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Originally published Thursday, September 20, 2012 at 8:02 PM

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Saturday madness: The best in college football this weekend

It's been theorized a while now that Notre Dame football is yesterday's news. The Irish are a typewriter in today's Twitter-and-text world...

Seattle Times colleges reporter

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It’s going to be a great matchup for Notre Dame to prove that they belong in... MORE

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It's been theorized a while now that Notre Dame football is yesterday's news. The Irish are a typewriter in today's Twitter-and-text world, or so the thinking goes.

Well, we might be testing that hypothesis in 2012, because Notre Dame is 3-0 for the first time since 2002 and has outscored three opponents 90-30, including a shutdown of respected Michigan State last week.

"We're 3-0," grunted coach Brian Kelly earlier in the week on his teleconference. "We didn't give out any rings to anybody yesterday."

But the Irish, 11th-ranked by AP, can move a little closer to getting sized for those down the road if they can beat No. 18 Michigan on Saturday night in South Bend (4:30 p.m. PDT) in one of the headliners in college football.

Primarily, Notre Dame has been getting it done with defense, one that's allowed only 289 yards rushing, including only 50 to run-minded Michigan State. That's a bit of a surprise, because Kelly came from Cincinnati with a reputation as an offense-first guy.

"I think I said at the opening press conference, it's important if we wanted to compete nationally, we had to have a defense," Kelly said. "I don't think there's a more diverse group of opponents on anybody's schedule. We're playing power teams, option teams, spread teams.

"Getting our defense (to excel) has been job one."

Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson is as good a marker as any for Notre Dame's defense. Robinson has 944 yards of total offense in his two games against the Irish, and the Wolverines have won three straight four-point rousers over Notre Dame.

The day's other key games, chronologically:

Oregon State at UCLA (19), 12:30 p.m. — The Bruins, who struggled to complete back-to-back passes in Rick Neuheisel's regime, are putting up all sorts of gaudy numbers, including three straight games of 500-plus-yards total offense for the first time in history. Brett Hundley's 827 yards passing leads all NCAA freshmen. For Oregon State, it's the first of two straight on the road against ranked teams (Arizona is next week).

Florida Atlantic at Alabama (1), 2 p.m. — What's this doing on here? It makes it on the strength of the news release from FAU, which this week trumpeted: "FAU does bring some momentum into Saturday: playing even with Georgia for a quarter and a half ... " But it was that other 2 ½ quarters when the Owls went about losing, 56-20.

California at USC (13), 3 p.m. — Nothing has reflected the frustration of Cal fans like the Bears' no-shows against the Trojans; they've lost eight straight in the series and averaged only 10 points in them. USC coach Lane Kiffin was a quarterback for three years during the offensive-coordinator days of Cal's Jeff Tedford at Fresno State in the mid-1990s. For those with off-kilter minds like mine, there's this: Last week against Stanford marked only the second time in 1,164 games of USC football that the Trojans have taken part in a game with the perfectly football-like score of 21-14.

LSU (2) at Auburn, 4 p.m. — Auburn is 1-2, and it's about to be 1-3 unless a trend holds up; the home team has won 11 of 12 in the series. The victory over Idaho was LSU's 40th straight regular-season nonleague win, an FBS record.

Kansas State (15) at Oklahoma (6), 4:50 p.m. — This game looks sexy — until you recall a year ago, when K-State was 7-0, eighth-ranked and the Sooners came to Manhattan, scored the final 44 points of the game and won 58-17, with Landry Jones throwing for a school-record 505 yards. K-State last beat OU in the regular season in 1997 and the Sooners' Bob Stoops is 14-0 at home against ranked teams.

Clemson (10) at Florida State (4), 5 p.m. — Here's all you need to know about what might be the game of the day: When ESPN's Heather Cox is a sideline reporter, Clemson is 4-0, and the wins include a 2003 conquest of third-ranked Florida State and last year's trouncing of Virginia Tech in the ACC title game. She was also on hand for Clemson's 74-47 rout of Duke in basketball in 2009, when Duke had won 20 straight in the series. Cox will be on hand Saturday. Pay attention, Vegas sharps.

Arizona (22) at Oregon (3), 7:30 p.m. — Oregon coach Chip Kelly sounded disinterested earlier this week when somebody asked him to compare Arizona's spread-option attack to the Ducks' and I wonder whether deep down he'd like to accentuate the gap between the two in this game. 'Zona put up a school-record 43 first downs last week against South Carolina State. De'Anthony Thomas made the cover of Sports Illustrated this week, but his real campaign for the Heisman begins here.

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or bwithers@seattletimes.com


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