Not long ago, it seemed the regular season might end with a logjam of undefeated teams at the top of the BCS standings.
Who was going to be beat Wisconsin? Or Clemson? And wouldn't Oklahoma waltz into Stillwater on Dec. 3 for a Big 12 battle of unbeatens against Oklahoma State?
Now after two weeks in which the number of undefeated teams has dropped from 10 to six, one loss doesn't seem like a death sentence for a team's national title hopes. Hear that LSU and Alabama fans? And Boise State getting into the BCS championship game isn't such a long shot anymore, either.
The fifth-ranked Broncos nearly had one of the great off weeks in the history of college football.
Landry Jones and No. 7 Oklahoma throttling Kansas State 58-17 was good news, but certainly not unexpected. Kansas State raced to a 7-0 start by making the most of a roster that has some limitations. The Sooners exploited those shortcomings and the Wildcats might be looking at more of the same at No. 3 Oklahoma State on Saturday. Jones threw for 505 against the Wildcats. Conservatively pencil Brandon Weeden in for 350.
Still, any time an undefeated team from an automatic-qualifying conference loses Boise State fans should smile.
The Broncos had to be glowing for a while Saturday night. Tevin Washington and Georgia Tech's option offense confounded No. 11 Clemson in a 31-17 victory in Atlanta.
The Tigers, who were poised to pass the Broncos in the BCS standings, now move to the back of the line.
It would have been noteworthy, too, that Ohio State beat Wisconsin on a late long touchdown pass, but considering Michigan State did the same to the Badgers a week earlier only the Big Ten race was further muddled by the conference's latest fantastic finish.
Speaking of the Big Ten, the only team undefeated in that league is No. 16 Penn State (8-1, 5-0). Who saw that coming three weeks ago?
As Clemson was coming apart, Southern California had Andrew Luck and No. 4 Stanford teetering. A rare telegraphed throw by Luck was returned 33 yards for a touchdown by Nickell Robey to give USC a 34-27 lead with 3:08 left.
Luck, not in the least bit flustered, led Stanford back to tie, then to a 56-48 win in triple overtime.
"We talked about fighting adversity," Stanford coach David Shaw said. "I didn't know there was going to be this much adversity, but the kids fought through, and I love them to death for it."
If form holds, Oklahoma State and Stanford will jostle for a spot in the national title game against the winner of Saturday's mega-showdown between No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
But Stanford's defense had issues against USC and Oklahoma State's defense has had issues against pretty much everyone _ ranked 111th in the nation.
Oregon (7-1), which plays at Stanford on Nov. 12, and Oklahoma (7-1) will be serious threats to knock off their unbeaten conference rivals, and if they do, the Ducks and Sooners are right back in the championship race. Along with the loser of Tigers vs. Tide.
And then there's Boise State. The only daunting game left on the Broncos' schedule is a home date against Mountain West Conference rival TCU on Nov. 12. No team, other than maybe Houston in Conference USA, has a better shot at finishing the season unbeaten.
That hasn't been enough to get the Broncos in the national title game before, but now, it doesn't seem like such a stretch.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Washington running back Chris Polk scored five touchdowns in a 42-31 victory against Arizona on Saturday night and became the first player in Washington history with 100 yards rushing and receiving in a game.
Polk is far from an unknown commodity. He was second-team All-Pac 10 last year and he's now had three 1,000-yard rushing seasons, matching Napoleon Kaufman as the only player in school history to pull off that feat.
Still, for a guy who is so talented and has already done so much, Polk doesn't seem to get much attention nationally.
"Chris Polk is just a fantastic player," Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said. "I think you guys can start to write articles about Chris because he deserves it."
OK, consider this a start.
_ New Florida coach Will Muschamp is trying to jam spread-offense parts into pro-style holes and his frustration with the shoddy results _ the Gators have lost four straight for the first time since 1988 _ was apparent after the 24-20 loss to Georgia.
"We're not close," Muschamp said. "It's very difficult to run a power running game with who we have. I like the guys we've got, but it's just the bottom line when you look at some situations of where we are. It doesn't take anybody real educated to figure it out right now. Sometimes it does."
_ According to the Big Ten, Penn State is the first team in the 116-year history of the league to win five straight games, all in conference play, by 10 points or fewer.
_ At this point, it would be shocking if second-year Kansas coach Turner Gill keeps his job past this season. The Jayhawks had three first downs and 46 yards in a 43-0 loss to Texas. Kansas (2-6, 0-5) has lost six in a row. Remember when there was so much consternation among some fans when Auburn hired Gene Chizik instead of Gill?
Have you heard that there will be a 1 vs. 2 game in Tuscaloosa on Saturday?
Aside from the LSU-Alabama game, No. 8 Arkansas (7-1) is at No. 10 South Carolina. The Gamecocks lead the SEC East but a loss here could put second-place Georgia in the driver's seat.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP