Mizzou, West Virginia close in on championship game

The Tigers earned a rematch with the Sooners for the Big 12 championship.

>NEW YORK (AP) – Missouri and West Virginia have one more step to take before bumping into each other in New Orleans.

The Tigers and Mountaineers hold the top two spots in the Bowl Championship Series standings released Sunday with a week left in a topsy-turvy regular season.

The Tigers play Oklahoma (10-2) in the Big 12 championship game at San Antonio on Saturday and the Mountaineers face rival Pittsburgh (4-7) at home. If both win, it’ll be Missouri-West Virginia in a most unlikely BCS championship game on Jan. 7 at the Superdome.

If either Missouri (11-1) or West Virginia (10-1) trip up next week, third-place Ohio State (11-1) is poised to take advantage and play in its second straight title game.

If the Tigers and Mountaineers both lose, the national title picture gets very murky.

Georgia was in fourth place in the standings and Kansas (11-1) was fifth. Neither will play in their conference title games, but both still have a shot to play for a national championship.

The Bulldogs (10-2) could become the first team with two-losses to play for a national title and several other two-loss teams could make a claim to be in the championship game if the top two lose for a second consecutive week.

Sixth-place Virginia Tech (10-2), seventh-place LSU (10-2), eighth-place Southern California (9-2) and ninth-place Oklahoma all have one last opportunity to surge up the BCS standings on Saturday.

Post-Callahan, Nebraska moves on

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) – The next Nebraska coach doesn’t necessarily have to have ties to the school, but Tom Osborne says the Cornhuskers’ next leader must have an understanding of the program’s unique culture and history.

Somebody such as former Nebraska quarterback and Buffalo coach Turner Gill would qualify.

Buffalo athletic director Warde Manuel gave permission to Osborne, Nebraska’s interim athletic director, to speak with Gill, the Buffalo News reported Sunday.

One of the criticisms of Bill Callahan, who was fired Saturday, was that he didn’t understand or appreciate the fans’ passion and high expectations. Both were inflated during Osborne’s coaching career, a 25-year period that saw the Huskers average 10 wins a season and win three national championships.

“I think it’s pretty important that they have a good grasp of it,” Osborne said of prospective candidates. “I think most people in football have a kind of peripheral sense of what it is like.”

Gill and LSU defensive coordinator Bo Pelini top the list of names mentioned most often as possible successors to Callahan.

Gill quarterbacked the Huskers in the early 1980s and was an assistant under Osborne and Frank Solich. He left in 2004, after Callahan’s first season.

Pelini was the Huskers’ defensive coordinator under Solich in 2003 after working eight years as an NFL assistant.

Gill and Pelini did not return messages left by The Associated Press on Sunday.

Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez’s name has been bandied, but he said Sunday he has no interest in a return to coaching. Alvarez, who stepped down as Badgers’ coach in 2005, played linebacker at Nebraska in 1965-67.

“I’ve got the job I want right now,” Alvarez said.

Osborne said it would be “nice” if the next coach already had experience at Nebraska.

“But that’s not going to be exclusive,” Osborne said. “I’m not going to make that a prerequisite. So I’ll just try to find the best candidate. And it takes two people to agree. I may talk to some people that have Nebraska ties that want no part of it.”