Critics of college football have a lot more fodder after the events of the past week, during which one team was caught in a bind that could leave it 7-3-1 and without a bowl bid, another reached the top of the polls despite a tainted victory, a third shamelessly ran up the score on a weaker opponent and a fourth accused pollsters of unfair treatment.

The team trapped in the bowl abyss is Baylor, which announced yesterday that it is declining an Independence Bowl invitation in hopes of securing the automatic Cotton Bowl bid by winning the Southwest Conference title. This made room for Maryland to accept the bid.

This is the dilemma the Bears faced: "The Independence Bowl required a commitment from us" yesterday, Coach Grant Teaff said. "A commitment would be impossible now because we are still vigorously pursing the host spot in the Cotton Bowl."

Baylor (6-3-1, 5-1-1) plays sixth-ranked Texas on Saturday. With a victory, the Bears stay in the race for the SWC title and Cotton Bowl. But the Bears wouldn't know for sure until the Dec. 1 game between Texas A&M and Texas (the Longhorns would have to lose again). That was too long a wait for the Dec. 15 Independence Bowl, which could not have taken Baylor unless it lost to Texas and, thereby, dropped out of the SWC race.

"I do not think it's appropriate to be in a position of having to lose to ensure a bowl bid," Teaff said.

" . . . The bowl picture is pretty bizarre right now. It's a little ridiculous. Two weeks ago all the deals seemed to be made. We have a team that deserves to be in a bowl as much as any football team that I've seen around and we could go 7-3-1 and not be in a bowl game." . . .

Now that it has ascended to the No. 1 spot in the polls, Colorado is taking even more heat for its fifth-down victory over Missouri on Oct. 6.

"I'd hesitate to vote for those guys," Iowa Coach Hayden Fry said. "I'm not sure they're number one after that fifth-down play. If they didn't have that, they wouldn't be in this position."

And being in this position means Colorado will make $4.2 million by appearing in the Orange Bowl. . . .

Taking even more abuse than the Buffaloes are the Houston Cougars, who beat Division I-AA Eastern Washington 84-21 last week. Houston's starters didn't come out until late in the game and quarterback David Klingler stayed in long enough to throw an NCAA-record 11 touchdown passes. But Cougars Coach John Jenkins had a clean conscience after the game.

"Klingler deserves his reps," Jenkins said. "I was not about to take him out after one half of football. Records have nothing to do with it."

Eastern Washington Coach Dick Zornes was not appeased. "With a team like ours, it gets tough when you don't face their second team until there's five minutes left, but that's Jenkins," he said. "One day he's going to be on the other end of the broom. He's probably disappointed he didn't leave his starters in. It's not a style that's much admired inside the coaching profession."

Even Houston defensive back Jerry Parks thought his team went too far. "It bothered me," he said. "I don't want to run up the score like that."

But the award for honesty goes to Eastern Washington Athletic Director Darlene Bailey. "The score was their choice, but it was not unexpected," she said. "We did not set a goal to win the game. . . . I think the coaches wanted to keep them under 70 points."

But before you feel sorry for Eastern Washington -- located in Cheney, Wash., and with an enrollment of 8,000 -- understand that it received $175,000 for playing the game. . . .

The Associated Press pollsters came under attack from Brigham Young quarterback Ty Detmer, who was outraged that the latest poll has BYU ranked No. 4 and Miami No. 2, even though Brigham Young beat the Hurricanes (in September) and has one fewer loss.

"I think BYU's pretty much used to it," Detmer said. "Every year the same thing happens, but it's a little more obvious this year. As far as the team is concerned, we live with it and take it as it comes."