With Stanford’s offensive disappearing act at Washington in Thursday night college football action, we can effectively scratch off both a national title contender and a Heisman Trophy contender in one shot.

Ranked eight going in, the previously unbeaten Cardinal were looking at having to leapfrog their way into the BCS fray regardless. But it was doable before; now, no. Same deal with Stepfan Taylor on the individual hardware – his chances suffered a killshot less than two weeks after singlehandedly carrying Stanford past Southern Cal to grab some much-deserved attention, as the senior RB was outshone by the Huskies’ Bishop Sankey.

Who? Exactly the point …

With the SEC stacking the deck on the field and in the rankings, we’re not likely to see championship acclaim reach outside of Tuscaloosa, Ala., Baton Rouge, La., or even, say, Columbia, S.C. But it’s nice for the rest of the country to believe it’s possible. Stanford was a great story, and has emerged as arguably the ultimate “collegiate” program, whereby brilliant minds blend with great athleticism often in the same individuals. It still is. It just isn’t going to have the fairytale ending.

Unless, of course, the likes of Alabama implodes or fellow Pac-12 power Oregon suddenly runs out of that high-octane stuff that fuels its attack.

Taylor, though, kinda had a legit shot. The Heisman race, really, has been wide open. The preseason favorite, USC QB Matt Barkley, hadn’t exactly lit the world on fire before Taylor and Co. down the Trojans two weeks ago in humbling fashion. So his non-factor outing in Seattle was bit a disappointing.

It does, however, narrow the field somewhat.

Oh sure, we’ll hear names tossed in from the big-name schools because they’re from big-name schools, or have the proverbial defensive stalwarts thrown into the mix just to make things seem a bit more “fair.” But at this point, how many true standouts do we have?

The count here says two: West Virginia QB Geno Smith and fellow triggerman EJ Manuel of Florida State.

Smith has been a sensation since the opening snap of the season, throwing for 1,072 yards and 12 TDs – and no picks – in three games. If anything, he’d be the runaway choice at the moment … if not for Manuel’s electrifying, wake-up-the-nation outing last week in leading the Seminoles past Clemson in a showdown of top-10 ACC teams. The senior threw for 380 yards, ran for another 102, directly accounting for two TDs and paving the way to five others in a performance that, frankly, dwarfed any single-game effort posted by Charlie Ward or Chris Weinke, the two Heisman winners in FSU history.

Smith gets one of the weekend’s showcase contests to strut his stuff this time around as No. 25 Baylor, displaying some surprising staying power after the departure of 2011 Heisman winner Robert Griffin III, visits the ninth-ranked Mountaineers today. Manuel, meanwhile, and FSU may be looking at a “trap” game when they travel to Tampa to take on South Florida this evening.

The Bulls are coming off back-to-back losses, but they have talent, they’re at home and they shouldn’t be overwhelmed at just the name “Seminoles.” After all, last time they met, back in 2009 at Tallahassee, USF won 17-7.


- Just a gut feeling, but the real “trap” game this weekend seems to be looming in the desert, where Arizona hosts No. 18 Oregon State. The Beavers have been tremendous thus far, posting upset victories over Wisconsin and UCLA, both of whom were ranked at the time. But playing in Tucson at night is a little different than basking in the SoCal sun for a few hours or being at home.

Strange things can happen, pro or con … and the Wildcats, right about this time last week, were quite a story themselves before making a stop at Oregon, getting annihilated and seeing their ranking go poof.

- The “main” game this weekend has No. 14 Ohio State at No. 20 Michigan State. Yawn. If ever the Big Ten could be infused with some excitement, this is the season. Just don’t except either of these two squads to do it. Hard to believe, but somehow that Buckeyes have managed to make a multi-faceted talent like Braxton Miller appear boring … even as he saves their offensive behinds each week.

If the Spartans ever lost RB Le’Veon Bell they’d have no offense at all. Of course, now that the aforementioned has been pointed out, expect fireworks in East Lansing, Mich., this afternoon.