NEW YORK (AP) – Alabama moved into third place – slightly ahead of Miami – in the Bowl Championship Series standings Monday, putting the unbeaten Crimson Tide in position to play for a national title if Southern California or Texas stumbles down the stretch.

The first-place Trojans and Longhorns remain locked into the top two spots and on course to play for college football’s championship at the Rose Bowl on Jan. 4.

USC raised its BCS average to .9802 this week and kept its lead on Texas (.9765). For the first time in the BCS’ eight-year history, the same teams have held the top two spots for the first four standings. USC has been in first for three weeks and Texas one.

And they’re both way ahead of Alabama this week. The Tide has a BCS average of .8814, leaving it barely ahead of Miami (.8805).

The Hurricanes’ 27-7 victory over previously unbeaten Virginia Tech made it possible for both them and the Tide to move up two spots.

“It really doesn’t matter right now, because the bowls aren’t next week and they’re not this week,” Tide linebacker DeMeco Ryans said Monday. “The season isn’t over yet, so being 3 or 4 isn’t a big deal.”

Penn State is fifth, followed by Virginia Tech, LSU, Ohio State, Georgia and Oregon.

Notre Dame (6-2) moved up three spots to 11th, meaning the Fighting Irish are now in place to become BCS eligible by winning their final three games. Notre Dame needs at least nine regular-season wins and a final BCS ranking in the top 12 to be eligible for selection by one of college football’s four big-dollar bowl games.

Alabama is facing a difficult stretch run with LSU coming to Tuscaloosa on Saturday and the Iron Bowl at Auburn on Nov. 19. If the Tide survives, it’d play in the Southeastern Conference title game, likely against Georgia or Florida.

But even winning out against that tough schedule makes the Tide a long shot to catch USC or Texas if those two remain undefeated.

“Anytime you go undefeated in the SEC and then have to play the SEC championship game on top of that, you’d kind of like to think that’s enough.” Tide quarterback Brodie Croyle said. “All we can do is handle our own business.”

Alabama could become the second straight unbeaten SEC champion to be left out of the BCS title game in favor of the Pac-10 and Big 12 champions. Last year, Auburn had a perfect regular season, but ended up in the Sugar Bowl as USC and Oklahoma played in the Orange Bowl for the national title.

USC and Texas are currently Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, in the AP, coaches’ and Harris polls. The Harris and coaches’ poll each count for one-third of a BCS average. A compilation of six computer rankings make up the other third. The Trojans and Longhorns have a huge lead in the polls and the computers.

Alabama is third in the coaches’ poll and fourth in the Harris and AP polls. Miami is third in the Harris and media polls and fourth in the coaches’ voting.

AP-ES-11-07-05 1550EST


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