Texas eked past two-time defending national champion Southern California in this week's Bowl Championship Series ratings, but the Longhorns' stay at the top is not expected to last long.
"I would be surprised if USC is not back in first next week," said Jerry Palm, a BCS analyst. "Texas just got a lot of juice in the computers because of who they played this week."
USC is No. 1 in both the USA Today Coaches' poll and the Harris Interactive poll, but Texas is first in five of the six computer rankings that are used to compile the BCS ratings, which determine who plays for the national championship Jan. 4.
The Longhorns (7-0) rose to the top of the computer rankings largely because their strength of schedule was boosted by beating previously undefeated Texas Tech, 52-17, on Saturday, while USC (7-0) defeated Washington, a team with only one victory. Results of the two human polls are combined with the average of the six computer rankings, with the best and worst computer ranking for each team dismissed.
"It's a compliment," Texas Coach Mack Brown said of the No. 1 ranking, "because it's a place we haven't been in a long time and it sets our standard even higher. . . . We also understand that the percentage points and the rankings can change weekly."
In fact, Texas's BCS average (.9763) is only .0007 better than USC's, representing the slimmest margin between first and second in the eight-year history of the BCS. Virginia Tech (7-0) is third in the standings but is not expected to move up unless USC or Texas loses.
The computer rankings, including several that do not consider game location, account largely for strength of schedule. Through seven games, Texas's opponents have a .562 winning percentage; USC's opponents have a .440 mark. Because of that, the Trojans rank fifth in the computer ranking devised by Wes Colley, a 1993 University of Virginia graduate, fourth in another computer index and second in three others.
The computer rankings have been far more fluid than the human polls. For example, a few weeks ago Texas was as low as eighth in three of the computer tabulations.
Assuming both Texas and USC continue to win, the Longhorns should return to second place because the rest of their Big 12 schedule is soft. Their remaining four regular season opponents have a .536 winning percentage, while the remaining five opponents for USC have a .735 winning percentage.
The new BCS standings have not changed the national title picture. Six teams remain unbeaten; as many as four can finish the regular season that way. And Virginia Tech and the two undefeated Southeastern Conference teams -- Georgia and Alabama -- likely will be excluded from the Rose Bowl, the site of this year's title game, unless Texas or USC loses.
"My phone has been ringing off the hook," Palm said. "It would be a lot quieter in my house if USC was one spot higher in one computer ranking. I didn't even bother checking on this in the morning. It didn't matter."