As the first month of the season draws to a close we are at the stage where it is time to put up or shut up. Sure, we've had a few games that sort of shaped the national championship picture, but now we're going to start playing conference games on the road. That's the only real way, my old coach used to proclaim, to "separate the sheeps from the goats." In more modern language, it is the only way to separate the contenders from the pretenders.
Here are just 10 tasty morsels that will get that party started this weekend:
|Since falling behind 13-3 in Tennessee, Chip Kelly's team has scored 114 unanswered points. (US Presswire)|
2. A classic culture clash in Baton Rouge: I don't know who is going to win when West Virginia (3-0) goes to Baton Rouge to play LSU (3-0). But I do know that it's going to be one helluva party. These are two sets of fans who travel, love their football, and will leave no bottle unopened or keg untapped in the pursuit of a good time in this life or beyond. I recently got a copy of an obituary notice from a West Virginia newspaper. A lady, aged 58, had passed away. The obit said: "Visitation will be held from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. so that there will be no conflict with the West Virginia Mountaineer football game." Now that's a fan.
3. Can Kentucky go to The Swamp and end one of its two big losing streaks? Kentucky is off to a 3-0 start under new head coach Joker Phillips. The Wildcats head to Gainesville on Saturday with a 23-game losing streak against the Gators. In fact, UK hasn't beaten Florida since 1986, when Urban Meyer was a 22-year old graduate assistant at Ohio State. But, for the record, Kentucky's string of woe against the Gators is not its longest current losing streak. Tennessee has beaten the Wildcats 25 straight times.
4. Ryan Mallett gets another shot at the Crimson Tide: Last season the Arkansas quarterback threw for over 3,600 yards with 30 touchdowns. But Mallett's act, as good as it was, did not play well on the road last season, as the Hogs were 0-4 in SEC games away from Fayetteville. At Alabama, for instance, Mallett completed only 12 of 35 passes for 160 yards in a 35-7 loss to the Crimson Tide. Now Mallett gets another chance against Alabama, which is ranked No. 1 but who has three new starters in the secondary. Arkansas, you should know, has one of the best receivers in the country. Greg Childs, Joe Adams and tight end D.J. Williams have already combined for 48 catches. This the second biggest game ever played in Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. The biggest was No. 1 Texas versus No. 2 Arkansas in 1969. President Richard Nixon attended that game, which decided the national championship.
5. It's look ahead week for Texas, Oklahoma: I've always believed that the best time to play Texas or Oklahoma is the week before their big meeting in Dallas. Well, this is that week but I don't see either team having a whole lot of difficulty before the Red River Shootout. Texas hosts a UCLA team that got spanked by Stanford two weeks ago. Inexplicably, Oklahoma is going to Cincinnati (What's up with that?) The Bearcats just don't have the same punch now that Brian Kelly has left town for Notre Dame. Both Texas and OU coast and get ready for the trip to "Big D."
6. Russell Wilson is the real deal: The last time N.C. State was 3-0 (2002) Phillip Rivers was the quarterback. That year the Wolfpack got to 9-0 before losing to Georgia Tech 24-17 in Raleigh. Keep your eye on N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson. After playing minor league baseball all summer Wilson hasn't missed a beat in the Wolfpack's first three games. Last week against Cincinnati Wilson completed 26 of 40 passes for 333 yards and three touchdowns. In three games Wilson has thrown 101 passes without an interception. The guy just doesn't make a lot of mistakes. In 2008 he threw 17 touchdown passes and only one interception, becoming the first true freshman ever named the All-ACC quarterback. "Right now Russell is just starting to shake off the rust," said coach Tom O'Brien. That's got to be a scary thought for Georgia Tech (2-1).
7. Andrew Luck is the best quarterback in the Pac-10: I know Washington's Jake Locker may be the first quarterback taken in next April's NFL Draft. But Stanford's Andrew Luck is just blowing people away. "We've played against Jay Cutler [Vanderbilt] and Matt Ryan [Boston College] but Luck is the best quarterback we've seen," said Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe, whose Deacons were trounced 68-24 by Luck and the Cardinal last week. "He is the real deal." In just three games Luck has thrown for 674 yards and 10 touchdowns with no interceptions. With Toby Gerhart and his 1,871 yards and 28 touchdowns having departed, Stanford has to lean on Luck. It looks like he is up to the task. You'll know what I mean after Saturday when Stanford goes to Notre Dame.
8. Spurrier has a big game to set up big game: South Carolina (3-0) goes to Auburn on Saturday where a victory could set up one of the biggest football games ever played in Columbia, S.C. A victory at Jordan-Hare Stadium gives the Gamecocks a 2-0 record in the SEC with a week off. On Oct. 9 No. 1 Alabama comes to Williams-Brice Stadium off two demanding games at Arkansas (Saturday) and at home Oct. 2 against Florida. In 18 years in the SEC, South Carolina has never won the Eastern Division nor played in the conference championship game. A win over Auburn, which won a tough, physical 27-24 overtime game with Clemson last week, would be a huge step up for the Head Ball Coach. This game will also be a matchup of the two best freshmen running backs in the SEC: Marcus Lattimore of South Carolina and Michael Dyer of Auburn.
9. Boise not only has to win, the Broncos have to do it in style: I wrote last week that this year is starting to look like 2004, when USC and Oklahoma started 1-2 in the polls and never lost. No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Ohio State are starting to get some separation from the field. No. 3 Boise State understands this, especially after its resume took a hit with Virginia Tech's loss to James Madison. All the Broncos can do is keep winning big, like they did last week at Wyoming. This week's game against Oregon State appears to be Boise's last real threat until a Nov. 26 trip to Nevada. If the Broncos get a chance to put a number on the Beavers they have to do it. ESPN is bringing College GameDay to town. The world will be watching. Boise, as it did against Virginia Tech, has to put on a show.
10. Ole Miss is experiencing some seriously bad karma: When Jeremiah Masoli was finally cleared to play at Ole Miss on Sept. 3, a lot of people (this writer included) thought it was a game-changer in the SEC West. The Rebels of Houston Nutt had been picked to finish last in the SEC West, but with Masoli it looked that they would have a great impact on the division. Well, it hasn't turned out that way. Ole Miss must beat Fresno State on Saturday to avoid a 1-3 start. The Rebels have lost to I-AA Jacksonville State, looked sloppy in beating Tulane, and were then just gashed by Vanderbilt 28-14 last week. This season looks to be going South in a hurry in Oxford.
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