national championship.

Georgia (10-2) could become the first team with two losses to
play for a national title and several other two-loss teams could
make a claim to be in the championship game if the top two lose for
a second consecutive week.

Sixth-place Virginia Tech (10-2), seventh-place LSU (10-2),
eighth-place Southern California (9-2) and ninth-place Oklahoma all
have one last opportunity to surge up the BCS standings on
Saturday.

Ohio State's regular season ended Nov. 17 with a victory over
Michigan that made the Buckeyes the Big Ten champions. The week
before, Ohio State was No. 1 in the country when it lost to
Illinois at home and seemingly fell out of the title race.

At worst, the Buckeyes, who lost the national championship game
41-14 to Florida last season, will be in the Rose Bowl.

Hawaii moved up to 12th in the standings after beating Boise
State 39-27 and winning the Western Athletic Conference, putting
Colt Brennan and the Warriors in position to earn an automatic BCS
bid.

The Warriors, the last remaining unbeaten team in the nation,
finish the season at home against Washington and need to be in the
top 12 when the final standings come out next Sunday.

Missouri was No. 1 in the Harris poll and West Virginia was No.
1 in the USA Today coaches' poll Sunday. Those polls make up a
two-thirds of a team's BCS average. Missouri was first in the
computer rankings with West Virginia second.

The Tigers' BCS average was .978 and the Mountaineers were at
.971.

A Missouri-West Virginia final seemed to be a long shot when
October ended. Both had a loss and were stuck behind a pile of
teams in the BCS standings. On Oct. 28, West Virginia was seventh
in the standings and Missouri was ninth.

Since then it's been a steady climb as the Tigers and
Mountaineers have kept winning while the other contenders have
tanked.

It started when Ohio State lost to Illinois on Nov. 10. A few
days later, Oregon lost quarterback Dennis Dixon to an injury in
the first quarter and the Ducks' national title hopes went with him
in a loss at Arizona.

Two days later, Oklahoma lost its second game of the season at
Texas Tech, leaving Missouri and Kansas as the Big 12's best hope
for a national title.

At that point, it became apparent that the winner of the
Missouri-Kansas game would go to the Big 12 title game with a
chance to play for the national championship at stake.

The Tigers, who entered the season unranked, took care of their
business, handing Kansas its first loss of the season, 36-28.

LSU also went down, losing in triple overtime 50-48 to Arkansas
on Friday, and that opened up a spot for the Mountaineers.

West Virginia grabbed it emphatically with a 66-21 victory
against Connecticut to clinch the Big East title and a BCS bid. The
Mountaineers were ranked No. 3 in the preseason poll, but lost in
late September 21-13 at South Florida. White injured his thigh
against the Bulls and didn't finish the game.

Neither West Virginia nor Missouri has ever won a national
title.