It’s retro weekend in the state of Florida, where Miami and Florida State are back to playing a game with national buzz, just like in Bobby Bowden’s salad days.
The Hurricanes-Seminoles game is good enough to serve as the first act of an eight-day drama that could focus the national championship race. First, Miami-Florida State, followed next Thursday by Oregon at Stanford and Oklahoma at Baylor, then LSU at Alabama on Nov. 9. The BCS computers might get vertigo.
This week’s Tense 10 — 10 games with something to prove:
1. Miami at Florida State: Now that the NCAA has finally closed the books on Miami — with an investigation that lasted only slightly less time than it took to build the pyramids — the Hurricanes can get back to the important stuff. Such as tormenting Florida State. To do that, they’ll want to break their recent dangerous habit of falling behind, having had to rally from double-digit deficits in three consecutive games. The last time these two met as unbeatens this late in the season was 1991. No matter what happens, they might have to do it all over again in the ACC championship game.
2. Michigan at Michigan State: As if beating Michigan State is not already in the university charter for the Wolverines — a recent four-game losing streak to the Spartans felt like water boarding in Ann Arbor — any realistic hope of Michigan winning the Big Ten Legends division would be battered maize and blue with a defeat. Michigan State has the top-rated defense in the land, while Michigan is averaging 42 points a game.
3. Minnesota at Indiana: It’s Homecoming, and if the 3-4 Hoosiers plan on being away from home during the holidays — at a bowl game, for instance — they badly need this one. It’s the usual Indiana dilemma; will the nation’s No. 8 scoring offense make the headlines, or the nation’s No. 110 scoring defense?
4. Northwestern at Nebraska: Both these teams could use good news. The Wildcats have gone from a top 25 ranking to four consecutive defeats. Pat Fitzgerald, one of the hottest coaching names in the land, had a worse October than the person in charge of the Obamacare website. The Cornhuskers just lost to Minnesota for the first time since 1960, and Bo Pelini’s job security rating may not be exactly A-plus.
5. Ohio State at Purdue: Is there any reason to believe the Buckeyes will not blow through West Lafayette like a November cold front? Location. For whatever reason, Ohio State visiting Ross-Ade Stadium is a bug visiting a spider web. The Buckeyes have been beaten in four of their last six trips. Alas for Purdue, more pertinent than recent history is the fact the Boilermakers have scored 17 points in three Big Ten games.
6. Tennessee at Missouri: Is a week long enough for Missouri to forget blowing a 17-0 lead in the fourth quarter against South Carolina? The Tigers still lead the SEC East, but they can have no further mishaps, especially against a Tennessee team that just lost its quarterback.
7. Georgia vs. Florida in Jacksonville: This is only the second time since 1980 that neither team is ranked; a symbol of the disappointments for both. A win here helps ease the pain for somebody.
8. North Carolina at North Carolina State: North Carolina ended a five-game losing streak last season against its in-state rival with a 74-yard punt return touchdown with 13 seconds left. That’s hard for the victim to forget. With three alums now playing pro quarterback, North Carolina State claims nearly 10 percent of the starting QBs in the NFL.
9. Virginia Tech at Boston College: What do you do after losing to a team for the first time in 32 years, despite having the ball 19 more minutes, and holding the opponent to 0-for-11 in third-down conversions. If you’re Virginia Tech coming off the Duke disaster, you’d better beat Boston College.
10. Auburn at Arkansas: Wisconsin was so much more fun for Bret Bielema. His first Arkansas team has dropped five in a row, the last three by a score of 134-17. Now he faces Arkansas native son Gus Malzahn, who is 7-1 his first year at Auburn. Think Razorback fans will notice the contrast?