College football's national championship picture is still fuzzy entering Week 10's action, but the latest BCS standings confirm the notion that there are three standout contenders.
It wasn't a question of which three programs would occupy the top spots in Sunday's edition of the rankings—only in what order. While the Alabama Crimson Tide remained No. 1 as expected, the Oregon Ducks bypassed the Florida State Seminoles for the second slot.
All three blew out their opponents this past weekend and haven't been in too grave of danger of having their perfect records blemished:
Alabama, Florida State, and Oregon are the only teams who have yet to trail in the 2nd half.— College GameDay (@CollegeGameDay) October 25, 2013
Let's take a closer look at each powerhouse and gauge their outlook for the remainder of the 2013 season.
No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide
Ever since a close call in the second game of the season at Texas A&M, the Crimson Tide have not been tested, and they have not given up more than 10 points to any other opponent this season.
That type of dominant defense has been complemented by a balanced offense triggered by seasoned senior quarterback A.J. McCarron. He may not get the attention that other high-profile signal-callers get, but McCarron is still getting it done, having thrown 16 touchdowns to just three interceptions.
Sophomore running back T.J. Yeldon is doing an exceptional job running the football, driving a Tide rushing attack that averages 210.8 yards per contest.
In the most recent 45-10 dismantling of Tennessee, Yeldon had two touchdowns in the first half amid a shocking unanswered points streak:
In the last 112 minutes of game clock played by Alabama, the Crimson Tide have outscored their opponents 104-0.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 26, 2013
There is no other way to put it—the defense continues to destroy opponents. The graphic below from the SEC Network's account Twitter illustrates the unit's dominance:
Alabama Defense This Season --> pic.twitter.com/wGoCgcsgDZ— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) October 28, 2013
Who has a better chance of beating Alabama?
A bye week is on tap for Nick Saban's bunch, but the biggest test since the Aggies comes to Tuscaloosa on Nov. 9: the 11th-ranked LSU Tigers, who Saban coached to the 2003 national championship.
Based on all the aforementioned numbers and Alabama's status as two-time defending national champions, it's hard to argue with the Tide's ranking atop the BCS at the moment.
Beating LSU will be easier in that it's at home, and the Tide's next big test is the regular-season finale on the road to face arch-rival Auburn.
The SEC Championship Game seems like an inevitability, where Alabama would be projected to face Missouri, whose one-loss record in the East would be good enough to punch a ticket to the Georgia Dome.
Beyond those two hurdles, not much stands between the Tide rolling to a third national championship appearance.
No. 2 Oregon Ducks
The first individual mentioned on the Crimson Tide was McCarron, but it's unavoidable to not mention the quarterback first with regard to these next two teams.
Oregon's Marcus Mariota is the Heisman Trophy favorite, according to ESPN.com's list. The sophomore certainly warrants such consideration after he keyed the Ducks on a 28-point romp in the second half to blow out UCLA 42-14.
With as many plays as Mariota has generated, what has stood out is his ball security:
Wow stat: #Oregon QB Marcus Mariota has 33 total TDs (and a 9-0 record) since the last time he threw an INT— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) October 26, 2013
Mariota has kept Oregon's up-tempo scheme operating at a high level even with previous head coach Chip Kelly's departure to the NFL.
The Ducks proved to be a rather complete team on Saturday, though, shutting down a viable Bruins offense led by quarterback Brett Hundley, who did run for 72 yards and a touchdown but threw for only 64 yards and two interceptions.
A road trip to face Pac-12 rival Stanford looms in Week 10, where Oregon will look to avenge last year's home loss to the Cardinal.
The physicality of Stanford's front seven threatens to pose problems for the visiting Ducks and derail their national title aspirations for a second consecutive season. However, this 2013 team should be up to the task but must be careful of a home contest against Utah, which handed the Cardinal their only loss.
Beyond that, traveling to Arizona shouldn't be difficult given that the Wildcats lost to the likes of USC earlier this year, and an intriguing QB battle between Mariota and Sean Mannion of Oregon State caps off the season.
No one from the conference's South Division—particularly current leader Arizona State—should be able to outscore the Ducks in the championship game.
So while the road looks a bit more difficult for Oregon than Alabama, there are enough quality opponents remaining to allow the Ducks to hold on to the No. 2 spot if they emerge with zero losses.
No. 3 Florida State Seminoles
Across the board, this might be the most talented roster in the nation outside of Alabama's. Kirk Herbstreit of ESPN thought the Seminoles stacked up well enough to be among the two best teams in the country:
There is a different HUNGER and rage about this Noles squad. VERY focused after emotional win last week and big game vs Miami next week.— Kirk Herbstreit (@KirkHerbstreit) October 26, 2013
Freshman phenom Jameis Winston is second on ESPN.com's aforementioned Heisman ballot and for good reason.
Winston is averaging 11.9 yards per pass attempt and has accounted for 26 total touchdowns. The Seminoles found pay dirt five times in the first quarter of Saturday's 49-17 romp over North Carolina State.
Although Florida State has only played two ranked teams this season ahead of the impending ACC showdown with Miami, it has outscored those opponents, Maryland and Clemson, by a combined 114-14.
That's bad news for the Hurricanes as they enter Doak Campbell Stadium this weekend.
It remains to be seen if this loaded team can do enough to get past Oregon for the shot to take on Alabama for a championship, especially playing in a weaker conference. Beyond Miami, no currently ranked challengers remain on the schedule.
So while FSU may have the easiest path to an undefeated record, it may not have the leverage to overtake the Ducks in the event that neither team loses a game.