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Top 1-loss team?

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Sooners are poised

Maisel By Ivan Maisel
ESPN.com
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In the abstract, No. 9 Oklahoma is not the best team to move up in the BCS ratings. Not only is Kansas State fourth, but the Wildcats already have defeated the Sooners -- in Norman.

In reality, though, the Oklahoma that humiliated archrival Texas last week -- 63-21, and it wasn't even that close -- can beat any team, anytime, anywhere. That's why the Sooners have the best shot at moving into BCS championship contention.

Looking back at the first half of the season, it's easy to forget that the Sooner defense had to adjust to a new coordinator. Granted, Mike Stoops is the head coach's brother, and the concepts didn't stray too far from the philosophy that Bob Stoops has used to win 143 games in 14 seasons in Norman.

But the defense that limited Texas to 289 yards is a defense that wins championships. And the offense is beginning to find a rhythm, too, after losing two offensive line starters to injuries in August. The Sooners racked up more than 300 yards passing and more than 300 yards rushing against the Longhorns.

If the Sooners can maintain the efficiency and prowess they displayed at the Cotton Bowl, the schedule will give them opportunity to move up in the ratings. No. 5 Notre Dame comes to Norman on Oct. 27. When Oklahoma lost at home to Kansas State, Bob Stoops' record at Memorial Stadium plummeted to 78-4.

Of the Sooners' five opponents after the Irish, three are ranked and the fourth is in-state rival Oklahoma State. That is to say, Oklahoma will be challenged, and the worth of those victories will be reflected in the polls and computer ratings that make up the BCS standings. But the Sooners' only game against a higher-ranked team is at home, and the rest of the schedule has some heft to it.

Oklahoma needs some help, but what one-loss team doesn't?

Opportunity ahead for Trojans

Schlabach By Mark Schlabach
ESPN.com
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Remember that old adage about it being better to lose early, rather than late?

That's always been the case in college football, where highly ranked teams seem to have a better chance of recovering from early-season losses than they do from late defeats.

It seems sportswriters and BCS computers are actually unlike elephants; they do seem to forget.

That's why I believe that even though there are three one-loss teams currently rated ahead of No. 10 Southern California in the Bowl Championship Series standings, the Trojans have the best chance at jumping back into the BCS title race -- as long as a bunch of the unbeaten teams in the top 10 lose at least once between now and season's end.

The Trojans suffered their defeat at then-No. 21 Stanford on Sept. 15, a loss that seemed to derail their hopes of winning a BCS championship.

I like USC's chances to get back into the BCS title race -- if a one-loss team does indeed get back into the championship discussion -- because the Trojans have the most opportunities to impress voters and make an impression before the final BCS standings are released on Dec. 2.

USC plays No. 3 Oregon at the Coliseum in Los Angeles on Nov. 3. It plays No. 5 Notre Dame at home on Nov. 24, and might play the Ducks again in the Pac-12 championship game on Dec. 1. If the Trojans were to win each of their two regular-season games against highly rated foes and then beat a team like the Ducks or No. 8 Oregon State in the Pac-12 title game, it's hard to imagine that they wouldn't be the highest-rated one-loss team.

All but one of the last five one-loss national champions dropped their game early in the regular season. The 2008 Florida team lost to Ole Miss 31-30 on Sept. 27; the '06 Florida team lost at Auburn 27-17 on Oct. 14; the '03 LSU squad fell to Florida 19-7 on Oct. 11; and the '03 USC team lost at California 34-31 in three overtimes on Sept. 27.

The last USC squad that won a share of a national title recovered to win its last nine games. This Trojans team is good enough to do the same.