After two consecutive shakeup Saturdays, college football's Week 10 was low-key. There was the unbeaten matchup between Florida State and Miami, but based on the Seminoles' previous results, many were expecting something similar to the lopsided 41-14 score.
Five top-10 teams -- No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Oregon, No. 5 Stanford, No. 6 Baylor, No. 10 Oklahoma -- were off, and only two games -- No. 18 Oklahoma State at No. 15 Texas Tech and No. 22 Michigan State vs. No. 21 Michigan -- featured lower-ranked teams winning.
Going forward, the competition will heat up considerably. November promises big rivalry games, and most of the top teams have at least a couple of big games coming up. A look at some of the regular season land mines remaining for the top BCS National Championship contenders:
|No. 1 Alabama||Nov. 9 vs. No. 13 LSU, Nov. 30 at No. 11 Auburn|
|No. 2 Oregon||Nov. 7 at No. 5 Stanford, Nov. 23 at Arizona, Nov. 29 vs. Oregon State|
|No. 3 Florida State||Nov. 30 at Florida|
|No. 4 Ohio State||Nov. 30 at No. 21 Michigan|
|No. 5 Stanford||Nov. 7 vs. No. 2 Oregon, Nov. 16 at USC, Nov. 30 vs. No. 25 Notre Dame|
|No. 6 Baylor||Nov. 7 vs No. 10 Oklahoma, Nov. 16 vs. No. 15 Texas Tech, Nov. 23 at No. 18 Oklahoma State, Dec. 7 vs. Texas|
In addition to the games listed, five of the title contenders -- Baylor excluded -- will have to get through a conference championship game. Some teams have it easier than others, but there aren't any guarantees.
Anyone who was bored Saturday need not fear. The season's home stretch will provide plenty of entertainment.
Can No. 3 overtake No. 2?
Update: The Coaches Poll, one third of the BCS, is out, with Florida State picking off three first-place votes. If the Noles don't pass Oregon for this week, it will be very, very close.
The case for Florida State vs. Oregon and vice versa for the No. 2 spot has been the biggest storyline each week. And as long as both teams, along with Alabama, keep winning, it will continue. Unless one of these teams stumbles down the stretch, someone's getting left out in the cold and will be forced to commiserate with 2004 Auburn and assorted mid-majors.
And while Florida State could reclaim No. 2 for this week, Oregon's future schedule is simply more daunting than FSU's, starting this Thursday at No. 5 Stanford. Florida's plummet and the muddy ACC Coastal further hurt FSU's chances.
So is there any recent precedent for No. 2 dropping behind No. 3 late in the season without either team losing? There's good news and bad news for the 'Noles. It has happened, but it isn't likely to happen this year.
In 2008, Texas was No. 2 and Oklahoma was No. 3 in Week 13. The one-loss Sooners passed the one-loss Longhorns a week later. This came as the Sooners beat No. 2 Texas Tech and No. 12 Oklahoma State while the Horns played unranked Kansas, Baylor and Texas A&M. It was likely an earlier game against eventual No. 11 TCU that gave Oklahoma the schedule edge.
And in 2006, No. 3 USC jumped No. 2 Michigan heading into Week 13. The Trojans had knocked off three straight BCS-ranked teams -- No. 20 Oregon, No. 15 Cal and No. 5 Notre Dame -- while the Wolverines hadn't played a team that would finish ranked since Week 4.
Florida then jumped Michigan after beating No. 9 Arkansas in the SEC Championship, which gave the Gators one more win over a BCS top-20 team than Michigan had and one more win overall. (Also, voters might have wanted to avoid an Ohio State-Michigan rematch, though the computers also agreed with the switch.)
Unfortunately for Florida State, this season may play out more like 2004. USC, Oklahoma and Auburn were all undefeated and ranked nos. 1, 2 and 3 in 2004's Week 9. They all kept winning comparable games, and nothing changed in the standings. In all, the human polls held for a month and a half. Auburn was left out.
Florida State has likely already beaten all the ranked opponents it can beat, save a potential Miami rematch in the ACC title game. We already know Florida State's fate in the computers. If both teams remain unbeaten, Oregon will finish with that advantage. The Noles' hopes are for either Alabama or Oregon to lose or to continue destroying teams while Oregon stumbles here and there, thereby winning over the polls. The humans do count for two thirds of the BCS.
Florida State still has an excellent chance, but Oregon still has the long-term advantage.
Next week's BCS impact games
Play time's over. Week 11 features a few matchups of BCS hopefuls that will separate the contenders from the teams not yet ready for prime time.
LSU at Alabama
It doesn't have quite the cache as in recent years, but this is still a huge game. LSU would still need help to reach the SEC Championship Game, but a win over the Tide would get the Tigers back in the hunt for a possible BCS at-large berth. Alabama will stay at No. 1 as long as it keeps winning, but if the Tide fall at home to Les Miles' team, they'll need help of their own to get back into the top two before season's end.
Oregon at Stanford
The Ducks will have a Civil War showdown against Oregon State and a possible Pac-12 Championship Game, but Thursday night's game agianst Stanford is the last major test on their schedule. If they can get out of Palo Alto with a win, it would take a major upset to keep them out of the national title game. The Cardinal haven't been talked about much lately, but a win over Oregon would put them back in the race. They'd need losses from two of ‘Bama, Florida State and Ohio State, but they'd have a chance.
Oklahoma at Baylor
Can the Bears' offense continue to lay waste of opposing defenses? If they can put up big numbers against the Sooners, it'll be a good sign for Baylor's hopes down the stretch. The final four games are against Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, TCU and Texas, which means a perfect regular season and Big 12 title are a long way off. The Sooners have a more manageable schedule, and a win Thursday will keep them within striking distance of a conference championship or an at-large nod for a BCS bowl.
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