By RALPH D. RUSSO
The Associated Press
MIAMI – Southern California went back-to-back and wire-to-wire.
The Trojans became the second team to start and finish the season No. 1 in The Associated Press Top 25, receiving all but three first-place votes early Wednesday to easily outdistance Auburn.
On the strength of a resounding 55-19 victory over Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, USC (13-0) became the first team since Nebraska in 1994-95 to win back-to-back AP titles.
“We are now unanimously No. 1,” Orange Bowl MVP Matt Leinart said right after the game.
Not quite, but good enough.
USC received 62 first-place votes and 1,622 points. Auburn got the other first-place votes and 1,559 points.
“It’s probably hard for you to imagine, but we took this thing in stride, step by step as we went through,” USC coach Pete Carroll said. “We didn’t talk about national championship very much, the players probably did some.”
The Sooners (12-1) finished third, ahead of unbeaten Utah (12-0) and Texas (11-1).
Auburn (13-0) finished its perfect season Monday night with a 16-13 victory over Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl.
Tigers coach Tommy Tuberville and his team practically pleaded with poll voters to give his team a championship, but to no avail.
The Trojans’ 36-point rout was the third largest margin in a 1 vs. 2 matchup.
USC joins Florida State in 1999 as the only teams to go wire-to-wire since the AP started a preseason poll in 1950. The Trojans are also the 10th preseason No. 1 to win the national championship.
The Trojans’ fifth AP title ties them with Miami for the fourth most.
Louisville was No. 6, followed by Georgia, Iowa, California and Virginia Tech.
Miami was 11th and for the first time since 1982, no team from Florida ended the season ranked among the nation’s top five.
Florida State (9-3) finished ranked 15th and Florida (7-5) ended the season unranked.
Boise State’s first loss of the season to Louisville in the Liberty Bowl dropped the Broncos two spots to No. 12.
Navy made it into the rankings for the first time since 1979 at No. 24. Fresno State also joined the poll at 22.