New York Texas passed Southern California by a whisker and moved into first place in the Bowl Championship Series standings Monday, a swap that shouldn't worry the Trojans too much.
USC and the Longhorns are still the odds-on favorites to play for the BCS championship Jan. 4 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.
Thanks to the computer rankings, Texas slipped into first by the slimmest of margins -- actually THE slimmest between Nos. 1 and 2 in the eight-year history of the BCS. Texas' average of .9763, of a possible 1.000, was just ahead of USC with .9756.
"It's a compliment because it's a place we haven't been in a long time and it sets our standard even higher," Texas coach Mack Brown said.
USC is top-ranked in the Associated Press media poll, the USA Today coaches' poll and the Harris Interactive poll. The coaches' poll and the Harris poll make up two-thirds of a team's BCS grade. A compilation of six computer rankings account for the other third, with the highest and lowest ranking for each team dropped. Texas was first in all but one of those rankings.
"I still don't know how the BCS rankings really work, except that computers are involved," USC coach Pete Carroll said. "And I don't know how you get mad at a computer."
Texas is second in all three polls, and gained a few points on USC from voters after a 52-17 victory over previously unbeaten Texas Tech on Saturday. Computer polls, however, weigh heavily on strength of schedule and the win over the Red Raiders gave Texas a big boost.
USC's 51-24 victory over Washington (1-6) extended its winning streak to 29 games but did nothing to help the Trojans in the computer rankings. Struggling Arizona State (3-4) -- which was ranked when USC won at Tempe on Oct. 1 -- is also hurting the Trojans in the strength-of-schedule category.
USC was atop one computer ranking and second in three others. One computer had the Trojans fourth; another fifth.
Virginia Tech is still in third in the standings. Georgia and Alabama were next, while UCLA moved up three places to sixth, putting the nation's six unbeaten teams at the front of the BCS rankings.
Miami, LSU, Penn State and Florida State round out the top 10.
BCS analyst Jerry Palm said the gap between USC and Virginia Tech in the polls was so big that the Hokies would have to be at least four spots ahead of the Trojans in each of the six computer rankings to catch them in the standings.
"USC has nothing to worry about, as long as these poll margins stay the same," Palm said, "and one and two are as solid as we've ever seen in the BCS at this point in the season."
USC plays Washington State (3-4) Saturday, then finishes the season against four winning teams -- Stanford (4-2), No. 24 California (6-2), No. 22 Fresno State (5-1) and No. 8 UCLA (7-0).
"USC is in the middle of a lull in the schedule," Palm said. "Texas is about to hit a lull."
The Longhorns finish the regular season against Oklahoma State (3-4), Baylor (4-3), Kansas (3-4) and Texas A&M (5-2).
Virginia Tech's next two games are against No. 13 Boston College (6-1) and No. 6 Miami (5-1), so it wouldn't be surprising if the Hokies close some of the gap in the computer rankings if they win.
But unless a large group of voters in the Harris and coaches' poll move the Hokies past USC and/or Texas in the polls, coach Frank Beamer's team is still looking at being the odd team out.
Being No. 1 in the polls though not in the BCS is nothing new to USC. The Trojans finished the 2003 regular season atop the AP and coaches' polls, but were third in the BCS standings behind Oklahoma and LSU and left out of the BCS title game.
College football had split champions that season when LSU beat the Sooners in the Orange Bowl and USC beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl -- the first time since the BCS was implemented and exactly what the system was created to eliminate. After USC was crowned by the AP media pollsters and LSU by the coaches, the BCS decided to change the formula for calculating the standings, putting more emphasis on the polls.