USC, Miami atop BCS standings

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 29, 2004

The Associated Press

The new Bowl Championship Series formula is creating the same old confusion.

While Southern California took the top spot in the reworked BCS standings' debut Monday, look who's second: Miami. The Hurricanes edged Oklahoma, a strong No. 2 behind USC in both The Associated Press Top 25 and the coaches poll.

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Put in place after last season's split national championship, this year's stripped-down BCS formula relies more on the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls. The idea was to ensure that when there is a clear consensus top two in the polls - as USC and Oklahoma have been all season - the BCS standings would reflect it.

Instead, BCS officials again had to do some explaining.

''It's obviously very early. It's important that there not be an overreaction to this poll,'' BCS coordinator and Big 12 commissioner Kevin Weiberg said, adding that when he saw Miami ahead of Oklahoma, ''I was a little surprised, to tell you the truth.''

Weiberg noted that the top two teams in the first BCS standings of the season have never played in the system's championship game.

''I've never really understood the BCS process,'' USC coach Pete Carroll said. ''And at first look, this year's updated process confuses me once again. I'm not sure how some of the other teams worked out to being where they are. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me.''

The AP and coaches polls each count for one-third of a team's total score under the new formula. The other third comes from six computer rankings, and that's where Miami made up the difference over the Sooners. The Hurricanes are ranked fourth in the AP media poll and third in the coaches poll, but have the second-most points in the computer rankings. Oklahoma, the chief beneficiary of the old system last season, came out fifth in the computer rankings.

''Our philosophy is that the only thing we can control is how we play,'' Miami coach Larry Coker said. ''Because we have been named the No. 2 team in the first BCS standings, our job now is to respond and move forward.''

Last season, USC finished the regular season ranked No. 1 in both polls but third in the BCS standings - knocking it out of the BCS title game.

Oklahoma finished first in the BCS standings despite losing the Big 12 championship game and dropping to third in the major polls. The Sooners were beaten in the Sugar Bowl by LSU, which was voted No. 1 by the coaches. USC finished No. 1 in the AP poll.

Under the new system, LSU and USC would have met in the Sugar Bowl.

''At this point in the season, it just generates a lot of discussion among the people who like to talk about college football,'' Sooners coach Bob Stoops said. ''In that sense, it's a positive because it keeps people talking about our sport. But it really makes no difference where anyone is ranked today. There is too much of this season left to play for anyone to get too worked up about this now.''

Weiberg said that Oklahoma probably was hurt in the computer rankings by having played only one road game. Oklahoma has one win over a ranked team (Texas), while Miami has two (Florida State and Louisville), which also sways computer rankings. Each team's highest and lowest computer ranking is tossed out before an average is calculated.

The Orange Bowl will host the top two teams in the final BCS standings on Jan. 4.

USC, No. 1 in each of the major polls all season, has a big lead in the BCS with a score of .9912 out of a possible 1.000. Miami's score is .9187, while Oklahoma's is .9161. Auburn is fourth with .9036. Florida State, with one loss, is fifth, ahead of unbeatens Wisconsin and Utah.

Utah's seventh-place showing is the best in a season's opening BCS standings for a team outside the six major conferences. It puts the Utes in position to become the first team from a mid-major conference to earn a bid to one of the four big-ticket BCS games.

''It is exciting, and I think it's something that's driven this team,'' Utah quarterback Alex Smith said. ''We're driven to prove people wrong.''

The champions from the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten, Big 12, Big East, Pac-10 and Southeastern Conference earn up six of the eight berths in the four BCS bowls - the Orange, Sugar, Rose and Fiesta. The other spots go to wild-card teams.

Finishing in the top six in the standings guarantees a BCS bowl bid. A top-12 ranking in the final BCS standings is necessary to be eligible for a wild-card spot.

In the past, results from the AP and coaches polls were averaged, then factored in with other components - a formula that lessened the significance of the polls.

BCS officials scaled down the formula, eliminating bonus points for quality wins and schedule strength, considered redundant because computers and poll voters already take that into account. And the BCS formula now considers the number of votes a team receives in the major polls, not just its ranking.