While the Week 2 slate does not quite match up to "Monster Saturday" in the second week of 2010, there are some very intriguing matchups that will help shape the landscape of the young season. We'll get some intersectional showdowns between conference contenders, as well as some traditional rivalry games with two teams desperate for a win.
Here are the five key players to this weekend's five most important games.
Gary Pinkel's offense at Missouri has thrived on the "next man in" concept at quarterback. From Brad Smith to Chase Daniel to Blaine Gabbert, it's been a decade of stability under-center for the Tigers.
James Franklin struggled in his first start on Saturday, throwing for only 129 yards in a 17-6 win over Miami (OH). Mizzou now must head west for a Friday night contest at Arizona State. The Sun Devils finished 2010 strong, and before each snap, Franklin will have to stare down ASU middle linebacker and preseason All-American Vontaze Burfict.
Missouri's last trip to Sun Devil Stadium ended in upset loss to Iowa in last year's Insight Bowl. Whether the Tigers suffer a similar outcome on Friday night depends on Franklin's growth from his first game to his second.
With a quarterback making his first road start and top wide receiver Darius Hanks ineligible, it's no secret Alabama wants to run Trent Richardson as much as possible on Saturday at Penn State. If you're looking for a team who can stop the run, why not one known as Linebacker-U?
Carson's surprise emergence in the middle allowed the Nittany Lions to move Michael Mauti to the outside, and the sophomore will be asked to slow down the star Crimson Tide tailback. Penn State figures to struggle on offense, but has the experience in the secondary to control the Alabama passing game with Hanks out and the Tide still looking for a complement to Marquis Maze.
Whether or not PSU can make this a four-quarter game depends on Carson and the linebackers stopping the run.
Kellen Moore and Boise State picked apart Georgia's defense in the Broncos' convincing 35-21 win over the Bulldogs on Saturday. There is no reason not to expect South Carolina to do the same in Athens with even more weaponry than Boise State and coming off of a 56-point performance against East Carolina.
Georgia QB Aaron Murray will have to keep pace with Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks, and he may have found the next A.J. Green in true freshman Malcolm Mitchell. Orson Charles is an all-SEC tight end, but Mitchell can stretch the field, and with shutdown cornerback Stephon Gilmore likely matched up with Tavarres King, it falls on Mitchell to play beyond his age to help right Mark Richt's rapidly sinking ship.
BYU teams have always been built on toughness and discipline, and that strategy allowed the Cougars to survive a trip to Ole Miss in which they trailed 13-0 before rallying for two touchdowns in the fourth quarter—including a go-ahead fumble return.
BYU had some success on the ground against the Rebels, as senior running back JJ Di Luigi averaged 4.7 yards per carry. The Cougars will turn to the same game plan to try and overcome a talent gap on the road for a second straight week at Texas.
QB Jake Heaps should have some success throwing the ball with a veteran group of receivers against a young Texas secondary. Whether or not Luigi can grind out the tough yards on the ground and keep the offense balanced will go a long way in determining if BYU can start 2-0 before next week's Holy War game with Utah.
After a mistake-filled loss to South Florida that left coach Brian Kelly more than a little irritated, the Fighting Irish head to Ann Arbor for an emotional rivalry game under the lights of Michigan Stadium.
Michael Floyd lived up to his star billing, but had little help from his fellow receivers. Riddick had multiple drops and muffed a punt. With Michigan CB Troy Woolfolk expected to be hobbled by a sprained ankle, there is a great opportunity for both Riddick and T.J. Jones to atone for their poor performances against South Florida with a strong performance against the Wolverines.
Special teams were a disaster for Notre Dame against the Bulls, but Riddick has the ability to change a game with a big return, a boost that a fragile Irish team could desperately use.