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Take a deep breath: Football is back on weekend TV menu

College football is back in a big way this Labor Day weekend, highlighted by a Saturday slate featuring showdowns between No. 3 Alabama and No. 20 Wisconsin and No. 11 Notre Dame and Texas.

At about the same time as those storied programs kick off, UNLV will start the Tony Sanchez era at Northern Illinois (4:30 p.m., CBSSN (333)), as the energetic former Bishop Gorman High School coach makes his college debut.

The Rebels, coming off their fourth two-win season in the past five years, are 23-point underdogs to the Huskies, who have won at least 11 games in each of the past five seasons. Northern Illinois beat UNLV 48-34 early last season at Sam Boyd Stadium. The Rebels rallied from a 23-point third-quarter deficit to tie the game at 34 before faltering.

TODAY

Washington at No. 23 Boise State (7:15 p.m., ESPN (30)): Second-year Huskies coach Chris Petersen returns to the school he helped build into a national power. Petersen will be in the unfamiliar position of being an underdog on Boise State’s blue field, as the Broncos — coached by Bryan Harsin, Petersen’s former assistant — are 13-point favorites.

BEST OF REST: Football: No. 4 Baylor at Southern Methodist (4 p.m., ESPN (30)), No. 5 Michigan State at Western Michigan (4 p.m., ESPNU (320)); MLB: Texas Rangers at Los Angeles Angels (7 p.m., FSW (49)), Los Angeles Dodgers at San Diego Padres (7 p.m., Cox (96)); Tennis: U.S. Open, third round (10 a.m., 3 p.m., 4 p.m., ESPN (30)).

SATURDAY

No. 20 Wisconsin vs. No. 3 Alabama (5:05 p.m., ABC (13)): The only weekend matchup of top-25 teams will take place at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Alabama, a 12-point favorite, is 11-4 in neutral site games under coach Nick Saban, who has yet to name a starting quarterback from a trio of candidates: Jake Coker, Alec Morris and Cooper Bateman. Paul Chryst makes his coaching debut for Wisconsin, and Badgers running back Corey Clement will try to replace Heisman finalist Melvin Gordon.

BEST OF REST: Football: Louisville vs. No. 6 Auburn (12:30 p.m., CBS (8)), No. 15 Arizona State vs. Texas A&M (4 p.m., ESPN (30)), Texas at No. 11 Notre Dame (4:30 p.m., NBC (3)); MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at St. Louis Cardinals, 1 p.m., FS1 (329), Texas Rangers at Los Angeles Angels, 6 p.m., FSW (49); Tennis: U.S. Open, third round (8 a.m., 4 p.m., ESPN2 (31)).

SUNDAY

Pittsburgh Pirates at St. Louis Cardinals (5 p.m., ESPN (30)): The Pirates already have a National League wild-card spot virtually locked up and could still make a run at the division title with a sweep of their NL Central rivals. In a matchup of the NL’s top two teams, Pittsburgh’s Gerrit Cole is slated to oppose John Lackey, who has been a workhorse for the Cards (86-47), making 15 straight starts of at least six innings.

BEST OF REST: Football: Purdue at Marshall (noon, FS1 (329)); MLB: Texas Rangers at Los Angeles Angels (12:30 p.m., FSW (49)), Los Angeles Dodgers at San Diego Padres (1 p.m., Cox (96)); PGA Tour: Deutsche Bank Championship, third round (10 a.m., TGC (339), noon, NBC (3)); Tennis: U.S. Open, fourth round (8 a.m., 4 p.m., ESPN2 (31)).

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0354. Follow him on Twitter: @tdewey33.

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