If the second half of this season is anything like the first, well, Nebraska fans can only shudder at the thought.

What we know entering this weekend, the season's midpoint:

Thirteen unbeaten teams remain in major college football, and this list does not include Florida State, Georgia, Michigan or Texas but does include Navy and Southern Mississippi.

In other words, this has already been a strange year and the real fun starts now.

The first Bowl Championship Series standings will be released Monday, and they will go a long way toward proving . . . very little.

Since the inception of the BCS in 1998, the top two teams in the first standings have never gone on to meet for the national title.

While the possibility exists for chaos to reign should several teams remain unbeaten at season's end, don't count on it.

Never in the six-year history of the BCS has there been a season in which the three top teams have finished with no losses.

See, they play games to settle these issues and, thankfully, they also have an overtime to settle ties.

This weekend, for instance, the number of unbeaten teams is guaranteed to be reduced when two sets of undefeated teams square off against each other: USC and Arizona State, Wisconsin and Purdue. Another unbeaten fell Thursday, when Miami rallied to stop Louisville.

One must also understand some of these unbeaten teams are not really in contention for the national title no matter what they do: Utah, Boise State, Southern Mississippi, Navy.

What we also know:

* USC is still No. 1 but about as shaky as Barney Fife with a gun in his hand. The Trojans have escaped with narrow victories against Virginia Tech, Stanford and California and poll voters, frankly, are losing faith in the Trojans nation.

Another close-call victory, against No. 15 Arizona State could knock USC from its No. 1 high horse, not that it matters so long as the Trojans remain No. 2 in the BCS standings.

And you can book this: Arizona State quarterback Andrew Walter, unlike Cal's Aaron Rodgers, will not complete his first 23 passes against USC. Walter, instead, will trade accuracy for a few completed heaves deep into the Trojans secondary.

"Aaron Rodgers showed everyone how efficient you can be," Walter said this week, " . . . but they didn't capitalize when they got in the red zone, and that hurt them a lot."

* Kansas State was the most overrated team. The Wildcats, fresh off their first conference title win since 1934, started the season at No. 12 in the Associated Press poll but have lost to Fresno State, Texas A&M and Kansas. Second most overrated team: Ohio State, No. 9 in preseason but now sinking like a stone in the Olentangy River.

* Auburn's Tommy Tuberville is the half-season coach of the year. Hard to believe that late last year the school president made a clandestine excursion to see whether Louisville's Bobby Petrino would be interested in Tuberville's job. Bad back-stabbing form, really, considering Tuberville was under contract and, little did we know, maybe less than a year from delivering Auburn a national title that the school's knee-jerk hierarchy would not deserve.

* UCLA won't finish eighth in the Pacific-10 Conference standings, as the pundits (but not this one) predicted. All you had to do was look at the talent the Bruins had returning and quick-glance the Pac-10 pocket schedule to know a winning season was certainly within reach.

* The best player in the country may be a freshman. The emergence of tailback Adrian Peterson is the reason many feel Oklahoma, not USC, is the best team in the country.

Mids So Close, but So Far

A week after Army ended a 19-game losing streak with a victory against Cincinnati, Navy was set to stare down its demons when it played Notre Dame at the Meadowlands on Saturday.

Notre Dame (4-2) holds an incredible NCAA-record 40-game winning streak against Navy, which was 5-0 for the first time since 1979.

If not now, deck lads, when?

The Midshipmen's fate of late in this series has bordered on cruel.

Last year, D.J. Fitzpatrick made a 40-yard field goal as time expired to lift the Irish to a three-point win.

In 2002, 1-7 Navy led 8-1 Notre Dame by eight points with five minutes left before Notre Dame scored 15 consecutive points to win by a touchdown.

In 1999, Navy fans lamented a questionable official's spot that gave Notre Dame a first down in the final two minutes and led to the game-winning touchdown.

In 1997, Navy's Patrick McGrew fell short of the game-winning touchdown when Notre Dame's Allen Rossum knocked McGrew out of bounds at the 2-yard line with no time left.

