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USC Stays in BCS Comfort Zone; Cal Makes Big Move

Times Staff Writer

California, here it comes.

While the University of Southern California remained comfortably atop the bowl championship series standings released Monday, the bigger news involved movement in Northern California.

The California Golden Bears jumped four spots to No. 4, keeping alive the possibility that USC and Cal could meet in the Jan. 4 Orange Bowl for the BCS national championship.

USC defeated Cal this season, 23-17, at the Coliseum.

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Losses over the weekend suffered by two top-five schools, Miami and Florida State, shook the college football standings and opened new opportunities for potential title contenders.

USC, a 42-12 winner over Washington State, held the top spot with a BCS average of .9895, followed by Oklahoma at .9648 and Auburn at .9238. Cal is fourth at .8050, Wisconsin is No. 5 at .7579 and Utah is sixth with an average of .7429.

The top two teams in the final standings on Dec. 5 will play for the BCS national title.

Cal used its 27-0 win over Arizona State and the Miami and Florida State losses to make a dramatic move. In surging to No. 4, the Bears also jumped over undefeated Wisconsin, which did not play last weekend.

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Cal is now, at least theoretically, two results removed from a possible rematch against USC for the national title.

Should Oklahoma and Auburn each lose between now and Dec. 5 and both California contenders win out, the Orange Bowl might well be an all-Pacific 10 Conference affair.

Oklahoma plays at Texas A&M; this weekend, then closes with Nebraska, Baylor and a likely Big 12 championship game appearance. Auburn has already clinched a berth in the Southeastern Conference title game. Getting to early December without a loss, however, is no cinch for the Tigers, who still must face Georgia, Alabama and probably Tennessee in the SEC title game.

The most surprising news Monday was that Utah did not improve its stock as much as expected.

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Despite moving up two positions in the writers’ and coaches’ polls and having two teams ahead of them in the standings lose, Utah stood stagnant at the No. 6 BCS position.

Utah must finish No. 6 or higher to become the first coalition school to earn an automatic bid to a BCS bowl.

Instead of gaining BCS ground, Utah watched Cal and Wisconsin jump over the Utes into the top-five spots vacated by Miami and Florida State.

Utah can be considered for one of two BCS at-large positions if it finishes in the top 12 of the final standings. But as far as securing an automatic bid, the Utes might now be threatened from behind by several one-loss schools. Texas, No. 7 this week, trails Utah by only .0059.

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