Saturday marks the Atlantic Coast Conference’s big moment in the sun — fifth-ranked Florida State at No. 3 Clemson. Winner of that game will close some ground on the Nos. 1-2 teams in the country, Alabama and Oregon, especially if that team wins convincingly.
There are people predicting (gasp) that the last BCS title game in January won’t include an SEC team, the theory being that Alabama isn’t of the ilk of recent teams and the leaders of the ACC are more legit than in past years.
As for that latter postulate, let’s hope so. If the ACC finds itself embroiled in a losing controversy against Alabama and Oregon — in a scenario where three teams finish undefeated — the league has nobody to blame but its own history. Somehow, the league has managed to go 3-13 in BCS games. (The next-worst performance is the Big 12’s 9-11.)
But keep an eye on one contingency: The debate would be hot and heavy if there’s an undefeated ACC team vying for a spot in the national-title game against a one-loss hopeful from the SEC.
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Best of Saturday’s games, chronologically:
Florida (AP No. 22) at Missouri (14), 9:21 a.m., ESPN3: Somehow, this game didn’t make it onto TV, so if you’re dying to see it, you’ll have to stream. Maty Mauk, Missouri redshirt freshman, takes over for injured James Franklin at quarterback, so it’s not likely the Tigers (6-0) crack Florida’s (4-2) 13-game streak of holding SEC opponents to 20 points or fewer.
Auburn (24) at Texas A&M (7), 12:30 p.m., Ch. 7: Auburn’s 5-1 record might be a bit illusory; it’s played five of those six at home, and the only quality win came against Ole Miss. But it’s the No. 7 rushing offense nationally, and A&M (5-1) is No. 104 at stopping it. Johnny Manziel is completing 73 percent of his passes with a 14-5 touchdown-interception ratio, with a team-leading 438 yards a game rushing.
UCLA (9) at Stanford (13), 12:30 p.m., Ch. 4: They’re in opposite divisions, but they’re fellow California schools, and it feels like a power shift is possible here. Stanford’s offense has lately been sluggish and unimpressive, and now its kicker, Jordan Williamson, might be out with a bad leg.
Washington (20) at Arizona State, 3 p.m., Pac-12 Networks: If it’s true what Gil Brandt, longtime NFL college talent evaluator, says about ASU defensive tackle Will Sutton, it’s good news for the Huskies. Wrote Brandt on NFL.com: “I think Sutton added a lot of bad weight in the offseason, which resulted in lost quickness.”
This much is fact: A year ago, when he was Pac-12 defensive player of the year, Sutton had 23.5 tackles for loss and 13 sacks. This year, those totals have dwindled to 2.5 and one.
Huge, potentially season-defining game for the Huskies.
USC at Notre Dame, 4:30 p.m., Ch. 5: A daunting challenge for Trojans interim coach Ed Orgeron: Only two USC coaches have won their debut games against Notre Dame (John Robinson, 1976, and Paul Hackett, 1998), and neither did it on the road. So the list that came up short in either venue includes Howard Jones (1926), John McKay (1960) and Pete Carroll (2001).
The Irish, who have won eight straight games decided by a touchdown or less, feature reserve running back Amir Carlisle, who transferred from USC. According to the USC sports-information department, via The LA Times, there have been only four transfers in history between the schools, and only one who played in the game on the rebound — receiver Speedy Hart, in 1980, for the Trojans.
Florida State (5) at Clemson (3), 5 p.m., Ch. 4: The quarterback duel, Clemson’s Tajh Boyd against FSU’s Jameis Winston, will be compelling — each has thrown only two interceptions. Winston has already faced Clemson in baseball, where he is a switch-hitting center fielder and pitcher.
The series has been home-oriented, with just one win in the past 11 games by the visitor.
Washington State at Oregon (2), 7 p.m., Fox Sports1: Oregon’s pink helmets, homage to the campaign against breast cancer, promise to be provocative. But when aren’t the Ducks?
Cougars have been salty the past three years in this game, if you can be salty while allowing 43, 43 and 51 points.
Utah at Arizona, 7 p.m., Pac-12 Networks: Homebody Utes could be disoriented, as they’re leaving the state for the first time in 2013, marking the latest that’s happened since 1947. At halftime, they’re going to honor Tedy Bruschi of Desert Swarm renown, before his induction this year into the College Football Hall of Fame. Arizona, which didn’t force a turnover last week at USC, has won 16 straight when winning the take-away battle.
Oregon State at California, 7:30 p.m., ESPN2: No doubt there will be a big cheering section for OSU quarterback Sean Mannion, who played at Foothill High in Pleasanton in the East Bay. Cal has elevated fleet freshman runner Khalfani Muhammad (5 feet 8, 175 pounds) to a starting role in a season of severe growing pains. Beavers could notch their third league road win to open a season for the first time since 1939.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org