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Two huge college football showdowns on tap Saturday

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Saturday’s college football schedule is short on marquee matchups and high-stakes showdowns. Of course, the Florida teams have important games on Saturday, but outside of the state, only two games are generating national interest.

Even casual fans are pointing toward the huge showdown at Clemson between the fifth-ranked Tigers and the third-ranked Louisville Cardinals. This is the ABC prime-time game for good reason.

Not that long ago, the winner of the FSU-Clemson game was a virtual lock for representing the Atlantic Division in the ACC Championship Game. Louisville has crashed that party in a big way.

Now, the winner of Saturday’s game will be the team in the driver’s seat for the division crown. A Louisville victory on the road would give them wins against the other two contenders.

A Clemson victory, while giving them the edge, would still leave them with needing a win on the road over Florida State on Oct. 29 to reach the title game. This would assume the Tigers win the rest of their remaining games, all against unranked opponents.

This monster game features two of the nation’s best teams, but the stage is ready for two dynamic quarterbacks. Both Louisville’s Lamar Jackson (of Boynton Beach) and Clemson’s Deshaun Watson give defensive coordinators nightmares.

Though they will not be on the field at the same time, this is one of the best quarterback matchups in memory. That alone makes this worth watching.

The other Top 10 matchup features eighth-ranked Wisconsin going into the Big House to take on fourth-ranked Michigan. While Louisville and Clemson have high-profile leaders of their offense, this game is projected to come down to who plays the better defense.

 Michigan sports a Heisman Trophy candidate of its own on defense. For those who have not seen Jabrill Peppers play, a glance at this game would be worth your while.

Nearly half his solo tackles have been behind the line of scrimmage. Oh, and by the way, he has returned two punts for touchdowns and averages more than 50 punt return yards per game. Michigan’s Charles Woodson was the last defensive player to win the trophy in 1997.

Wisconsin is in the middle of the pack nationally in offensive statistics, but rank seventh in points allowed with fewer than 12 per game. That includes a trip to East Lansing, Michigan last Saturday where they held then-No. 8 Michigan State without a touchdown in a 30-6 romp.

Nobody does that to the Spartans at home.

The Badgers are attempting to complete the rare quinella of beating both Michigan teams on the road. This game coincides with Florida State’s home game with North Carolina at 3:30 p.m. Florida plays at noon at Vanderbilt.

Both games are worthy of the hype they are getting.

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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