USC reclaimed the all-important No. 2 spot in Monday's bowl championship series standings but, for the second week in a row, lost significant ground to its closest pursuer after a wipeout victory.
Two weeks ago, USC beat Arizona, 45-0, but was overtaken for the No. 2 spot by Ohio State.
Last weekend, USC knocked the rivalry out of UCLA and moved back to No. 2 thanks to Michigan's win over Ohio State. However, the Trojans' lead over Louisiana State, which moved from No. 4 to No. 3 in the latest standings, was reduced by more than half.
Oklahoma remains this week's clear-cut No. 1 with its 1.90 total, followed by USC at 6.89 and LSU at 9.04.
"I'm pumped up that we're No. 2 and have a shot at getting what we want," USC defensive tackle Shaun Cody said.
"... It's definitely something you want to keep in the back of your head because if it consumes your whole thought process, you're in trouble. But to be this close, you can definitely start smelling it now, and I think that's also a good thing because it's going to drive your competitiveness to try and get in there and get to the Sugar Bowl."
Although USC holds a seemingly comfortable 2.15-point lead over LSU, the Trojans' lead over LSU last week was 4.50 points.
LSU's weak schedule had for weeks been holding it down in the BCS. And although the Tigers' No. 61 schedule strength remains the lowest among top-12 BCS teams, they are rapidly making up ground as they face stiffer Southeastern Conference competition.
This week, LSU improved its computer average by a whopping 2.83 points, while USC was able to make up only one point in that component.
LSU's strength of schedule improved from 72 to 61, which was worth a .44 pickup in the BCS, while USC's SOS went from No. 37 to No. 39, a drop-off of .08.
USC also lost the .10 quality win reduction it had for defeating Washington State, which lost to Washington.
USC's chances of holding the No. 2 appear strong so long as the Trojans defeat Oregon State on Dec. 6, although LSU could take it down to the BCS wire by defeating Arkansas this week and winning the SEC title game.
"You never know what's going to happen. Anything can happen," said Mike Patterson, USC's other starting defensive tackle. "People are talking about LSU and everything. We don't care about it.
"... We can't worry about the rankings. Just worry about the last game we have right now."
Other than USC, this week's biggest BCS winner was Michigan, which moved from No. 9 to No. 4 after its win over Ohio State.
Should USC and LSU lose, Michigan could snag the No. 2 spot in the BCS and play in the Sugar Bowl. Otherwise, the Wolverines will play in the Rose Bowl.
Another Miami -- Miami of Ohio -- is No. 13, the highest ranking among non-BCS schools. The RedHawks would be eligible for a BCS at-large berth if they finished in the top 12, but probably would not be chosen.
Texas Christian, seemingly on the verge of securing a BCS at-large spot last week, fell from No. 8 to No. 17 following its Thursday night loss at Southern Mississippi.
The bowl championship series formula is used to ultimately determine the Nos. 1 and 2 teams that will play for the national championship in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 4. Standings are for games through Nov. 22.
Poll average -- The average of the Associated Press (AP) media poll and USA Today-ESPN (U-E) coaches' poll. Others receiving votes are calculated in order received.
Computer average -- The average of Anderson & Hester (AH), Richard Billingsley (RB), Colley Matrix (CM), Kenneth Massey (KM), New York Times (NYT), Jeff Sagarin (JS) and Peter Wolfe (PW) rankings. The computer component will be determined by averaging six of the seven rankings. The lowest (worst) ranking will be disregarded.
Schedule rank -- Rank of schedule strength (Str) compared with other Division I-A teams of actual games played divided by 25. This component is calculated by determining the cumulative win-loss records of the team's opponents (66.6%) and the cumulative win-loss records of the team's opponents' opponents (33.3%).
Losses -- One point for each loss (L) during the season.
Quality Win Component -- The quality win component (QWin) will reward to varying degrees teams that defeat opponents ranked among the top 10 in the weekly standings. The bonus point scale will range from a high of 1.0 for a win over the top-ranked team to a low of 0.1 for a victory over the 10th-ranked BCS team. The final BCS rankings will determine final quality-win points. If a team registers a victory over a team more than once during the regular season, quality-win points will be awarded only once. Quality-win points are based on the rankings determined by the subtotal. The final rankings are reconfigured to reflect the quality-win point deduction.
Total -- Total BCS points, by adding poll average, computer average and schedule ranking, plus one point for each loss during the season.
Note: Teams on NCAA probation (i.e., not eligible for postseason competition) are not listed in the BCS rankings. Teams with victories over teams on probation will receive appropriate quality-win points.
Times staff writer Gary Klein contributed to this report.