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College football

BCS focus now on USC and LSU

No. 2 Southern Cal has the edge, but Tigers could close gap on strength of schedule.

By wire services
Published November 25, 2003

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

The Trojans once again were 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 play for the national title in the Sugar Bowl.

USC was second, nearly five points behind, followed by LSU, matching the order in both polls. USC 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 it could move ahead of USC.

USC is 22 spots ahead of LSU in strength of schedule this week. BCS expert Jerry Palm projects that USC 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.

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 way for LSU to maintain its quality-win component over Georgia would be for Kentucky to beat Tennessee this weekend. If that doesn't happen, LSU must hope Florida beats Florida State and the Kentucky game weakens Tennessee enough in the BCS for the Gators to make the leap to the SEC title game.

This may not be possible, but if it happens, LSU's four-tenths-of-a-point bonus for beating Georgia would be secure. That would leave six-tenths of a point the Tigers would still need to make up on the Trojans through schedule strength and the computers.

Because schedule strength is a factor in the calculations of the BCS computers, this decimal-point battle could be decided by the results of remaining games involving USC's and LSU's opponents. The biggest of those games will be Alabama at Hawaii because it is a head-to-head matchup between an opponent of LSU and an opponent of USC.

Meantime, Michigan moved up to fourth this week in the BCS lineup 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.

[Last modified November 25, 2003, 02:06:38]


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