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BCS becomes playground for the idle rich

Quickest way to the top right now in the Bowl Championship Series: don’t play anybody.

Sit tight and let the standings come to you.

Take a water break.

Yes, Ohio State is getting hammered for claiming No. 1 after beating the likes of Youngstown State, Akron and Kent State -- but at least those are real teams.

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Yes, Kansas moved up four BCS spots to No. 9 after a win at Colorado, as if that’s never been done before, but at least the Kansas victories involved footballs and chin straps and trainers.

But here’s how wacky this season already is:

Arizona State did not play Saturday but got four merit-raises to advance to No. 4 in the BCS standings.

That’s one small step for Sun Devils football . . .

In the USA Today coaches’ poll, Arizona State moon-hopped from No. 12 to No. 7. The Sun Devils jumped over USC, which cheapened itself with a crushing 38-0 win over Notre Dame.

It’s come to this: Playing nobody is better than beating Notre Dame.

USC’s win earned it only one coaches’ poll cookie, the Trojans moving from No. 9 to No. 8.

Play air and move up five positions: Kill Notre Dame and get killed for it.

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Boston College, which also didn’t play, took advantage of the fact that South Florida did and moved to No. 2 in the BCS.

Rounding out the BCS top five are Louisiana State, Arizona State and Oregon.

Two weeks after the Stanford disaster, USC moved up two square pegs into the round No. 12 hole. The Trojans are No. 7 and No. 8 in the Harris and coaches’ indexes, and rose to No. 9 in the Associated Press media poll, yet remain chained to a No. 21 computer ranking caused in part by dismantling two traditional powerhouses, Nebraska and Notre Dame, on the road in years when those two programs are a combined 5-11.

The saving-grace component to this head scratching is that it’s still early -- not to say that things won’t be screwed up late.

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“They really don’t mean much right now,” Boston College Coach Jeff Jagodzinski said Sunday of the rankings. “Five weeks from now, I think we’ll have a different story.”

He should hope not -- right now his Eagles are in the BCS title game.

How this national talk affects all local teams except for UCLA:

USC needs to think now like the Colorado Rockies, who came from Marianas Trench-depth to reach this year’s Bowl Championship Series of baseball (the World Series).

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It won’t be easy, but it can be done if you consider the way top-25 teams are getting tumbled and tossed like socks in a dryer.

“It’s been just a crazy year with all these teams winning and getting upset,” Jagodzinski said. “It’s just been a different year.”

Actually, it’s starting to feel like 2003 -- and all you Freddy Krueger fans know how that movie ended.

That was the year that produced the biggest comeback in BCS standings history. LSU debuted at No. 12 and kept plugging away until it woke up Dec. 7 to find it had risen to No. 2 behind No. 1 Oklahoma.

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This was interesting because USC, the No. 1 team in both polls, was No. 3.

LSU and USC never met on the field that season, but LSU finished ahead of the Trojans in the final BCS standings by a margin of 5.99 to 6.15.

LSU went on to defeat Oklahoma to win the BCS share of the title while USC claimed the Associated Press crown, and there hasn’t been a day since that someone hasn’t argued about it somewhere.

So what does that have to do with now?

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USC is trying to become this year’s LSU, except USC is trying to come back from No. 14 instead of No. 12.

The biggest play of the season might turn out to be riverboat LSU Coach Les Miles’ decision Saturday night to let quarterback Matt Flynn take a shot at the end zone instead of attempting a field goal to beat Auburn.

The gamble paid off, as Flynn connected with Demetrius Byrd for a 22-yard touchdown pass with one second left.

Instead of being out of the national title race with two losses, LSU is knocking on heaven’s door.

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These are midseason moments that can define seasons and determine championships.

No one can predict what might happen next.

Ohio State and Boston College have yet to score signature wins, but one team is at Penn State this week and the other is at Virginia Tech.

Jagodzinski, for now, is just enjoying the ride. His biggest weekend thrill was getting tickets to Saturday’s Red Sox game at Fenway Park.

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As for Boston College’s No. 2 ranking in all the polls that matter?

“At this point in the season, they really don’t mean much,” Jagodzinski said. “Before the season started, we weren’t even ranked in the top 25 by the same people.”

In the meantime, for USC, it’s time to contemplate a game of catch-up.

In eight BCS weeks in 2003, LSU went from 12 to seven, stayed at seven, jumped to four, jumped to three, stayed at three and then made the final jump to No. 2.

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If USC wins out, its computer numbers will improve drastically. If the Trojans lose again, they’re out. USC will face two teams currently ranked in the BCS top five and also has California and UCLA left on the schedule.

Thanks to that last-second pass from Flynn to Byrd, this season’s national title might come down to another screaming finish.

LSU is certainly involved now and USC could be there in the end.

The AP could crown a different champion.

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Could it be Baton Rouge deja vu?

--

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

--

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Play it forward

1. The No. 2 team in the Associated Press poll has lost the last three weeks: USC, California and South Florida. So will No. 2 Boston College make it four straight Thursday night when it plays No. 8 Virginia Tech in Blacksburg?

2. Oregon thought it was over when it lost at home to California. USC thought it was over when it lost at home to Stanford. This just in: It’s not over. A win over Oregon this week in Eugene and No. 9 USC is back in legitimate national title contention while a win for No. 5 Oregon keeps the Ducks on the BCS pond.

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3. OK, so is this the week? Ohio State has basically skated to the top of the BCS standings because so many top-25 teams have been upset. The Buckeyes should get their toughest test of the season to date Saturday when they travel to Penn State, which is back in the AP poll this week at No. 24.

4. Everyone thought Cal at Arizona State was going to be a possible national title roadblock. And it is, except we got the teams mixed up. After two stunning losses, Cal has been reduced to a spoiler’s role as it tries to knock BCS No. 4 Arizona State from its perch.

5. Hawaii is surrounded by water and, in terms of the BCS, the Warriors are treading it. Hawaii is 7-0, No. 17 in the BCS and needs to get to No. 12 or better to clinch a major bowl berth. But it probably won’t get much of a poll boost from this week’s opponent: New Mexico State.

-- Chris Dufresne

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