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No. 7 Penn State’s road game against No. 3 Buckeyes is crucial to Franklin’s bid for a breakthrough

Each of the Power Five conferences except the Big 12 features a head-to-head matchup of Top 25 teams on Saturday.

The biggest takes place in the Big Ten, where No. 3 Ohio State hosts No. 7 Penn State. Both are in the top 10 at the time of their meeting for the fourth time since 2017. Both are 6-0 overall and 3-0 in league play.

Ohio State and Michigan have been the Nittany Lions’ biggest hurdles under 10th-year coach James Franklin. He’s 1-8 against the Buckeyes and 3-6 against the Wolverines, who visit Happy Valley on Nov. 11.

Franklin has never beaten both in the same season and — barring an upset in one of their other four games — that’s probably what it will take for his Lions to break through for a first College Football Playoff berth.

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The Atlantic Coast Conference’s top matchup has No. 16 Duke (5-1, 2-0) at No. 4 Florida State (6-0, 4-0). This begins the teeth of the schedule for Duke, which has road games against Louisville and North Carolina on the horizon. The Blue Devils are the last ranked opponent on the Seminoles’ regular-season schedule.

No. 11 Alabama (6-1, 4-0) hosts No. 17 Tennessee (5-1, 2-1) in a Southeastern Conference crossover game. The Volunteers outscored Alabama 52-49 on a walkoff fieled goal in Knoxville last year for their first win over the Crimson Tide since 2006.

No. 14 Utah (5-1, 2-1) and its Pac-12-leading defense play at No. 18 Southern California (6-1, 4-0). The Utes cranked up their ground game against California last week and will be going against a USC defense that’s allowed a conference-worst 36 runs of at least 10 yards. Caleb Williams and the Trojans will be looking to bounce back from their five-turnover disaster at Notre Dame.

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BEST GAME

No. 7 Penn State (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) at No. 3 Ohio State (6-0, 3-0), noon ET (Fox)

The Nittany Lions haven’t won in the Horseshoe since 2011, and they’re 4 1/2-point underdogs Saturday, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

Ohio State and Penn State are 1-2 in offense in the conference. The Buckeyes have had injury issues at running back and have leaned heavily on Big Ten passing leader Kyle McCord.

Penn State has recorded 27 sacks, most in the conference and second nationally, and is the only FBS team to have surrendered just one touchdown through the air and given up fewer than 200 total yards per game.

HEISMAN WATCH

Oklahoma QB Dillon Gabriel comes off an open date with a home game against UCF, his former team. Gabriel was the nation’s leading passer in 2020 for the Golden Knights and threw for 61 touchdowns over the 2019-20 seasons. He sat out most of 2021 with an injury before transferring to OU.

The fifth-year senior is throwing for 313 yards per game with 16 TDs against two interceptions. He’s become a factor in the Heisman Trophy race since leading a late scoring drive to beat Texas in his first major test of the season.

NUMBERS TO KNOW

3 — SMU is Temple’s third consecutive opponent from the state of Texas.

10.3 — Utah two-way star Sione Vaki’s yards per carry on 16 attempts this season.

28 — Days since San Diego State’s last home game when it hosts Nevada. The Aztecs played four home games in 27 days to start the season.

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32 1/2 — The over-under point total set for Minnesota-Iowa, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. Iowa won 13-10 last year when the over-under was 31 1/2, the lowest for an FBS game since at least 1995, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

500 — Texas enters its visit to Houston with over 500 yards of total offense in a school record-tying three straight games.

UNDER THE RADAR

Clemson (4-2, 2-2 ACC) at Miami (4-2, 0-2), 8 p.m. ET (ACC Network)

Clemson had two losses in September for the second time in three years and is now playing for a best possible bowl destination. The Hurricanes face the prospect of an 0-3 start in league play for the first time since they dropped their independent status and joined the old Big East in 1991.

The ‘Canes have lost five straight at home in ACC play, including that 23-20 game they gave to Georgia Tech with the late play-calling gaffe Oct. 7. A third-quarter meltdown led to their 41-31 loss at North Carolina last week. Tyler Van Dyke has thrown five interceptions the past two games.

HOT SEAT

The situation is getting dire for Arkansas’ Sam Pittman, who is 21-22 overall and 13-20 in SEC play over four seasons.

The Razorbacks (2-5, 0-4) have lost five straight with one of the worst offenses in the conference. They’re averaging 150 yards less per game than they did last season and Pittman, a former offensive line coach, has seen his quarterback sacked 24 times over the last five games.

Arkansas enters Saturday’s home game against Mississippi State (3-3, 0-3) as a 6 1/2-point favorite, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. A loss here would only ratchet up the heat on Pittman.

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AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll