New York Penn State moved into third place in the Bowl Championship Series standings, putting Joe Paterno's team behind unbeaten USC and Texas in the national-title race.
The Nittany Lions became the first team to lock up a spot in the BCS by winning the Big Ten's automatic bid. They defeated Michigan State, 31-22, to earn their second conference title.
The Trojans are on top, as they have been for four out of the previous five weeks, but their lead on Texas is tiny. USC has a BCS average of .9807 and Texas is at .9791.
The top two teams in the final BCS standings, which come out Dec. 4, will play in the Rose Bowl for the national championship.
The Trojans have been No. 1 in the AP, coaches' and Harris polls all season. The coaches' and Harris poll each count for a third of a team's BCS average. Texas is first in the computer rankings, which account for the final third of a BCS average.
Texas gained ground on USC in the polls Sunday after the Trojans' wild 50-42 victory over Fresno State.
The Longhorns were idle last week and finish their regular season Friday at Texas A&M; before playing in the Big 12 Conference title game Dec. 3. USC finishes its regular season Dec. 3 against UCLA.
Penn State (10-1) is done with its regular season and appears to be a good bet for the Fiesta or Orange bowls, but a loss by USC or Texas could put the Nittany Lions in Pasadena.
Both fourth-place LSU (9-1) and fifth-place Virginia Tech (9-1) have one regular-season game and possibly a conference title game to play, giving each a shot to catch Penn State in the next two weeks.
The Tigers can clinch a spot in the Southeastern Conference championship by beating Arkansas on Friday at home. Virginia Tech will play Florida State in the Atlantic Coast Conference title game if the Hokies beat North Carolina on Saturday.