It got off to an unexpected start, and it ended with something we’re used to seeing, a Crimson Tide stomping. Thursday night was billed as a huge night, and it lived up to it. First, Baylor announced itself as a legitimate threat, blowing out traditional power, Oklahoma. Then, for the second straight year Stanford ended Oregon’s title hopes while lifting its own.
In between, we have six undefeated teams remaining, and four of them are still in the hunt for the final BCS championship. Due to its big win, though, everyone’s still chasing Alabama.
- Alabama (9-0, 6-0; W 38-17 vs. LSU): The Tide rolls on. Alabama was definitely tested by LSU, but Alabama proved it’s still the class of the SEC. I came into this week strongly considering moving Florida State to No. 1 as they continue to dominate, but the Tide looked truly awesome Saturday night. This might be the best team Saban’s had there.
- Florida State (9-0, 7-0; W 59-3 @ Wake Forest): The Seminoles show exactly no signs of slowing down. Whatever doubt there was about Florida State disappeared, especially with the Oregon loss. It can easily be argued that no team in the country is playing as well as the Seminoles right now, and I think that’s a fair assessment of Jimbo Fisher’s team.
- Baylor (8-0, 5-0; W 41-12 vs. Oklahoma): Baylor spent the first half of the season posting other worldly numbers on offense and the Bears aren’t much worse on defense. The question was whether they could compete with the rest of the Big 12 elite. Test one: passed with flying colors. Baylor blew out Oklahoma, though they lost some key pieces in the process with injuries to WR Tevin Reese and RBs Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin.
- Ohio State (9-0, 5-0; Off): Sometimes an off week helps your position in the standings. Other times, it can hurt. The Buckeyes stood to gain this week after Oregon lost, but Baylor’s impressive win leaves Ohio State right where it started. All the Bucks can do is finish the job this year and do it in impressive fashion. It’ll still be tough for Baylor to make it through their closing gauntlet unscathed.
- Stanford (8-1, 6-1; W 26-20 vs. Oregon): David Shaw’s team will be the classic “lose early, work your way back into the title picture” team this year. The Cardinal dominated Oregon for about 50 minutes Thursday night and controlled the football for an incredible 45:30. Stanford can beat anyone. They just have to get the opportunity, which this year may not come.
- Oregon (8-1, 5-1; L 26-20 @ Stanford): Another year, same old story for the Ducks. Every year, Oregon is a front runner for the national championship, and every year the Ducks seem to finish with a single loss that keeps them out of that game. Not only that, with the loss to division rival Stanford, the Oregon is set to miss the Pac 12 championship game for a second straight season.
- Clemson (8-1, 6-1; Off): The slim hope of an ACC Championship game appearance was shut down by Florida State’s dominant win against Wake Forest, but the Tigers spent the off week preparing for a three-game closing stretch that could get them into a BCS game anyway. The Tigers play Georgia Tech and The Citadel before a huge match up with arch rival South Carolina. If they win all three, don’t be surprised to see them get an at-large.
- Texas A&M (8-2, 4-2; W 51-41 vs. Mississippi State): The Aggies win again, but it’s getting increasingly more difficult to trust a team who relies on two players (Johnny Manziel/Mike Evans) to win them games. This defense giving up 41 points to Mississippi State? The most the Bulldogs scored in an SEC game this year before Saturday 28, against Kentucky. Also, A&M fans better savor what they have right now because Head Coach Kevin Sumlin won’t talk about the USC job, and Manziel is likely out the door.
- Missouri (9-1, 5-1; W 48-17 @ Kentucky): Missouri continued its dominance of the SEC East doormats with a thrashing of Kentucky. QB James Franklin, injured in the Georgia game, is close to coming back, but how good has true freshman back up Maty Mauk been? Against the Wildcats he was 17-28, throwing for 203 yards and five touchdowns.
- Auburn (9-1, 6-1; W 55-23 @ Tennessee): The Tigers were awesome at Tennessee, scoring the most they ever have against the Vols. This performance was particularly impressive because of how competitive Tennessee has been at home this year. Other than a blowout loss to Oregon, they were 4-1 at Neyland Stadium, beating South Carolina and losing in Overtime to Georgia.
- Oklahoma State (8-1, 5-1; W 42-6 vs. Kansas): That game against West Virginia becomes more confusing every week. The Cowboys are running roughshod through the rest of the schedule right now, and they’ll need to keep it up to head to the BCS. Next up is Texas and then possibly a winner take all against Baylor.
- South Carolina (7-2, 5-2; Off): The Head Ball Coach got a chance to play a little golf this week with his Gamecocks resting up for the final stretch run. Missouri leads the SEC East, but with the Tigers having Ole Miss and Texas A&M still on the schedule, it’s USC that should be feeling good. Carolina needs to beat a Florida team that’s become almost laughable, and if the Tigers lose once, it’s a trip to the SEC Championship for Steve Spurrier.
