California at Utah is more important to the College Football Playoff race than Miami at Florida State.
This is where we are in college football this season.
ESPN is bringing ”College GameDay” to Salt Lake City on Saturday for a showdown of the only remaining undefeated teams in the Pac-12 that few people would have predicted.
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No. 23 Cal and quarterback Jared Goff are 5-0 for the first time since 2007. The No. 5 Utes (5-0) are getting touted as the top team in the country. Neither team was ranked in preseason.
”We’re viewing this as a good opportunity to go in the national spotlight and make a statement,” Cal receiver Bryce Treggs said.
The other marquee matchup of ranked teams this weekend will be played in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where the 18th-ranked Wolverines (4-1) play surprising No. 13 Northwestern (5-0). Who knew?
Meanwhile, the Hurricanes and Seminoles are playing with far less fanfare in Tallahassee. It’s still a big game, of course. Florida State has not been particularly impressive, but still has to be considered one of the favorites in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The story in Miami has been more focused on coach Al Golden’s future than whether the `Canes can contend in the ACC Coastal.
The other juicy rivalry that doesn’t have quite the same pop this season is Texas-Oklahoma. The Red River rivals get together for their annual Cotton Bowl date during the Texas State Fair. It’s been a tough go for Charlie Strong’s Longhorns (1-4) so far, but there is historical precedent for struggling Texas teams beating good Oklahoma teams. Texas is 5-2 in the Red River Rivalry since 1989 when it is unranked and the Sooners are ranked. Though this could be a historically bad Texas team. The Longhorns haven’t started this poorly since 1956, when they finished 1-9.
On a weekend when upsets could be the big story, Texas will try to pull one of the biggest.
THURSDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
Washington (plus 16 1-2) at No. 17 Southern California
Trojans QB Cody Kessler has thrown 54 TD passes and six interceptions since last season; the Huskies have allowed two TD passes this season … USC 28-14.
No. 23 California (plus 6 1-2) at No. 5 Utah
Bears much-improved defense has 18 sacks this season, tops in the Pac-12, after having 16 all of last season … UTAH 35-28.
No. 13 Northwestern (plus 8) at No. 18 Michigan
Lots of defense: Wolverines are second in nation in yards allowed per play (3.10), Wildcats sixth (3.88) … MICHIGAN 24-10.
No. 2 TCU (minus 10) at Kansas State
QB injuries have Wildcats linemen volunteering to fill in behind center … TCU 31-23.
No. 10 Oklahoma (minus 16 1-2) vs. Texas at Dallas
Beating the Sooners would provide some relief in Austin … OKLAHOMA 35-24.
Miami (plus 10) at No. 12 Florida State
RB Dalvin Cook has carried the Seminoles offense and he is iffy with a hamstring injury … FLORIDA STATE 28-21.
Navy (plus 14) at No. 15 Notre Dame
Tough turnaround for the Irish after losing at Clemson – and with USC next week … NOTRE DAME 35-28.
No. 11 Florida (minus 6) at Missouri
No. 19 Georgia (minus 3) at Tennessee
The home underdog is going to win one of these two SEC East games. Maybe both … UPSET SPECIALS, MISSOURI 23-17 and TENNESSEE 27-21.
Kent State (plus 15) at No. 24 Toledo
Golden Flashes will try to knock off the Rockets with the No. 1 defense in the MAC – and the worst offense … TOLEDO 21-13.
No. 25 Boise State (minus 15 1-2) at Colorado State
Broncos back in the rankings and working on a New Year’s Six bowl bid … BOISE STATE 31-21.
Georgia Tech (plus 6 1-2) at No. 6 Clemson
Old Clemson would pull a Clemson here and get knocked off by the struggling Yellow Jackets … CLEMSON 28-17.
Arkansas (plus 16) at No. 8 Alabama
Nick Saban does not care what you think about the Crimson Tide … ALABAMA 35-14.
No. 4 Michigan State (minus 14) at Rutgers
Spartans have struggled to put teams away in the second half … MICHIGAN STATE 38-13.
South Carolina (plus 13) at LSU
Game moved to Baton Rouge, and looking like a really long season for coach Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks … LSU 35-17.
Illinois (plus 11) at No. 22 Iowa
Hawkeyes have won six of seven against the Illini, average score 27-12 … IOWA 27-12.
No. 21 Oklahoma State (plus 7) at West Virginia
Mountaineers have won last two meetings … WEST VIRGINIA 35-27.
Maryland (plus 33) at Ohio State
Is this the week the Buckeyes break out? … OHIO STATE 55-14.
No. 3 Baylor (minus 44) at Kansas
This could get really ugly … BAYLOR 66-14.
East Carolina (plus 8) at BYU – (at)adamwride
Second of three straight home games for the Cougars against American Athletic Conference opponents … BYU 35-23.
Wisconsin (plus 1 1-2) at Nebraska – (at)saunders45
Loser drops to 0-2 in the Big Ten West … WISCONSIN 24-23.
UConn (pick’em) at UCF – (at)stholeary
ConFLiCT. Get it? FL vs. CT … UCF 15-13.
Indiana (plus 8) at Penn State – (at)DCAbloob
Status of Hoosiers QB Nate Sudfeld (foot) and RB Jordan Howard (ankle) is uncertain; status of the Nittany Lions offense also uncertain … PENN STATE 24-23.
Last week’s record: 13-8 straight; 11-9 vs. spread.
Overall: 71-27; 52-41-3.
Upset specials: 2-3.
Best bets: 0-4.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP
AP college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org