Two games matching four of the top five teams in the country, all of them unbeaten and each with national championship aspirations, are splitting the focus of Saturday's college football.
No. 4 Michigan (8-0, 5-0) visits No. 2 Penn State (7-0, 4-0) in a Big Ten showdown, and No. 3 Florida State (8-0, 6-0) plays at North Carolina (8-0, 6-0) for the ACC lead.It's the first time in 26 years and just the fourth time since 1936, when the AP poll began, that four of the top five teams are matched against each other on the same day.
No one is more curious about the outcomes than No. 1 Nebraska, which will spend Saturday playing at Missouri and considering the implications of the other two games.
In Saturday's other Top 25 games, Oregon is at No. 6 Washington; No. 7 Ohio State visits Minnesota; No. 8 Tennessee is home for No. 24 Southern Mississippi; No. 11 Kansas State plays host to Kansas; and No. 12 Iowa plays at Wisconsin.
Also, No. 13 Florida is at home for Vanderbilt; No. 14 LSU plays at Alabama; California is at No. 15 Arizona State; SW Louisiana visits No. 16 Washington State; No. 18 Toledo plays at Ball State; Miami visits No. 20 Virginia Tech; Baylor plays at No. 21 Texas A No. 22 Syracuse is home for Boston College; Michigan State is at No. 23 Purdue; and No. 25 Oklahoma State plays at Oklahoma.
Because the Big Ten champion has Rose Bowl obligations and the Orange Bowl gets this year's top bowl alliance pairing, the Florida State-North Carolina game has higher stakes than Penn State-Michigan. If Nebraska runs the table, including the Big 12 championship game, the Corn-huskers will be Orange Bowl-bound, and that's a long way from Pasadena, where the Penn State-Michigan winner will probably wind up.
Florida State has an explosive offensive package operated by quarterback Thad Busby, who has thrown for 754 yards and eight touchdowns in the last two games. For the season, he is 171 of 286 for 2,543 yards and 18 TDs. The Seminoles are in the habit of scoring early and often, running up first-quarter leads of 21-0 and 27-0 in Busby's big games.
Coach Mack Brown knows his Tar Heels, who don't usually start fast, cannot afford to let that happen this week. "Based on everything I've seen this year, we better hang on early in the ball game," Brown said. "They are scoring a bunch early."
But Brown, equipped with the nation's No. 2 defense, welcomes the opportunity to challenge the Seminoles for ACC supremacy.
"Florida State has always set the standard in our league," he said. "We've been building for this day."
Penn State is in the same boat. The Nittany Lions have won their past three games by a total of eight points and their one-point win against Minnesota dropped them out of the No. 1 spot.
Now the Lions have an opportunity to make a statement against a tough Michigan team.