When you wake up Saturday morning to prepare for Week 10 of the college football season, the calendar will read November for the first time.
That means it's time to get serious in college pigskin circles, with big rivalry games, conference titles, and the national championship picture all to be sorted out.
The picture is getting clearer by the week with undefeateds: Texas, Alabama, and Penn State leading the charge, but there are still five weeks of regular season play and conference championship weekend to screw it all up.
Count on it happening. It always does, and I cannot wait.
South Florida at Cincinnati, 7:30 (ESPN)
Wisconsin at Michigan State, 12 (ESPN)
Northwestern at Minnesota, 12 (ESPN 2)
Air Force at Army, 12 (ESPN U)
Michigan at Purdue, 12 (BTN)
Central Michigan at Indiana, 12 (BTN)
Kansas State at Kansas, 12:30 (FSN)
Pittsburgh at Notre Dame, 2:30 (NBC)
Florida State at Georgia Tech, 3:30 (ABC/ESPN)
Iowa at Illinois, 3:30 (ABC/ESPN)
Iowa State at Oklahoma State, 3:30 (ABC)
Oregon at California, 3:30 (ABC)
Florida vs. Georgia in Jacksonville, 3:30 (CBS)
Clemson at Boston College, 3:30 (ESPN U)
Temple at Navy, 3:30 (CBS College)
Washington at USC, 6:30 (FSN)
Tennessee at South Carolina, 7 (ESPN 2)
Louisville at Syracuse, 7 (ESPN U)
Texas at Texas Tech, 8 (ABC)
Nebraska at Oklahoma, 8 (ESPN)
TCU at UNLV, 8 (CBS College)
Arizona State at Oregon State, 10:15 (FSN)
East Carolina at UCF, 8 (ESPN)
GAMES OF THE WEEK:
Texas at Texas Tech
If Texas can win their fourth game in a row against a top 10 opponent, they deserve to be in the BCS title game. And if they do go into Lubbock and beat Mike Leach's high-powered offense, the road is pretty clear.
They still have Baylor, Kansas on the road, and the big rivalry game with A&M in the regular season, and I think they will get through that stretch without a problem.
The Big 12 Championship will likely mean a rematch with Mizzou or Kansas, and that contest has been known to trip up national title contenders on the eve of the final BCS poll (remember Oklahoma against Kansas State in 2003? Or K-State against A&M in 1998?).
But this is only a possibility IF they can defeat the Red Raiders. I truly believe Tech is the toughest matchup of the past four weeks for a Texas team that has also faced Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Missouri in that time frame, frankly because of the fact that this is the only one of those games outside of a friendly home or neutral site environment and the fact that the Red Raiders are the only one of those four teams who can score with, or outscore, the Horns.
Graham Harrell will put up big numbers on national television, introducing himself and Michael Crabtree to anyone who has not yet had the pleasure of watching them play.
But is Mike Leach's team ready for the spotlight? They haven't played many big games in Lubbock, so there might be some butterflies for a team looking to go 9-0 for the first time in seven decades.
Folks, don't miss this game. The score might look like a Horns-Raiders basketball game broke out. And I am going to go outside of the box to predict a 41-34 Texas Tech upset.
Florida vs. Georgia
If I call this game the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, what's my punishment?
An eternity in college football Hell where Gary Danielson and Mike Patrick are the only commentators?
Anyways, we all know this is a big rivalry that is magnified this year for two reasons.
First, both the Gators and Bulldogs sit among the one-loss contingent who will be looking to step up in the national title picture shall Alabama, Texas, and/or Penn State falter.
Secondly, Mark Richt and company showed up Urban Meyer's team last year, automatically making him one of my heroes. I am sure Florida is going to use that team touchdown celebration in the end zone from Georgia's win last year as motivation.
Florida has dominated this series pretty much since Steve Spurrier took over in Gainesville, and you know they will want to get back to their winning ways against a hated rival.
But Georgia is well prepared for a quality opponent after dismantling LSU, whereas Florida hasn't been seriously challenged in weeks.
Dawgs in a close one.
Pittsburgh at Notre Dame
I really don't know what to expect in this game. Pittsburgh looks great one week (i.e. their win at South Florida), and then gets pummeled by Rutgers the next.
