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No. 7 Huskies need a helping hand in bid for title

They probably won't have a chance to play for the national championship, but the Washington Huskies are making believers out of the teams they've whipped in recent weeks. And maybe with some luck, they could end up on top after all. The seventh-ranked Huskies (7-1) are 5-0 in the Pac-10 and have a two-game lead with three conference games to play. They appear headed to their first Rose Bowl since 1982, where they could meet No. 5 Illinois (6-1), which has a Big Ten showdown this week with Iowa.

The Huskies will need at least two teams from No. 1 Virginia, No. 2 Notre Dame, No. 3 Nebraska and No. 4 Auburn to lose before the bowl games if they are to have a shot at the national championship. If not, two of those teams will be playing in a national championship game on New Year's Day.

Last week, Washington defeated California 46-7. The Huskies have defeated Stanford by 40, USC by 31 and Oregon by 21. The only blemish on the record is a six-point loss to No. 9 Colorado on the road.

Head coach Don James said: "I probably haven't had a team so dominating in so many league games."

The Huskies have three games remaining, at home against Arizona and UCLA and on the road at Washington State. Two victories will get them in the Rose Bowl. Three victories will give them a bit of hope for a national championship. Then they'll need some help from other teams.

Big games: Here is a brief rundown of the games this weekend that will have a significant impact on the national championship picture.

No. 1 Virginia (7-0) vs. No. 16 Georgia Tech (6-0-1): This is Virginia's biggest test since a 20-7 victory over Clemson in September. The game is for the ACC title, but a few people in Orlando will be watching with interest. The Citrus Bowl could get a national championship game if Virginia remains No. 1. It has no chance if Virginia loses.

No. 3 Nebraska (8-0) vs. No. 9 Colorado (7-1-1): The winner will get the Big Eight Conference's bid to the Orange Bowl. The folks in Miami are hoping Nebraska wins so they can have their own national championship game, possibly against Virginia.

No. 4 Auburn (6-0-1) vs. No. 15 Florida (6-1): The Gators can't go to a bowl game, but they sure could ruin Auburn's national title plans. A victory also would put the Gators atop the SEC standings, even though they can't win the title.

No. 5 Illinois (6-1) vs. No. 13 Iowa (6-1): Both teams are undefeated in the Big Ten, so this game could decide who goes to the Rose Bowl. A victory keeps the Illini in the national championship race.

No respect: One team that won't threaten anybody for the national championship is Wyoming, despite a 9-0 record. The Cowboys, who are ranked 19th, actually dropped a spot this week after a close call against UTEP last week. They play 10th-ranked BYU next week, but even a victory over the Cougars probably won't move them much closer to the Top 10.

Notes: The Peach Bowl, Dec. 29 in Atlanta, has a unique offer. Fans now can purchase tickets for $32. But if they don't like the matchup the bowl announces when bids are extended on Nov. 24, they can return the ticket for a full refund. For the first time since the NFL's Cardinals moved to Phoenix, they outdrew Arizona State at Sun Devil Stadium when the two teams were at home on the same weekend. One reason was the Chicago Bears, who helped attract 71,233. Another was Arizona State's five-game losing streak, which caused only 64,751 to show up.

Quote marks: Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, still smarting from the loss to Auburn two weeks ago: "I'd still rather beat Auburn than any of 'em. Any game where I need to get 68 tickets for my people _ and half of them want me to lose _ is a big game. They show up dressed in orange and blue, put a feather on their head and want me to think they're a Seminole."