Week 9 preview: ACC showdown; Browning faces tough Utes
The last weekend before College Football Playoff selection committee starts releasing its rankings has potential for a serious shake-up in the postseason race.
All seven of the nine remaining undefeated teams in FBS that are playing Saturday are on the road, including No. 3 Clemson at No. 12 Florida State and No. 7 Nebraska at No. 11 Wisconsin.
The rankings that come out Tuesday night will be the first of six, and as always it is important to remember not to read too much into them. They could provide a few hints as to the way this plays out in the long run, but ultimately the ones that come out on Dec. 4 are the only ones that really matter.
Week nine of the college football season will set the stage for the committee and here are some things you need know about it.
No. 3 Clemson at No. 12 Florida State.
It has become one of the most significant rivalries in the nation. The winner of this game has won the last five Atlantic Coast Conference championships and reached the postseason with a chance to win the national championship each of the last three seasons.
The Seminoles (5-2, 2-2) need a lot of help to win the ACC this season, but beating the Tigers is a big step toward possibly landing in a major bowl game. Clemson can probably afford one slip along the way and still make the College Football Playoff, but this is their biggest remaining hurdle before a potential ACC championship game.
Florida State running back Dalvin Cook and Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson have the potential to make a move in a nationally televised night game, but the pressure is really on Washington quarterback Jake Browning.
The sophomore entered the Heisman conversation a few weeks ago after the Huskies had back-to-back blowouts of Stanford and Oregon. That competition doesn't look quite as daunting in retrospect.
Browning and Washington get a serious test Saturday at No. 17 Utah. The Utes lead the nation in takeaways, are tied for first in interceptions and they have one of the better pass rushes in the Pac-12. If Browning falters, expect a lot of the Heisman buzz to dissipate.
NUMBERS TO KNOW
1971 - The year of the last victory by Northwestern at Ohio State. The Wildcats bring a three-game winning streak into Columbus to face the sixth-ranked Buckeyes on Saturday. Ohio State is 29-1 against Northwestern since 1971.
5-23 - Nebraska's record against ranked opponents on the road since 1998, as reported this week by the Omaha World-Herald. The seventh-ranked Cornhuskers will be looking for their second road victory against a ranked team since joining the Big Ten in 2011 when they face No. 11 Wisconsin.
6-1 - Michigan State's record against Michigan in the last seven meetings, the best stretch in the rivalry for the Spartans since the 1950-69, when Michigan State went 14-4-2. The second-ranked Wolverines are 24+-point favorites against the Spartans, who have lost five straight games.
OFF THE RADAR
Eastern Michigan has been one of the least successful football programs in FBS for decades. The Eagles have one bowl appearance in their history and since that 1987 victory against San Jose State in the California Bowl, EMU has never won more than six games in a season. And it reached that number only twice.
The Eagles (5-3) and third-year coach Chris Creighton can become bowl eligible with a victory against Miami, Ohio, at home on Saturday. The RedHawks are 2-6.
COACH IN NEED OF A WIN
Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson has never been shy about complaining about expectations at the school not quite matching the commitment . He has had a lot of success with the Yellow Jackets, but they went 3-9 last season and there is a new athletic director at Georgia Tech.
Johnson and the Jackets (4-3) host Duke and a loss could make it very difficult for Georgia Tech to get bowl eligible.
AP College Football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org
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