USC Maintains Lead Over LSU

Monday, December 1st 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LSU narrowed Southern California's lead for second place in the BCS standings Monday but still needs some help to play for the national championship in the Sugar Bowl.

The Trojans (11-1) hold a 1.53-point lead over the Tigers (11-1) going into the final week of the regular season, down from 2.15 a week ago.

The top two teams in the final Bowl Championship Series standings Sunday will play for the title in New Orleans on Jan. 4.

Oklahoma (12-0) maintained its grip on the top spot with a nearly five-point lead over USC and would likely remain in the top two even with a loss Saturday to Kansas State in the Big 12 championship game.

The Sooners are a unanimous No. 1 in The Associated Press media and USA Today/ESPN coaches' polls and the top team in all seven BCS computers. They have a 1.0 for poll average, 1.0 for computer-rank average, 0.56 for strength of schedule, zero for losses and 0.5 bonus points for beating sixth-place Texas for a 2.06.

USC has a one-point lead in the polls over LSU, has a 0.25 advantage in the computers and a 0.68 lead in strength of schedule. The Tigers have a 0.4 bonus for a quality win over Georgia.

While LSU would gain in the computers and strength of schedule by beating the Bulldogs (10-2), the Tigers would also be penalized because Georgia would drop _ costing them quality-win points.

A win by Syracuse over Notre Dame would be a big help for the Tigers, likely moving them to second in the Colley Matrix computer if they can beat Georgia. USC beat Notre Dame earlier this year.

``I think our focus needs to be on the game that we are playing and what is in front of us and nothing else,'' LSU coach Nick Saban said. ``I think that when you start thinking of those other things, which I have referred to on occasion as clutter, it affects your ability to perform like you need to.''

USC finishes the season at home against Oregon State (7-4) on Saturday.

Michigan remained fourth and is in the best position to move up to second if USC and LSU both lose. Ohio State is fifth, followed by Texas, Georgia, Florida State, Tennessee and Miami.

The BCS was started five years ago to create a national title game without playoffs. Champions of six conferences _ the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 and SEC _ qualify for a BCS game, and two at-large teams are selected to fill out the field.

The BCS formula uses the AP media and USA Today/ESPN coaches' polls, seven computer rankings, strength of schedule, losses and a bonus-point system for quality wins.

The seven computer rankings are operated by Anderson & Hester, Billingsley, Colley Matrix, Kenneth Massey, The New York Times, Jeff Sagarin's USA Today and Peter Wolfe.