Virginia is the clear choice as the No. 1 team in college football, but the team received bad news yesterday when it learned starting tight end Bruce McGonnigal would be lost for the season because of a bruised spleen.

Voters are split over who's No. 2. Auburn edged Notre Dame by one point for the runner-up spot in yesterday's Associated Press poll. Nebraska is fourth, only 17 points behind Notre Dame.

Auburn (5-0-1) and Notre Dame (5-1) each climbed three spots after beating top 10 opponents Saturday. The Fighting Irish defeated then-No. 2 Miami, 29-20, and the Tigers downed then-No. 7 Florida State, 20-17.

Nebraska (7-0), which has yet to play a ranked team, remained fourth after beating Oklahoma State, 31-3.

Virginia (7-0) tightened its grip on the No. 1 spot, getting 45 first-place votes and 1,469 points from a national panel of sports writers and broadcasters after defeating Wake Forest, 49-14.

McGonnigal, a 1989 all-ACC, was the Cavaliers' second-leading receiver this season with 17 catches. He was injured Thursday night when he fell at an excavation site in Charlottesville while trying to find his girlfriend's dog. Because the dog is deaf, McGonnigal could not call for it.

Team physician Frank McCue said the fifth-year senior from Baltimore, who is in the University of Virginia Hospital, remembered nothing about the accident.

Physicians decided McGonnigal, who will be hospitalized for up to two more weeks, risks a ruptured spleen if he returns to contact drills before the end of December.

The physicians hold out some hope he could make it back for a bowl game, but team officials are not pushing for his return unless they are certain he is recovered.

Virginia, which had 38 first-place votes last week, is looking down on a new No. 2. Auburn received four first-place votes and 1,370 points, while Notre Dame got five first-place votes and 1,369 points. Nebraska received 1,352 points and was the No. 1 pick on five ballots.

Illinois (5-1) jumped three notches to fifth after edging Michigan State, 15-13. Houston (6-0), which got one first-place vote, moved up three places to sixth following a 44-17 rout of Southern Methodist. Washington (6-1) rosesix spots to No. 7 after stomping Stanford, 52-16.

Miami (4-2) fell six notches to No. 8, idle Brigham Young (5-1) remained No. 9, and Colorado (6-1-1) climbed four spots to No. 10 after beating Kansas, 41-10.

Iowa's 24-23 victory over Michigan (3-3) vaulted the Hawkeyes (5-1) seven spots to 15th and dropped the Wolverines 10 places to 20th. Michigan, which was No. 1 before losing to Michigan State on Oct. 13, has plummeted 20 places in two weeks.

Georgia Tech (5-0-1) fell five places to 16th after tying North Carolina, 13-13. Southern Cal and Oklahoma each dropped six spots, to 21st and 22nd, after losing for the second time.

No. 24 Texas Christian, which did not play, is ranked for the first time since 1984, when the Horned Frogs got as high as 12th.