Eye on Saturday: Alabama, Florida State appear on collision course
Seattle Times college football reporter
As the college football season winds down, the case can surely be made that the 11th-hour madness that often visits the game — and the BCS standings — isn’t in the cards this year.
Alabama looks to be peaking at the right time and primed for a finishing run at a third straight national title. Florida State’s obstacles to a championship berth seem negotiable, because of Florida’s injuries and ineptitude, and because the ACC Coastal Division winner (whoever it is) would probably be a three-touchdown underdog to the Seminoles.
Which means, of course, that undefeated Ohio State stands to be left out of the national-title picture, and when you toss that around in your mind against the grain of history, that’s saying something.
Ohio State is one of the bluebloods of the game. Urban Meyer is late in his second year there, and the Buckeyes still haven’t lost in his 21 games. The place has won seven Heisman Trophies, as many as Notre Dame. And still, it’s liable to be jilted in the final BCS standings.
This is what happens when you played Florida A&M back in September, even if it was a replacement for an originally scheduled game against Vanderbilt, which bailed.
Best of the weekend, chronologically:
Washington at UCLA (AP No. 13), 6 p.m., ESPN2 — There’s a theory that TV games with considerable audiences cause officials to keep the flags in their pockets. That would be good here, because only UCLA commits more penalties per game (8.89) in the Football Bowl Subdivision than the Huskies (8.67).
Ohio State (3) at Illinois, 9 a.m., ESPN —The fact Meyer and Illini coach Tim Beckman are both from northeast Ohio and worked together in 2001-02 at Bowling Green might be the only thing that keeps Meyer from lusting to put up 60 here. The Buckeyes (9-0, 5-0) are No. 6 in total offense (531 yards a game) nationally, and Illinois (3-6, 0-5) is 114th in total defense. Meyer is a win away from the school record for consecutive wins, set by Woody Hayes (1967-69).
Washington State at Arizona, 11 a.m., Pac-12 Networks — What’s this, a day game for the Cougars? They’ve played at night in seven of their first nine. Now they get three straight at more civil hours.
Georgia (25) at Auburn (7), 12:30 p.m., CBS — So here’s Auburn at 9-1, an outside threat to reach the national-title game, and back on Aug. 31, Washington State was throwing into the end zone from inside the Tiger 10 with four minutes left, trying to tie it. This is game No. 117 in a series that stands 54-54-8, and is oldest in the South. It’s been a road-dominated series, which gives the Bulldogs (6-3, 4-2) hope.
Oklahoma State (12) at Texas (23), 12:30 p.m., Fox — Hard as it is to believe, it’s Texas that leads the Big 12, not fourth-ranked Baylor or the Oklahoma State team that’s ranked 11 spots higher. ‘Horns (7-2, 6-0) have dominated the series but Oke State (8-1, 5-1) has won the last two in Austin. Texas will have to do without leading rusher Johnathan Gray, who suffered a season-ending Achilles tear last week. Local angle: Cowboys wide receivers coach is Kasey Dunn, North Kitsap and Idaho product who coached at WSU and with Seahawks.
Michigan State (14) at Nebraska, 12:30 p.m., ABC/ESPN2 — Michigan State is the anti-Gen Z team, bucking all this offensive madness with a defense that allows a nation-best 3.47 yards per play and hasn’t surrendered a touchdown in its last three games. That doesn’t bode well for Husker rusher Ameer Abdullah, who has 1,213 yards. Tommy Armstrong starts again at quarterback for Nebraska, because Taylor Martinez’ college career is probably over after a foot injury. The series is 7-0, Nebraska.
Eastern Washington (No. 3 FCS) at Cal Poly, 12:40 p.m., ROOT — Eastern (8-2, 6-0) can clinch a share of the Big Sky title with a win over a 5-5 team that leads FCS in rushing at 308.6 yards a game.
Utah at Oregon (6), 1 p.m., Fox Sports 1 — Not sure how this happens, but it’s a fact: Utah leads the Pac-12 in sacks with 33 and is last in interceptions with two. The question for Oregon is whether QB Marcus Mariota really will play as he says, and how limited he’ll be on a bad knee.
Texas Tech at Baylor (4), 4 p.m., Fox — Let’s appreciate unbeaten Baylor: It is threatening FBS records for scoring with averages of 61 points (Army, 1944, is the standard at 56) and total offense with 686 yards (Houston, 1989, 624.9). It is gaining 8.64 yards per play and a ridiculous 19.29 yards per completion. Tech has allowed 139 points in a three-game losing streak, and its only apparent hope here is that Baylor misses injured receiver Tevin Reese and/or has one eye trained on a game at Oklahoma State next week.
Stanford at USC, 5 p.m., ABC — Last time these two met in L.A., Stanford won in triple OT, 56-48. Expect scoring to be much more sparse here, as the Trojans and Stanford rank Nos. 2-3 in Pac-12 total defense. Stanford, USC’s oldest rival, has won 31 of its last 32 played in the state of California.
Oregon State at Arizona State (21), 6:30 p.m., Pac-12 Networks — Beavers lead the Pac-12 in pass offense (405 yards per game), Sun Devils lead in pass defense (206). Beware OSU’s Mike Riley coming off a bye; he’s 9-3 since 2003 when facing a conference opponent in that spot.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org
About Bud Withers
Bud Withers gives his take on college sports, with the latest from the Huskies, Cougs, and the rest of the Pac-12.
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