Mark your calendars, football fans. The month of September could very well be the most important month for many teams vying for pushes in the polls and top-tier bowl bids.
Usually most teams' entire seasons are decided late—think late November or early December.
Looking at last year, if West Virginia had beat Pitt, LSU would have been playing in the Sugar Bowl. The year before, USC, not Florida, would have been playing for the title if it weren't for UCLA's upset over the Trojans.
Yes, the last few games are very important to many teams still posturing for bowl bids. However, this year has some unexpected early season blockbusters which could determine the BCS pecking order.
Get a load of some of these games on September 20th and the implications for some BCS title contenders' entire seasons.
Florida @ Tennessee
Are you kidding me? Florida's first road game against a division foe, and the only other tough road games they have (not counting the WLOCP in Jacksonville) are against a watered-down Arkansas, Vandy, and Florida State.
This game could be for all the marbles since Georgia's road schedule is a bit more daunting than the Gators. The Gators have to have this win against the Vols to get ahead of the Dawgs.
The Vols, on the other hand, are pretty sneaky at flying under the radar. While everybody is looking at Florida or Georgia to win the East, Phil may have a few tricks up his sleeve and throw a wrench into those two teams' postseason plans.
Georgia @ Arizona State
Although the Dawgs travel to South Carolina the previous week, the road to Arizona State will be brutal. The Dawgs also have to travel to LSU and Auburn later in the season. The game in Tempe, Arizona is the litmus test for determining just how good the Bulldogs and the Sun Devils are.
It's really simple for Georgia. Win, and have a ton of confidence hosting 'Bama and Tennessee the following weeks. Lose, and every SEC team will be studying the game film to put Georgia in the dog house.
Arizona State, on the other hand, can actually jump ahead of USC if they beat Georgia and the Trojans lose to the Buckeyes the previous week.
LSU @ Auburn
Another potential BCS dream-ender for either team. After this game, Auburn still has the Vols, the Hogs, the Georgia Bulldogs, and the Tide on their schedule, plus a non-conference game at West Virginia.
The Auburn Tigers warm up with Mississippi State before facing the defending champs, and while they shouldn't have too many problems adjusting to the intensity of conference play, theirs is still a better warm-up game than LSU's.
LSU's first three games are against App. State, Troy, and North Texas, and they may not be battle-tested for Tuberville's Tigers. Sometimes scheduling cream puffs can do you in, and this might be a perfect example of not being well-prepared for an important SEC game.
The winner of this contest could very well be the winner of the SEC West.
Notre Dame @ Michigan State
Weis is 1-2 against Michigan State. Considering his alleged remark about how the Irish would never lose again to Michigan State while he was coach, which has been circulating through the Midwest for years, here is Weis' big chance to put up or shut up.
Weis has predicted a nine to 12-win 2008 season for the Irish, and this game is their first big road test. Lose here, and the team may lose some steam and confidence. Win, and Weis looks like Nostradamus.
Dantonio has a 25-23 record overall, and this year he has high expectations for his team. They only have to travel to Indiana, Northwestern, Michigan, and Penn State in conference play, so their season to make a statement in the Big Ten has arrived. It starts with this game against Notre Dame.
Miami @ Texas A&M
These are two teams dying for some improvement and respect. The 'Canes will be coming off a bye after their date with Florida, so chances are they will be a little flat. They most likely will still have some quarterback issues to settle.
Last year, the Aggies lost to the 'Canes and finished 7-6. Dennis Franchione is out, and Mike Sherman is the new coach. Like Miami, they are adjusting to some new faces on the staff and are looking to gain more respectability.
The winner of this game could go into conference play with a lot of swagger. The loser will probably be praying for a lower-tiered bowl.
Wake Forest @ Florida State
After pounding cream puffs Western Carolina and Chattanooga, the 'Noles have to make a big statement to the BCS voters—only one of those FCS games counts as a win. Facing Wake Forest after those two routs isn't very good scheduling, but it is what it is.
If the 'Noles lose this contest, there's not much hope against Va. Tech, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Boston College, and Florida.
Wake Forest, on the other hand, plays Baylor and Mississippi before traveling to Tallahassee, so you have to wonder who will be in better shape to play. I'm betting the Demon Deacons are.
Virginia Tech @ North Carolina
This game could be the most important game of the year for both teams. You heard it here first—the winner of this game wins the Coastal Division. I give the edge to the Heels, as they lost 17-10 last year despite out-gaining the Hokies in total yardage.
Revenge will finally kick in, and the Hokies will be left out of the conference championship. A new day will dawn in the ACC.
Boise State @ Oregon
This could be one of the best games of the day as far as entertainment. Sure, it's a non-conference game, but the effect on the teams' rankings after this game will be devastating—one of them will drop out of the top 20.
Boise State needs the win to bolster its SOS, while Oregon needs to be able to prove its offense can go on without Dennis Dixon. Autzen Stadium will be unbearable. This is must-see TV.
Arizona @ UCLA
After playing the Vols and the BYU Cougars, the Bruins could very well be 0-2 entering this contest. With Fresno State looming the next week, the Bruins could be 0-4 in September. The Bruins need this win badly, because later they have to travel to Oregon, Cal, and Arizona State.
The Wildcats, on the other hand, have a coach on the hot seat. They get to warm up against Idaho, Toledo, and New Mexico before taking on the Bruins, and their high-powered offense could be really clicking by September 20th.
The good news is that this game may save Stoops' job. The bad news is that there are probably a few folks in Oklahoma who would like Mikey to lose his job so he can come back to Norman and resume his rightful place as a DC.
While neither team will likely be playing in a BCS bowl, this game will surely fuel some SackStoops.com fodder if the Wildcats lose.
And here you thought the best games of the year were during rivalry week. September 20th has all the makings of a magnificent day for some football fans—and a season-ending horror for others.