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Florida State could make run at national title with victory over Clemson

Clemson’s Sammy Watkins is discussifor best receiver nation. He burned FloridState for 141 yards last year. | Rainier Ehrhardt~AP

Clemson’s Sammy Watkins is in the discussion for best receiver in the nation. He burned Florida State for 141 yards last year. | Rainier Ehrhardt~AP

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South Dakota
at Northwestern

The facts: 2:30 p.m., BTN, 1000-AM.

The records: SD 1-1,
NU 3-0.

The story line: After defeating three consecutive FBS opponents, the Wildcats try to avoid an upset against the FCS Coyotes, who feature 10 players from the Chicago area, many of whom were recruited by NU.

The line: No line.

Neil Hayes’ pick: NU, 42-10.

Kansas at niu

The facts: 2:30 p.m., ESPN3, 670-AM.

The records: Kansas 1-2, NIU 2-1.

The story line: NIU has won 16 in a row at home. Former Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis leads the Jayhawks, with ND transfer Dayne Crist at QB.

The line: NIU by 9.

S teve Nitz’s pick: NIU, 28-24.

no. 18 Michigan
at no. 11 Notre dame

The facts: 6:30 p.m., Ch. 5, 890-AM.

The records: ­Mich. 2-1, ND 3-0.

The story line: ND’s front seven should be able to duplicate much of the chaos Alabama’s caused in a 41-14 rout of Michigan. The question is, can ND’s secondary keep Denard Robinson’s big plays to a minimum?

The line: Notre Dame by 51/2.

Mark Lazerus’ pick: ND, 27-24.

Louisiana Tech
at Illinois

The facts: 7 p.m., BTN, 560-AM.

The records: La. Tech 2-0, Illinois 2-1.

The story line: With or without QB Nate Scheelhaase (ankle), the ­Illini face a tough test from the Bulldogs, the WAC favorites, who are averaging 56 points per game, third in the nation.

The line: Illinois by 21/2.

Herb Gould’s pick: La. Tech, 42-38.

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Updated: October 22, 2012 6:16AM



I guess I’m the only one who doesn’t get it.

Notre Dame is taking bows — and receiving accolades — for joining the ACC except in football, which is what matters most to Notre Dame. The noble Irish have even deigned to play five ACC football opponents for the right to cherry-pick a good bowl slot.

What’s the big deal about being in a conference? If you’re playing five games, you’re shacking up. Just get married.

Bailing out on the floundering Big East for the ACC was a very good move, but there was a better move. For three more conference games, why Notre Dame didn’t just join the Big Ten is beyond me.

The Big Ten advantages are many: More money. Better academic standing. Vastly better travel scenarios for all those Olympic-sport athletes and their families. Uniting with longtime traditional rivals (Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue), reuniting with former rivals (Penn State and Northwestern). And on and on.

But no. Notre Dame would rather play Duke and North Carolina — in football — than Ohio State and Wisconsin. It would rather play Miami (Fla.) than Iowa, Boston College than Northwestern.

Are the Irish afraid of losing their independence? Or are they afraid of losing?

Which brings us to this week’s top game, a meeting between two of Notre Dame’s future limited partners, ACC front-runners Florida State and Clemson.

This is a game that’s likely to produce yawns in the Midwest. No. 10 Clemson is best known for sending William ‘‘Refrigerator’’ Perry to the Bears. No. 4 Florida State, which had an incredible run under Bobby Bowden, is getting back on the horse under third-year coach Jimbo Fisher.

This game might not have a top-10 feel in the heartland, but it’s significant. It’s a chance to see the Seminoles, who could have an inviting path to the national championship game with a victory.

Beyond this game, Florida State looks like it will need to weather trips to Miami and Virginia Tech to reach its season finale against Florida unscathed.

With USC going down last week, No. 3 Oregon facing some difficult Pac-12 challenges and Alabama and LSU on a collision course, FSU could be a candidate for its first national championship since 1999. Clemson would need a lot more help. With only two ranked teams, the ACC’s strength of schedule is a drag on national-title hopes.

But this is also a chance to see Clemson sophomore Sammy Watkins, who’s in the discussion for the nation’s best receiver. After Watkins made seven catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns to help the Tigers beat the ’Noles
35-30 last year, Fisher called Watkins the most impressive freshman since Herschel Walker.

Watkins, who was suspended for Clemson’s first two games because of a drug arrest in May, had four catches for 52 yards against Furman on Saturday.

FSU will counter with an offense that has outscored its first three opponents 176-3, including a 52-0 blowout of Wake Forest on Saturday.

With gaudy wins like that, plus ‘‘ESPN College GameDay’’ and national media converging on Tallahassee, Fisher is cautioning his players about ‘‘clutter’’ as FSU tries to take the next step.

‘‘I’m very interested to see how we handle that, if we’re mature for those situations,’’ Fisher said. ‘‘It’s a very important game. Hopefully, we’ll play in a bunch of those kinds of games.’’

The Seminoles say they’re ready to handle the spotlight and the Tigers.

‘‘I know we’re a big underdog going down there, but I don’t know anybody other than Alabama and LSU who wouldn’t be,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. ‘‘If I was on the outside, I’d probably pick them, too. But I’m not on the outside. I’m on the inside. And I like where I’m at.’’

So does Notre Dame.



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