by | CBS Sports

Top 10: Time to answer a few questions this Saturday

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Last week answered a few questions, but not many. But this weekend's buffet will not only be entertaining, it will start to build the road to the national championship. And did I mention that it's going to be fun?

So let us proceed with Tony's Top 10 for Saturday, Sept. 11:

1. Something memorable is going to happen at Penn State-Alabama: The two teams have met only 13 times but some great memories always seem to get made when these two college football titans hook up. My favorite Penn State-Alabama memory came on New Year's Eve, 1979, at the Sugar Bowl. Penn State was sitting inside the Alabama 1-yard line, trailing 14-7. Marty Lyons, Alabama's great defensive tackle, asked Penn State quarterback Chuck Fusina how far he needed to go for the touchdown. "About 10 inches," Fusina.

Randy Shannon and Co. won't be intimidated by the Horseshoe. (AP)  
Randy Shannon and Co. won't be intimidated by the Horseshoe. (AP)  
"You better pass," Lyons said.

Penn State did not pass, which is what Joe Paterno wanted to do. Instead Penn State ran Mike Guman into the middle of the line and Alabama linebacker Barry Krauss stood him up, which became one of the most famous images in college football history. Alabama won the national championship.

So what snapshot are we going to get in Tuscaloosa on Saturday night? How about Paterno walking on the sidelines of Bryant-Denny Stadium for (we think) the last time?

2. Mark Stoops takes on big brother: Mark Stoops, formerly the defensive coordinator for brother Mike Stoops at Arizona, had already taken the job as Jimbo Fisher's new DC at Florida State. Then Mark Stoops looked at the Seminoles' schedule. His eye went straight to a Sept. 11 trip to Oklahoma where his oldest brother, Bob, is the head coach and has (we think) another top 10 team.

"That one woke me up in a hurry," said Mark Stoops. "Needless to say it is going to be an interesting weekend."

3. Can Miami actually go to the 'Shoe and win? A year ago there were dire predictions for Miami with an opening four-game slate of Florida State, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Oklahoma. But when the smoke cleared, the Hurricanes were 3-1 (losing at Virginia Tech 31-7) and had a win over Georgia Tech, the eventual ACC champion. So you have to say Randy Shannon's bunch is not particularly overwhelmed to be going to No. 2 Ohio State. There is a whole lot of speed on the Miami defense. Watch defensive end Allen Bailey to see how much pressure he can put on Buckeyes quarterback Terrelle Pryor.

4. Aaron Murray gets his first real test at South Carolina: Murray, a redshirt freshman from Tampa, Fla., has what Georgia coach Mark Richt calls the "It" factor. "It" is that intangible that all great quarterbacks seem to have.

"I can't define it," Richt said. "But I know it when I see it."

Murray is a tough kid. He came back from a broken leg as a high school senior to lead Plant High School to a Florida state championship. He was totally in command last week in his debut against Louisiana-Lafayette. But in the SEC good quarterbacks are defined by their ability to win on the road. Murray will get his first real test under fire at high noon against Steve Spurrier's gang at South Carolina. Georgia will play without wide receiver A.J. Green, who is serving a four-game suspension.

5. Skip Holtz goes to The Swamp: Skip Holtz left East Carolina and took the South Florida job because "everything you need to be successful is there." It's located right in the heart of one of the richest recruiting areas in the world. "And if we are going to go head-to-head [in recruiting] with the Big Three [Florida, Miami, Florida State] and get our fair share of players, we've got to play those guys and play them well."

Holtz will get his first chance when the Bulls go to Florida, which is still reeling from a sloppy opening game against Miami (Ohio). A year ago South Florida, coached by Jim Leavitt, went to Tallahassee and beat Florida State.

6. Brian Kelly goes for signature win against Michigan: The new Notre Dame coach was relatively pleased with last week's debut against Purdue. But Michigan comes to town and Kelly gets a chance for an early signature victory in South Bend.

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"Last week was OK but this week the speed limit picks up considerably," said Kelly. "This game will be at a completely different tempo."

A number of people (this writer included) thought Michigan might lose to UConn last week. I was wrong. It was a good performance by quarterback Denard Robinson, who looks like he'll be the Michigan QB as long as he's healthy. It's an important game for both teams. Kelly wants to build. Rodriguez wants to hold on.

7. The Rebels have to bounce back: Last week was a very, very strange one at Ole Miss. Early in the week the NCAA ruled that transfer quarterback Jeremiah Masoli would not be eligible in 2010. Coach Houston Nutt lobbied for the school's appeal which, magically, was granted last Friday. Suddenly Masoli was eligible to play in the opener. A distracted team lost to Jacksonville State of the Ohio Valley 49-48 in double OT. The Rebels blew a 31-10 lead in what Nutt called "the worst loss of my career." Ole Miss will settle down this week and take its frustrations out on Tulane in New Orleans.

8. Now the fun really begins for Derek Dooley: Tennessee opened with a solid 50-0 win against Tennessee-Martin and gave its new head coach some breathing room. But Saturday's home game with Oregon, which opened with a 72-0 win over New Mexico, begins an eight-week stretch that includes games with Florida, at LSU, at Georgia, Alabama, and at South Carolina. That would be a Murderer's Row for a very good football team. Tennessee has too many holes to be a very good team.

"The schedule is what it is and we will line up and figure out what gives us the best opportunity to win," said Dooley. "When you coach at a place like Tennessee you are going to play very good people."

9. Turner Gill tries to stay positive for visit from Georgia Tech: Turner Gill's first game week at Kansas was not a good one. On Tuesday athletic director Lew Perkins, the man who hired Gill, announced that he would retire effective immediately. That was days after the Jayhawks were stunned in their first game by North Dakota State, losing 6-3. Now Gill and company have to host one of the best running teams in college football as Georgia Tech, the defending ACC champion, comes to Lawrence.

Dating back to last season, Kansas has lost eight straight games. Gill, the former Nebraska quarterback, has emphasized the positive in order to overcome adversity. That might be a pretty hard sell if Paul Johnson's offense gets rolling. The Yellow Jackets had 372 yards rushing last week against South Carolina State.

10. Les Miles needs a convincing win -- now: When is a win not a win? When you almost blow a 30-10 lead and nearly get beat by a team that left 13 players -- including five defensive starters -- at home. LSU, picked to finish fourth in the SEC West, was lucky to beat North Carolina 30-24 last Saturday in Atlanta. North Carolina trailed by 20 points at halftime and ended the game on the LSU six-yard line. LSU's fan base is frustrated by an offense that totally lacks an identity and simply can't run the ball. With an 8-8 record in SEC play the past two seasons, the Tigers need to beat somebody -— anybody -- by a big margin. A good place to start would be at Vanderbilt. While LSU fans are upset, a look at the next four games (at Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, West Virginia and Tennessee at home) tells me the Tigers could be 5-0 when they go to Florida on Oct. 9.

Watch the Tony Barnhart Show every Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET on The CBS College Sports Network.


Tony Barnhart is in his fifth season as a contributor to CBSSports.com. He is a college football analyst for CBS Sports and The CBS Sports Network. Prior to joining CBS he was the national college football writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for 24 years. He has written five books on college football.
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