And then there were two.
After a week that saw Oregon — then second in the human polls — lose to fifth-ranked Stanford 26-20, it now seems that Alabama and Florida State are on a collision course toward Pasadena, Calif., on Jan. 6.
Alabama maintained its top spot in the latest Bowl Championship Series standings, FSU is now second and Ohio State — behind .069 in the standings — is a distant third. Stanford moves up to fourth, Baylor is fifth, Oregon drops to sixth and Auburn, Clemson, Missouri and South Carolina round out the top 10.
Miami dropped to 23rd following its loss to Virginia Tech.
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Headed into last week, Oregon seemed destined to pass Florida State if it could just win out.
Not so fast. Stanford jumped out to a 26-0 lead over Oregon on Thursday night, and the Ducks — despite a late rally — couldn’t claw back into the game.
By kickoff Saturday the drama was already gone. All FSU and Alabama had to do was win, and both had little trouble doing it. The Tide ran away with its game against LSU late, winning 38-17, and Florida State was up on Wake Forest 42-0 at the half and cruised easily to a 59-3 win in Winston-Salem, N.C.
By the end of the night on Saturday it was clear: There’s Alabama and Florida State — No. 1 and No. 2 — and then everyone else.
The AP poll, USA Today coaches’ poll and Harris poll all confirmed that Sunday morning. And while Ohio State and Baylor both have cases, neither has looked as complete — nor as dominant — as the Tide and Seminoles have all season.
Now the biggest challenge facing the front-runners the rest of the way is their own complacency. As winners of three of the past four national championships, Alabama has proved it can stay sharp. Florida State, which has a history of troubling upsets in recent years, has not.
And now with Heisman trophy front-runner Jameis Winston at the helm and their path to a title game in their own hands the pressure will be greater than ever for the Seminoles.
“I hope it doesn’t matter. And it shouldn’t matter. Where we’re at shouldn’t matter,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said on Saturday. “How we play and how we prepare is what should matter. And if [our players] ever believe in our system, if they ever believe in eliminating the clutter, if they believe in what we’re teaching, now is the time.’’
So far FSU has seemed unfazed by success. On Saturday — just 36 hours after watching Oregon fall — the Seminoles demolished Wake Forest, holding the Demon Deacons to just 166 total yards and forcing seven turnovers as Wake’s quarterbacks combined for a .001 total quarterback rating (the lowest total in more than a decade).
“It’s no pressure at all, we’re actually just trying to get wins,” Winston said after throwing two more touchdowns Saturday. “That’s all it’s about. The Heisman and all the individual accolades — that’s going to come up at the end of the season — but the way this team is playing right now, I just really hope we keep doing what we’re doing.
“Because the way we’re playing right now, we’re playing like a championship team.”