Navy Coach Paul Johnson didn't mind taking the underdog's role into Saturday's game.

"People talk about the last 40 years, but the all-time series record is 67-9-1, so it's not like they were killing them before the 40," Johnson told reporters after a practice early in the week. "There's a reason, guys. We don't have anybody on our team that Notre Dame recruited. I don't know if we have anybody on our team that Notre Dame sent a letter to. They're supposed to win."

Turnaround Specialist

Few can boast a track record quite like Texas A&M Coach Dennis Franchione.

That Franchione had flip-flopped the Aggies from 4-8 to 4-1 entering the weekend should surprise no one.

In each of his seven coaching stops, Franchione's teams have improved their record from the first year to the second:

Texas A&M, 4-8 to 4-1;

Alabama, 7-5 to 10-3;

Texas Christian, 7-5 to 8-4;

New Mexico, 3-8 to 6-5;

Southwest Texas State, 6-5 to 7-4;

Pittsburg (Kan.) State, 8-2 to 11-1;

Southwestern (Kan.) State, 5-2-2 to 9-2.

Fran's secret?

"I've done it enough times to know," he said. "The first year is always the toughest in any program you take over. You have seniors who have been there a long time that have difficulty adapting to change, and maybe even your juniors to a certain degree, and they do change and it just takes a little bit of time to get on the same page and go through that transition and get comfortable."

Huge Margins

Pardon us if we don't light a candle over Nebraska's 70-10 defeat against Texas Tech, because the Cornhuskers have been dishing out beatings like this for years.

Examples: Nebraska sank Pacific, 70-21, in 1994, ran over Arizona State, 77-28, in 1995, and buried Iowa State, 73-14, also in 1995.

To put Nebraska's 70-point Texas Tech giveaway in historical context, consider that Tom Osborne's 1994 defense gave up a total of 72 points in its final seven games, plus the Orange Bowl.

Bob Knowles, president of the NU Touchdown Club, told the Omaha World-Herald this past week, "I pray to God we win this weekend. I certainly think we will, but if we don't, we may have to shut the state down next week."

Nebraska, for the record, played host to lowly Baylor. . . .

Redemption tour update: George O'Leary, on the comeback trail after a phony resume cost him the Notre Dame job, is 0-5 in his first year at Central Florida.

Mike Price, fired at Alabama after a one-night drunken escapade, is having much more success at Texas-El Paso. The 3-2 Miners have surpassed last year's victory total of two and could win six or seven games.

"When I came here I said I had faith we could win," said Price, whose team played host to Hawaii on Saturday. "Faith is belief without evidence. Well, now I think we have some evidence." . . .

You could say the Big 12 Conference is a tad bottom heavy. The North Division has no teams ranked in this week's AP top 25 and owned an aggregate record of 17-14 entering the weekend.

The South Division has four teams ranked in the top 25 (Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M) and boasts an aggregate record of 24-7. . . .

Urban Meyer, coach of No. 11 Utah, might have enjoyed his team's week off more had he not spent it listening to ESPN analyst Trev Alberts, who criticized the Utes' weak strength of schedule (No. 95 in the latest NCAA rankings).

Meyer: "I just hear some of the comments from people wearing a tie behind a desk that really have absolutely no clue. And I can say it, because I do have a clue, because that's my job."

And then there's 3-3 Syracuse, which has lost to the fifth-, sixth- and seventh-ranked teams in the nation (Purdue, Virginia and Florida State). . . .

More disturbing signs at 2-4 Penn State, where Coach Joe Paterno refused to allow his players to speak to the media after last week's loss to Purdue. Memo to Joe: If your players are old enough to vote, and old enough to fight in a war, aren't they old enough to meet the press?

Coach Pete Carroll and top-ranked USC have already escaped three tough games this season, beating Virginia Tech, Stanford and Cal.With the first BCS rankings set to come out next week, Oklahoma freshman Adrian Peterson has the Sooners in the early chase for another national title.