Notre Dame's two losses have come to top 25 teams, but their five wins haven't exactly been against the best competition. It all depends on which Pitt team decides to show up on Saturday (and they may be without starting QB Bill Stull).
This will be a great test for the Irish, whose best-case scenario at this point (at least in my opinion) is the Gator Bowl. The Panthers are undefeated on the road, while the Irish have yet to lose in South Bend. Something will have to give in this one, and by the scientific process of coin flipping, I see Pitt's road winning streak coming to an end.
Oregon at California
The Ducks, who have battled quarterback injuries since summer camp, are currently tied with USC for the Pac 10 lead (although they did lose 44-10 at the Coliseum), while Cal is a half game back with a meeting against the Trojans to follow next week.
This is obviously an important game in determining the league pecking order when bowl season arrives. The key battle in this contest will be Oregon's run offense out of the spread (which averages nearly 300 yards per game) against a Cal run defense that is one of the nation's elite.
If the Bears are able to effectively slow down the rushing attack, and I think they will find a way, whoever plays the majority of the time at QB for the Ducks, either Jeremiah Masoli or a finally healthy Justin Roper, will have to find a way to move the ball through the air.
Cal has the advantage on defense and the fact that this game is in Berkeley, so I expect them to win as long as they do not get a case of looking ahead to the mighty Men of Troy.
OTHER GAMES TO WATCH:
South Florida at Cincinnati
Big East games haven't been getting a whole lot of attention from me this year, but judging by the fact that everyone still has a majority of their conference games left and everyone except Syracuse is within a game and a half of each other, the race for a BCS berth will be an intriguing one.
USF was chomping at the bit to take the league crown should West Virginia falter, but they have two league losses and find themselves in seventh. Cincinnati, a good home team, will not be a pushover by any stretch of the imagination.
West Virginia at Connecticut
Remember last year when this game played a major role in West Virginia's eventual conference title? The game is a few weeks earlier in 2008, but with WVU No. 1 in the standings and UConn not far behind tied for second, this year's meeting should at least help in beginning to clear up a foggy race.
UConn is a missed last-minute field goal away against Rutgers from joining the Mountaineers in the ranks of undefeated teams in Big East play, and they know if they want to have a shot at their first BCS berth, this game is a must-win.
The Mountaineers should be ready, however, as the offense finally found their footing in an impressive win versus Auburn.
Northwestern at Minnesota
You know it is a wacky year in the Big 10 when: a. this is the game of the week, b. Minnesota still has an outside shot of winning the conference, and c. both teams are in the top half of the league standings.
The Wildcats and Gophers are not known as football powerhouses, but head coaches Pat Fitzgerald and Tim Brewster are doing a great job in making them contenders instead of doormats for Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State.
Northwestern will be without star back Tyrell Sutton for the rest of the year, making their job inside the Metrodome that much more challenging.
Miami (FL) at Virginia
As alluded to earlier, the ACC Coastal Division is, in PG terms, chaos. Everyone still has a chance, including division leader Virginia. The Wahoos were left for dead after getting blown out by Duke in late September, but here they are at 5-3 and in a good position.
Miami is not quite a contender yet, but their upset of Wake last Saturday had to do a lot for confidence's sake. They still need to win one more to avoid a second straight postseason at home, and judging by the fact they have the technical schools the next two games, this is a must-win.
Tulsa at Arkansas
The Golden Hurricane are 8-0 and in the BCS Top 20, but even if they go undefeated, making the BCS is probably not going to happen seeing how strong MWC leaders Utah and TCU are.
Anyways, they still get a chance to make their case to the pollsters on the road against a BCS/SEC team this week, even if it is Arkansas.
The Razorbacks have been improving from week-to-week, but they have no shot of slowing down the Tulsa scoring machine that is capable of putting up 70 in any given game.
Nebraska at Oklahoma
It's a shame these teams do not get to meet up every year, because there have been some great games in this series. Obviously, Nebraska is a little down right now, as Oklahoma was in the late 90s, but I guarantee you they will be back under Bo Pelini in due time.
As for Saturday night, they really don't stand a chance in a month of Sundays. Sam Bradford and the OU offense have been rolling since losing to Texas, and I don't see how the Huskers can keep up and/or stop them.