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October 29, 2006

BCS: West Virginia has tenuous hold on No. 3

Experts' blog
Scenes from Saturday
The College Football Wire

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Rankings: BCS, AP, USA Today

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia was a precarious No. 3 in the Bowl Championship Series standings Sunday, leading a tightly packed group of nine teams trailing Ohio State and Michigan.

The Mountaineers replaced Southern California, which had been in third place before losing 33-31 at Oregon State on Saturday. But unlike the Trojans, West Virginia's hold on third isn't strong enough for the Mountaineers to control their destiny in the national title race.

West Virginia's BCS average of .7862 was just slightly ahead of Florida (.7791) and Big East rival Louisville (.7621).

Auburn, Texas, USC, Notre Dame, California and Tennessee all had BCS averages of at least .7000, giving each of those one-loss teams legitimate hopes of reaching the national title game.

West Virginia plays at Louisville on Thursday night. The winner should get a big boost in the next BCS standings, but with the numbers the way they are now, going undefeated might not keep either Big East power from eventually getting passed by one of the one-loss teams.

"We still have to prove the Big East is a force in the national title picture," West Virginia offensive lineman Dan Mozes said Sunday.

Ohio State and Michigan don't have any such worries.

For the second straight week, the Buckeyes and Wolverines held the top two spots in the BCS standings. All they have to do to play for the BCS championship is win out. The catch, of course, is that the Big Ten rivals meet on Nov. 18 in Columbus.

The Buckeyes are No. 1 in all the polls and have a BCS average of .9864 out of a possible 1.000. Michigan is first in the computer rankings and second in polls, with a BCS average of .9697.

The coaches' poll and Harris poll count for two-thirds of a team's BCS average. A compilation of six computer polls accounts for the other third.

The top two teams in the final standings play for the BCS title in Glendale, Ariz., on Jan. 8.

Unbeaten Boise State moved up a spot to 14th in the standings, still two spots behind where the Broncos from the Western Athletic Conference must finish to secure an automatic berth in the five BCS games. The Broncos' BCS average was .4763. Rutgers was in 12th with a .5153 average.

Ninth-place Notre Dame was also still outside where it needs to be to clinch an automatic berth. An eighth-place finish guarantees the Fighting Irish a spot, though staying in the top 12 is enough to make them eligible for selection.

As for the Mountaineers, they should benefit by the fact that the toughest part of their schedule lies ahead, which should help impress poll voters and bolster their lagging computer rating.

After Louisville, West Virginia plays Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, South Florida and Rutgers. All have records above .500.

The Mountaineers are third in each poll, but only 13th in the computer ratings, the worst among the top 11 teams.



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