Miami-FSU an ACC battle of the unbeatens

FROM 1987-2004, Florida State and Miami met 14 times when both were in the Top 10. In eight of those games both were unbeaten, including two openers. And in five, one (usually FSU) was first in the polls.

There were three Wide Rights and even a Wide Left, none of which went FSU's way.

Miami won 11, including the last five. Three were in Tallahasee. FSU was ranked higher in seven (three as No. 1). At some point you had to feel for Bobby Bowden. In five of those years that was his only loss. Only once was the game played in November (Wide Right I in 1991). Another was a rematch in the Orange Bowl. In 1987 the Seminoles failed to convert a two-point pass after scoring with 42 seconds left, in the pre-overtime days. It might've cost them a national title.

Speaking of which, The U has five, or three more than FSU.

Which takes us to Saturday night at Doak Campbell Stadium, where the ACC will have its second battle of unbeatens in 3 weeks. First it was No. 5 FSU at No. 3 Clemson, which turned into no mas. Now the Seminoles (7-0, 5-0 ACC) are third. The Hurricanes (7-0, 3-0), at No. 7, are the lowest of your six BCS-conference unbeatens.

FSU is favored by three touchdowns, the largest point spread ever in a game featuring two Top 10 teams this late in the season. That would've never happened way back when.

This is Jimbo Fisher's fourth year at FSU. Al Golden has been in Coral Gables for three, after doing something on North Broad that hadn't been done in forever. Both inherited programs coming off 7-6 seasons. FSU was 11th in the preseason. Miami wasn't ranked.

With this pair it's never just another game. But for the first time in a while it's really not.

Fisher hasn't lost to Miami. Last year it was 33-20. FSU hasn't beaten the Hurricanes four straight since 1996-99, when Miami was dealing with NCAA probation. And '99 also was the last time the Seminoles won their first seven. They finished 12-0.

"This is what I came here for . . . just big games," said FSU quarterback Jameis Winston, who's put himself in position to become the second straight freshman Heisman Trophy winner.

FSU has won its last three by 63, 37 and 32. Miami has trailed in each of its last three by double digits. In the last two it scored the winning TD in the closing minute. Nonetheless . . .

"The rivalry, it stands by itself," Golden duly noted.

And to think they could play again in another month for the ACC title.

Trivial pursuit

Octavias McKoy of Division III Western Connecticut just set the single-game NCAA all-division record with 455 rushing yards. Who holds the FBS mark? Hint: He played 11 seasons in the NFL with two teams. See Answer man.

AAC me up

* South Florida still hasn't scored an offensive TD in three conference games. It still won two of them.

* Houston, which still has to play Central Florida and Louisville, is a national-best plus-20 in turnover margin.

* Tulane (2-10 in 2012), which will join next year, just became bowl eligible (6-2) for the first time since 2002. Defending Conference-USA champ Tulsa, which is also coming in, is 2-5 after going to a bowl seven of the last eight seasons.

Here and there

* Alabama hasn't given up a first-half point in six games.

* The only other time No. 5 Baylor was ranked this high, in 1953 (when it reached No. 3), the Bears lost three of their final four.

* For just the second time since 1980, Florida and Georgia will be unranked when they meet. The other was 3 years ago, when the Gators won in OT to end a three-game losing streak. Their three losses this year were all on the road to opponents currently in the Top 15. Both have lost their last two after starting in the Top 10.

Update

In 2011 Penn State's Anthony Fera was a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award as the nation's top kicker. Then the Texas native transferred to Texas in the wake of the NCAA sanctions. But he appeared in only six games last year because of injuries and made two of four field goals. This year the senior is 11-for-12 for a Big 12-best .917 percentage. The miss was from 45 yards in a win at Kansas State on Sept. 21. He's also averaging 42 yards a punt.

Smalls stuff

* Freshman Seth Klein of Division III Widener (5-2) has the highest completion percentage (200-for-257, 77.8) of anyone at any NCAA level.

* West Chester (ranked 10th in D-II) will try to get to 9-0 for the first time 1967 at winless Cheyney. The last time the Rams won their first eight, in 1974, they lost their last two.

Answer man

TCU's LaDainian Tomlinson, with 406 yards against UTEP on Nov. 30, 1999.

Spotlight on ... UCF's Blake Bortles

If you're a quarterback in the Big East it's easy to get overshadowed by Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater. Or SMU's Garrett Gilbert. Maybe even Houston's John O'Korn. But rather quietly, the junior from Central Florida is getting the job done as well as any of them.

And he's doing it for a team that rallied from a 21-point third-quarter hole to win at Louisville on Oct. 18. In that game, after the Cardinals went in front with 3 minutes to go, Blake Bortles took UCF 75 yards in 11 plays for the winning score, a short pass at 23 seconds. On that drive he completed six of eight.

He has a knack for improvising when things break down.

"There's no doubt he's a talented athlete," said coach George O'Leary, who of course almost had the Notre Dame job once. "The good quarterbacks take a bad play and make a good one out of it."

The 6-4, 225-pounder threw for 25 touchdowns last season, his first as the full-time starter. This year he has 15 for the 7-1 Knights (3-0 AAC), who are ranked 19th. Their next game is against Houston a week from Saturday, which could decide who gets into a BCS bowl. That would be a first for the Knights, who are a three-point loss at South Carolina in late September away from being in the Top 10.

In 2014 the Knights could have 18 starters back. Unless maybe Bortles plays himself into a high-enough position on the NFL draft board.

"It's every kid's dream to play in the NFL," he told the Orlando Sentinel. "But I don't even know if the NFL would want me?"

It's always a good dilemma to have.