Mike Tirico
Tuesday, October 10
Miami, Virginia Tech could earn two of the BCS bids

The clock's running and it's four-down territory. Here we go.

First Down
So after the one day of the season when it all shakes down, I will go back to my preseason statement -- everyone is going to lose at least one game this season.

Saturday's big winner is the Big East. Miami and Virginia Tech could be playing for a slot in the championship game when they meet in the Orange Bowl in a month. There is nothing more humorous than watching people who do not follow college football discuss the sport. Watching Sunday morning's sports conversation you would think Miami just returned to the national spotlight. The Hurricanes have been there for the last two seasons. Just because they did not beat Florida State or Virginia Tech last year only meant they were not a national championship team.

Butch Davis
Butch Davis' Hurricanes are ranked No. 4 in AP and No. 6 in the ESPN/USA Today poll.
Closer inspection would show what those of us who have been to Miami during the resurgence have seen with our own eyes. The Hurricanes were not free of the scholarship limits from NCAA violations until this season. Butch Davis has done a brilliant job in the intervening time, not just restoring the high quality of football, but returning internal respect to this program. Pride would only come back with big wins like Saturday, but respect is something that happens with caring for academics and getting players to take pride in laying the groundwork for the future. Davis took all of the painful steps and deserves to take all of the credit.

Miami was the flagship of this fledging league. Now, with Virginia Tech's emergence, the league has a chance for two BCS births, something that seemed unlikely a few years ago when short-sighted critics claimed the league did not even belong in the BCS.

Second Down
Kansas State is sitting at two or three depending on your poll of choice. There are plenty of critics about the preseason schedule, but we are not going down that old, tired road. This is a very talented team with extraordinary perimeter speed (and that has been without David Allen who will be back taking back kicks when it counts). Bill Snyder's team, in its two conference games against Kansas and Colorado, has looked more impressive than Nebraska in its two conference games against Iowa State and Missouri.

The Wildcats of 1999 were not as good as the 2000 Cats. The BCS snubbing is something they carry as a heavy chip on their shoulder. However, after seeing the '99 team in person against Washington it's clear those Wildcats were not a team deserving of the benefit of the doubt, doubt they create by playing lower echelon teams in the preseason. The 2000 Wildcats seem to have another season of seasoning and a quarterback in Jonathan Beasley who has improved.

Now the intrigue, Saturday's shocking blowout of Texas marks the emergence of Oklahoma as a player in the Big 12 race. Remember, even though Oklahoma plays K-State and Nebraska in its next two games, getting past one hurdle does not guarantee the BCS slot from this league. The winner of the Kansas State/Nebraska game is looking at a likely rematch with the Sooners in the Big 12 title game, since Oklahoma already has a win over Texas, the second best team in the South.

Third Down
Did you ever think the Buckeyes would be a quiet top 5 team. Ohio State, after being dismissed with last year's non-bowl season, is the only team with an unbeaten season in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes road win at Wisconsin Saturday actually was somewhat overshadowed in Columbus by the debut of the new NHL expansion team, the Blue Jackets.


Maybe followers should be credited with being cautiously intelligent. The future schedule is a killer with hot Minnesota coming to the Horseshoe this weekend with visits by Michigan State and trips to Purdue and Illinois ahead -- never mind that game against those Ann Arbor guys to close the season in Columbus.

The Buckeyes can't even claim the most surprising start in the Big Ten -- that goes to Northwestern and Damien Anderson. All of this may be working in favor of Ohio State, which could be best served by a season to sneak up on everyone else.

Fourth Down
Watching the polls leads to the same frustrations as sitting in rush hour traffic. Marshall had won 33 straight home games, but Western Michigan dominated them by 20 on national television and should be higher than No. 33 in the poll. Haven't we seen this season that the MAC should be given as much credit as the best teams in a league like the Mountain West.

Another team getting a lack of respect is undefeated TCU. With San Jose State and UTEP the only teams over .500 left on their schedule, their win over Northwestern is looking better every week. This is a team that deserves attention as a BCS at large team.

The discussion within each conference office right now is who will get those two at- large births. With so many likely candidates already with one loss -- and likely to absorb a second -- it is going to be tougher to say no to an 11-0 TCU this season.

Tirico's Top Ten
1. Nebraska
2. Virginia Tech
3. Kansas State
4. Ohio State
5. Oklahoma
6. Clemson
7. Miami
8. TCU
9. Florida State
10. Oregon
Keep an eye on: Mississippi State. The Bulldogs' trip to LSU in two weeks may be biggest hurdle before Egg Bowl against Ole Miss

Wojciechowski: Movers and Shakers

Harig: Are the Hurricanes back?

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