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Bowl uproar makes for a fantastic football finale

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OK, now college football is getting interesting.

The rankings have turned over more than a rotisserie chicken. Momentum has taken pendulum swings between the nation's midsection and the state of Florida. And something called the BCS, which no one seems to understand, is expected to crown the national champion.

Only one thing is sure: It's been a gripping season on the gridiron.

Think about it. With one big game remaining before the bowl season - Tennessee vs. Louisiana State - everything is still up in the air. We still don't know who will play against Miami in the Rose Bowl for the national championship. We have no idea who will win the Heisman Trophy.

And the mysterious Bowl Championship Series (BCS) rating, which determines who plays where on New Year's Day and thereafter, is only adding fuel to the fire.

Isn't suspense one of the reasons we love sports in the first place?

"It's been a lot of fun, and it's been interesting," says Rick Wells, the National Football Foundation official who calculates the BCS rankings. "Everyone's talking about college football."

The BCS, now in its fourth year, was designed to produce a definitive national champion - without upsetting the century-old bowl-game tradition, which is a cash cow for the major conferences.

The BCS rankings weigh Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN polls, eight different computer-based rankings, the strength of each team's schedule, its number of losses, and the quality of its wins. The top two teams then meet in the championship, which rotates between the Rose, Sugar, Orange, and Fiesta bowls.

Simple, right?

Here's the problem: There is only one team that stands out from the pack, and is undefeated (although beatable): Miami.

After that, Tennessee, Nebraska, and Oregon, each with one loss, have a claim to be the second-best team in the country. Further clouding the picture, untested Brigham Young could finish undefeated with a win this weekend over Hawaii, while Colorado, despite two early losses, is probably playing the best football in the country at the moment.

This is where things get complicated. Tennessee can determine its own fate if it beats LSU (for a second time this season) Saturday night in Atlanta. If Tennessee loses, however, Nebraska, which was humiliated 62-36 two weeks ago by Colorado, will jump back into the picture and play Miami in the Rose Bowl.


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