Southern California is not the best team in the country. Neither is Texas, Michigan or Louisville, at least not based on performance. The Associated Press has instructed voters to ignore last season's results and preseason hype and rank the nation's best teams based on what they've accomplished on the field. Simple enough. Each week, we will rank the top five based only on their performance to this point in the season.

Fortunately for Minnesota, USC -- and most of the rest of the country -- did not play Thursday, and the other USC, South Carolina, did nothing to impress during Coach Steve Spurrier's debut victory against downtrodden Central Florida. As a result, the Golden Gophers earned the opening week's top slot narrowly over Arizona State. Both Minnesota and ASU pounded weak teams, but the Golden Gophers did it on the road. Yes, the separation between the nation's elite is just that close.

From here, one of two scenarios will play out.

First, as Minnesota and Arizona State close in on unbeaten seasons, their road to the Bowl Championship Series title game will be clear so long as they win out. Regarding others in the top five, even when Toledo wins at Fresno State on Sept. 27, it is doubtful the Rockets will hold off Vanderbilt in the BCS standings because the Southeastern Conference is so much stronger than the Mid-American Conference.

The other scenario? All five of these teams will be jettisoned from the rankings by next week.