Here's Rating System That Won't Stick in USC's Craw

Inspired by Arkansas and Kentucky, it took seven overtimes to finish this column, but we think you'll find it superior to the NFL coin-flip writing method.... .

With two months down and five weeks to go, only seven teams have a chance to win the national title and one answers telephone calls in the 213 area code.

Not all seven teams have the same chance, of course, so that's why we've weighed the odds with a tricked-up journalism device we're calling the BCS Sugar Bowl Measure Meter, presented by Jiffy Lube.

The title game is in New Orleans, so, naturally, our scoring system is based on crawfish.

Five Crawfish

* Oklahoma (9-0): The lesson learned in the Sooners' 52-9 victory over Oklahoma State was, don't make Bob Stoops mad. He's got enough Steve Spurrier in him to have continued scoring on the Cowboys had time allowed. Oklahoma State Coach Les Miles had defeated Stoops two years in a row, but pushed his luck with his "so we're told" crack when asked last week whether Oklahoma was the bestteam in the county.

What's left: Texas A&M;, Baylor, at Texas Tech, Big 12 championship game.

Prognosis: Only a meltdown or key injury will keep the Sooners from the Sugar Bowl. Oklahoma might even be able to lose a game and still finish No. 1 or No. 2 in the BCS.

Four Crawfish

* USC (7-1): This SoCal (but don't call them Southern Cal) comeback is Pacific 10 Conference Commissioner Tom Hansen's answered prayer and another bummer scenario for the Rose Bowl. According to experts, some of them with jobs, if the Trojans win out they'll probably win a one-loss bowl-championship-series standings war to become the first Pac-10 team to advance to a BCS title game.

What's left: at Arizona, UCLA, Oregon State.

Prognosis: Excellent. USC should move to No. 2 in today's BCS standings and has the easiest schedule among the one-loss teams, although that might cost the Trojans in schedule strength. USC needs to avoid an ugly loss that might drop it in the polls.

Three Crawfish

* Florida State (7-1): The Seminoles appeared to be a mess in last month's rain-sloshed home loss to Miami, but once again are proving the adage that it's better to lose early than late.

Is it fair that one-loss Florida State may finish ahead of one-loss Miami in the BCS even though Miami beat Florida State?

No, but it wasn't fair when it happened in 2000, either.

What's left: at Clemson, North Carolina State, at Florida.

Prognosis: Pretty dadgum good considering the dadgum circumstances.

* Miami (7-1): The Hurricanes' 31-7 loss at Virginia Tech makes for a difficult but not impossible climb back up the BCS ladder.

The Hurricanes fell only from No. 2 to No. 7 and No. 6 in the polls, and probably will be fourth in this week's BCS standings.

Prognosis: Better than expected. "We've got to go 11-1 and see where it puts us," Hurricane lineman Eric Winston said.

What's left: Tennessee, Syracuse, Rutgers, at Pittsburgh.

Two Crawfish

* Ohio State (7-1): The Buckeyes are boring as a beanstalk but keep hanging around.

What's left: Michigan State, Purdue, at Michigan.

Prognosis: Probably needs someone to lose and an adrenaline injection for the offense.

* Louisiana State (7-1): The Tigers' only loss came to Florida but their strength-of-schedule numbers are dragging them down.

What's left: at Alabama, at Mississippi, Arkansas, Southeastern Conference title game.

Prognosis: Wait and see. No. 4 in both polls but nowhere to go if the top three don't lose. Having to play in the SEC title game could hurt or help LSU's chances.

One Crawfish

* Virginia Tech (7-1): That victory over Miami was terrific, but the Hokies may not be able to recover from that lopsided loss to unranked West Virginia.

What's left: at Pittsburgh, at Temple, Boston College, at Virginia.

Prognosis: a mountain to climb.

Weekend Wrap

It's never too early to have fun with bowl projections, so here's our first crack at the possible BCS lineup:

Sugar: Oklahoma-USC. The two best teams in the country right now.

Fiesta: Louisiana State vs. Texas or Ohio State. The Fiesta Bowl gets first pick if it loses Oklahoma to the Sugar Bowl and probably takes the SEC champion, which usually is tied to the Sugar.

Rose: If USC is No. 2 in the BCS, the Rose Bowl gets the second at-large choice, and here we are already plotting CEO Mitch Dorger's revenge. Last year, the Orange Bowl pulled a fast one and stole Iowa to match against USC.

This year, maybe the Rose Bowl can steal Miami from the Orange Bowl and pit the Hurricanes against the Big Ten champion (we'll say Michigan).

The Rose Bowl also could consider two-loss Washington State should it finish in the BCS top 12, but would you consider Washington State after last year's fiasco in which thousands of Cougar fans bailed on ticket packages and left bald spots in entire sections?

Orange: Florida State-Virginia Tech. First-glance matchup of future Atlantic Coast Conference partners.

Don't forget to write: Saturday's Miami-Virginia Tech showdown may have been the last great Big East game ever played, as both schools are bolting for the ACC next season. Conspicuously missing from Saturday's game in Blacksburg, Va., was Big East Commissioner Michael Tranghese, who is so stung by the Miami-led ACC defections, he has vowed not to attend any Miami games this year.

The Big East was represented by associate commissioner John Paquette, but even his heart wasn't in it. Tuesday, the Big East will officially introduce Louisville, Cincinnati and South Florida as football schools to replace Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College. The Big East also will beef up by adding basketball-only schools Marquette and DePaul.

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