Miami plays for unbeaten record

MIAMI, Dec. 6 (UPI) -- Top-ranked Miami hosts Big East rival Virginia Tech Saturday afternoon. At stake is an unblemished regular season mark, a league title, a berth in the Fiesta Bowl opposite Ohio State on Jan. 3, and a chance to win a second straight national championship.

If UCLA can beat No. 7 Washington State, the matchups of the other three BCS bowls -- the Rose, Orange and Sugar -- could fall into place without a lot of criticism.


If Miami loses, it likely will cause widespread turmoil.

Miami (11-0) takes a 34-game winning streak, the longest current run in the nation, into the contest, and Virginia Tech (9-3) again serves as the final regular season obstacle.

The Hurricanes advanced to the Rose Bowl last season with a razor-thin 26-24 victory at Virginia Tech in early December last season. The Hokies' Ernest Wilford dropped a two-point conversion pass with 6:03 left, and Miami intercepted four passes.


Miami left nothing to chance in a 49-7 win over Syracuse last week, and would love nothing better than to do the same thing against the Hokies, who snapped a three-game losing streak with a 21-9 win over archrival Virginia, and likely will provide stiffer competition.

"Virginia Tech is going to come in with a lot of energy," said quarterback Ken Dorsey.

The question will be if the Hurricanes show up with that same intensity. Miami came out flat against Florida State and Rutgers, and was lackluster at times in a win over Pittsburgh. When Miami is in high gear, it can be unstoppable.

"The only thing that can beat us is us," said running back Willis McGahee.

The Hurricanes can clinch their eighth Big East Conference title with a win in a contest where a number of streaks are on the line.

Miami has won 23 straight Big East games since a loss to Virginia Tech in 1999, and has won its last 21 home games. Also, Miami has won all 23 of its games under second-year coach Larry Coker.

The contest also will be the final Heisman Trophy audition for Dorsey and McGahee.


Elsewhere, Washington State (9-2) can clinch the Pac-10 title with a win over UCLA, but a loss gives the league title to No. 5 Southern California (10-2).

Washington State missed a chance to wrap up just its second Pac-10 title when it was knocked off by archrival Washington, 29-26, in overtime, on Nov. 23.

A loss to the Bruins likely will send the Cougars to the Holiday Bowl.

Southern California made its case for an at-large BCS berth with a 44-13 rout of Notre Dame last week. It rose to fourth in the latest BCS standings, and would gain at least an at-large berth if it stays there when the final BCS standings are announced on Sunday afternoon.

An injury to star Washington State quarterback Jason Gesser could help the Trojans' chances. Gesser suffered a high ankle sprain, a bruised knee, and a pulled calf in the Washington setback, and was on crutches until late last week.

Gesser is listed as questionable for UCLA. In either case, he will share duties with backup Matt Kegel, who played poorly against the Huskies.

Big Ten officials said Tuesday that third-ranked Iowa (11-1) has been assured a spot in the BCS, although BCS Coordinator Mike Tranghese has not confirmed that. If the Big Ten is correct, Iowa will be in the Rose Bowl should UCLA win and send the Hawkeyes to the Orange Bowl should Washington State win.


Because of its national appeal and ability to sell tickets, Notre Dame (10-2) has been mentioned as a candidate for a berth in the BCS, but there would be a major outcry if the Fighting Irish received a BCS berth over either Southern California or Iowa.

Wins by Miami and UCLA would solve that problem.

Two other BCS berths will be determined on Saturday.

No. 4 Georgia (11-1) makes its first appearance in the SEC title game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta when it faces No. 22 Arkansas (9-3).

The Bulldogs are third in the BCS and could be in line for the Fiesta Bowl should Miami lose.

The Razorbacks made their way to Atlanta by dethroning defending SEC champion LSU in dramatic fashion last week as Matt Jones tossed a 31-yard touchdown pass to Decori Birmingham with nine seconds remaining to give Arkansas a stunning 21-20 victory.

Ninth-ranked Oklahoma (10-2) will meet No. 12 Colorado (9-3) in the Big 12 championship game at Reliant Stadium in Houston.

Saturday's contest is a rematch of a regular season meeting, won by Oklahoma, 27-11, in Norman on Nov. 2. There will be no national championship implications on the line.


Oklahoma State took care of that last week with a 38-28 upset of then fourth-ranked Sooners.

Chris Brown of Colorado had a big game in last year's Big 12 title game, rushing for 182 yards and three touchdowns in Colorado's 39-37 victory over Texas, but is out this year with a bruised sternum.

No. 18 Florida State (9-4) already has secured a BCS berth as champion of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The Mid-American Conference also stages a title game Saturday as Marshall (9-2) hosts Toledo (9-3). The Thundering Herd are seeking their fifth MAC title in six years.

In other action, Army hosts Navy in a battle of 1-10 teams at Giants Stadium in New Jersey.

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