Originally created 11/25/03

Trojans return to 2nd place



Southern California moved back into position to play for the national title - for now.

The Trojans were once again in second place in the Bowl Championship Series standings Monday, moving up one spot after a loss by Ohio State.

Oklahoma (12-0) remained the runaway leader in the standings that will determine which teams will play for the national title in the Sugar Bowl. The Sooners are a unanimous No. 1 in the polls and are the top team in all seven BCS computers.

Southern California was second, nearly five points behind at 6.89, followed by LSU at 9.04, matching the order in both polls. The Trojans and Tigers are the only one-loss teams remaining from one of the six major conferences.

Southern California has one game remaining Dec. 6 against Oregon State (7-4). LSU plays Arkansas (8-3) on Friday, and if the Tigers win, they will play in the SEC title game. If LSU wins both those games they could get enough of a boost to move ahead of Southern California.

"Sometimes when you start thinking about all that other stuff it is just kind of clutter that can affect your ability to prepare, focus, and have the kind of poise and discipline that you need," LSU coach Nick Saban said. "I think you can get distracted by other things and it really comes down to performance. We have to play well in the game and preparation helps you do that."

The Sooners have a 1.0 for poll average, 1.0 for computer-rank average, 0.40 for strength of schedule, zero for losses and 0.5 bonus points for beating sixth-place Texas for a 1.9.

With all the focus on second place, Oklahoma has been able to avoid the usual BCS controversy.

"It's hard for us to get on television or the newspaper," coach Bob Stoops said. "We just focus on what we can do. That always is our focus and what we pay attention to. What's been kind of nice about it is it has kind of deflected a lot of attention off of us."

For now, the focus is on LSU, Southern California and all the teams they've played this year.

The Trojans are 22 spots ahead of LSU in strength of schedule this week. BCS expert Jerry Palm projects that Southern California could end up anywhere from 15 spots ahead to 26 spots behind.

There are seven games remaining that have a direct impact on that: Alabama at Hawaii, Florida State at Florida, Georgia at Georgia Tech, Rice at Louisiana Tech and Arizona at Arizona State this weekend, and Notre Dame at Syracuse and Boise State at Hawaii next weekend.

Saban said his preference would be to have the top two or four teams after the bowls meet in a mini-playoff. But short of that, he's OK with how the BCS standings are calculated.

"I think a lot of people have done a lot of research to make it as fair and equitable as it can be," he said. "There has to be some way to decide. A lot of people spent a lot of time to improve the system and make it better. Right now it is probably the best."

One oddity of the current system is that LSU could be punished by beating Georgia in the SEC title game. The Tigers beat the Bulldogs earlier this year and a second win could drop Georgia out of the top 10 in the BCS standings, costing LSU 0.4 quality points.

The only way for LSU to maintain its quality-win component over Georgia would be if Kentucky beats Tennessee this weekend, sending Florida to the SEC title game instead of the Bulldogs.

Michigan moved up to fourth this week following its 35-21 win over Ohio State. The Buckeyes fell from second to fifth, followed by Texas, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida State and Miami.

The BCS was started five years ago to create a national title game without playoffs. Champions of six conferences - the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 and SEC - qualify for a BCS game, and two at-large teams are selected to fill out the field.

The BCS formula uses the AP media and USA TodayESPN coaches' polls, seven computer rankings, strength of schedule, losses and a bonus-point system for quality wins.

The seven computer rankings are operated by Anderson & Hester, Billingsley, Colley Matrix, Kenneth Massey, The New York Times, Jeff Sagarin's USA Today and Peter Wolfe.