USC Will Meet Oklahoma In The Orange Bowl On Jan. 4

Dec. 5, 2004

Associated Press

Now Auburn knows what it feels like to be the odd team out.

Southern California and Oklahoma finished atop the final Bowl Championship Series standings Sunday and will meet in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 4 in a title game that might not produce a unanimous national champion.

Auburn, which finished 12-0 just like the Trojans and Sooners, finished third in the BCS points system that relies on The Associated Press and coaches polls, plus computer ratings. So the Tigers will have to settle for a Sugar Bowl berth against Virginia Tech on Jan. 3.

'It's not a perfect system, and if it was we'd all be happy today,' Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said during ABC's broadcast of the BCS pairings announcement.

USC finished with .9770 in the standings, and Oklahoma had .9681. Auburn, third much of the season, had .9331. Oklahoma's strong computer rankings kept the Sooners ahead of the Tigers in the BCS standings, while USC held on to first place thanks to its strong showing in the polls.

Last season, USC was left out of the BCS title game, despite being No. 1 in both the AP and coaches polls at the end of the regular season. Instead, Oklahoma played LSU in the Sugar Bowl, even though the Sooners lost the Big 12 title game.

When all the bowls were finished, LSU won the BCS championship, and USC was No. 1 in the final AP poll.

In an attempt to avoid a repeat, the BCS scaled back its formula this season, making it far more reliant on the human polls. But another problem arose, of course: For the first time since the BCS was implemented in 1998, there were more than two unbeaten teams from major conferences.

At least Auburn is in a top bowl. California was left out altogether after Texas passed the Golden Bears and moved into fourth in the final BCS standings. The Longhorns (10-1) will play Big Ten co-champion Michigan (9-2) in the Rose Bowl.

Utah (11-0) officially became the first team from a non-BCS conference to receive a bid to one of the four $14 million bowl games, earning a spot in the Fiesta Bowl against Big East representative Pittsburgh (8-3).

The Utes, from the Mountain West Conference, will play their last game under coach Urban Meyer on Jan. 1 in Tempe, Ariz. Meyer is headed to Florida.

The Trojans and Sooners went wire-to-wire atop both polls; it's the first time Nos. 1 and 2 stayed the same from the AP preseason Top 25 through the final regular season poll, though the Sooners shared second with Auburn for one week.

So Sunday's Orange Bowl announcement was not surprising. Auburn, Oklahoma and USC all finished their regular seasons with wins Saturday, making it extremely unlikely that there would be any change at the top of the BCS.

Texas' move past Cal might have caught some people off guard, however.

It looked like the Bears controlled their BCS destiny a few weeks ago and simply needed to win out to reach the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1959. But Texas began gaining ground in the polls, especially with the coaches, as Longhorns coach Mack Brown lobbied for votes.

Texas' first BCS bid also means the Rose Bowl won't have its traditional Big Ten vs. Pac-10 matchup.