NEW YORK -- Let the countdown begin to what could be the
biggest Ohio State-Michigan game ever.
The Buckeyes and Wolverines, along with Southern California,
topped the first Bowl Championship Series standings released
Sunday, putting the Big Ten powers and the Trojans in control of
the national title race.
The first-place Buckeyes and third-place Wolverines play in
Columbus on Nov. 18. If the archrivals can avoid a major upset
before then, the winner of that game is all but assured of a spot
in the BCS title game.
Neither Ohio State nor Michigan has an opponent currently ranked
left on their schedules -- besides each other, of course.
Second-place USC still has the toughest part of its schedule
ahead of it, but if the Trojans remain unbeaten they'll most likely
play in a third straight championship game.
The top two teams in the final BCS standings will meet Jan. 8 in
the title game at the new stadium in Glendale, Ariz., that will
also be the site of the Fiesta Bowl. For the first time, the BCS
title game will played about a week after the four major bowls --
the Rose, Orange, Fiesta and Sugar.
The Buckeyes have a commanding lead in the coaches' poll and the
Harris poll, which count for two-thirds of a BCS average. Ohio
State (7-0) comes in third behind USC (6-0) and Michigan (7-0) in
the computer rankings used for the other third of the BCS average.
In the coaches' poll, USC was No. 2 and Michigan was third. In
the Harris poll, Michigan is No. 2 with a slight edge on the
The Buckeyes' BCS average was .9731 out of a possible 1.000.
USC's average was .9559 and Michigan's was .9341.
In the AP poll, Ohio State was No. 1, followed by Michigan and
Auburn was in fourth place in the BCS standings, ahead of
unbeaten West Virginia. Florida was sixth and unbeaten Louisville
Notre Dame, Texas and California rounded out the top 10. The
Fighting Irish would qualify for an at-large bid with a top-12
finish in the BCS, and can also earn an automatic bid with a
Michigan's 17-10 victory over Penn State on Saturday night,
combined with Auburn's 27-17 win over previously unbeaten Florida,
cemented the Wolverines' spot in the top three of the BCS
The Gators and Tigers both have one loss and will need lots of
help to reach the national title game, which leaves Auburn coach
Tommy Tuberville yearning for a playoff system.
"Until we get a playoff, the SEC's going to be on the outside
looking in," Tuberville said Sunday, the day after his Tigers
knocked off Florida to leave the Southeastern Conference with no
unbeaten teams. "I don't think it will ever happen."
"I think people are enamored by not losing, rather than voting
on who the best teams are," he said. "The national champion to me
is the best team at the end of the year, not the team that goes
through their schedule [unbeaten]."
Two years ago, Auburn went 13-0 and was left out of the BCS
title game in favor of USC and Oklahoma, who were both undefeated.
The teams that seem to be in danger of being undefeated and left
out of the title game this season are West Virginia and Louisville.
The Big East rivals meet Nov. 2, but unless one of those top three
teams drops a game -- or there is a dramatic and unexpected shift in
the polls -- the Mountaineers and Cardinals can't win enough to
USC remained unbeaten Saturday with a 28-21 victory at home over
Arizona State, the third straight game in which the Trojans have
played down to the wire with an unranked team. USC has been either
first or second in the BCS standings for 25 straight weeks.
The winners of the Big Ten, Big 12, Atlantic Coast Conference,
Big East, Southeastern Conference and Pac-10 earn automatic bids to
the multimillion-dollar BCS games.
Teams from outside the automatic qualifying leagues earn a BCS
bid automatically by finishing in the top 12 of the standings.
That means unbeaten Boise State at 15th in the standings still
has work to do to earn an at-large bid out of the Western Athletic
Conference. The Broncos' BCS average was .4319. Clemson was 12th
with an average of .5042.