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Chris Dufresne / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

They Can't Sort This Thing Out in One Day

October 15, 2006|Chris Dufresne

Look for Fox Network studio host Terry Bradshaw to emerge from a giant cake today before revealing this season's first Bowl Championship Series standings.

Or something like that.

The jets for Saturday's pregame flyover at the Coliseum were going too fast to see if they had a Fox banner trailing, but you never know.

This is the eighth season for the BCS standings but the first for Fox, which has taken over college football's heavy lifting and, presumably, its heavy breathing.

Let the graphics begin.

The Saturday night before the first BCS Sunday set up like an early casting call, with teams from Los Angeles to East Lansing preening and posturing for positions.

Ohio State, which started the season ranked No. 1, will also be No. 1 out of the BCS box after its rout of Michigan State.

You don't need a BCS to figure out Ohio State, but two teams are required for the BCS national title game in Glendale, Ariz., on Jan. 8.

So you need the BCS to figure out the rest -- and it got interesting before it even got started.

The first twist was Florida's loss at Auburn, which turned the fight for No. 2 into a scramble.

And, as shaky as USC looked in its 28-21 win against Arizona State at the Coliseum, things probably couldn't have worked out better.

Florida's loss pretty much assured USC will be No. 2 in the first BCS standings, despite the Trojans' having to fend off their third consecutive Pacific 10 Conference opponent in as many weeks.

Mow-'em-down Michigan figures to slide into the No. 3 hole to make it a Big Ten sandwich around the Trojans, and guess what: Michigan and Ohio State play each other in Columbus on Nov. 18.

Never mind that USC is asking for a loss at its current pace, and that many people think California is the best team in the Pac-10.

"They're worthy of that right now," Trojan receiver Steve Smith said of Cal. "We'll see what happens when we play them."

That play date has also been scheduled for Nov. 18.

Compare and contrast?

After an opening loss to Tennessee, Cal has won six in a row and Saturday defeated Washington State, in Pullman, 21-3. USC, only two weeks ago, won by six points at Pullman.

Cal beat Arizona State in Berkeley by 28 points. To beat Arizona State on Saturday, USC needed a John McKay throwback touchdown drive in the fourth quarter and then got some interesting clock-management help from Sun Devils' Coach Dirk Koetter.

BCS?

What BCS?

In the locker room afterward, mere hours before the first BCS release, Trojan quarterback John David Booty knew Florida had lost, but that was the extent of it.

"I don't worry about it," he said. "We're just trying to win games. Some are uglier than they ought to be, but we're winning."

Booty is one cagey Cajun if he knows that how you win doesn't matter to the six BCS computer operators, who had to remove margin-of-victory from their formulas two years ago as a condition of participation.

USC was No. 1 in four of the six computers last week after consecutive six-point wins. And the Pac-10 was rated the top conference in three indexes.

So how much could a seven-point win over Arizona State hurt?

The computers make up one-third of the rankings formula, with the two human polls boasting two-thirds of the power.

USC entered the weekend ranked No. 2 in the only polls that matter in the BCS -- Harris Interactive and the USA Today coaches'.

USC might have well ceded poll ground to Florida had the Gators pulled out a victory at No. 11 Auburn, but that didn't happen.

So the Trojans are thinking ahead?

No way.

"That's when you suffer the 'L,' " USC's Smith said. "It does bother us when they say we're not the USC of old."

USC bought some BCS time Saturday, but the clock is ticking.

No. 5 West Virginia, despite a weak schedule, remains in the national title hunt after a comfortable win against Syracuse. The Mountaineers are 6-0, have a huge date at No. 7 Louisville on Nov. 2, and still may have the best chance to finish 12-0.

And don't forget Texas, which seemed to make that point Saturday with a 63-31 win over a pretty good Baylor team.

Texas is 6-1, with its only loss to No. 1 Ohio State, and definitely tracking upward.

It can't be a good sign for USC that Arizona State seemed energized by losing its third straight game.

Yet, some Sum Devils were already adding up the possibility of winning their last six games and finishing 9-3.

"We've still got a shot," quarterback Rudy Carpenter said.

A loss to USC is now a shot in the arm?

"Everyone wants to beat USC," cornerback Keno Walter-White added. "We almost got them."

Almost.

USC might not be USC anymore. It might be USC again in a few weeks, perhaps by Nov. 18.

As a cautionary note to Fox, we can only offer: "Good BCS night, and good BCS luck."

*

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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