Thursday, October 2, 2003

Losses cloud BCS picture

College football

Enquirer wire services

Winnow the minnows . . . and a few whales.

That's what the first five weeks of the 2003 season have been about. As the calendar flips to October, the season already has 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 Associated Press 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 has never happened before.

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, twice were both teams undefeated. In the other three games, the undefeated team won the game and the title.

MIAMI: Devin Hester could be back returning kickoffs for No. 2 Miami tonight against West Virginia.

Hester leads the nation in kickoff returns with a 49.5-yard average. The freshman receiver has returned four kicks for 198 yards and a touchdown. He also has two receptions for 68 yards and a 12-yard run.

He was at his best against Florida on Sept. 6, when he took the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown - the program's first kickoff return for a touchdown since 1996, when Tremain Mack did it against Syracuse.

Hester returned another kickoff 28 yards early in the third quarter, but he was injured on the tackle and hasn't played since.

"I don't want to sit out any longer," Hester said. "It's killing me inside."

Hester returned to practice Sunday and has been lobbying with coach Larry Coker to let him play against the Mountaineers. Coker said the most Hester would do is return kicks.

WISCONSIN: Defensive lineman Erasmus James will sit out the rest of the season because of a hip injury that has sidelined him for all five of the Badgers' games, coach Barry Alvarez announced Wednesday.

James, a senior, underwent an MRI exam on his injured hip and the physicians did not see the improvement they had hoped for, Alvarez said.

FLORIDA: Florida didn't score a touchdown in the first half of either of its two Southeastern Conference games. Thus far, the search for answers isn't producing much.

"I don't know what to attribute that to," offensive lineman Max Starks said. "Every game we go out there and execute assignments. Are we thinking too much early in the game? I don't know. We just go out and try to execute the assignment."

No. 24 Florida (3-2, 1-1) hosts Mississippi on Saturday.

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