NC State

College football: Saturday morning national blitz 10.18.14

Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson (5) looks for an open receiver in the fourth quarter against North Carolina on Saturday, October 11, 2014 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana.
Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson (5) looks for an open receiver in the fourth quarter against North Carolina on Saturday, October 11, 2014 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana. rwillett@newsobserver.com

Hot reads

1. Mississippi (State) rising: Flash back to Sept. 14. Sixteen of the nation’s Top 25 teams were undefeated.

Duke and North Carolina were just outside the AP poll, both ranked ahead of a certain 3-0 team from Starkville, Miss., a team that plays its home games in a stadium just a tad smaller than Kenan Memorial.

Fast forward five weeks (and three consecutive wins over top 10 teams). Bedlam and cowbells.

Mississippi State has ascended to No. 1 for the first time in program history.

Unranked to unbelievable.

The Bulldogs are off this week, and coach Dan Mullen is doing his best to keep the lid sealed. It’s about the only thing he’s losing.

“Right now,” Mullen told Fox Sports, “we haven’t even guaranteed ourselves a winning season.”

2. Heisman watch: It’s Dak Prescott’s to lose, and at the rate this season is going, his biggest threat won’t come on the field. The Mississippi State QB threw two interceptions last week and gained ground as front-runner Todd Gurley’s bid ended with a suspension and top contender Marcus Mariota had his lowest throwing total of the season in a win against UCLA.

3. Random thought: What Ole Miss and Mississippi State are doing, in this era, in that league, is every bit as remarkable as Butler’s improbable run to consecutive NCAA championship games in basketball.

MSU AD Scott Stricklin seems to agree.

“You know, only having played half the year, this might be a strong word,” he told the Clarion-Ledger. “But it seems kind of magical.”

Tracking the Top 25

Saturday’s games ... comments where deserving.

No. 2 Florida State (6-0) vs. No. 5 Notre Dame (6-0), 8 p.m.: For those not turned off by the off-field headlines and suspensions at each program, consider this an Elite Eight matchup. Winner should cruise into the Final Four.

No. 3 Mississippi (6-0) vs. Tennessee (3-3), 7 p.m.: Point: Can’t spell “Look out!” without UT. What should be a welcome break for the Rebels has all the signs of a trap game. Counterpoint: You can’t spell “Shutout” without UT, either. Ole Miss is allowing just 11.8 points per game.

No. 4 Baylor (6-0) at West Virginia (4-2), Noon: Bears trailed then-No. 9 TCU 58-37 with 11:38 left in the fourth quarter. And won. How? They scored 4 TDs in 4 minutes, 32 seconds of possession time. Two of those scoring drives covered 90-plus yards. Mountaineers’ only losses are to Alabama and Oklahoma, which were ranked No. 2 and No. 4 at the time.

No. 7 Alabama (5-1) vs. No. 21 Texas A&M (5-2), 3:30 p.m.: Aggies have lost two straight, and Bryant-Denny Stadium isn’t exactly the preferred spot to try to end such slides. Bama hasn’t played well in a month, however, and Nick Saban is angry that fans are angry with last week’s one-point win.

No. 8 Michigan State (5-1) at Indiana (3-3), 3:30 p.m.: Spartans put up 45 on Purdue, the only time they’ve topped 27 against a Power 5 team this season.

No. 9 Oregon (5-1) vs. Washington (5-1), 8 p.m.: Ducks are ranked behind a Spartans team they beat by 19. Was that game an exhibition?

No. 10 Georgia (5-1) at Arkansas (3-3), 4 p.m.: Without Todd Gurley (suspended), Keith Marshall (hurt) and Sony Michel (hurt), Georgia still ran for 210 yards against a ranked SEC opponent, Missouri, at their place.

No. 11 Oklahoma (5-1) vs. No. 14 Kansas State (4-1), Noon: Don’t sleep on K-State. Only loss was to then-No. 5 Auburn. Must-win for Sooners’ Final Four hopes.

No. 12 TCU (4-1) vs. No. 15 Oklahoma State (5-1), 4 p.m.: Tough to fault the offense when you score 58, but in the fourth quarter, TCU punted twice and failed on a fourth-down conversion near midfield, and Baylor scored after each in the comeback win. One more TCU first down last week, and this game would be an Elite Eight matchup. Alas, both already are eliminated from the Final Four.

No. 13 Ohio State (4-1) vs. Rutgers (5-1), 3:30 p.m.: The Buckeyes haven’t lost two home games to unranked teams in same season since 1999.

No. 17 Arizona State (4-1) vs. No. 23 Stanford (4-2), 10:30 p.m. Defense wins championships? Not in Stanford’s case. Stanford is allowing a nation-low 10 points per game. Its two losses were by a field goal each, but that’s the risk you run when you only average 26 points a game.

No. 19 Nebraska (5-1) at Northwestern (3-3), 7:30 p.m.

No. 22 Southern Cal (4-2) vs. Colorado (2-4), 6 p.m.

No. 24 Clemson (4-2) at Boston College (4-2), 3:30 p.m.: Tigers’ offense isn’t nearly as prolific with QB Cliff Stoudt, but their bigger problem is stopping B.C.’s ground game. Eagles run for 315 yards a game.

No. 25 Marshall (6-0) at FIU (3-4), 6 p.m.: Homecoming for Marshall QB Rakeem Cato, who starred at nearby Miami Central High. Interesting battle brewing between Marshall and ECU for non-Power 5 bowl position.

Number to know

3 The maximum number of Power 5 undefeated teams we’ll have by season’s end, meaning at least one 1-loss team will be part of the first Final Four. Five unbeatens enter the weekend, but Notre Dame and FSU play each other, and Mississippi State faces Ole Miss on Nov. 29.

Final Word

“Mark my word, no college football team will go undefeated this season.” – Opening sentence of recent column by The (Columbia) State’s Ron Morris. Duly noted ...

Compiled by Chris Wright with help from AP, Pat Forde, ESPN and various team websites

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