Alabama and Texas Tech, and their perfect records, were on top of the Bowl Championship Series standings yesterday. Texas, Florida and Oklahoma, all with one loss, are lurking and ready to take advantage if the front-runners fall.
Penn State's loss to Iowa on Saturday left the Crimson Tide and Red Raiders as the only unbeaten teams in the BCS conferences, making it easy to sort out the all-important first two places in the BCS standings this week.
First-place Alabama (.981 average) was No. 1 in the Harris and USA Today coaches' polls. Second-place Texas Tech (.972) was a solid second in both polls and first in the computer rankings. The computers have Alabama No. 2.
Texas (.879) was third, followed closely by Florida (.864) and Oklahoma (.844).
Sixth-place Southern California (.789) needs a lot of help to reach the BCS national championship game Jan. 8 in Miami. Penn State (.683) dropped all the way from third to eighth behind unbeaten Utah (.769).
Alabama and Texas Tech are still on course to meet in the BCS national title game if they stay unbeaten, though the Crimson Tide knows that its road will go through Atlanta.
The Tide clinched the Southeastern Conference's West Division and a spot in the league title game against Florida in the Georgia Dome on Dec. 6. The game could turn into a de facto national semifinal, with the winner earning a spot in the championship game.
The computer rankings are helping Texas stay at the top of the one-loss pack. The Longhorns are fourth in the Harris poll, close behind Florida, and fifth in the coaches' poll, not far behind Florida and Oklahoma, which Texas beat last month.
But the computer ratings prefer Texas and Utah over Florida and Oklahoma.
In two weeks, Oklahoma hosts Texas Tech in the latest Big 12 game with huge national title implications.
If the Sooners win, they'll create a three-way tie for first in the Big 12 South. If the Sooners, Longhorns and Red Raiders finish tied, the tiebreaker to determine who plays in the Big 12 championship game in Kansas City, Mo., on Dec. 6 is best BCS average.
Utah is positioned for its second BCS bid in five seasons if it can stay unbeaten. The Utes from the Mountain West Conference need to finish in the top 12 of the BCS standings to earn an automatic bid to one of the five major bowls.
Unbeaten Boise State from the Western Athletic Conference is in ninth place and also trying to reach the BCS for the second time. The Broncos not only need to stay unbeaten, but they also need to pass Utah in the BCS standings to get an automatic bid.
Associated Press poll: : Maryland, ranked No. 23 last week, fell out of the Top 25 after a 23-13 loss to Virginia Tech on Thursday. Penn State slipped to the back of the one-loss pack, while No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Texas Tech strengthened their hold on the top spots. The Nittany Lions fell four places to No. 7 in the Top 25 after losing for the first time this season. The 24-23 loss at Iowa on a field goal in the final seconds all but eliminated coach Joe Paterno's team from the national title race and left only Alabama and Texas Tech as unbeaten teams from the six BCS conferences. The Crimson Tide (10-0) received 44 first-place votes and 1,604 points from the media panel. The Red Raiders (10-0) earned the remaining 21 first-place votes, up from 12 last week, and 1,574 points. Alabama plays Mississippi State at home Saturday, and Texas Tech has a week off before playing at Oklahoma on Nov. 22, the Red Raiders' fourth consecutive game against a ranked opponent. No. 3 Florida, No. 4 Texas, No. 5 Oklahoma and No. 6 Southern California, all with one loss but still with national title hopes, moved up one spot and are ahead of Penn State. No. 8 Utah (10-0) moved up two spots, jumping over Boise State (9-0), which stayed at No. 9. Ohio State moved up two spots and completes the first 10. The final four teams were unranked last week. Cincinnati is ranked for the first time this season at No. 22 after beating West Virginia, 26-23, in overtime. The Mountaineers dropped out of the rankings. Oregon State, which has won four straight and controls the Pacific-10 race because it beat USC, also moved into the rankings for the first time this season. The Beavers are No. 23. No. 24 South Carolina and No. 25 Tulsa moved back into the rankings. California and Georgia Tech dropped out after losses.
North Carolina: : Tight end Zack Pianalto has a broken left leg that will keep him out indefinitely. Pianalto fractured his fibula while making a touchdown catch in Saturday's 28-7 win over Georgia Tech. North Carolina coach Butch Davis said it's unclear how long Pianalto will be out for the No. 17 Tar Heels, who play at Maryland on Saturday. The sophomore had missed two straight games with a right ankle injury before returning against the Yellow Jackets. He has seven catches for 68 yards this season.
Notre Dame: : Coach Charlie Weis plans to take a more active role with the offense after a 17-0 loss to Boston College. He's not sure what the role will be, although he strongly hinted he could get more involved in play-calling - a role he gave up before the season in an effort to become more of a coach to the entire team. "I think that when there's a problem and it's an area where you believe that you can be part of the answer, I think you'd better go help," he said. Weis was hired based on his reputation as the play-caller for the New England Patriots after he helped lead them to three Super Bowl wins in four years.