BCS has no plans for Utah vs. Auburn

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The Associated Press

If Auburn can't get to the Orange Bowl with an 12-0 record, the Bowl Championship Series has no plans to pair the Tigers with Utah and create a second matchup of unbeaten teams.

The Tigers are still stuck behind first-place Southern California and second-place Oklahoma in the BCS standings released Monday.

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If USC (11-0) wins at UCLA on Saturday and Oklahoma (11-0) beats Colorado in the Big 12 title game in Kansas City, Mo., the Trojans and Sooners will likely play for the BCS championship in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 4.

That would leave Auburn (11-0) out, no matter what it does against Tennessee in the Southeastern Conference title game in Atlanta.

''We still need to see results of the games, but that's the system we have,'' Big 12 commissioner and BCS coordinator Kevin Weiberg said Monday. ''Until you go down the path of some system that involves the playing of extra games, we're not going to sort out that kind of situation.''

Utah (11-0), which finished its season two weeks ago, remained sixth in the latest standings and is positioned to become the first team from outside the BCS conferences to play in one of the four big-dollar bowl games.

Auburn would be contractually obligated to play in the Sugar Bowl if it wins the SEC and does not reach the national championship game. The Atlantic Coast Conference champ would be the Tigers' likely opponent.

Utah would likely be the first choice of the Fiesta Bowl if it must replace Big 12 champion Oklahoma. Pittsburgh, which is a win away from securing the Big East's BCS bid, will likely face the Utes.

For Utah and Auburn to play each other, either the Sugar or Fiesta would have to acquiesce.

Weiberg said the BCS could step in to create an Auburn-Utah game, but he isn't anticipating it.

''But I think it would be very unusual to have pairings altered unless there is some compelling reason to do so related to the alignment of interests of a number of parties. I just don't really at this juncture believe that's likely to happen,'' he said.

''We have to listen to see what others may say about it. That's part of the way our how process works. We'll take input from bowls, we'll take input from the television network, and weigh that information. It would be premature to make comments about whether any particular matchup is better or worse.''

USC improved its BCS grade in the standings this week to .9834, and padded its lead over Oklahoma (.9611). Auburn has a grade of .9342.

While Oklahoma and Auburn were idle last week, the Trojans beat Notre Dame 41-10 to regain some support in The Associated Press Top 25 and coaches poll.

The polls each count for a third of a team's BCS grade. A compilation of six computer rankings are used to determine the other third.

USC holds a big lead in both polls, ahead of No. 2 Oklahoma and No. 3 Auburn. The Sooners and Tigers are separated by a total of only 17 points in the two polls, but the BCS computers have pegged Oklahoma as the No. 1 team in the country with USC second and Auburn third.

California (.8431) barely held on to the fourth spot, ahead of Texas (.8418), after the Longhorns ended the season with a 26-13 victory over Texas A&M last week.

The Golden Bears will lock up an at-large spot in the BCS by beating Southern Mississippi on Saturday. The Bears would play in the Rose Bowl for the first time in 45 years if USC ends up in the Orange Bowl.

Texas is again on the verge of being left out of the BCS, despite being ranked among the top teams.

Sixth-place Utah (.8224) is guaranteed an at-large bid as a team from a non-BCS conference with a top-six finish in the BCS standings. The Utes (11-0), from the Mountain West Conference, finished their season two weeks ago and are sure to become the first team from a mid-major conference to play in the BCS.

Last season, Texas was bumped from an at-large BCS bid when Kansas State upset Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game to give the Wildcats an automatic berth and make the Sooners an at-large team.

Boise State (.6510) dropped from seventh to eighth in the BCS standings behind Georgia (.6948). The Broncos (11-0) from the Western Athletic Conference were trying to join Utah in the top six and grab a spot in one of the four bowl games worth more than $14 million.