Buckeyes hold top spot in BCS debut

NEW YORK -- Ohio State has been here before, leading the Bowl Championship Series standings. For second-place South Florida, it's another breakthrough in a season full of them.

The Buckeyes and Bulls held the first two spots in the first BCS standings on the season released Sunday. The top two teams in the final standings released Dec. 2 will play in the national title game in New Orleans on Jan. 7.

The Buckeyes (7-0) can thank the poll voters for making them No. 1. Ohio State is No. 1 in both the coaches' poll and the Harris poll, which are two of the three components the BCS uses in its standings formula. Ohio State was also the new No. 1 team in the AP Top 25.

"It's always nice to be in the top position, but we know it doesn't mean anything now in week 8," Ohio State tackle Kirk Barton said. "We'll see at the end of November how things stand."

The defending Big Ten champions know all too well that leading the BCS standings doesn't guarantee a national title. The Buckeyes were first in the BCS standings all last season, but they lost the national title game, 41-14, to Florida.

The final third of a team's BCS grade comes from a compilation of six computer rankings, and that's where the Bulls (6-0) scored big. The computers have USF as the top team in the country. The Bulls are third behind Boston College in the coaches' and Harris polls, though they are No. 2 in the AP poll by a comfortable margin over BC.

The Bulls, out of the Big East, had never been ranked before this season and the school only started playing football 11 years ago. Now coach Jim Leavitt's team is in the thick of the national title race.

Ohio State, tied for fifth in the computer rankings, has a BCS average of .942 out of a possible score of 1.000. USF's BCS average is .920.

Boston College (7-0), seventh according to the computers, is third in the BCS with a .891 average. LSU (.840) and Oklahoma (.762) round out the top five.

• COLLEGE BASKETBALL -- Indiana basketball coach Kelvin Sampson will not receive a $500,000 raise and his team will lose one scholarship for next season after violating NCAA-imposed sanctions on phone calls.

The action announced by the school Sunday was the second time in 17 months Sampson has been penalized for improper phone calls.

The NCAA banned him from off-campus recruiting for one year in May 2006 when the infractions committee ruled Sampson made 577 impermissible calls from 2000 to 2004 while at Oklahoma. As part of the penalty, Sampson was also banned from participating in three-way calls.

• PRO TENNIS -- Serena Williams was undone by a slew of errors and lost the Kremlin Cup final 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 to Elena Dementieva, who won her hometown tournament on the third attempt.

Top-seeded Nikolay Davydenko gave Russia a sweep of the men's and women's titles by beating Paul-Henri Mathieu of France 7-5, 7-6 (9) and winning this event for the second straight year. This was the first title of the year for Davydenko, who also won this tournament in 2004.

• Defending champion Maria Sharapova has pulled out of the Zurich Open, which starts today, because of a lingering shoulder injury.

The fourth-ranked Russian announced the withdrawal on her Web site Sunday.

• PRO BASKETBALL -- Alec Kessler, a Georgia basketball star who played four seasons for the Miami Heat before becoming an orthopedic surgeon, died after collapsing during a pickup game. He was 40.

He appeared to have had a heart attack Saturday in Pensacola, Fla., and was pronounced dead a short time later at Gulf Breeze Hospital, the university said.