Will Alabama return to the BCS title game in 2010?
When the Alabama Crimson Tide and Florida Gators clash this weekend, the teams will headline a week of great matchups in college football that will leave a lasting imprint on the BCS title race.
The pairings include ranked teams battling head-to-head in crucial conference games and fierce rivals with state and border bragging rights on the line.
Many teams will show us the direction their seasons are headed by Saturday's end, for better or for worse. Every game is a must win in college football, and this week will make or break the season for several schools.
Virginia Tech is no longer a BCS title contender, but the Hokies affect the outcome of the BCS standings more than most ranked teams. After being defeated against Boise St. in Week 1, Virginia Tech was Boise's best win to prove the Broncos were BCS title worthy.
Boise State fans were shocked when James Madison upset Virginia Tech the next week, making their classic win vs. the Hokies look less appealing.
The pressure for Virginia Tech to win is being felt on both sides of the country.
The Hokies' opponent this week are the North Carolina State Wolfpack, who are ranked in the top 25 for the first time since 2003.
Tom O'Brien's Wolfpack are the only undefeated team remaining in the ACC conference, and a win vs. Virginia Tech Saturday will prove they are a legitimate ACC contender.
Virginia Tech's defense finally showed signs of what we expected from them this season last week against Boston College, where it recorded a shutout against the Eagles.
NC State quarterback Russell Wilson will give the Hokies' defense trouble with his dual threat passing/rushing abilities. His ability to create a positive play when the huddle collapses is crucial to the Wolfpack offense.
The Wolfpack defense is second in the ACC forcing nine turnovers, and is ranked third best on third-down situations.
NC State will win this ACC matchup, and prolong the misery of football fans in Virginia and Boise.
Prediction: NC State wins 31-17
Penn State Nittany Lions
Iowa has beaten Penn State in seven of its last eight meetings.
While only five spots in the rankings separate these teams, the national perception of these two teams is quite different.
Iowa has shown signs of being an elite team this season, but a loss to Arizona put a big dent in Iowa's BCS chances. Alabama's destruction of Penn State was far less surprising.
Iowa has a size advantage on both the offensive and defensive line. The Nittany Lions will find it difficult to rush against the Hawkeyes' defense, which ranks third in the nation against the run allowing a mere 65.5 rush yards per game.
Both teams need this game not only for their Big Ten campaigns, but for their confidence. Not having confidence in your ability to win early in the season is a terrible sign.
Prediction: Iowa wins 27-10
Miami has played Clemson three times as a member of the ACC, and all three games have gone to overtime. Clemson has had a week off to correct its mistakes in a heartbreaking rivalry loss to Auburn in overtime.
Kyle Parker must play well for Clemson to win. Miami's young secondary is vulnerable, and it could be the reason Miami loses this game. Ohio State made Miami's secondary look bad, and the impressive Clemson offensive line will give Kyle Parker a chance to pick the defense apart.
Parker threw for a career high 326 yards and three touchdowns in last season's meeting between these teams, a 40-37 win for the Tigers over then-ranked No. 8 Miami.
History favors the Hurricanes as the road team has won this match up all three times in ACC play, and playing Clemson in Death Valley at noon is much less frightening than at night.
Look for Clemson to rebound from its loss vs. Auburn, and kill the trend of the away team's dominance with a big win against the Hurricanes.
Prediction: Clemson wins 38-31
Is LSU a real BCS title threat?
The LSU Tigers have more questions than an undefeated team usually has four weeks into the season, and a favorable matchup against the struggling Tennessee Volunteers is just what they need.
This matchup is a tale of two defenses, LSU is ranked first in run defense in the SEC, giving up just 74.8 yards per game. The Volunteer defense is allowing 141.5 rush yards per game, bad enough for third worst in the SEC.
The Tigers offense is having its problems this season, so much that LSU was booed at home in a win vs. West Virginia
Tennessee has three freshman offensive lineman starting, and as a team were only able to grind 42 yards rushing last week vs. UAB.
Inexperience is one of the Volunteers' main weaknesses, who also have a number of injuries.
If the Tigers are a true SEC contender, they have to win this game. Every team in the SEC can beat any other on any given Saturday. For the Tigers to impress their fans and the media, they must not only win, but win convincingly.
Prediction: LSU wins 45-10
The Big Ten is one of the most competitive conferences in America. Two Big Ten teams with a lot to prove Saturday are Wisconsin and Michigan State.
A Michigan State victory at Spartan Stadium Saturday afternoon would give the Spartans their first 5-0 start in 11 years.
The Badgers enter Big Ten play undefeated for the seventh-straight season. Unfortunately for them, their conference performance has not matched their early season results.
Both the Badgers and the Spartans boast impressive running games and will look to control the clock, making the battle for field position a crucial part of the outcome.
The Wisconsin running duo of junior John Clay and freshman James White combined for over 200 yards rushing last week in the Badgers 70-3 beat down of Austin Peay.
While Michigan State may be the weaker team in terms of talent, the emotional boost Spartie will receive after head coach Mark Dantonio returns to Spartan Stadium will energize them. Dantonio will try to watch the game from a coaching box above the field.
Coach Dantonio had surgery Sept. 19 to put in a stent to help a complicated blood vessel near his heart. The surgery took place just a day after Michigan State's thrilling 34-31 overtime triumph over Notre Dame.
With so many quality ranked teams in the Big Ten this season, this game is very important. Everyone is trying to catch Ohio State, but teams need to be focused each week in case Ohio State is upset.
Prediction: Michigan State wins 24-21
There won't be any cheering if Texas loses Saturday
Few rivalries in America are more important to their fans than the Red River Shootout.
