Rose Bowl Picture Far From Settled

This week's Pac-10 extended bowl forecast: dense fog.

The Rose Bowl race has been narrowed to USC, Washington State, Michigan and Ohio State. Or Texas, or Florida State, or the Southeastern Conference champion or anyone else out there with a top-12 bowl championship series ranking.

"One thing we're not doing is whipsawing ourselves based on events these days," Rose Bowl Chief Executive Mitch Dorger said recently.

The Rose Bowl learned its lesson last year, when it all but had Iowa booked to Pasadena only to watch the Orange Bowl rope the Hawkeyes with a BCS legal loophole.

Dorger and other bowl representatives may not know until Dec. 6 how events will shake out.

The problem is Pac-10-affiliated bowls are stuck until the Rose Bowl pairing is settled, and right now that story is a work in progress.

The Rose Bowl's dream, much different from USC's or the conference's, would be for Ohio State to defeat Michigan on Saturday and advance to the Jan. 4 Sugar Bowl to play Oklahoma for the national title.

Assuming USC wins out, the Rose Bowl would get the Trojans, ranked No. 2 in both polls, with an outside shot to claim a split share of the national title.

The Trojans' Rose Bowl opponent would not be determined until after the Fiesta Bowl selects first to replace No. 1 Oklahoma. The Rose would get the second pick because it lost an "anchor" in BCS No. 2 Ohio State.

The Fiesta Bowl probably would take Louisiana State if the Tigers win the Southeastern Conference title game, leaving the Rose Bowl to match two-loss Texas against USC.

If LSU loses, however, the Fiesta probably would snatch Texas, leaving the Rose Bowl with a host of less-attractive options: Florida State, SEC champion, Miami?

If USC ends up in the Rose Bowl and Washington State finishes 10-2, the Cougars would slot into the Holiday Bowl, the Sun would take this week's Oregon State-Oregon winner and remaining bowl-eligible Pac-10 schools would fall appropriately into the Insight, Las Vegas and Silicon Valley bowls.

If USC ends up in the Sugar Bowl, Washington State would play the Big Ten champion in a traditional Rose Bowl matchup provided the Cougars defeat Washington in this week's Apple Cup.

If Washington State loses, the Rose Bowl is in a pinch.

Again, if the Fiesta Bowl took LSU, the Rose probably would take Texas. If the Fiesta takes Texas, the Rose has to consider a 10-2 Florida State or Miami.

The nightmare scenario for the Rose Bowl: an Oklahoma loss that creates a national title-game matchup of BCS No. 1 Ohio State versus No. 2 USC.

In that scenario, the Rose Bowl will have to surrender to the Sugar Bowl one of the best Rose Bowl matchups in history.

Pac Bits

A loss to Washington State on Saturday would saddle Washington (5-6) with its first losing season in 26 years. And while Washington Athletic Director Barbara Hedges has said first-year Coach Keith Gilbertson will be back next year (he signed a four-year contract), there's no doubt the Huskies, along with Arizona State, rank as this year's biggest Pac-10 flops.

Gilbertson was in a tough spot, taking over less than a week before the team's opener against Ohio State after Rick Neuheisel was formally fired. Still, Gilbertson, previously the team's offensive coordinator, failed to galvanize a team that was expected to challenge for the league title.

Last's week's 54-7 loss at California was the low point, Gilbertson describing the effort as "an embarrassment."

Gilbertson deserves at least a full season in command before a fair assessment can be made.

"My role changed pretty rapidly, so I didn't really know what to expect.... I thought we had a chance to be a pretty good football team," Gilbertson said.

Oregon has assured its 10th consecutive winning season and a seventh consecutive bowl bid. The Ducks are 7-4 and 4-3 in conference play entering Saturday's Oregon State game.

Former Washington State coach Mike Price told the Seattle Times this week he deserves an opportunity to coach again. "I'm just waiting for one president to say 'Let's give the guy a chance. He's a good guy, he's not a bad person, and he can get it done.' "

Price was hired at Alabama in December but was fired before he coached his first game after allegedly cavorting with dancers at a Pensacola, Fla., strip club.

Price has applied for the vacant Arizona job even though he has been told he is not a candidate. Price's $20-million lawsuit against Alabama was dismissed; a $20-million lawsuit against Sports Illustrated is pending.

Ever wonder why schools fire coaches with winning records?

Three years ago, Arizona fired Dick Tomey after he posted a 95-64-4 record in Tucson. The team has gone 11-23 since and 4-19 in Pac-10 play.

Bruce Snyder, who nearly led Arizona State to the 1996 national title, was 58-47 when he was fired and replaced by Dirk Koetter, who is 16-20.

Hey, a Big Game that finally means something. California (6-6) needs to beat Stanford (5-6) to become bowl eligible for the first time since 1996. Stanford has to defeat Cal and Notre Dame to become bowl qualified.

Flag day: Washington State needs nine penalties against Washington to break the NCAA single-season record held by Grambling, which had 142 in 1977.




*--* Conference Overall TEAM W L W L PF PA WASHINGTON STATE 6 1 9 2 347 210 USC 5 1 9 1 407 175 OREGON STATE 4 2 7 3 330 201 OREGON 4 3 7 4 292 297 UCLA 4 3 6 5 217 241 CALIFORNIA 4 3 6 6 377 276 WASHINGTON 3 4 5 6 285 297 STANFORD 2 5 4 5 163 239 ARIZONA STATE 1 6 4 7 270 321 ARIZONA 1 6 2 9 174 401


Saturday's Games

UCLA at USC...12:30 p.m.

Oregon State at Oregon...12:30 p.m.

California at Stanford...12:30 p.m.

Washington State at Washington...3:30 p.m.

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