CHARLOTTESVILLE, OCT. 15 -- Virginia Coach George Welsh, who 11 months ago talked about his team going undefeated and contending for a national championship "some time in the '90s," today discovered that his forecast has been expedited.

The Cavaliers (6-0) received the school's first No. 1 football ranking by the Associated Press today, vaulting ahead of Michigan, which fell to 10th after a 28-27 loss to Michigan State Saturday. Preseason No. 1 Miami (4-1) moved up one slot to No. 2 after defeating Kansas, 34-0.

The United Press International poll of coaches also elevated Virginia to No. 1, a ranking that could bind the Cavaliers to the Citrus Bowl under a four-year Atlantic Coast Conference contract with the Florida Citrus Sports Association. Virginia, ranked third by UPI last week, moved ahead of Michigan and Nebraska (6-0), a 69-21 winner over Missouri.

Welsh, who in recent weeks has played down Virginia's rise from a No. 15 preseason ranking, was quick to dismiss the top billing, wary of the troubles that befell his team's two predecessors -- Notre Dame and Michigan, upset losers to unranked Stanford and Michigan, respectively.

"We'll have to deal with it," he said. "It still doesn't mean that much to me. Nobody knows who's number one, there are too many games left to play. Maybe this is like Andy Warhol said, this is our 15 minutes of fame."

Virginia players gathered in small groups to watch Michigan and Michigan State late Saturday afternoon after defeating North Carolina State, 31-0, expecting the win to solidify their hold on No. 2. But after Michigan's try for a game-winning two-point conversion was ruled an incomplete pass -- the Big Ten supervisor of officials now has apologized to Coach Gary Moeller because interference, obvious on film, wasn't called -- the Cavaliers were left to revel in the excitement of what this morning could bring.

"I'll always be able to say that at one time I was part of the number one team in the country," said offensive tackle Paul Collins, one of 12 fifth-year seniors left from the 1986 squad that went 3-8. "We're on top now and people are going to be shooting at us with their six-guns loaded. For a long time, we were the hunters. Now we're the hunted."

The magnitude of the accomplishment still had not set in here today, what with most of the student population gone for a four-day midterm recess. Merchants began construction on displays with a common "No. 1" theme, but the atmosphere remained a quiet contrast to Saturday, when the game was stopped in the fourth quarter because of excessive crowd noise. "I never could have imagined that happening here," Collins said.

Welsh criticized the fans for being too quiet after last season's Wake Forest game, then took out quarter-page thank-you ads in two campus newspapers following Virginia's first-ever win over Clemson here this Sept. 8. Scalpers were selling tickets Saturday -- the third of five sellouts -- for almost double face value.

Virginia defeated its remaining five 1990 opponents last season; this week's foe, Wake Forest, has beaten the Cavaliers only once in Welsh's eight-year tenure. Virginia's toughest challenge could come Nov. 3 when currently No. 11 Georgia Tech visits Scott Stadium.

An undefeated season most likely would take Virginia back to the Citrus Bowl, where the team made its first New Year's Day appearance last season, losing to Illinois, 31-21. A ranking of second, third or fourth by UPI as of Nov. 13 could free the Cavaliers to participate in the Cotton, Sugar or Orange bowls, but a No. 1 showing would bind them to the Citrus Bowl -- provided it has a payoff competitive with the other Jan. 1 games in which the ACC champion could participate.

Queried last November about the success of his program, Welsh envisioned a scenario that could prove eerily accurate. "In some year in the '90s, I would not be shocked if Virginia is 11-0 and someone says, 'We want you and Miami in the Fiesta Bowl,' " he said. "But we'd have to go to the Citrus Bowl because of the contract."

Welsh has since returned to a more taciturn approach, even questioning the validity of his team's No. 1 billing. "I thought maybe Nebraska -- they're undefeated," he said. "They've been a traditional power in college football. I don't know why they're not number one.

"I'm not uncomfortable with the situation. I just don't want to dwell on it. . . . What if it's for one week? Number one is not going to help us win any football games."

First-place votes in parentheses

No. ... School .............. Record ...... Pts

1. ... Virginia (38) .........6-0-0 .....1,454

2. ... Miami (15) ............4-1-0 .....1,414

3. ... Tennessee (2) .........4-0-2 .....1,354

4. ... Nebraska (3) ..........6-0-0 .....1,258

5. ... Auburn ................4-0-1 .....1,238

6. ... Notre Dame (1) ........4-1-0 .....1,208

7. ... Florida St. ...........4-1-0 .....1,046

8. ... Illinois ..............4-1-0 .......971

9. ... Houston (1) ...........5-0-0 .......963

10. ... Michigan ............. 3-2-0 .......939

11. ... Georgia Tech ..........5-0-0 .......835

12. ... Brigham Young ........ 5-1-0 .......830

13. ... Washington ........... 5-1-0 .......786

14. ... Colorado ............. 5-1-1 .......762

15. ... Southern Cal ......... 5-1-0 .......761

16. ... Oklahoma ............. 5-1-0 ...... 724

17. ... Florida .............. 5-1-0 ...... 485

18. ... Mississippi .......... 5-1-0 ...... 374

19. ... Texas ................ 3-1-0 ...... 354

20. ... Indiana .............. 4-0-1 ...... 312

21. ... Wyoming .............. 7-0-0 ...... 291

22. ... Clemson .............. 5-2-0 ...... 278

23. ... Iowa ................. 4-1-0 ...... 278

24. ... Michigan St. ......... 2-2-1 ...... 193

25. ... Texas A&M ............ 4-2-0 ...... 116

Others receiving votes: Texas Christian 89, Oregon 83, South Carolina 36, Ohio St. 15, California 14, Penn St. 12, Arizona 11, Louisville 5, Toledo 5, S. Mississippi 4, UCLA 2.