Mike Kern: Clemson, FSU in ACC showdown

Posted: September 21, 2012

SINCE FLORIDA STATE won its second national title by beating Big East champ Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl after the 1999 season, the ACC has won one BCS bowl game. That's hard to do, especially when you're not playing many Alabamas or Southern Cals of the food chain in those matchups. The win, in case you forgot, was by Va. Tech over Cincinnati in the Orange (20-7) following the 2008 season.

Which brings us to Saturday's prime-time tussle between unbeatens Clemson, ranked 10th, and No. 4 FSU in Tallahassee. The winner could even, dare we project, get into the mix for a spot in the final game in Miami on Jan. 7. Especially if it's FSU, although it's the Tigers who will only have three road games left and those are at Boston College, Wake Forest and Duke. The Seminoles have five, including an always-dreaded Thursday nighter at Virginia Tech. They also close at home with Florida, the same day Clemson hosts South Carolina. The last ACC team to finish the regular season unbeaten was FSU 13 years ago.

Clemson won its first eight a year ago, got to No. 5 in the BCS standings and then lost four of its last six, by a total of 96 points, capped by the 70-33 facial to West Virginia in the OB.

FSU, which hasn't been to a BCS bowl since the 2005 season and has only played in one ACC final since then, has given up three points, to Murray State, Savannah State and Wake Forest. Clemson, which opened with a win over Auburn in Atlanta, for whatever that means, is scoring 40 per.

The loser mostly will be left to play for second in its division.

Clemson has taken five of the seven meetings. It won last September at home, 35-30. In 2010, it lost at FSU by a field goal in November. It also lost there in 2008 by two touchdowns, which is what the 'Noles are favored by this time.

The Tigers just got back wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who hurt FSU last year. Actually, he burned a lot of folks, with 2,288 all-purpose yards to become the fourth freshman to make Associated Press All-America. He was suspended for the first two games after being arrested in May for possession of marijuana and a controlled substance.

Third-year FSU coach Jimbo Fisher called him the most impactful first-year guy since maybe Herschel Walker in 1980.

"This is a very important game," Fisher duly noted. "But, hopefully, during our time at Florida State we're going to play a lot of important games."

They sure used to.

Trivial Pursuit

Freshman Duke Johnson just became the first Miami player to score four TDs in a game since 2005. Who was the last Hurricane to do it? Hint: He led the ACC in rushing touchdowns that season, as a junior, with 12, despite playing only eight games due to a knee injury. See Answer Man.

Deja vu

After all the speculation about whether USC should be No. 1, we are right back to where last season ended. It's still Alabama and LSU. Bet you can't wait until Nov. 3. Alabama should have the easier time getting there unscathed, with trips to Missouri and Tennessee being the biggest obstacles. LSU has to go to Florida and Texas A&M first, plus deal with South Carolina at home.

Another chance

Somehow, Bill Snyder has pulled off a second resurrection at Kansas State, where nobody else can come up with one. Now, the 15th-ranked Wildcats are headed to No. 6 Oklahoma, which is coming off a bye. Last year, K-State was 7-0 before it lost to the Sooners by 41 at home. Now it's a two-touchdown underdog, same as 11 months ago.

MAC me up

Because we missed it.

Penn State-beater Ohio is 2-0 on the road for the first time since 1976. The Bobcats have also defeated Marshall in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1979-80.

Now don't you feel better?

Answer Man

That would be Tyrone Moss, who never did much after that.

Spotlight on ...Oregon

PHIL KNIGHT'S Mighty Ducks are at it again. So is anyone shocked? Maybe it doesn't matter who's playing, as long as they're running Chip Kelly's offense.

Their coach turned down an offer from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in January, claiming he still had unfinished business in Eugene. That could only mean one thing: a BCS trophy. Because in 3 years under Kelly, they have done just about everything else.

Out West, most of the talk was about USC. But Oregon is the three-time defending Pac-12 champion. It nearly beat Auburn 2 years ago in the national-title game, and last January won a Rose Bowl for the first time since 1917. Not shabby.

This season, Kelly had to replace running back LaMichael James and quarterback Darron Thomas. No problem. The Ducks are averaging 54 points and 596 yards, with redshirt freshman QB Marcus Mariota. Triple-threat sophomore De'Anthony Thomas, who scored 16 TDs in 2011, is averaging 15.3 yards a touch. True, they haven't played anyone, unless maybe you count Fresno State, which then thumped Cal, 69-14.

That might change this week, when the third-ranked Ducks host No. 22 Arizona, which is putting up 46 points and 600 yards per for new coach Rich Rodriguez. And the Wildcats did club then-No. 18 Oklahoma State by 21 at home on Sept. 10.

"Knowing we have . . .

De'Anthony lets you sleep at night," said Kelly. "I think he's a special talent."

Probably so is the one who will replace him some day.

Anyway, Oregon won last year at Arizona, 56-31. The Ducks, who will be at USC on Nov. 3, have scored at least 42 points in their last six games going back to last year's 38-35 home loss to the Trojans. They have been in the Top 10 in 33 of the last 35 polls.

Sidelines

BIG EAST BITS

* Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater has completed 81.8 percent of his passes (72 of 88). The Cardinals, who've outscored their opponents, 34-0, in the first quarter, are 3-0 for the first time since 2006, when they won their first eight.

* Kyle Flood is the first Rutgers coach to win his first three games since John Bateman in 1960. The Scarlet Knights are 3-0 for the first time since 2007, and fifth since 1980.

* South Florida has lost eight of its last nine in the conference.

* Connecticut has eight touchdowns, none via a pass. Three have been on either defense or special teams.

COUCH POTATO

THURSDAY

7:30, Arkansas Pine Bluff at Alabama State, ESPNU

9, BYU at Boise State, ESPN

FRIDAY

7, Georgetown at Princeton, ESPNU

8, Baylor at Louisiana-Monroe, ESPN

SATURDAY

Noon, New Hampshire at Old Dominion, CSN

Noon, Virginia at TCU, ESPN

Noon, UTEP at Wisconsin, ESPN2

Noon, Bowling Green at Virginia Tech, ESPNU

Noon, UAB at Ohio State, Big 10

Noon, Mississippi at Tulane, Fox College Sports

Noon, Maryland at West Virginia, FX

Noon, Lafayette at Bucknell, CBSSN

Noon, Kentucky at Florida, WMCN-44.2

12:30, Army at Wake Forest, CW57

1, Yale at Cornell, NBCSN

3:30, Missouri at South Carolina, NBC10

3:30, Temple at Penn State, 6ABC

3:30, Oregon State at UCLA, ESPN2

3:30, Villanova at Penn, TCN

3:30, Idaho State at Nebraska, Big 10

3:30, East Carolina at North Carolina, ESPNU

3:30, VMI at Navy, CBSSN

4, Colorado at Washington State, FX

4:30, Harvard at Brown, NBCSN

7, LSU at Auburn, ESPN

7, Delaware at William & Mary, TCN

7, Rutgers at Arkansas, ESPNU

7:30, Michigan at Notre Dame, NBC10

7:30, Kansas State at Oklahoma, FOX29

7:45, Vanderbilt at Georgia, ESPN2

8, Clemson at Florida State, 6ABC

8, Syracuse at Minnesota, Big 10

8, Fresno State at Tulsa, CBSSN

10:30, Arizona at Oregon, ESPN

10:30, Nevada at Hawaii, NBCSN

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Contact Mike Kern at kernm@phillynews.com

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