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Saturday, November 17, 2001 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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College Football

Oregon clinches berth in Fiesta Bowl; National title still a possibility

With Washington's 26-14 victory over Washington State yesterday, Oregon clinched at least a share of the Pac-10 title and the conference's automatic invitation to the Fiesta Bowl.

Yet the Ducks reacted with little more than a shrug, since they still have an outside chance of rising from No. 4 in the Bowl Championship Series rankings to the top two, which would earn them a spot in the conference's traditional title game, the Rose Bowl.

But this season the Rose Bowl game will be for the national championship.

"There certainly is that possibility," Oregon Coach Mike Bellotti said. "Those things are dependent on other people, so I don't really worry about it that much.

"I'm not a number cruncher at all. I have no clue. I'll see what the resident experts say."

The top two teams in the final BCS composite, to be released Dec. 9, will meet in the Jan. 3 game.

And for the first time since 1919, when Great Lakes Navy beat the Mare Island Marines 17-0, the Rose Bowl might not include a team from the West Coast.

Instead, the Pac-10 champion goes to the Fiesta, to be played on New Year's Day in Tempe, Ariz.

Washington State's loss made Oregon (6-1 Pac-10, 9-1 overall) the only conference team with just one defeat.

Even if the Ducks lose their season finale to Oregon State on Dec. 1, they hold the tiebreaker over the other teams.

Oregon doesn't play Washington (6-2, 8-2) this year, but Oregon has the edge if the teams finish tied, because the Huskies went to the Rose Bowl more recently.

Bellotti said his team was "somewhat pleased" at being guaranteed at least a share of the league title, but he clearly had his eyes on the Civil War against rival Oregon State.

A victory would give Oregon its first outright title since 1994.

"Our mission is to win the Civil War," Bellotti said.

Oregon lost the game last year 23-13 and wound up in the Holiday Bowl, while the Beavers advanced to the Fiesta and trounced Notre Dame 41-9.

While many Pac-10 traditionalists bemoan the likelihood of being shut out of college football's grandest showcase, Oregon's players aren't looking down their noses at the Fiesta.

"It's always been a dream of mine to play in the Rose Bowl game, but at the same time, in reality it is the Rose Bowl," said linebacker Kevin Mitchell. "It's got a different name, but it's got the same meaning."

Oregon will make its 10th bowl appearance in 13 years, after going to just six from 1917 to 1988.

This will be the Ducks' first trip to the Fiesta, and first to one of the four annual BCS games since the system was implemented in 1998.

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