Auburn vaults to top of BCS rankings

AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn’s meteoric rise has taken it to the top of the Bowl Championship Series rankings for the first time in school history.

The Tigers (8-0, 5-0 SEC) vaulted three spots to get to the top in the second week of the BCS rankings after their 24-17 win against then-No. 6 LSU on Saturday.

Auburn had never been higher than second in the 13-year history of the BCS, which takes into account two polls and an average of four different computer rankings to determine the top teams in college football.

The top two at the end of the year play for the national championship.

“It means a lot, especially for the guys that have been here for the five-win season and everything,” linebacker Craig Stevens said. “But coach always says you can’t focus on that, because once you start to do that you start to backslide, because you begin to think you’re better than what you really are.”

Auburn was first, followed by Oregon, Boise State, TCU and Michigan State.

Missouri, Alabama, Utah, Oklahoma and Wisconsin round out the top 10.

Tigers head coach Gene Chizik has tried to minimize the outside distractions that come with the lofty ranking.

“I can only control how we proceed in this building,” Chizik said. “We just had a team meeting and we talked about being very grounded and understanding that every week is a another new week and another opportunity. It probably sounds to them the same old sad song every Sunday, but that’s what we do.”

It might be easier said than done. Within seconds of news breaking Sunday night that Auburn was No. 1, safety Zac Etheridge’s phone started ringing. It wouldn’t stop as he prepared to do interviews with reporters.

“Yeah, everybody’s tweeting about it right now,” the senior said, putting his ringer on mute. “As a team, we don’t even think about it. That’s something to get our fans excited. We still got to go out each week and play. There’s just a No. 1 in front of Auburn when it’s on TV.”

The Tigers, who are ranked third in both the USA Today coaches’ and Harris polls, are the only team in the rankings with four wins against teams in the BCS Top 25 — No. 12 LSU, No. 19 Arkansas, No. 20 South Carolina and No. 21 Mississippi State.

Auburn rode the strength of the computers to the top spot, finishing first in three of the six rankings, second in two and third in the other. The highest and lowest rankings are thrown out.

It’s music to the ears of fans who suffered through the 2004 debacle, when the Tigers finished the regular season 12-0 but were left out of the national championship game for Southern California and Oklahoma, who led them in the rankings from the start.

Auburn hasn’t been ranked No. 1 in any poll since 1985.

The Tigers know the perils that come with it. In the last three weeks, a No. 1 team in the country has lost on the road.

Alabama lost at South Carolina and Ohio State lost at Wisconsin while atop the Associated Press and coaches’ polls. Oklahoma, the initial BCS No. 1, lost at Missouri on Saturday.

Auburn travels to Ole Miss on Saturday night. The Rebels are 3-4 this year, with a 1-3 SEC record.

“You don’t take no one lightly,” left guard Mike Berry said. “Everybody’s trying to win.”

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