A week from college football's end-of-season reckoning and Kansas State and Oregon, ranked first and second respectively in the BCS standings going into today's games, have taken their first losses of the season. The defeats likely pave the way for a new BCS leader in (gulp) Notre Dame, a 38-0 winner today against Wake Forest. They also open the door for Alabama—a surprise winner in its afternoon walk-through against Western Carolina—to re-enter the picture for the national championship. Notre Dame and Alabama both owe Baylor and Stanford big time.
Stanford has plenty to play for—as Kirk Herbstreit and Brent Musburger noted, they control their own destiny, and now actually have the same conference record as Oregon—but Baylor (5-5, 2-5 in the Big 12) was just playing spoiler. They played it terrifyingly well, jumping out to a 28-7 lead on #1 Kansas State and consistently stifling Heisman candidate Collin Klein. They ceded part of that lead before halftime—it was 28-17 after two—but it wasn't Kansas State's night. The Bears rolled, picking up 342 yards on the ground, picking off Klein three times, and winning 52-24. The BCS computers are a complex beast, but a 28-point late season loss to an unranked and underperforming Baylor team may hurt Kansas State's positioning somewhat.
Stanford and Oregon played a more pitched battle. Earlier in the day, we noted that the teams' strengths—Oregon, the best offense in the country, Stanford, the 12th best defense—contrasted and that, as announcers and analysts the world over demand, something would have to give. Something did: Oregon's offense, averaging a shade under 55 points per game, and around 660 yards, managed 14 points on 405 yards. Another Heisman candidate was stymied in Eugene: Kenjon Barner rushed for 66 yards. In the end, however, the difference could be found in the feet of the two kickers: Stanford's Jordan Williamson went 1/2 on field goals, including the game-winning make in overtime, while Oregon's Alejandro Maldonado, rarely called upon this season, missed his two tries, including one off the uprights that could have won it.
Above, the play that upended Oregon's season: Kevin Hogan to leading Stanford receiver Zach Ertz, on a catch that wasn't a catch until the refs spent some time in the replay booth really thinking about it. Stanford plays formidable UCLA next week away, while Oregon goes to Oregon State to face a team that's currently in the midst of a beat down of Cal. If both teams win, Stanford will own the tiebreak in the Pac-12 North.
If you weren't already excited for the last week of the college football season, look at it this way: a bunch of suddenly equal and really good teams are battling it out to make sure Notre Dame loses in the national championship game.