With Oklahoma ruling BCS, one-loss teams in race for 2nd

USC moves up to No. 2, but Florida State, Miami among teams still in hunt

November 04, 2003|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

Another Bowl Championship Series ranking, another team trying to play second fiddle to the Oklahoma Sooners.

Southern California, which hasn't won a national championship since sharing the title with Alabama in 1978, moved behind Oklahoma yesterday in the chase for the two spots in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans in January.

"I suspect that this ranking shows the respect people have for our program and the way we're playing," said Trojans coach Pete Carroll. "We hope to continue to play like we have. If we do, good things will happen."

Coming off a convincing 43-16 win over then-No. 6 Washington State last week, USC moved up two spots by leapfrogging both Miami and Florida State. Despite losing to the Hurricanes earlier this season, the Seminoles moved up to No. 3.

The Hurricanes slipped to fourth after their 31-7 loss at Virginia Tech, and defending national champion Ohio State was fifth after its 21-20 win at Penn State. With their impressive win, the Hokies jumped from 16th to sixth.

Louisiana State and Michigan remain in position for BCS games, at seventh and eighth respectively, and Texas Christian jumped to No. 9.

Along with the Sooners, the Horned Frogs are the only unbeaten Division I-A team and need to stay in the top 12 to be eligible for one of the four BCS bowls (Sugar, Orange, Rose and Fiesta).

Oklahoma, which routed in-state rival Oklahoma State by 52-9 on Saturday, has a comfortable lead over the competition.

The Sooners - sixth overall in the strength of schedule category - have the toughest schedule left among those in contention for BCS bids. They likely could afford to lose a game and stay at the front of the pack.

Oklahoma plays Texas A&M this week at home. The Aggies beat the Sooners last season in College Station when Oklahoma was undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the BCS.

"I'm sure it will have our attention," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said during yesterday's Big 12 teleconference.

Oklahoma has to win its last three regular-season games and the Big 12 title game Dec. 6 in Kansas City, Mo., to be assured of a spot in the Jan. 4, 2004, national title game at the Louisiana Superdome.

Perhaps the biggest surprises in this week's rankings came out of the Virginia Tech-Miami game in Blacksburg, Va. Not only did the Hokies get back into the national championship race, but the Hurricanes didn't completely fall out of it, either.

Conversely, Georgia dropped from No. 5 in last week's BCS rankings to No. 10 this week after losing to Florida on a last-second field goal, 16-13. Michigan State dropped from No. 10 to No. 20 after losing, 27-20, to Michigan, which moved from 13th to eighth.

Miami has another opportunity to move up - or at least maintain its position - when it plays host to Tennessee (18th in the AP, but 13th in the BCS) on Saturday at the Orange Bowl. Virginia Tech is in jeopardy of falling out of the Top 10 again with a tough road game at Pittsburgh (25th in the BCS).

"If we win the games, we're going to be fine," said Miami coach Larry Coker, whose Hurricanes fell to sixth in the Associated Press poll of writers and broadcasters this week, and seventh in the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll. "We'll be where we want to be."

Florida State could take advantage of being one of the few teams that lost early and has since rebounded. The Seminoles play at Clemson this week, then finish with North Carolina State at home (on Nov. 15) and at Florida (Nov. 29).

"I think anybody in the Top 10 with one loss is excited, and yet it doesn't mean a thing if you lose the next game," Florida State coach Bobby Bowden told the Tallahassee Democrat. "We simply have to win. I think it's exciting. I think it's intriguing."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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