October 30, 2006

USC's fall puts Big East on inside track

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Rankings: BCS, AP, USA Today

The surprising loss by Southern California at Oregon State cleared the way for some major shuffling in the top 10 of all of the polls.

The Trojans had looked shaky for a few weeks, and losing to the middling Beavers paved the way for some voters to demote Pete Carroll's squad effectively out of the national title picture. The picture is hard to recognize for USC, a team that has been a determining factor as to who wears the crown for the past three seasons.

Let's take a closer look at The Associated Press poll, the USA Today coaches' poll and the Bowl Championship Series standings. We'll lead off with the new BCS, where a Big East team has itself in position to play for the championship.


BCS standings

The big news: West Virginia assumes the spot vacated by USC at No. 3. The Mountaineers had the week off in preparation for Thursday's showdown at Louisville, as did the Cardinals. It was a big week off for both of the Big East Powers: Louisville jumped three spots in the BCS standings, all the way up to fifth. What it all means is that even though one-loss Florida checks in at No. 4 (and why after that lackluster performance against a wobbly Georgia team?), it now appears likely that the winner of Louisville-West Virginia, should it finish unbeaten, would play the winner of the Ohio State-Michigan game for the national title.

The risers: Other than the surprise jump of Louisville over Auburn and Texas, the biggest mover was Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets climbed four spots to 20th after subduing ACC rival Miami 30-23. Florida's two-spot move up to fourth was a bit curious after it beat rival Georgia just 21-14. It moved ahead of Auburn, the team that handed the Gators their only loss.

The fallers: USC landed at No. 8, ahead of Notre Dame by the narrowest of margins. Auburn dropped, and probably deserved it, to No. 6 after struggling to beat Ole Miss. The team that rode down the most floors on the elevator was Clemson, which got whacked on the road by Virginia Tech. The result was a freefall from 12th to 19th.

What the BCS got right: The idle Big East teams deserved to move up to Nos. 3 and 5, and it would be a travesty if one of them gets through the season unscathed and doesn't play for it all. Yes, the same holds true for Rutgers. If the Scarlet Knights (up to 12th from 14th) beat both West Virginia and Louisville, they will have shown enough to prove they deserve a title shot, too. Auburn also deserved its move down. Good teams don't struggle to beat Ole Miss.

What the BCS got wrong: Florida looked shaky down the stretch against Georgia, which was a strange turn of events. The Gators didn't deserve their move ahead of Auburn. Look at it this way: Florida, Auburn and Texas all struggled mightily against lesser opponents. Why did the Gators move up while the Tigers dropped a spot and the Longhorns stayed in place? That doesn't make any sense.


Associated Press

The risers: The writers played it pretty close to the vest this week, with no team rising more than two spots. Among those taking the stepladder up were Florida (why?), California and Boston College.

The fallers: USC fell further in the AP poll, to ninth. Clemson plummeted from No. 10 to 19th.

What the AP got right: It still has Auburn ahead of Florida and Florida ahead of Tennessee. The SEC troika checks in at Nos. 6-8.

What the AP got wrong: Perhaps the AP voters didn't know the Texas game was on TV. The Longhorns gave up 500-plus passing yards and had to fight for their lives against Texas Tech. The AP is hooked enough on the 'Horns to have them fourth; the BCS has them at a more appropriate No. 7. Idle Cal's leap over Notre Dame also is difficult to explain. At least the Irish took care of business against Navy much more handily than they did last week against UCLA.


USA Today coaches' poll

The whole story: The coaches poll is a virtual mirror of the AP poll. Never have coaches and media agreed on so much. The only difference in Nos. 1-21 between the polls is at No. 10 and No. 11. That's where the coaches have Notre Dame still ahead of Cal. Of course, the coaches had USC at No. 2, so Michigan moved into its rightful spot at second and West Virginia to third. The parachute for the Trojans opened at No. 9.



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