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Auburn receives three first-place votes

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.

"I know right now I'm in the middle of something special," USC
coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday morning after receiving both the
AP and Bowl Championship Series national title trophies.

"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," Carroll said earlier. "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.

"Anybody who thought that last night was a championship game, I beg to differ," Tuberville said Wednesday morning. "I'm
disappointed that with the type of team we had, as balanced as we
were, we did not get a chance to play in that game."

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.