- UCF (7-1, 4-0; W 19-14 vs. Houston): The BCS dream lives on for the Knights after a nail biter win against Houston. It took a red zone stand from UCF in the final 20 seconds to improve to 7-1, but they did it, and with that are alone in 1st place in the AAC. With a remaining schedule of Temple, Rutgers, USF and SMU only the Knights can stop the BCS party at this point.
- LSU (7-3, 3-3; L 38-17 @ Alabama): The Tigers put up a good fight, but LSU just didn’t have the defensive power to slow down the grind-it-out scheme of Alabama. The Tigers have to be the best three-loss team in the country. They were definitely in the game most of the way. They just aren’t as good as the Tide right now, and neither is almost anyone else.
- Louisville (8-1, 4-1; W 31-10 @ UConn): I can’t decide if Louisville’s just not as good as I thought or if they just aren’t the type to run up the score. A three touchdown win against winless Connecticut is nice, but don’t you think the Cardinals would want to use that game to get a little attention for their offense?
- Northern Illinois (9-0, 5-0; Off): Having a week off couldn’t have come at a much worse time for the Huskies from a media attention standpoint. QB Jordan Lynch had three straight record setting performances, and the Huskies were starting to get people to pay attention. With a week off, though, it allows voters and viewers to forget about the MAC’s best team. Hopefully they had some injuries to heal up to make the week worthwhile in some way.
- Wisconsin (7-2, 5-1; W 27-17 vs. BYU): The Badgers picked up a great non-conference win against BYU. The Cougars might be the best independent in the nation this year, and their running game was overpowered and overshadowed by Wisconsin’s impressive attack. The Badgers won’t play in the B1G Championship, but they could still sneak into the BCS at-large picture.
- Michigan State (8-1, 5-0; Off): The Spartans have plenty to be happy about after the dominant win against Michigan last week. Now they need to shut down their remaining schedule and set up an “unstoppable force vs. immovable object” B1G championship against Ohio State. MSU has probably the best defense in the country. If the offense keeps up a little bit, this is an extremely dangerous team.
- Fresno State (9-0, 6-0; W 48-10 @ Wyoming): The Bulldogs didn’t look so good early on, but like most good teams do, they got stronger as the game went on. The challenges are getting less and less to knock Fresno from the ranks of the unbeaten. Their toughest test is still to come in the season’s closing game against San Jose State. They should win, though, and they better hope for some losses to keep them in the BCS at-large picture.
- Arizona State (7-2, 5-1; W 20-19 @ Utah): A win’s a win for the Sun Devils. The same Utah stadium that claimed Stanford nearly brought down Arizona State. The Utes actually led 19-7 going into the 4th Quarter, but ASU dug deep and stayed in front of the pack in the Pac 12 South. The Sun Devils finish with Oregon State, UCLA and Arizona.
- Texas (7-2, 6-0; W 47-40 OT @ West Virginia): The Longhorns went into Morgantown and somehow survived, staying undefeated in the Big 12 and keeping hope a live for a BCS trip. Texas has flown under the radar ever since the embarrassing loss at BYU, but as they continue to pile up wins you can’t ignore them. We’ll see what they do in the next two weeks, though, with games against conference heavyweights Oklahoma State and Baylor.
- Oklahoma (7-2, 4-2; L 41-12 @ Baylor): The Sooners were totally exposed Thursday night in Waco. Yes, they have injuries and those replacements are inexperienced, but the Oklahoma offense was outclassed from start to finish by a Bears defense that has been overshadowed by its record breaking offense. Oklahoma better prepare itself for a trip a December bowl game because this season won’t last until the New Year.
- Virginia Tech (7-3, 4-2; W 42-24 @ Miami): Virginia Tech followed up two head shaking losses with their biggest win of the season, running all over wounded Miami. It seemed like every break that could go their way did, just the opposite of how it has been for Frank Beamer’s team. Miami was fumbling kick returns and hand offs and water bottles on the sideline. Tech now finds itself back in the hunt for an ACC Coastal title.
- UCLA (7-2, 4-2; W 31-26 @ Arizona): The Bruins weren’t particularly impressive for much of the game, but maybe Arizona actually is as good as their record. The best part for UCLA is that they are still well within the hunt for another Pac 12 South title. Arizona State leads the Bruins by one game, but they still have to play each other.
- Miami (7-2, 3-2; L 42-24 vs. Virginia Tech): Last week, Miami was dominated by a superior opponent. I’m not sure what happened this time around. The combination of rain, the loss of Duke Johnson, and horrible defense meant a loss to a Virginia Tech team coming off losses against Duke and Boston College. The ACC Coastal Division is officially in a shambles.
Others in consideration: Ball State (9-1, 6-0; W 44-24 vs. Central Michigan); USC (7-3, 4-2; W 62-28 vs. Cal); Nebraska (7-2, 4-1; W 17-13 @ Michigan); Minnesota (8-2, 4-2; W 24-10 vs. Penn State); Duke (7-2, 3-2; W 38-20 vs. NC State)