- Mark Schlabach, ESPN Senior Writer
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WACO, Texas -- Overshadowed by the SEC's dominance over the past seven seasons, the Big 12 and Pac-12 finally took center stage on Thursday night, with a pair of top-10 matchups earning the conferences the spotlight from coast to coast.
And the ACC won.
No. 5 Stanford stunned No. 3 Oregon for the second season in a row, winning 26-20 at Stanford Stadium, all but knocking the Ducks out of the race for a spot in the last BCS National Championship, which will be played at the Rose Bowl on Jan. 6. Last season, the Cardinal upset the Ducks 17-14 in overtime, spoiling what looked like a clear path to play for a national title.
Oregon's surprising loss opens the door for No. 2 Florida State to possibly play for its first national championship since 1999 -- if the Seminoles don't slip in their final four regular-season games or in the Dec. 7 ACC championship game in Charlotte, N.C. After blasting then-No. 7 Miami 41-14 last week, the Seminoles jumped the Ducks in the Bowl Championship Series standings, but their place among the top two teams only seemed temporary, at least until Oregon defeated Stanford.
Now that the Ducks have fallen, FSU might have the easiest path during the last month of the regular season among the BCS contenders. After playing at Wake Forest on Saturday, the Seminoles host Syracuse and Idaho and then close the regular-season slate at struggling Florida on Nov. 30.
Oregon's loss might also put FSU quarterback Jameis Winston at the top of the Heisman Trophy race. Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota came into the week as the perceived Heisman frontrunner, but his team's loss to Stanford puts a serious dent in his credentials.
With Thursday's doubleheader in the rear-view mirror, two-time defending BCS national champion Alabama is now on the BCS clock. The Crimson Tide host No. 13 LSU in Tuscaloosa on Saturday in what might be their biggest obstacle left in their quest for an unprecedented third consecutive BCS title.
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1dKevin Gemmell and Erik McKinney