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National college football

In Big Ten, three are fighting for one spot

Associated Press / November 27, 2010

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A sign hangs above the exit of the Wisconsin Badgers’ practice facility that reads, “The road to the Rose Bowl begins here.’’

“I’ve been looking at that sign since I got here,’’ senior tight end Lance Kendricks said. “We’ve all hit it, and now it’s right here. What are we going to do about it?’’

Kendricks and the fifth-ranked Badgers (10-1, 6-1 Big Ten) have a score to settle with Northwestern (7-4, 3-4) today in Madison, Wis., before they can talk about a potential trip to Pasadena, Calif., for the first time since the 1999 season.

Wisconsin holds the inside track to the Big Ten’s automatic BCS berth if Michigan State and Ohio State win today, because the Badgers are the highest-ranked conference team in the BCS standings (seventh). The Badgers hold a tiebreaker over the Buckeyes for their Oct. 16 win, but do not against the Spartans because of an Oct. 2 loss in the conference opener.

Eighth-ranked Ohio State (10-1, 6-1) will kick off the 108th edition of “The Game’’ against visiting Michigan (7-4, 3-4) at noon, the same time No. 11 Michigan State (10-1, 6-1) starts its game at Penn State (7-4, 4-3). So Wisconsin will know its standing by the time Camp Randall Stadium gets rocking at 3:30 p.m.

Badgers coach Bret Bielema said he’ll let those out-of-town scores show up on Camp Randall’s scoreboard. “Human nature tells you [that] you want to know,’’ said Kendricks.

Though Northwestern defeated Wisconsin, 33-31, in last year’s game, the Wildcats may not be able to match the Badgers score for score. Wisconsin is averaging nearly 41 points per game, well ahead of the school-record pace of 34.3 set in 2005.

It’s always intense when Florida State and Florida meet. This year, the No. 22 Seminoles (8-3) have the added incentive of qualifying for the ACC championship game. The Gators (7-4) will take a six-game winning streak in the series into Tallahassee. Florida State might be tempted to find out what is going on between No. 21 North Carolina State and host Maryland, which kicks off at the same time. A win by the Terrapins would catapult the Seminoles into next week’s ACC title game against Virginia Tech. N.C. State (8-3) and the Seminoles each have two losses in the ACC’s Atlantic Division, but the Wolfpack own the tiebreaker because of a 28-24 victory over Florida State last month . . . There’s a twist to the Bedlam rivalry this year — for only the fourth time, No. 10 Oklahoma State (10-1, 6-1 Big 12) is ranked higher than Oklahoma (14th, at 9-2, 5-2). The Sooners are trying to prevent the host Cowboys from winning their first Big 12 South title and instead possibly earn their eighth. Oklahoma leads the series, 80-17-7 . . . Tonight’s matchup in Los Angeles will be the 82d meeting between Notre Dame (6-5) and Southern Cal (7-4), but for just the ninth time since the Associated Press poll began in 1936, neither team is ranked.