Computers prefer Oklahoma over Auburn -- and USC.
The Sooners held on to second place in the bowl championship series standings Monday, staying ahead of third-place Auburn because of a stronger computer ranking.
USC is still first in the BCS standings with a grade of .9808. Oklahoma’s grade is .9621 and Auburn’s is .9350. Last week, the Sooners led the Tigers by .0567. That lead is down to .0271.
The Trojans, Sooners and Tigers are 10-0. Each has two games left and one loss by any of them would provide a simple solution to what is shaping up to be another BCS mess. The top two teams in the final BCS standings will play in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 4 for the national title.
Since the BCS’ inception in 1998, there have never been three undefeated teams after the regular season in the six BCS conferences -- Big East, Big 12, Big Ten, Atlantic Coast, Pacific 10 and Southeastern.
The Tigers made up ground on the Sooners in the polls Sunday, tying Oklahoma for second in the Associated Press top 25 and getting within two points of No. 2 in the USA Today/ESPN coaches’ poll.
With the voters virtually split on the Sooners and Tigers, the computers are breaking the tie.
“It’s hard to know where you’re going to be at or what matters to people, voters or computers,” Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoops said.
The polls each count for a third of a BCS grade. A compilation of six computer rankings makes up the other third, and according to them Oklahoma is the best team in the country.
USC is second by the computers and Auburn is third.
The BCS computers were responsible for putting Oklahoma in the national title game last season after the Sooners lost the Big 12 title game and dropped to No. 3 in the polls.
A similar situation is developing. Unless the Tigers can pull far away from Oklahoma in the polls, the computers will probably send an unbeaten Sooner team to the Orange Bowl to face an unbeaten USC if all three schools win out, according to BCS analyst Jerry Palm.
Palm said computer rankings usually don’t fluctuate drastically late in the season and Oklahoma’s strength of schedule advantage over Auburn probably won’t change. The Tigers play at Alabama on Saturday and in the SEC title game on Dec. 4, probably against Tennessee. The Sooners face Baylor on Saturday and play in the Big 12 title game on Dec. 4 against an opponent to be determined.
Palm said Auburn’s passing Oklahoma in the computer rankings is “not realistic.”
“Pulling even is optimistic,” he said.
The way it stands now, Palm said, Auburn would have to be ahead in each poll by about 60 points to make up Oklahoma’s advantage in the computers.
Auburn surged in the polls after its 24-6 win over then-No. 8 Georgia on Saturday. Oklahoma beat Nebraska, 30-3, but appeared to be hurt in the polls by recent close calls against Oklahoma State and Texas A&M.;
The computers, however, have been partial to the Sooners’ quality wins away from home and strength of schedule.
“How do they come up with strength of schedule?” Auburn Coach Tommy Tuberville said. “Most of the teams haven’t played any of the teams that we’ve played.”
The Sooners’ opponents have a combined record of 55-42 and their nonconference opponents were Bowling Green, Oregon and Houston. The Tigers’ nine Division I-A opponents are 43-42 and their nonconference schedule included Louisiana-Monroe, Louisiana Tech and Division I-AA The Citadel.
The other big winner in the latest BCS standings is Utah, which moved back into sixth place. It the Utes finish sixth or higher, they would become the first team from outside the six BCS conferences to be guaranteed an at-large berth in a BCS bowl game.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)
Under the bowl championship series formula, the Associated Press media poll and USA Today/ESPN coaches’ poll each counts for one-third of a team’s total BCS average. The other third is made up of a compilation of six computer rankings. The BCS series formula is used to ultimately determine the Nos. 1 and 2 teams that will play for the national championship in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 4. Standings are for games through Nov. 14.