Wed, Oct 01, 2003 - Page 20 News List

Top college teams weed themselves out of top rankings

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , FORT WORTH, TEXAS

Winnow the minnows ... and a few whales.

That's what the first five weeks of the 2003 season has been about. As the college football calendar flips to October, the season has already inflicted injuries on national championship hopes while eliminating 100 or so also-rans from the national championship picture.

Six of the top 10 teams in the AP preseason poll have lost. Overall, eight top 10 teams have lost -- five in the past two weeks.

From this perspective, there are 16 teams with a legitimate shot to reach the Bowl Championship Series title game in the Sugar Bowl.

Ten BCS teams are undefeated: Nebraska, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Arkansas, LSU, Miami, Virginia Tech, Florida State, Minnesota and Ohio State.

Four non-BCS teams are undefeated -- TCU, Louisville, Northern Illinois and Air Force. The Have Nots have hope that one of those teams can run the table and wind up with an at-large bid to a BCS bowl. That's never happened before, and don't expect pigs to start flying this season.

Six BCS teams have one loss and are still in the hunt: Texas, Kansas State, Georgia, Pittsburgh, Michigan and Southern Cal. In the five previous BCS title games, only twice did both teams have undefeated records. In the other three games, the undefeated team won the game and the title. Perfection is in the eye of the poll voter.

With two months to play, here's an assessment of the road to the Sugar Bowl, starting with the 10 undefeated teams.

OKLAHOMA

The Sooners have displayed remarkable power in all three phases of the game. Jason White has stayed healthy and makes the deep pass a legitimate threat for the Sooners. Toughest games: Texas, Oklahoma State, at Texas Tech.

MIAMI

The Hurricanes still have as much talent as anyone, but so far their offense hasn't clicked with Brock Berlin at quarterback. Miami has to get its offense fixed before facing the toughest schedule of any of the contenders. Toughest games: at Florida State, at Virginia Tech, Tennessee, at Pittsburgh.

OHIO STATE

The defending national champions are last in the Big Ten Conference in most offensive categories, but the Buckeyes' defense has been practically impenetrable. Ohio State needs QB Craig Krenzel to get healthy. Toughest games: at Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan State, at Michigan.

VIRGINIA TECH

The Hokies might be lurking. They have the best balance outside of Norman, Oklahoma, and coach Frank Beamer knows how to get a team to the national championship game. Virginia Tech's season could be decided by consecutive Big East games in November.

Toughest games: Miami, at Pittsburgh, at Virginia.

FLORIDA STATE

The Seminoles again have the kind of marauding defense they displayed during their championship seasons. Despite his parking issues, quarterback Chris Rix is effectively running the offense.

LSU

The Tigers have speed and power on both sides of the ball. LSU has won four laughers and a fourth-quarter pulse-pounder. Toughest games: Florida, at South Carolina, at Alabama, Arkansas.

ESPN will not broadcast any regular season NCAA colllege football games in Taiwan.

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