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    Downs & Distance

    Maryland turns QB duties to freshman LB

    Jim McBride’s four items of interest on this week’s college football landscape:

    Spiraling down

    If you have any college eligibility left and can throw a decent spiral, you might want to place a call to Maryland coach Randy Edsall and let him know you’re available for emergency duty. The Terrapins have lost four quarterbacks to season-ending injuries, and this week will start true freshman Shawn Petty against Georgia Tech. Now, plenty of true freshmen have started at major colleges in the past, but this particular true freshman has been playing linebacker for the scout team most of the season. Perry, a 6-foot-1-inch, 230-pound lefthander (Tim Tebow, anyone?), did play QB at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Maryland. Edsall isn’t looking for any sympathy, telling Terrapins Insider: “Our guys know how to handle it. We know Shawn is the guy, so everybody has to rally around him.’’

    Heisman backing

    Linebacker Manti Te’o has created a lot of Heisman buzz with his outstanding and instinctive play for undefeated Notre Dame. It’s still a long shot for Te’o, as quarterbacks (most notably Kansas State’s Collin Klein), running backs (most notably Oregon’s De’Anthony Thomas), and receivers (most notably Southern Cal’s Marqise Lee) still get most of the voters’ attention. But Te’o also has some stiff competition from his own position (most notably Georgia’s Jarvis Jones). Te’o’s statistics are impressive: 80 tackles, 4½ for losses, including a sack, 5 interceptions, and 2 recovered fumbles. Jarvis’s numbers are right there, too. Despite missing two games, Jones has 49 tackles, 14 for losses, including 8 sacks, and 5 forced fumbles.

    As good as it gets


    You don’t have to Roll Tide or own a Geaux Tigers T-shirt to be jazzed up for Saturday’s prime-time matchup between No. 1 Alabama and No. 5 LSU in Death Valley. If you’re interested, StubHub has some seats in West 103 for a mere $2,000 a pop. Every year, this matchup is billed as the Game of the Century — and why not? The schools have combined for four BCS championships since 2003, two for each. Adding to the drama is that Alabama coach Nick Saban owns three of those rings, having led LSU to the ’03 crown in addition to his ’09 and ’11 titles with the Tide. Saturday’s game is a rematch of last season’s national title game in which Alabama flattened Les Miles’s troops, 21-0. The MVP of that game, QB A.J. McCarron, has been nearly flawless this season (18 TDs, 0 INTs), giving the Tide a slight edge.

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    A lot of obituaries have been written for Southern Cal after last week’s 39-36 loss to Arizona dropped Lane Kiffin’s crew to 6-2, 4-2 in the Pac-12, and effectively out of the national championship picture. And while it’s true the Trojans won’t be playing for a national title, this team still can have a major effect on who ends up in Miami Jan. 7. It starts Saturday when the Men of Troy welcome the undefeated Oregon Ducks, who definitely have national title aspirations. This will be the first real challenge for Chip Kelly’s team, which is averaging a tops-in-the-nation 53.4 points per game. A loss to USC would deliver a severe blow to the Ducks’ title shot. Fast-forward to Nov. 24 and USC could host a Notre Dame team that has a good shot at entering the game 11-0. A win over the rival Irish would end the title hopes of Brian Kelly’s team, too.

    Jim McBride can be reached at