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ONLY SURE THING IS MUCH CONFUSION.

Byline: SCOTT WOLF

Everyone wants to be college football's No. 1 team but the better question today is who's No. 2?

At this point, it looks like the Rose Bowl could be an All-Orange affair between Miami and Tennessee. But the one team that didn't play Saturday, Nebraska, also has jumped back into the picture.

Besides, nothing is quite what it seems with the Bowl Championship Series rankings, so it will take one more week of football to officially select the Rose Bowl's second representative. Here's what we know for sure:

No. 1-ranked Miami barely sealed up a spot in the national-championship game Jan. 3 with its 26-24 victory over Virginia Tech.

The Hurricanes' opponent remains a mystery. Is it Tennessee? Nebraska? Colorado? Oregon?

Tennessee appears to be the latest team to control its destiny, but that proved to be the death knell for two teams on Underdog Saturday, when Florida and Texas flubbed their shots at the national title.

If Tennessee defeats Louisiana State on Saturday in the Southeastern Conference championship game, it should be enough to let quarterback Casey Clausen of Alemany High in Mission Hills enjoy the new year at home with the family.

However, how today's Top 25 polls rank the above-mentioned teams could be the determining factor for who rises to the No. 2 spot in the BCS rankings this week. And even then, it might be too early for fans to book a trip to Pasadena.

If the BCS computer says any team besides Tennessee is No. 2, there is a possibility that team will be leapfrogged the following week if the Vols defeat LSU.

So much for the idea that the BCS would offer a clearer picture for determining a national champion.

Or that the poll voters don't eventually determine who the national championship representatives will be. Where the voters place Tennessee and Nebraska should decide where they end up in the BCS rankings.

About the only certainty is that previous No. 2 Florida, which controlled its own destiny, and former No. 3 Texas, where coach Mack Brown refused to replace inept quarterback Chris Simms, are out.

Nebraska, No. 4 in the latest BCS poll, should benefit most from Florida and Texas losing, but how long the Cornhuskers enjoy those losses depends whether the teams that pulled off the upsets (Tennessee, Colorado) overtake them in the polls.

Colorado has back-to-back victories over Nebraska and Texas to make its case for Pasadena, but the determining factor could be how far the Buffaloes advance when the Top 25 polls are released.

The Buffs could make a huge leap in the polls, although probably not enough to give them a trip to the Rose Bowl.

Tennessee's victory at Florida, coupled with being the only team left that will play on national television next weekend in the SEC title game, should be the perfect recipe to make it to the Rose Bowl.

It's hard to see at the moment how the Vols won't end up playing Miami if they avoid an upset next weekend.

Perhaps we should be happy one team has made it at all. Imagine how messed up things would be if Virginia Tech's Ernest Wilford had caught a two-point pass and tied Miami 26-26 in the fourth quarter. It could really have mucked things up for the BCS.

Instead, the 'Canes are the one team that can sleep peacefully this week.

The loser of the day among teams that didn't lose is Oregon. The Ducks' narrow 17-14 victory over Oregon State is not expected to propel them past Nebraska in the BCS rankings, and they could be surpassed in the Top 25 by Tennessee and Colorado.

There shouldn't be too much crying up in Eugene, however, considering how unimpressive Oregon's victory over its archrival appeared. Even quarterback Joey Harrington's performance (11 for 22, 122 yards) did little to help his case for the Heisman Trophy.

The Ducks' reward for not winning bigger: A Fiesta Bowl date with red- hot Colorado.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 2, 2001
Words:666
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