Auburn needs three victories and a little help to play for a national title.
The Tigers moved into third place in the Bowl Championship Series standings Monday, while Southern California and Oklahoma held firmly to the top two spots.
The Tigers had been in fourth place in the first two BCS standings, but they took advantage of Miami's loss to North Carolina on Saturday to creep closer to the front-runners.
The Hurricanes fell all the way to No. 10.
The top two teams in the BCS standings after the regular season will meet in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 4.
USC has a BCS grade of .9895. The Trojans are No. 1 in The Associated Press Top 25 and the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll. They are also tied with Oklahoma for the best computer ranking.
The Sooners, No. 2 in both polls, have a grade of .9648. Auburn's grade is .9238, placing third in each poll and the computer rankings.
The AP media poll and coaches poll each count for one-third of a team's BCS grade. Total points received in the polls are used. A compilation of six computer rankings make up the other third of a grade, with the highest and lowest computer rankings for each team thrown out.
Auburn's BCS ranking is the highest in school history.
Tigers coach Tommy Tuberville said he would talk to his team during this off week about trying to meet increasingly high standards and not being distracted by all the BCS talk.
The Tigers finish the season with games against Georgia (Nov. 13) at home, at Alabama (Nov. 20) and the Southeastern Conference title game (Dec. 4) in Atlanta.
"I don't think we'll have that problem with Georgia coming in," Tuberville said. "Then of course, the last game it doesn't make a difference where you're ranked or where Alabama is ranked going into that game. That's just a battle anyway."
Simply winning out might not be enough to get the Tigers a trip to Miami.
A loss by either USC or Oklahoma would be the simplest way to clear a spot for an unbeaten Auburn team. But the Tigers might not even need to be that fortunate.
A difficult remaining schedule could work in Auburn's favor. Georgia is ninth in the BCS standings, Alabama is 5-3 and the SEC title game will be a rematch with Georgia or Tennessee, which is eighth in the BCS standings.
A separate strength of schedule component was removed from the BCS standings this season, but the computer rankings still take it into account, as do poll voters.
Catching USC in the polls would be close to impossible for Auburn, unless the Trojans lose. Catching the Sooners is a different story.
The Tigers are 49 points behind Oklahoma in the Associated Press poll and 50 in the coaches' poll.
The Sooners remaining schedule isn't as formidable as Auburn's, with Texas A&M, Baylor and Nebraska.
If the Sooners reach the Big 12 Conference championship game, they'll get another game against one of the relatively weak members of the Big 12 North.
The Tigers could sway the voters by beating good teams while the Sooners win unimpressively.
"We'll approach these games one at a time and tell our guys that there's no reason to worry about it," Tuberville said. "We drop one of these games coming up and it doesn't make a lot of difference anyway."
There are six unbeaten teams in Division I-A -- USC, Oklahoma, Auburn, Wisconsin, Utah and Boise State.
California moved up four spots to fourth in the BCS standings this week, and is followed by Wisconsin and Utah.
Utah, from the Mountain West Conference, could become the first team from a mid-major league to earn a bid to one of the four Bowl Championship Series games by finishing in the top six.