OU-Texas, Miami-FSU highlight huge college football weekend

Updated: October 8, 2003, 1:21 PM ET

JERSEY CITY, New Jersey - 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.

Five games are between schools ranked in the latest coaches' poll and a clearer picture will emerge as to who are the contenders and who are the pretenders in the national championship race.

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).

No. 13 Minnesota tries to show that its 6-0 start is no fluke when it meets No. 19 Michigan (4-2) on Friday night at the Metrodome.

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.

Like Texas, Minnesota also has something to prove.

The Golden Gophers are off to their best start since winning the national championship in 1960, but they have benefited from a favorable schedule. Minnesota is unbeaten against teams that have a combined record of 11-23.

The Gophers are seeking their first 3-0 start in the Big Ten since 1990, but they have not beaten Michigan since 1986.

"Every game is a big game," Minnesota coach Glen Mason said. "If you win this one, then what's the next one?"

The Wolverines rank third in the nation in total defense and have scored at least 27 points in every game, but they have two losses and are out of national championship contention.

Another huge Big Ten Conference game is in Madison, Wisconsin, where Ohio State will have quarterback Craig Krenzel back in the lineup. Krenzel has missed the last two games with an elbow injury.

Ohio State has been living dangerously, with 10 of its last 16 games decided by seven points or fewer.

"If people want to say they're lucky, they're coached that way," Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez said. "The coaches instill that in them, that they're going to win, and that's the way they play."

Tennessee tries to bounce back from last week's loss to Auburn when it hosts Georgia. The winner of Saturday's game will emerge as the clear favorite in the SEC East and have the inside track to a berth in the conference title game.

Auburn looks to knock off a notable SEC foe on Saturday when it visits No. 9 Arkansas (4-0). In the last two-plus seasons, the Tigers are 4-0 when unranked and facing a top-10 team.

No. 4 Virginia Tech (5-0) has lost its last two games against Syracuse and tries to make amends at home on Saturday.

No. 6 Louisiana State (5-0) hosts Florida, No. 7 Nebraska (5-0) tries to defeat Missouri for a 25th straight time and No. 9 Southern California (4-1) entertains Stanford.

In other games Saturday, No. 16 Pittsburgh (3-1) hosts Notre Dame, No. 18 Northern Illinois (5-0) is at Central Michigan, No. 21 Kansas State (4-2) visits Oklahoma State, No. 23 Michigan State (5-1) travels to Illinois and No. 24 Virginia (4-1) is at Clemson.

No. 17 Texas Christian (5-0) visits South Florida on Friday night.

No. 12 Washington State (5-1), No. 15 Iowa (5-1) and No. 25 Oregon State are off this week.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index