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September 28, 2013

LOPRESTI: Hoping conference play provides closer games

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — There were blowouts galore last weekend as college football had more mismatches than a worst-dressed list, when 17 FBS teams broke 50 points and four broke 70.

Conference play picks up this week, so maybe fourth quarters will actually be necessary. In any case, here is the Tense 10 — 10 games this Saturday in which someone has to prove something.

• Oklahoma State at West Virginia: Wasn’t it about this time last year that West Virginia was 5-0 and ranked No. 4 in the nation?

Then the lights went out. The Mountaineers are 4-8 since and were just pummeled 37-0 by Maryland.

From No. 4 to how low can it go?

Maybe they can show signs of life Saturday in Morgantown — where Oklahoma State hasn’t visited since 1928. But the visitors are scary; the unbeaten Cowboys have outscored opponents 108-13 in the first three quarters.

• South Carolina at Central Florida: Contenders in the SEC are never supposed to lose games like this, but UCF is 3-0 for the first time since 1988 and upset Penn State. Plus, the Gamecocks have not been as advertised on defense and are traveling to UCF, which is just up the road from Disney World. If they think this is going to be easy, they’re in Fantasyland.

• Northern Illinois at Purdue: Homecoming already for the Boilermakers?

Yep.

Might be a good idea to win this one, with Nebraska, Michigan State and Ohio State next on the schedule. Might be a good idea to improve on that 114th national ranking in scoring, too.

• LSU at Georgia: LSU has 29 wins in a row in September. Georgia has won 14 consecutive home games.

Something has to give in Athens.

LSU is 4-0 and has yet to trail this season, helped by the spruced-up play of quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who originally went to Georgia and whose mother Tammy works in the Georgia football office.

Wonder how the family phone calls are going this week.

• Oklahoma at Notre Dame: Do you realize the Sooners are 1-8 against the Irish and haven’t beaten them since 1956? They do in Norman.

The Notre Dame offense did not have much fun against Michigan State, and Oklahoma has allowed only three touchdowns in three games, so this will be another moment of truth for the Irish attack.

• Mississippi at Alabama: Stop me when this sounds like a No. 1-ranked juggernaut.

Alabama is 36th in the nation in scoring defense, 56th in total defense, 84th in total offense, 90th in rushing offense and 98th in third down conversion.

So when can we expect the genuine Tide?

Mississippi is ranked and dangerous, but the Rebels’ all-time record against Alabama is only slightly better than the average bug against the average windshield — 8-50-2.

• Florida at Kentucky: Basketball, this ain’t.

The Gators have beaten the Wildcats in 26 consecutive meetings, the nation’s longest active series winning streak.

But it has to end one day. Doesn’t it?

Florida has to show how life will be without injured quarterback Jeff Driskel, who is gone for the season.

• Wisconsin at Ohio State: So which Buckeye quarterback sits, the preseason Heisman contender or the guy who has thrown 12 touchdown passes in three games?

Every coach would like to have Urban Meyer’s dilemma. Kenny Guiton has done the best relief job this side of Mariano Rivera, but Braxton Miller’s return from knee injury means there’ll be a change.

Everyone understands, but it’ll still be fascinating to see how the Buckeyes’ offense performs, now that exhibition season is over.

• California at Oregon: Not much doubt who wins, but you keep looking at the Oregon offensive numbers and wondering … is this for real, and when do the Ducks turn up human on Saturday?

They’re averaging 61.3 points and 672 yards, despite being dead last in the nation in time of possession. They’re doing all that damage in 22 minutes a game.

• Toledo at Ball State: This should help sort out the main challengers in the MAC West.

Toledo moves by foot, with David Fluellen 11th in the nation in rushing. Ball State does it by air, with Keith Wenning tied for ninth in the country in passing yards.

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