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Get ready for shakedown Saturday

Let the countdown begin. College football does not often see a Saturday such as the one ahead. Even the huge influence of television could not produce the dream day that awaits.

Four unbeaten teams, all ranked among the Top 5 in the nation, will battle in two games that will all but decide two conference championships and reduce the field of national title contenders by the same number.

No. 4 Michigan (8-0) travels to No. 2 Penn State (7-0) for an afternoon game that will leave one team undefeated in the Big Ten and in position to earn a spot in the Rose Bowl.

No. 3 Florida State (8-0) travels to No. 5 North Carolina (8-0) for a night game that is being billed as the biggest in Tar Heel history. It is the first meeting of Top 5 teams in Atlantic Coast Conference football history, with the winner in position for the league's bowl alliance bid.

But it is unlikely either of Saturday's victors will end up on top of the polls.

That honor, barring an upset by surprising Missouri, will go to No. 1 Nebraska (8-0), which is cruising toward an undefeated regular season, Big 12 Championship Game, and an alliance slot in the Orange Bowl.

The other four will fight for position, and one appears to be inching ahead of the rest.

North Carolina, Florida State and Penn State had less than impressive victories to set up the big weekend, while Michigan appears to be gaining momentum.

The Wolverines continue to do it with defense, holding Minnesota to 102 yards in a 24-3 victory and allowing the Golden Gophers just six first downs. Granted, Minnesota is not Penn State, but the Nittany Lions did struggle against the Gophers two weeks ago.

For the fifth time this season, Michigan did not allow a touchdown. And the Wolverines kept alive their streak of not allowing a touchdown in the second half and not giving up a point in the fourth quarter.

Penn State's Curtis Enis has had four straight 100-yard games, including 153 on 27 carries against Northwestern. But those yards will be more difficult to come by against Michigan.

"I said going in, their defense is a cut above," Minnesota coach Glen Mason said. "I don't mean a cut above everyone else this year. I'm talking about over the last 25 years.

"Michigan is a team that has a legitimate shot at winning the national championship."

Unfortunately, neither the Wolverines nor Nittany Lions will get a chance against Nebraska, which keeps piling up the numbers. The Cornhuskers gave Tom Osborne his 250th career victory, 69-7 over Oklahoma. A third national championship in four years keeps looking better.

NO UNBEATEN: Here is another problem confronting the Big Ten in its quest to have a national champion for the first time since 1968: the league champ will not be playing an undefeated team in the Rose Bowl.

That became a certainty Saturday night when Arizona State kept its hopes of returning to Pasadena alive by knocking off previously unbeaten and 10th-ranked Washington State. The Sun Devils forced quarterback Ryan Leaf to fumble twice in the final three minutes and turned both turnovers into touchdowns in a 44-31 victory.

"The better team won," said ASU defensive lineman Hamilton Mee, who returned the first fumble 69 yards for a touchdown when the Cougars were driving for what could have been the winning touchdown.

Washington State's loss leaves Washington as the only team without a Pac-10 defeat, although the two meet in the last regular-season game.

SWEET VICTORY: There were a lot of happy faces on the Georgia sideline after the Bulldogs' 37-17 victory over Florida, but defensive coordinator Joe Kines was feeling especially good.

It was just two years ago in Athens that Kines endured a beating at the hands of Florida coach Steve Spurrier. The Gators won 52-17, and Kines walked 2 miles back to his office after the game, with fans honking their horns and yelling at him all the way.

"It was humiliating," Kines said. "Every point they scored was like a dagger through my heart. And there were a lot of daggers that day, a lot of pain."

Georgia's first win over Florida since 1989 went a long way toward easing that memory.

"It was the exact opposite of this," Kines said. "This is the best feeling I've had in a while."

NO END ZONE: Brigham Young was held without a touchdown for the first time in 11 seasons in a 14-3 loss to Texas-El Paso. The Cougars had a TD in 138 consecutive games since a 10-3 loss to San Diego State in 1986. They have not been shut out in an NCAA-record 283 straight games.

BYU also lost control of the WAC's Mountain Division. New Mexico leads the division with a 4-2 record, a half-game ahead of BYU and Rice.

_ Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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