The Herald Bulletin
---- — Now that the BCS stands for Basically Chasing Saban, Saturdays like this one have become nearly as infrequent as lunar eclipses. Alabama actually has a chance to lose.
Or not. LSU must go to Tuscaloosa, but it was two years ago that the Tigers showed up and upset the Tide. Not that it mattered in the end, but Al the elephant has never forgotten and neither has anyone else at Alabama.
So we know just where to start with this week’s Tense 10 — 10 games with something to prove.
1. LSU at Alabama: It’s November, and Alabama has erupted like Old Faithful. The Tide have outscored their last six opponents 246-26 and allowed two touchdowns in the past 24 quarters, and the theory is growing stronger that nobody on its schedule can push Alabama unless his name is Johnny Manziel. It’s LSU’s turn to prove differently.
2. Nebraska at Michigan: A Hail Mary might have saved Nebraska’s season. Historic futility on the ground against Michigan State might have ruined the Wolverines’. Both teams have endured disappointment, and for someone, it’s about to only get worse. Michigan coach Brady Hoke still hasn’t lost in the Big House, after 19 home games.
3. Florida State at Wake Forest: After whipping Miami, the Seminoles were partying like it was 1999, which is the last time they started 8-0. This looks like a cushy weekend junket for a Florida State team pummeling the opposition by an average score of 51-13. But there can be no post-Miami letdown.
4. Houston at UCF: This is the biggest game in the history of the American Athletic Conference. Which is, what, 11 weeks? Houston, 7-1, has scored in all 32 quarters this season and owns a rather stunning 29-9 turnover margin, to lead the universe. UCF, at 6-1, lists Louisville and Penn State among its victims. The winner will sit atop the AAC, hoping the polls notice.
5. Virginia Tech at Miami: It’s the Hangover Bowl, as the Hokies try to get over an upset loss at Boston College, while the Hurricanes hope to recover from not only getting blown out of Tallahassee by a Florida State-force wind but losing top running back Duke Johnson for the season. The ACC Coastal Division title is still in play for both. Should the Canes lose, the Miami-is-back stories return to the file.
6. Fresno State at Wyoming: Fresno State, with its 386-yards-per-game passing attack, will be expected to stay among the unbeatens and squarely in the BCS bowl picture. But anyone who thinks this trip is easy has never tried to play at 7,220 feet in Laramie in November.
7. Notre Dame at Pittsburgh: Notre Dame has BCS hopes to maintain and several injuries to endure. As Navy coach Ken Nuimatalolo said, “For everybody that plays Notre Dame, it’s the Super Bowl for that team.” That must go double for the Pittsburgh Panthers, who have made a habit of playing the Irish tough, including a three-overtimer last year. The past five meetings have been decided by an average of four points.
8. Illinois at Indiana: The Minnesota nightmare must be forgotten. The Hoosiers really, really, really need this to keep the season from sliding into abject desolation.
9. Anna Maria at Gallaudet: How can anyone not root for Gallaudet, the school for the deaf in Washington, D.C.? The Bison’s game-winning 79-yard return of a blocked field goal as time expired last week made all the highlight show rounds. They are 8-0, and a win against 2-6 Anna Maria puts them in the Division III playoffs for the first time in school history.
10. Ball State at Northern Illinois: This is pushing ahead a little, with kickoff not until next Wednesday, but let’s do it anyway, since it might be the MAC game of the year. Northern Illinois is 9-0 for the first time in 48 years and has won 22 consecutive league games. Jordan Lynch, the Heisman candidate for the common man, has 19 touchdown passes and is the only quarterback among the nation’s top 19 rushers. The hot Cardinals will be trying to muck up all of that.