Raised stakes and contempt bred by familiarity. Conference play is different, and at this point it becomes the focus of the college football season.
The Big 12 starts Saturday with a showdown in Oklahoma, as the sixth-ranked Sooners face No. 15 Kansas State. In the Atlantic Coast Conference, No. 4 Florida State and No. 10 Clemson will go a long way toward deciding a division title in Tallahassee, Fla.
The Sooners and Wildcats bring contrasting offensive styles to Norman. Oklahoma plays up-tempo and tends to air it out with quarterback Landry Jones. K-State’s star quarterback Collin Klein is battering ram who leads a deliberate, run-first attack.
Last year, the Wildcats were 7-0 when Oklahoma came to Manhattan, and the Sooners turned what was billed as a big game into a laugher. Jones passed for a school-record 505 yards in a 58-17 victory, in which the Sooners outscored the Wildcats 35-0 in the second half.
Kansas State’s pass defense is shaky again, ranking at the bottom of the Big 12. The Wildcats’ best defense might be Klein and tailback John Hubert churning out yards on the ground and keeping Jones on the bench.
Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops is 7-1 against his former boss, Kansas State’s Bill Snyder.
In Tallahassee, the Seminoles are coming off a 52-0 victory against Wake Forest that looked about as easy as the Savannah State game the weekend before. They’ll be looking for a little payback against the Tigers.
Clemson beat the ‘Noles 35-30 last season and went on to win the Atlantic Division, and eventually the ACC title.
Clemson’s ability to keep Florida State’s talented defensive ends Bjoern Werner and Cornellius Carradine away from quarterback Tajh Boyd will be key.
Lots can happen, but it’d be a big surprise if the winner Saturday night in Doak Campbell Stadium wasn’t playing in the ACC title game.
In the Pac-12, the marquee game is in Eugene, Ore., and it’s for fans of fast-break football. Rich Rodriguez, one of the godfathers of the fast-pace spread offense craze, against Chip Kelly, who has revved up the spread to warp speed with the Ducks.
No. 3 Oregon has been unchallenged through three games, with D’Anthony Thomas racking up big plays. No. 22 Arizona is off to an encouraging start with Rodriguez, but the Wildcats will get a better idea of where they stand Saturday night.
BYU (plus 7½) at No. 24 Boise State — First game of a 12-year deal between Cougars and Broncos ... BOISE STATE 24-19
Florida Atlantic (plus 50) at No. 1 Alabama — The Tide last had three straight shutouts in 1966 ... ALABAMA 45-7
No. 2 LSU (minus 20½) at Auburn — Gene Chizik’s SEC record with Cam Newton 8-0; without 7-10 ... LSU 38-14
No. 22 Arizona (plus 23½) at No. 3 Oregon — Spreadapalooza at Autzen ... OREGON 50-24
No. 10 Clemson (plus 14) at No. 4 Florida State — Should settle ACC Atlantic Division — yes, in September ... FLORIDA STATE 38-17
Vanderbilt (plus 15½) at No. 5 Georgia — Bulldogs have won five straight, 15 of 16, in series ... GEORGIA 28-10
No. 15 Kansas State (plus 14) at No. 6 Oklahoma — Sooners coach Bob Stoops is 7-1 against mentor Bill Snyder ... OKLAHOMA 45-21
Missouri (plus 10) at No. 7 South Carolina — Injuries forced Tigers to overhaul offensive line ... SOUTH CAROLINA 17-10
Maryland (plus 27) at No. 8 West Virginia — Geno Smith has as many TD passes (nine) as incompletions ... WEST VIRGINIA 48-17
No. 18 Michigan (plus 6) at No. 11 Notre Dame — Denard Robinson has 948 total yards in two games against Irish ... MICHIGAN 24-20
California (plus 16) at No. 13 Southern California — Trojans have won eight straight against Bears ... USC 35-17
Kentucky (plus 24½) at No. 14 Florida — Gators try to make it 26 straight victories against Wildcats ... FLORIDA 40-13
UAB (plus 37½) at No. 16 Ohio State — Buckeyes’ defense has been surprisingly generous (392 ypg) ... OHIO STATE 48-10
Virginia (plus 17½) at No. 17 TCU — Horned Frogs 10-game winning streak is best in nation ... TCU 38-17
Oregon State (plus 9½) at No. 19 UCLA — Beavers’ only game was 10-7 win against Wisconsin ... UCLA 31-24
No. 20 Louisville (plus 13½) at FIU — Cardinals lost at home to Panthers last season ... LOUISVILLE 42-21
Eastern Michigan (plus 33) at No. 21 Michigan State — Spartans need to get QB Andrew Maxwell going ... MICHIGAN STATE 45-10
South Alabama (plus 34) at No. 23 Mississippi State — No Sun Belt magic this week ... MISSISSIPPI STATE 48-7
Idaho State (no line) at No. 25 Nebraska — Bo Pelini feeling better for Huskers; RB Rex Burkhead, too .... NEBRASKA 58-10
Last week’s record: 15-6 (straight); 7-10 (vs. points)
Season record: 56-11 (straight); 27-26 (vs. points)
Best bets: 1-2.
Upset specials: 1-2.