USC No. 2, Sighing Harder

Times Staff Writer

Oklahoma and USC maintained the top two positions in the bowl championship series standings released Monday but, as they say in the BCS timber business, look out below.

While losses suffered by Miami, Florida State and Virginia Tech reduced the number of teams that could catch USC for the all-important No. 2 position, the weekend shakeout produced one new and serious contender -- Ohio State.

Oklahoma, fresh off a 77-0 win over Texas A&M;, is cruising in the BCS' top spot with a low score of 1.68 points, followed by USC at 6.27.

Here's the catch: Last week, USC led then-No. 3 Florida State by 2.5 points, but this week leads No. 3 Ohio State by only 1.46 points.

The top two teams in the final BCS standings Dec. 7 will play for the national title in the Jan. 4 Sugar Bowl.

Ohio State jumped from No. 5 to No 3 in the BCS and is poised to make a run at USC, which was idle last weekend.

The best USC scenario would be for Louisiana State to stay ahead of Ohio State in the writers' and coaches' polls.

LSU is No. 3 in both polls this week while Ohio State is No. 4.

The Trojans have a healthy 6.9-point BCS lead over LSU, No. 4 in this week's standings and the only other potential threat to USC. Even if the Tigers won out, they would be hard-pressed to catch USC for the No. 2 spot, but could provide a critical block on Ohio State.

If Ohio State was able to jump LSU in the polls, however, it would mean a one-point pickup for the Buckeyes. USC is capped at No. 2 in the poll component as long as Oklahoma keeps winning.

Ohio State plays host to Purdue Saturday and ends the regular season Nov. 22 at Michigan.

A Buckeye loss in either game would all but cinch a Sugar Bowl spot for USC as long as the Trojans won their final three games against Arizona, UCLA and Oregon State.

The rest of this week's BCS standings have Texas at No. 5 and Texas Christian at No. 6, followed by Tennessee, Michigan, Georgia and Washington State.

TCU, which moved up three BCS pegs, is trying to become the first school from a non-BCS conference to play in a major bowl. The 9-0 Horned Frogs would clinch an automatic bid if they finished No. 6 or better and can be considered for one of two at-large berths if they finish in the BCS top 12.

TCU, the only undefeated team other than Oklahoma, has remaining games against Cincinnati, Southern Mississippi and Southern Methodist.

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