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Computers keep Oklahoma No. 2 in the BCS

Posted: Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Computers prefer Oklahoma over Auburn and Southern California.

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 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 all 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's never been three undefeated teams after the regular season in the six BCS conference Big East, Big 12, Big Ten, Atlantic Coast Conference, Pac-10 and Southeastern Conference.

The Tigers made up ground on the Sooners in the polls on Sunday, tying Oklahoma for second in The Associated Press Top 25 and getting within two points of No. 2 in the coaches poll.

With the voters virtually split on the Sooners and Tigers, the computers are breaking the tie.

''We're in the situation we are a the tight race here, everybody finishing, and the system the way it is 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 make up the other third, and according to them Oklahoma is the best team in the country.

The Sooners are tops in five of the computer rankings and second in the other. A team's highest and lowest computer score is tossed out.

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 Sooners team to the Orange Bowl to face an unbeaten Southern Cal, 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, likely 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 passing Oklahoma in the computer rankings is ''not realistic.''

''Pulling even is optimistic,'' he said.

With 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 victory over 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.

''I believe in the whole season, your body of work through the entire year matters, '' Stoops said, ''but a lot of people just look at 'what have you done for me lately.'''

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?'' 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 slate 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.

California (.8522) is fourth and Texas (.8140) fifth, but the unbeaten Utes (.8062) could keep one of them out of the BCS, likely the Longhorns.

Utah is trying to become the first team from a mid-major conference to earn a BCS bid. They can lock up a spot by finishing in the top six. Utah is .0568 ahead of seventh-place Michigan with a game to play against Mountain West Conference rival BYU on Saturday.

''We're one game closer and I think that pretty much affirmed that if we do win out, we will get in,'' Utah quarterback Alex Smith said. ''But obviously there's still that if. We have to win this game. It's a huge game.''



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