As ND-FSU ready for showdown, 'Bama, Oklahoma look to avoid possible playoff elimination



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Alabama NCAA college football coach Nick Saban talks with the media, Monday, Oct. 13, 2014, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/AL.com, Vasha Hunt) MAGS OUT


No. 5 Notre Dame and No. 2 Florida State will whittle the field of unbeatens in major college football when they meet Saturday night in Tallahassee, Florida.

Big game for sure, but the loser can take heart that its playoff hopes, while damaged, won't be destroyed.

For playoff contenders that have already lost once, teams such as Alabama and Oklahoma, elimination is likely one misstep away.

Now that's pressure.

The seventh-ranked Crimson Tide could find a tonic for an ailing offense when it returns home to face No. 21 Texas A&M and its forgiving defense. Alabama, which looked like an offensive juggernaut in its first four games, has scored only three offensive touchdowns in the last two. The Tide followed up an upset loss at Mississippi with a one-point win at Arkansas.

A win is a win and there is no such thing as a bad one, but at the risk of getting Tide coach Nick Saban angry again, it's only fair to note that Alabama hasn't played especially Alabama-like. More Alabama-ish.

"Everyone wants us to win 60-0, and that's just not possible," Tide offensive tackle Austin Shepherd said.

A second SEC West loss could put the Tide into the odd role of spoiler down the stretch.

Like Alabama, No. 11 Oklahoma lost two weeks ago (at TCU) and rebounded with a win that didn't quite signal all is well with the Sooners. Texas had Oklahoma in trouble. Credit the Longhorns, but Oklahoma will need to do better at home against No. 14 Kansas State to avoid a second Big 12 loss. If not, the Sooners will be buried before Halloween.

The picks:

MARQUEE MATCHUPS

No. 5 Notre Dame (plus 12) at No. 2 Florida State

Brings back memories of the 1993 classic when the Irish knocked off the top-ranked 'Noles. Back then FSU lost and still won the national title. Now with the College Football Playoff, the scenario is far more likely ... FLORIDA STATE 38-21.

No. 14 Kansas State (plus 8) at No. 11 Oklahoma

Wildcats won in Norman, Oklahoma, two years ago but have lost six of seven overall to Sooners ... OKLAHOMA 28-17.

No. 21 Texas A&M (plus 11 1/2) at No. 7 Alabama

The Tide doesn't have to chase around Johnny Football anymore ... ALABAMA 35-27.

UPSET SPECIAL

No. 10 Georgia (minus 3 1/2) at Arkansas

Bulldogs are starting to look like the class of the SEC East — even without RB Todd Gurley — but Hogs are bound to break this SEC losing streak at some point ... ARKANSAS 24-21.

UPSET ALERT

No. 4 Baylor (minus 8 1/2) at West Virginia

The last time the Bears visited Morgantown, the Mountaineers won 70-63. And last week, Baylor beat TCU 61-58. They are the two highest scoring games ever played between ranked teams. ... WEST VIRGINIA 48-42.

No. 8 Michigan State (minus 14 1/2) at Indiana

Pop quiz: Who is the nation's leading rusher? Nope, it's Hoosiers RB Tevin Coleman at 176.7 yards per game. IU will lean on its star even more without QB Nate Sudfeld ... MICHIGAN STATE 41-24.

No. 15 Oklahoma State (plus 9) at No. 12 TCU

These offenses should look similar: New TCU coordinator Doug Meacham spent eight seasons as an assistant at Oklahoma State ... TCU 35-24.

BEST BET

Rutgers (plus 19 1/2) at No. 13 Ohio State

QB J.T. Barrett and the Buckeyes are rolling and could be back in playoff picture soon ... OHIO STATE 38-14.

THURSDAY NIGHT LIGHTS

No. 20 Utah (minus 2 1/2) at Oregon State

Utes beat UCLA on the road and lost to Washington State at home, and that pretty much sums up where things are in the competitive and muddled Pac-12 ... OREGON STATE 28-24.

Virginia Tech (plus 1 1/2) at Pittsburgh

On the way to a seven-way tie for first in the ACC Coastal, there will be plenty of close games. And often it will not be pretty ... PITT 17-16.

CONFERENCE CALLS

Tennessee (plus 16 1/2) at No. 3 Mississippi

Rebels QB Bo Wallace has been turnover-free in wins against Alabama and Texas A&M ... OLE MISS 28-14.

Washington (plus 21) at No. 9 Oregon

Ducks' winning streak against the Huskies is at 10. Average final: 44-18. Washington fans hoping new coach Chris Petersen can close that gap. ... OREGON 44-18.

No. 23 Stanford (minus 3 1/2) at No. 17 Arizona State

Cardinal outmuscled Sun Devils twice last season and have won four straight meetings ... ARIZONA STATE 28-24.

No. 19 Nebraska (minus 6 1/2) at Northwestern

Huskers beat Wildcats on last-play touchdown heave last season ... NEBRASKA 28-23.

Colorado (plus 19 1/2) at No. 22 Southern California

Trojans last two weeks: Lose on a Hail Mary and win on a short missed field goal in the final seconds. USC fans can probably use a break ... USC 42-20.

No. 24 Clemson (minus 5) at Boston College

Back to QB Cole Stoudt for Tigers with stud freshman DeShaun Watson (hand) out ... BOSTON COLLEGE 21-17.

No. 25 Marshall (minus 21 1/2) at FIU

Thundering Herd's road to a big-payday bowl has to be paved with blowouts to make up for weak schedule ... MARSHALL 56-21.

____

Last week: Record straight: 14-4; vs. points 7-11.

Season: Record straight: 96-31; vs. points 55-71-2.

Best bet: 3-4.

Upset special: 3-5.


AP Sports Writer John Zenor in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, contributed.


Follow Ralph D. Russo at http://www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP

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