Due to rescheduling that took place after the events of Sept. 11, college football fans will have more than their share of big games this Saturday.
Each of the nation”s top five teams will be battling for a shot at the national championship game. As long as the leaders of the BCS have their way, this is as close to a playoff as we are going to get.
No. 5 Tennessee (9-1) at No. 2 Florida (9-1) 4:30 p.m. CBS: A game normally played at the end of September, this yearly battle of the SEC East elite has now become a one-game playoff for a spot in next week”s SEC Championship. Florida controls its own Rose Bowl destiny and Tennessee will need little just a little outside help.
Heisman Trophy Candidate Rex Grossman and the Gators have historically been trouble for the Volunteers. While no sophomore has ever won the award, Grossman who has thrown for more than 300 yards in each game this season may be the first.
However, Florida will be without its top running back, Robert Gillespie, who sprained his knee against Florida State last week. When a separate injury kept Graham out of the Auburn game, Gators posted negative-36 yards and suffered their only loss.
Tennessee will benefit from the services of star receiver Donte Stallworth, who would have missed this game with a broken wrist if not for the rescheduling.
With the national championship on the line, this duel should be a classic. But the Gators are just too good to be beaten in the Swamp.
Florida 41, Tennessee 34
No. 3 Texas (10-1) vs. No. 9 Colorado (9-2) 8 p.m. ABC: A week ago it seemed like we would be treated to a rematch of the Nebraska-Oklahoma clash in the Big 12 Title Game, but a pair of stunning upsets in Boulder and Norman have set a title game that no one expected. Ironically, Texas had all but rapped up a BCS at-large berth but now could lose a spot if they come up short against the Buffaloes. But a Texas victory and a loss by either Florida or Miami would most likely send the Longhorns to Pasadena.
Texas blew out Colorado 41-7 in Austin when the teams played on October 20, but this is a different Colorado team. The Buffalos stunned the “Black Shirt” Nebraska defense last week, running for eight touchdowns. Colorado will look to repeat the same feat behind its three-man running game, which features Bobby Purify, Chris Brown and Cortlen Johnson.
The Longhorns are led by quarterback Chris Simms, who has had an impressive but inconsistent season.
With future NFL star Roy Williams to throw the ball to, Simms has posted 22 touchdowns against just eight interceptions, while directing Texas to more than 39 points per game.
While Texas has more talent, Colorado”s momentum will lead them to another upset at a BCS berth.
Colorado 31, Texas 17
No. 1 Miami (10-0) vs. No. 14 Virginia Tech (8-2) 1 p.m. ABC: After Nebraska”s loss last Friday, Miami sits all alone atop the BCS standings. Despite the madness of the major bowl picture, the Hurricanes” mission is simple beat the Hokies in Blacksburg and they are headed to the Rose Bowl.
The Hurricanes have not beaten Virginia Tech on the road since 1993. But if there was ever a Miami team to stop that streak, this is it. Except for a close victory at Boston College, Miami has destroyed all comers this season. The Hurricanes demolished Syracuse (59-0) and Washington (65-7) over the past two weeks.
While Virginia Tech clearly missed Michael Vick this season, the Hokies” defense and special teams have earned them a spot in the Gator Bowl.
The Hurricanes are clearly the best team in the country and just too powerful for the Hokies, and they will show it tomorrow afternoon.
Miami 49, Virginia Tech 14
No. 4 Oregon (9-1) vs. Oregon State (5-5) 4:30 p.m.: In the 105th edition of the “Civil War,” the records of these two teams can be thrown out the window. Oregon has already rapped up a BCS berth, but a win and a lot of help could put them in the national championship picture. Oregon State started out the season as Sports Illustrated”s pick to win it all but an opening loss to Fresno State started the team on a downward spiral from which it could never recover.
Oregon is led by quarterback Joey Harrington, whose Heisman campaign has been as physically large as any.
But he has backed up the hype, leading his team to come-from-behind victories on numerous occasions most recently against UCLA, in which his touchdown pass with 10 minutes remaining put the game away.
While the Beavers would love to upset the Ducks to finish their season above .500, Oregon will pull this one out, keeping its faint Rose Bowl dreams alive.
Oregon 21, Oregon State 17