Just when college football fans thought they had the BCS picture figured out, a wild weekend changes everything. Kansas State gets blown out by Baylor. Oregon is held to 14 points in a loss to Stanford. And suddenly, Notre Dame is No. 1.
The Fighting Irish's attempt to defend their spot atop the BCS standings is one of the best games on tap for the final full Saturday of regular-season action. Let's break down that game and two more interesting matchups and predict the winners of each.
No. 1 Notre Dame vs. USC
Five of Notre Dame's 11 victories have come by a single score, including two overtime triumphs. That illustrates the narrow margin between a potential trip to the national title game and a promising season that falls short.
The Irish get the benefit of missing Matt Barkley, who got injured last week. Freshman Max Wittek will start instead. While Wittek has plenty of upside, he's never faced the type of pressure that comes with starting for the Trojans in a rivalry game.
Notre Dame's top-ranked defense is going to throw a lot of different looks at him. That should be enough to keep USC's playmakers on the outside from taking over the game. It won't be pretty, but the Irish should grind out another win.
Prediction: Notre Dame 24, USC 17
No. 4 Florida vs. No. 10 Florida State
Games between Florida and Florida State are always interesting. When they are both inside the Top 10, it takes things to a completely different level. The atmosphere at Doak Campbell Stadium should be absolutely outstanding.
One worrisome thing for the Gators is the fact they haven't played a tough opponent in three weeks. That's the danger of scheduling weak opponents late in the season. They are going to enter the game a little rusty.
In a game between two teams that are so closely matched, that early edge could be all Florida State needs. EJ Manuel has been playing really well over the past three weeks. Look for him to get the Seminoles out in front early and they'll hang on late.
Prediction: Florida State 21, Florida 20
No. 8 Stanford vs. No. 17 UCLA
A battle between the two division leaders in the Pac-12 pits two teams on long winning streaks against each other. One of those impressive runs will come to an end on Saturday as the Pac-12 title game race goes right down to the wire.
It's a game that will be decided by tempo. The Bruins will want to open things up, allowing Brett Hundley and Johnathan Franklin to go wild. The Cardinal hope to slow the pace like they did against Oregon. A defensive battle favors them.
Both sides are coming off huge emotional victories, so there's no advantage there. Ultimately, the Bruins offense should benefit from getting to see where Oregon went wrong. They will sneak out a late victory.
Prediction: UCLA 31, Stanford 28
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