With the game of the year a week away, and No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama taking the weekend off, the other national championship contenders will be jostling for position behind the SEC superpowers on Saturday.
No. 3 Oklahoma State can either bury or buoy the Heisman hopes of Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, who is going to have to overcome his team’s bad defense to pull off the type of upset that could make him a finalist.
No. 4 Stanford and No. 6 Clemson are both on the road against dangerous conference rivals.
Andrew Luck and the Cardinal are at No. 20 Southern California, which has run off three straight victories while scoring 109 points behind quarterback Matt Barkley and star receiver Robert Woods.
The Tigers go to Georgia Tech for what a few weeks ago looked as if it would be the Atlantic Coast Conference’s game of the year.
The Yellow Jackets come in having lost two straight, but their option offense might still have enough pop to keep up with quarterback Tajh Boyd, freshman standout Sammy Watkins and the high-scoring Tigers.
Oklahoma State is third in the BCS standings and appears to have the inside track among that group to the BCS title game if it can stay perfect. Clemson is fifth and Stanford is sixth. Idle Boise State is fourth.
So while there’s still plenty of time to thin the herd, the scoreboard watching can start this weekend.
The most surprising of the undefeated teams left, No. 10 Kansas State, is still lurking on the outside. The Wildcats were eighth in the last BCS standings, even behind one-loss Oregon, but we’ll see if coach Bill Snyder’s team can make a serious title run in the next few weeks _ starting Saturday at home against No. 11 Oklahoma.
The Sooners are coming off a 41-38 loss to Texas Tech, but they are still formidable.
Win that one and Kansas State’s Nov. 5 road trip to Oklahoma State could be a battle of unbeatens with major championship implications.
Just like that big game over in Tucsaloosa, Ala., that same day.
Rice (plus 27 1/2) at No. 18 Houston
Cougars: ‘Hey, hey. We’re unbeaten, too.’ … HOUSTON 55-21.
Baylor (plus 14) at No. 3 Oklahoma State
If only RGIII could play defensive back, too … OKLAHOMA STATE 62-31
No. 4 Stanford (minus 7 1/2) at No. 20 Southern California
Cardinal offense is punishing and precise … STANFORD 38-24.
No. 6 Clemson (minus 3 1/2) at Georgia Tech
Dabo-dacious Tigers can match speed with any team, but option is tricky … GEORGIA TECH 37-34.
Washington State (plus 35 1/2) at No. 7 Oregon
Ducks have won four straight vs. Cougars by average of 40 … OREGON 54-14.
No. 8 Arkansas (minus 10) at Vanderbilt
Hogs QB Tyler Wilson leads SEC in passing by 52 yards … ARKANSAS 35-21.
No. 9 Michigan State (plus 4) at No. 13 Nebraska
Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin; next up for Spartans … MICHIGAN STATE 28-27.
No. 11 Oklahoma (minus 13 1/2) at No. 10 Kansas State
Think Bob Stoops has Sooners attention now? … OKLAHOMA 42-17.
No. 12 Wisconsin (minus 7) at Ohio State
Badgers beat No. 1 Buckeyes last season … WISCONSIN 28-14.
No. 14 South Carolina (minus 4) at Tennessee
Ball Coach Spurrier still loves beating UT … SOUTH CAROLINA 23-20.
No. 15 Virginia Tech (minus 15 1/2) at Duke
Hokies in the lead for fifth ACC title game appearance … VIRGINIA TECH 28-14.
Missouri (plus 11) at No. 16 Texas A&M
S-E-C, S-E-C, S-E-C … TEXAS A&M 45-28.
Purdue (plus 13 1/2) at No. 17 Michigan
With tough closing stretch, Wolverines cannot lose this one … MICHIGAN 35-23.
Iowa State (plus 15) at No. 19 Texas Tech
Air Tubby? Auburn fans wondering where this came from … TEXAS TECH 45-17.
Illinois (plus 5 1/2) at No. 21 Penn State
Anybody notice how well PSU RB Silas Redd has been playing? … PENN STATE 20-17.
No. 22 Georgia (minus 1) vs. Florida at Jacksonville, Fla.
Mark Richt Stay or Go Bowl … GEORGIA 26-17.
Colorado (plus 30) at No. 23 Arizona State
Buffs so banged up, might have to suit-up Ralphie … ARIZONA STATE 47-10.
No. 25 West Virginia (minus 5 1/2) at Rutgers
Last trip to New Jersey for the Mountaineers? … WEST VIRGINIA 24-14.
Last week’s record: 13-6 (straight); 7-12 (vs. spread).
Season record: 132-27 (straight); 76-59-1 (vs. spread).
Best bets: 6-2.
Upset specials (vs. spread): 4-4.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at http://Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP