1. Competition, please: Finally, a weekend with real potential to reshape the rankings and shake up the national championship race. Four games match ranked teams, highlighted by No. 6 LSU at No. 9 Georgia. Eight more ranked teams play road games of varying degrees of difficulty.
Last weekend’s schedule produced mostly blowouts. The top 14 teams in the AP Top 25 held their spots, and no team moved up more than one place. Saturday could end with a couple of teams saying goodbye to their national championship hopes, and maybe a few new teams being taken more seriously as contenders.
Georgia wraps up the toughest September schedule in the country with its third game against a top-10 opponent. The Bulldogs (2-1) split with Clemson and South Carolina and now face LSU.
No. 1 Alabama faces No. 21 Mississippi. The Rebels spread it out and play fast like Texas A&M, but Ole Miss presents very different challenges.
No. 4 Ohio State faces its first test when No. 24 Wisconsin visits.
No. 22 Notre Dame is an underdog for the second straight season to No. 14 Oklahoma. Of course, that didn’t stop the Fighting Irish from beating the Sooners in Norman last year. Any hope the Irish have of getting back to the BCS title game would be dashed with a second loss.
2. BCS buster? For much of the last decade there has been one almost each season. A year ago it was Northern Illinois, which lost to Florida State in the Orange Bowl. In 2010, you had TCU beating Wisconsin in the Rose. The year before that, TCU lost to fellow party-crasher Boise State in the Fiesta. In 2008, it was Utah over Alabama in the Sugar. In 2007, Georgia beat Hawaii in the Sugar. In 2006, it was Boise over Oklahoma in that epic overtimer in the Fiesta. And in 2004, it began with Urban Meyer and Utah over Pitt in the Fiesta.
The likeliest next candidate is No. 25 Fresno State, which is ranked for the first time since 2008. The Bulldogs opened with a 52-51 overtimer over Rutgers and just snapped a seven-game losing streak against Boise, 41-40.
A team needs to finish in the top 12 of the final BCS rankings to earn an invitation to one of the five major bowls. Since the current BCS formula was implemented in 2004 no unbeaten team has finished outside the top 12. The school has launched a Heisman Trophy campaign for quarterback Derek Carr, whose brother David finished fifth in 2001.
Tracking the Top 25
Saturday’s game ... comments where deserving
No. 1 Alabama (3-0) vs. No. 21 Mississippi (3-0), 6:30 p.m.
Bama has won nine straight in the series, but Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace is thinking upset: “I think we can put points on them. I think we can put points on anybody.”
No. 2 Oregon (3-0) vs. California (1-2), 10:30 p.m.
Moment of silence will be observed before Cal game to acknowledge death of the huddle. Ducks have scored 66, 59 and 59 this season, but Cal has “held” them to about 40 in their past four meetings (all Ducks wins).
No. 3 Clemson (3-0) vs. Wake Forest (2-2), 3:30 p.m.
Tiger paw helmet sticker awarded to official who ruled N.C. State’s Bryan Underwood stepped out on run.
No. 4 Ohio State (4-0) vs. No. 24 Wisconsin (3-1), 8 p.m.
OSU’s Kenny Guiton might be the first QB benched after throwing six touchdowns in one half.
No. 5 Stanford (3-0) at Washington State (3-1), 10 p.m.
No. 6 LSU (4-0) at No. 9 Georgia (2-1), 3:30 p.m.
If Georgia loses, it will be the best 2-2 team in the country.
No. 8 Florida State (3-0) at Boston College (2-1), 3:30 p.m.
Jameis Winston has 8 TD passes and 14 incompletions. Jimbo can live with that ratio.
No. 10 Texas A&M (3-1) at Arkansas (3-1), 7 p.m.
Rutgers QB Gary Nova had his way against Arkansas last week. That has to make the Razorbacks defensive coordinator feel good about Saturday’s mission.
No. 11 Oklahoma State (3-0) at West Virginia (2-2), Noon
“When you're going to go on the road and play against 50, 60, 70,000 people who don't like you and want you to fail, you have to get excited for that,” OSU QB J.W. Walsh said. “There's not a better feeling almost than being able to go out there and shut up 70,000 people.”
No. 12 South Carolina (2-1) at UCF (3-0), Noon
Blake Bortles might be best QB Gamecocks face this season, and their pass defense has been shaky.
No. 14 Oklahoma (3-0) at No. 22 Notre Dame (3-1), 3:30 p.m.
It’s a fact, Norman: Sooners are 1-9 in all-time series against Notre Dame.
No. 15 Miami (3-0) at South Florida (0-3), Noon
Tampa is a recruiting gold mine. So is Miami-Dade County. One of these schools is doing a much, much better job of keeping that talent at home.
No. 16 Washington (3-0) vs. Arizona (3-0), 7 p.m.
No. 20 Florida (2-1) at Kentucky (1-2), 7 p.m.
Gators starting QB Jeff Driskel is out for season and last year’s backup, Jacoby Brissett, is at N.C. State.
No. 25 Fresno State (3-0) at Hawaii (0-3), Midnight
Now that’s a big screen
A Miami Hurricanes fan won an 80-inch TV last week, part of a weekly promotion in which a South Florida store gives away a TV that matches the Hurricanes’ point total. Miami scored 77.
Number to know
33.53 Average points per game thus far for ACC teams, helped by a record five teams topping 50 last week. Last year they set a scoring record by averaging 29.55.
The Final Word
“They want to be forgiven, to forget and to move on. That's understandable in most cases, but not in this one. The point of the ground-breaking NCAA sanctions was that Penn State – and all of us – would never forget. Moving on should be extremely difficult. The punishment was right the first time.”
- USA Today columnist Christine Brennan, reacting to the NCAA reducing its penalties against Penn State.
The Associated Press, Los Angeles Times, Philadelphia Inquirer and Washington Post contributed to this report.