Minnesota hosts Michigan in Friday battle of ranked teams
JERSEY CITY, New Jersey - At 6-0, No. 13 Minnesota is off to its best start since winning the national championship in 1960. But on Friday, the Golden Gophers try to beat Big 10 Conference rival Michigan for the first time since 1986.
The game was moved up a day because of the possibility of the Minnesota Twins playing in the American League Championship Series at the Metrodome.
This is the 100th anniversary of the LittleBrown Jug, the trophy awarded to the winner of the Michigan-Minnesota game, and Michigan (4-2) has claimed the trophy 14 consecutive times.
The Wolverines, who are ranked 19th despite two losses, squandered a 14-point lead in a 30-27 loss at Iowa last week while Minnesota rolled to a 42-17 victory over Northwestern.
Michigan ranks third in the nation in total defense and has scored at least 27 points in every game, but lost to Oregon and Iowa.
Minnesota's Marion Barber III has already tied a single-season school record with 13 rushing touchdowns.
One other ranked team - No. 17 Texas Christian (5-0) - also is in action on Friday night. The Horned Frogs seek to snap the nation's second-longest home winning streak when it visits South Florida in a Conference USA contest.
Last week, South Florida (3-1) defeated previously-unbeaten Louisville, 31-28, in its first Conference USA home game. The Bulls extended their home winning streak to 21 games, which trails only Miami's 25-game run at the Orange Bowl.
"They spread it out on offense and are a very athletic and physical football team with great team speed," TCU coach Gary Patterson said of South Florida.
Bobby Bowden of Florida State finds out just how good his team is this weekend. So will some other coaches.
The fifth-ranked Seminoles (5-0) host No. 2 Miami (5-0) on Saturday in one of several huge college football games on the weekend slate.
Top-ranked Oklahoma (5-0) meets No. 11 Texas (4-1) in the annual Red River Shootout in Dallas and defending national champion and third-ranked Ohio State (5-0) plays its first road game of the season when it visits No. 22 Wisconsin (5-1).
To cap the weekend, No. 10 Georgia (4-1) visits No. 14 Tennessee (4-1) in a pivotal Southeastern Conference game on Saturday night.
Bowden has his test at noon when the Seminoles try to reclaim their place among the college football elite.
After losing to Oklahoma in the 2000 national title game, the Seminoles were a mediocre 17-9 over the next two seasons. They have won their first five games this season, but the teams they defeated are a combined 14-14 and none are nationally ranked.
This week, the Seminoles welcome Miami in the latest edition of one of college football's best rivalries. It is the first time since 1992 that both teams enter the game ranked in the top five.
"There is no doubt about it, this is a measuring ballgame," said Bowden, who could tie Joe Paterno for the most wins among Division I-A coaches this week with his 338th.
Paterno leads the Nittany Lions against No. 21 Purdue (4-1) on Saturday.
Miami has its problems in the backfield after Frank Gore suffered a season-ending knee surgery in last week's 22-20 win over West Virginia.
The bulk of the carries likely will fall to Jarrett Payton, a fifth-year senior who finally has the chance to show he can be a starting tailback. The son of late NFL great Walter Payton averages 41 yards per game and 5.1 per carry.
Miami has won the last three meetings in the series, following five straight wins by the Seminoles.
Close games in the series have gone the Hurricanes' way. Thanks mostly to a series of missed field goals, Miami has won all six meetings decided by three points or fewer since 1983.
In a season that already has seen a bunch of highly rated teams suffer upset defeats, Oklahoma has remained a constant. The Sooners have not been seriously tested in their first five games, rolling to a 53-7 win over Iowa State.
The Sooners have built their reputation under Bob Stoops on defense, but they are scoring at will. Oklahoma is averaging 44.2 points and 453.8 yards and has yet to lose a fumble this season.
Jason White, who missed most of last season with a knee injury, threw for 384 yards and five touchdowns last week and has emerged as a Heisman Trophy candidate.
"I believe we have our overall strongest team coming into this game in five years," Stoops said.
Texas lost at home to Arkansas in mid-September, leaving Mack Brown's squad open to a rash of criticism. Some of that pride was restored with a 24-20 win over Kansas State last week.
"I think this was a big confidence boost, and it brings back our swagger," running back Cedric Benson said. "Now, I think we can get rid of all that talk that we are soft and move on."
Brown still is searching for his first Big 12 Conference title. His inability to defeat upper-echelon opponents, notably Oklahoma, is the major flaw during his tenure in Austin.
Oklahoma has won the last three meetings in the series, including a 35-24 decision last season in which the now-departed Quentin Griffin ran for 248 yards. The Sooners contained Benson, limiting him to 54 yards on 22 carries.
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