Also moved on some circuits as Kansas St-Colorado
BOULDER, Colo. (AP) _ It seems there’s just one more thing the Colorado Buffaloes have to do to prove to themselves and the rest of the country that they deserve the No. 1 rating. The rest is already taken care of.
The Big Eight title is clinched - for the second year in a row.
The Orange Bowl invitation is a certainty - for the second year in a row.
A 1-1-1 start was overcome to finish with a 10-1-1 record.
There’s just one more detail yet to be ironed out: beating Notre Dame.
But the Buffs won’t have the No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown they - and Orange Bowl officials - hoped for.
Top-ranked Notre Dame bowed to Penn State 24-21 on Saturday. That means No. 2 Colorado almost certainly will move up to No. 1, but Notre Dame will fall several spots. And that makes Miami, the probable new No. 2, more of a factor in the national title chase.
Colorado coach Bill McCartney said he was disappointed by Notre Dame’s loss, but that won’t affect the Buffs’ mission.
″It won’t change anything in the Orange Bowl,″ he said. ″We still have to beat Notre Dame. I was really hoping they’d win. It’s rare when it’s No. 1 vs. No. 2 in a bowl game for the national title. But I knew they were playing a good team.″
Tailback Eric Bieniemy said he was shocked by the Notre Dame loss.
″I didn’t think they’d lose. But we’re still in control of our own destiny regardless,″ Bieniemy said. ″They’re still going to come after us in the Orange Bowl. They’re going to want to redeem themselves and make it two in a row over us.″
Colorado’s 64-3 pummeling of Kansas State on Saturday seemed almost anticlimactic after the season the Buffaloes endured on their way to the top spot.
Prior to games of two weeks ago, Colorado ranked ninth. The Buffs beat No. 3 Nebraska that week, while No. 1 Virginia, No. 4 Auburn and No. 5 Illinois also lost.
Elevated to fourth, Colorado saw No. 2 Washington and No. 3 Houston lose the next week.
Finally, the Irish completed the toppling of titans with the loss to Penn State.
After starting 1-1-1 and slipping to No. 20 in the rankings in September, Colorado’s hopes for another run at the national championship appeared as dead as their moribund passing attack. But the Buffs turned their season around, winning at Texas in the fourth quarter - a period that had plagued them in their first three games.
They then beat Washington, withstood the criticism of a fifth-down victory over Missouri, and knocked off Oklahoma and Nebraska in rolling to nine straight victories, capped by Saturday’s rout of Kansas State.
Clearly, this is a team that is peaking, that has played impressive, controversy-free football for the last six weeks.
Certainly K-State was impressed.
Mike Pritchard scored touchdowns on a 70-yard reverse and a 48-yard pass from Darian Hagan, and Hagan ran for two other TDs as Colorado opened a 40-3 halftime lead.
Hagan, who retired early in the third quarter, passed for 200 yards and ran for 78. Pritchard had 152 yards rushing and receiving, and Bieniemy, the nation’s leading rusher, ran for 115 yards.
Colorado (7-0 in the Big Eight) scored on seven of its first eight possessions and amassed 456 yards by intermission, almost equally distributed between running and passing. Kansas State (5-6, 2-5) had 134 yards at the half.
The Buffs clinched the conference title outright for the second straight season - the only team other than Oklahoma and Nebraska ever to do so.
″Colorado just overwhelmed us offensively, defensively and in the kicking game,″ KSU coach Bill Snyder said. ″That’s what great football teams do. I think they’re the best football team in the country.″
This was an improved KSU team, too, not the doormat that typically lost games by a 64-3 count. The Wildcats came into the game seeking a winning record after managing to win a total of only four games the previous five seasons.
″When they jumped out on us, in our minds we were thinking, ‘Oh, no, here we go again, same old K-State.’ ″ KSU nose tackle Evan Simpson said. ″But I know that this is not the same old K-State.″
This is the same old Colorado, however.
The Buffs cleared the bench, with most of the 114 players in uniform seeing action.
O.C. Oliver, the team’s leading rusher as a freshman who has been dogged by injuries ever since, ran 8 yards for the final touchdown. Linebackers Alfred Williams and Kanavis McGhee played as tight ends, and Williams made a leaping, 17-yard reception.