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Fewer top 25 matchups dot college football schedule

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Last week gave us several key matchups in college football. This week has a limited menu, but some are clearly worth watching.

One game gaining a great deal of national attention is No. 8 Florida traveling to No. 6 LSU for a 7 p.m. matchup on ESPN. This game would have normally attracted fan and media interest just because it’s the SEC, but the suspension of burgeoning star quarterback Will Grier adds even more intrigue. Odds makers have installed the Tigers as a touchdown favorite.

No. 11 Florida State hosts Louisville in an ACC matchup at noon on ESPN. After suffering a hamstring tweak, Seminole running back Dalvin Cook looked better than ever in FSU’s narrow win over Miami. The Cardinals look to have a difficult time containing him, which is a big reason FSU is a nine-point favorite.

Miami hosts Virginia Tech at 3:30 on ESPNU in a nearly must-win game for the Hurricanes and beleaguered Coach Al Golden. The ‘Canes are four-point favorites. The next two weeks has Miami hosting No. 5 Clemson and traveling to No. 25 Duke, which is beginning to play well.

Two huge rivalry games dot Saturday’s national schedule.

On Labor Day, Southern California vs. Notre Dame looked like it would be a game with national implications, but today the scenario is different. Notre Dame is without its starting quarterback and slipped to No. 14 in the rankings.

The Trojans are in complete chaos after two inexplicable losses and the firing of troubled Coach Steve Sarkisian. NBC has the coverage from South Bend, Ind., at 7:30 p.m. The Fighting Irish are three-point favorites.

The other rivalry game has No. 7 Michigan State heading into Ann Arbor to face the surging No. 12 Michigan Wolverines. Few would have predicted in early September this game would draw the ESPN Game Day crew over USC/Notre Dame.

Job one for the Spartans is to score, something Michigan’s last three opponents have failed to do. While undefeated, Michigan State has performed below expectations so far. Michigan is a touchdown favorite in a game starting at 3:30 p.m. on ESPN.

Two other games are worthy of attention. No. 9 Texas A&M hosts No. 10 Alabama at 3:30 p.m. on CBS. The Tide is a three-point favorite over the Aggies on the road. Before scratching our collective heads, it must be remembered that two weeks ago Georgia was ranked ahead of Alabama, playing at home and favored to win. The Tide swamped the Bulldogs 38-10.

In the Big 10, No. 17 Iowa heads to Evanston, Ill., to face No. 20 Northwestern. The Hawkeyes are 6-0 and rising in the polls, while the Wildcats must try to recover from last week’s 38-0 drubbing at Michigan. Kickoff is at noon (11 a.m. in Evanston) with the Hawkeyes installed as a 2½-point favorite.

UPSET WATCH: No. 19 Oklahoma had better be ready for unranked Kansas State. The Sooners travel to Manhattan, Kan., to face the Wildcats, who came within an eyelash of toppling No. 2 TCU, 52-45 last Saturday. Expect K-State, under outstanding coach Bill Snyder, to avoid the letdown and to be there at the end. The Sooners are a 3½-point favorite.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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