Now that the BCS standings appear weekly, it’s prime time for teeth-gnashing. Just line up at the complaint window. We can assume Oregon doesn’t much like being behind Florida State, and Ohio State doesn’t much like being behind Oregon.
So each Saturday has become a campaign stop, wooing voters and computers and they’d probably even kiss babies if the facemasks didn’t get in the way. This week’s games with something to prove:
1. Tennessee at Alabama: Remember when the Tide were supposed to be struggling? Yeah, right. Alabama has won its last five games by a score of 201-16 and allowed one touchdown in the last 20 quarters and, all in all, looks very Nick Sabanish. Still, Tennessee just beat South Carolina and took Georgia to overtime. So the Vols might make it a little interesting.
2. North Carolina State at Florida State: Now that the Seminoles are all the rage with analysts and Famous Jameis Winston is the hottest redshirt freshman quarterback since Johnny Manziel — with his 71-percent completion rate and 20-3 touchdown-interception ratio — this is no time for a post-Clemson letdown. Besides that, it’s Bobby Bowden Day. With an average score of 53-12, Florida State is third in the nation in both scoring offense and scoring defense.
3. UCLA at Oregon: The Ducks have created their own monster. If they score under 40, everyone asks what went wrong. Also, Florida State cut in line ahead of them in the BCS poll. So the touchdowns need to keep falling like an ocean rain from quarterback Marcus Mariota, who fumbled twice last week. UCLA has the 18th-rated scoring defense in the land, and the Bruins might be impolite enough to get in the way.
4. Penn State at Ohio State: The Nittany Lions have made real pests of themselves as visitors to Columbus, winning two of their last three trips. The Buckeyes can’t afford any slippage now. Their 19-game winning streak and glitzy rush defense totals — they have not allowed a run of 20 yards or an opposing back to get 100 yards this season — have not translated into a prime BCS spot yet.
5. Texas Tech at Oklahoma: The computers don’t take the Red Raiders’ unbeaten record seriously, but a win at Oklahoma might start to change that. They’ll try to stay on the fringe of the BCS race with a passing offense that is second in the nation, averaging 416 yards a game. On the other side of the line is a Sooner passing defense that is first in the nation, allowing 149.7 yards.
6. Northwestern at Iowa: That ESPN GameDay visit for the Ohio State contest seems a long time ago. The Wildcats have been shaken by injuries and dropped three in a row. The offense that averaged 39 points after five games has scored 23 the past two combined. A season must start to be salvaged in Iowa City.
7. South Carolina at Missouri: Missouri’s closet margin has been 15 points. The Tigers have beaten consecutive ranked opponents for the first time since 1976. Win this week and they’ll be 8-0 for the first time since 1960. So just when are they going to realize they aren’t supposed to be doing this to the SEC old guard?
8. Texas at TCU: How long will that victory over Oklahoma keep the Mack Brown critics mum? Exactly two weeks, if the Longhorns lose their first visit to TCU in 19 years.
9. Texas Southern at Grambling State: Grambling has seen a player boycott, a forfeit, a coach fired, an 0-8 record and is now known as the place with mold on the shoulder pads. What would Eddie Robinson say? The Tigers players are back, and this hallowed program faces a fork in the road: Either it gets fixed or it disappears. That answer starts Saturday.