NEW YORK (AP) _ Let the countdown begin to what could be the biggest Ohio State-Michigan game ever.
The Buckeyes and Wolverines, along with Southern California, topped the first Bowl Championship Series standings released Sunday, putting the Big Ten powers and the Trojans in control of the national title race.
The first-place Buckeyes and third-place Wolverines play in Columbus on Nov. 18. If the archrivals can avoid a major upset before then, the winner of that game is all but assured of a spot in the BCS title game.
Neither Ohio State nor Michigan has an opponent currently ranked left on their schedules _ besides each other, of course.
Second-place USC still has the toughest part of its schedule ahead of it, but if the Trojans remain unbeaten they'll most likely play in a third straight championship game.
The top two teams in the final BCS standings will meet Jan. 8 in the title game at the new stadium in Glendale, Ariz., that will also be the site of the Fiesta Bowl. For the first time, the BCS title game will played about a week after the four major bowls _ the Rose, Orange, Fiesta and Sugar.
The Buckeyes have a commanding lead in the coaches' poll and the Harris poll, which count for two-thirds of a BCS average. Ohio State (7-0) comes in third behind USC (6-0) and Michigan (7-0) in the computer rankings used for the other third of the BCS average.
In the coaches' poll, USC was No. 2 and Michigan was third. In the Harris poll, Michigan is No. 2 with a slight edge on the Trojans.
The Buckeyes' BCS average was .9731 out of a possible 1.000. USC's average was .9559 and Michigan's was .9341.
In the AP poll, Ohio State was No. 1, followed by Michigan and USC.
Auburn was in fourth place in the BCS standings, ahead of unbeaten West Virginia. Florida was sixth and unbeaten Louisville was seventh.
Notre Dame, Texas and California rounded out the top 10. The Fighting Irish would qualify for an at-large bid with a top-12 finish in the BCS, and can also earn an automatic bid with a top-eight finish.
Michigan's 17-10 victory over Penn State on Saturday night, combined with Auburn's 27-17 win over previously unbeaten Florida, cemented the Wolverines' spot in the top three of the BCS standings.
The Gators and Tigers both have one loss and will need lots of help to reach the national title game, which leaves Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville yearning for a playoff system.
``Until we get a playoff, the SEC's going to be on the outside looking in,'' Tuberville said Sunday, the day after his Tigers knocked off Florida to leave the Southeastern Conference with no unbeaten teams. ``I don't think it will ever happen.''
``I think people are enamored by not losing, rather than voting on who the best teams are,'' he said. ``The national champion to me is the best team at the end of the year, not the team that goes through their schedule (unbeaten).''
Two years ago, Auburn went 13-0 and was left out of the BCS title game in favor of USC and Oklahoma, who were both undefeated.
The teams that seem to be in danger of being undefeated and left out of the title game this season are West Virginia and Louisville. The Big East rivals meet Nov. 2, but unless one of those top three teams drops a game _ or there is a dramatic and unexpected shift in the polls _ the Mountaineers and Cardinals can't win enough to catch up.
USC remained unbeaten Saturday with a 28-21 victory at home over Arizona State, the third straight game in which the Trojans have played down to the wire with an unranked team. USC has been either first or second in the BCS standings for 25 straight weeks.
The winners of the Big Ten, Big 12, Atlantic Coast Conference, Big East, Southeastern Conference and Pac-10 earn automatic bids to the multimillion-dollar BCS games.
Teams from outside the automatic qualifying leagues earn a BCS bid automatically by finishing in the top 12 of the standings.
That means unbeaten Boise State at 15th in the standings still has work to do to earn an at-large bid out of the Western Athletic Conference. The Broncos' BCS average was .4319. Clemson was 12th with an average of .5042.