The 105th meeting between rivals Texas and Oklahoma is a must win for Texas after an embarrassing upset loss to UCLA last week.
The motivation to bounce back will not be hard to find, as the Longhorns look to derail Oklahoma's Big 12 title chances while also jump-starting their own.
Oklahoma has been winning close games this season. It's hard to complain when you're winning, but Oklahoma's wins have come against inferior teams. The Sooners 31-29 win vs. Cincinnati last week was their third victory by seven points or less this season.
Oklahoma and Texas are no strangers to playing a close game against each other. Oklahoma's three-point defeat to the Longhorns last year was one of the Sooners' four losses by one score or less.
How big is this game? The team that has won this rivalry has won the Big 12 championship four of the last six seasons, the loser has won the other two.
Prediction: Oklahoma wins 17-14 in OT
Heisman voters will keep a close eye on Andrew Luck Saturday
Stanford hopes to remain undefeated with a win against fourth-ranked Oregon in what looks to be a shootout.
Stanford, off to its best start in 25 years, is trying to snap a streak of four consecutive losses at Autzen Stadium in Oregon. Since 2002, the Ducks have beaten Stanford by an average of 26.8 points at home.
Both teams have high-scoring offenses, with Oregon leading all FBS teams in scoring at 57.8 points per game, and ranking third in total yards from scrimmage and rushing yards.
This game could decide the Pac-10 title, further proving October games are just as important as late season matchups.
Both teams have impressed on the defensive side of the ball, each holding opposing teams to under 14 points per game (Oregon 11, Stanford 13.7).
Oregon's is an explosive offense. Stanford's best chance to win Saturday is to limit the big plays the Ducks frequently make.
The Ducks' defense must contain Heisman Trophy hopeful Andrew Luck, and doing so may give them the victory. The Cardinal rushing attack is not potent enough to win them the game alone.
Prediction: Oregon wins 38-27
Every BCS discussion involves Boise State these days, and for good reason. The Broncos passed a grueling non-conference schedule, beating quality BCS conference teams Virginia Tech and Oregon State.
This weekend Boise State will move out of the national spotlight, and attempt to accomplish what everyone expects them to do with ease, win the Western Athletic Conference.
The pressure for Boise State to go undefeated is not just to earn a BCS at-large bid, but a spot in the BCS National Championship game.
The possibilty of playing for a national title is much more likely than in previous years for the Broncos, which will make every WAC opponent a danger, even against a NM St. team Boise has beaten all 10 times they've played.
On the field this game is a total mismatch. New Mexico State is one of the worst teams in the country, and have lost 10 straight games since winning last Oct. 10 vs. Utah State.
Boise's objectives in this game will be to clean up its sloppy play this season because penalties have been an issue of concern.
The Broncos will win easily, and fairly or not, they have to do so. Even though margin of victory is not a ranking in the BCS computers, Boise State must play every game like it is, because style points are the only thing Boise has left to impress the national media.
Prediction: Boise State wins 66-3
Jim Tressel (Grey Sweater) is one of the finest coaches in America
Ohio State's offense is playing at an all-time high after routing Eastern Michigan 73-20 last week. The 73 points scored represented the Buckeyes' highest total since they won 80-21 over Iowa in 1950.
The road to the BCS Championship game will get much tougher when Ohio State opens its Big Ten schedule on the road in Illinios.
Illinois famously defeated Ohio State's BCS title dreams in 2007, when the Buckeyes lost 10-0.
Sensational Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor was involved in six of Ohio State's 10 touchdowns last week, but he will be facing an improved Illinois defense who are allowing opponents almost half as many points game this year compared to last year (16.0 this season, 30.0 last season).
Since its 2007 upset of the Buckeyes, Illinois has lost seven straight games vs. ranked opponents, and has not beaten Ohio State at home since 1991.
The Buckeye's running game will be way too powerful for Illinois to contain, and Terrelle Pryor will certainly use this game to pad his stats to be a finalist for the Heisman Trophy.
Prediction: Ohio State wins 52-14
Mark Ingram will run all over the Gators Defense
Alabama and Florida square off in Tuscaloosa Saturday night, a rematch of the last two Southeastern Conference title games (SEC).
A loss in this game will not ruin either team's chances for an SEC or BCS title. Alabama and Florida represent the West and East divisions of the SEC, respectively, meaning they could meet again in early December with the SEC title on the line.
Alabama has the most to gain in this heavyweight fight. This is the second consecutive week in which Alabama is matched up against a top 10 team, barely surviving a solid effort from Arkansas last week.
The Crimson Tide offense is a very experienced group, led by quarterback Greg McElroy. McElroy does a great job running the offense, but the game will be decided by the effectiveness of Alabama's running game.
Led by reigning Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, Alabama will try to run all over Florida. Sophomore Trent Richardson will provide a nice change of pace when Ingram needs a rest. Richardson was excellent last year as a true freshman, compiling 751 rush yards and eight touchdowns.
Florida will need to prove to the nation and their fans that the Gators can win against a top SEC rival in prime time.
The experience Florida valued so much the past few years is gone, and regardless of the outcome, this game will help the maturity of the younger Gator players—especially quarterback John Brantley.
Brantley has had issues dealing with the play clock this season, and the Alabama crowd will certainly make his life awfully tough.
Prediction: Alabama wins 35-14
With all the great games this weekend, college football fans will see a great game no matter what channel they are watching.
So many games this week will decide the fates of team's who are one loss away from a failed season, and one win away from a major step in the right direction.
Coaches' futures will also be decided in this weekend's games.
After the regular season and conference championships have been played, we will look back at October 2nd and realize this Saturday, the contenders were separated from the pretenders.