Saturday is a day for clean slates as conference play begins throughout the college football nation. While Big Ten powerhouses Michigan, Ohio State and Iowa rebounded triumphantly from week two nonconference disasters, Michigan State propelled itself into the Associated Press poll with a thrilling overtime victory over Notre Dame in South Bend. Outside the Big Ten, the clashing of giants Tennessee and Florida left the Volunteers reeling and the Gators without their star receiver, Andre Cawell. Boston College got a rude introduction to the ACC from Florida State when Seminoles linebacker A.J. Nicholson picked off two errant passes (one for a touchdown) to go along with 19 tackles. Southern Cal and Texas rolled over their opponents as expected, and there were few surprises in the top-25. But many week four roadblocks lie ahead.
No, 10 Tennessee (1-1) at No. 3 Louisiana State (1-0) – 7:45 p.m. – ESPN
After a humiliating loss at Florida last week, where Tennessee could not decide on a quarterback, muffed a punt, had another one blocked and had a field goal botched, the Vols play Louisiana State, coming off a bye week and preparing for an emotional homecoming down in Baton Rouge. Tennessee has only amassed 24 points combined in two games this year, despite playing against unimpressive defenses of UAB and Florida. Even though Louisiana State put up 35 points against No. 17 Arizona State, JaMarcus Russell looks to be the quarterback of the future for the Tigers, passing for two scores and no interceptions last week. The quarterback situation and the raucous Louisiana crowd looking for anything to cheer for will be the difference in this SEC Clash.
Louisiana State 28, Tennessee 17
No. 16 Georgia Tech (3-0) at No. 4 Virginia Tech (3-0) – 2:30 p.m. – ABC
This game matches two of the most electric quarterbacks in college football as Reggie Ball heads into Blacksburg, Va., to take on Marcus Vick and the Virginia Tech Hokies. Even though the Georgia Tech quarterback is recovering from a case of viral meningitis – which forced him to sit out of last week’s game against Connecticut – the presence of standout sophomore wide receiver Calvin Johnson will test the Hokies’ vaunted defense. This game will provide Vick with his first true test this season, while he tries to live up to his brother’s legacy and do what Michael never did: bring a national championship to Virginia Tech. He has found his stride the past two weeks, scoring 45 points against both Ohio and Duke. The defense has lived up to the hype as one of the best in the nation – they have not allowed a point since week one. But they have not faced an offense as potent as Georgia Tech’s, which also has talented senior running back P.J. Daniels, who complements Ball and Johnson nicely. The defense and special teams will be too much for the Yellow Jackets to handle, and Marcus Vick will pass his first true test as starting quarterback.
Virginia Tech 27, Georgia Tech 10
No. 1 Southern Cal (2-0) at Oregon (3-0) – 7 p.m. – ABC
Southern Cal seems invincible. Last week, the Trojans scored on four of their first eight plays in their 70-17 trouncing of Arkansas. They put up 736 yards of offense and have two front-running Heisman candidates in senior quarterback Matt Leinart and junior running back Reggie Bush. But Oregon is no lame duck on the schedule. The Ducks are 3-0 and have a potent offense that can put up points in a hurry. Senior quarterback Kellen Clemens put up four touchdowns against Fresno State and has senior leadership at both running back and wide receiver in Terence Whitehead and Demetrius Williams, respectively. Oregon is no stranger to playing spoiler; the Ducks beat No. 3 Michigan in 2002. But John Navarre never won a Heisman, Leinart has one and could be on his way to another. Leinart has already thrown for 713 yards and seven touchdowns and has yet to play into the fourth quarter of either match. The Trojans’ defense is also formidable, with hard-hitting safety Darnell Bing leading the attack. Oregon’s defense is porous at best and shows no sign of being able to hang with the NFL-bound talent from Southern Cal. Even if Bush does not dazzle, running back Lendale White has first-round talent, and 6-foot-5 wide receiver Dwayne Jarret reminds many of former standout Mike Williams. Oregon is a good Pac-10 team, but nothing can prepare them for the juggernaut that is the Trojans.
Southern Cal 63, Oregon 21
Boston College (2-1) at Clemson (2-1) – noon
This game is a matchup of two ACC teams eager to rebound from losses to powerhouses Florida State and Miami, respectively. Boston College is ready to obtain its first ACC conference victory, and the Eagles will attempt to do so on the strength of their defense led by senior defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka, who has All-American aspirations. Led by quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, who almost willed Clemson to an overtime victory against Miami last week by producing two last-minute touchdown drives, Clemson’s offense will prove a worthy opponent. The Boston College offense has a few question marks, with quarterback Quinton Porter playing on a severely sprained ankle. Porter rebounded nicely against Florida State last week after throwing two early interceptions. Whoever lines up at quarterback for Boston College will be protected by a massive and experienced offensive line led by monster left tackle Jeremy Trueblood. Also, two-way star Will Blackmon will be key as the Eagles’ deep threat. Boston College is too disciplined on both sides of the ball for the oft-erratic, Tommy Bowden-led Tigers.
Boston College 24, Clemson 14
No. 16 Notre Dame (2-1) at Washington (1-2) – 3:30 p.m. – ABC
This game seems like a no brainier, with the high-powered Irish taking on the Pac-10 bottom-feeder Huskies. There is, however, one interesting plotline – Tyrone Willingham will have his team going out there to win one for the skipper. The Irish go into this game looking to redeem themselves from last week’s overtime loss to Michigan State. They are fueled by a powerful offense, and junior quarterback Brady Quinn is turning himself into a Heisman dark horse. When he struggles, he has talented running back Darius Walker to run behind a big offensive line. The Irish defense has struggled this year and will have trouble stopping the Huskies’ athletic quarterback, Isaiah Stanback. Stanback was touted as a Heisman hopeful by Willingham earlier this year, but he has had trouble meeting the expectations. In the end, the Notre Dame offense will overpower the porous Washington defense, and the emotionally charged Huskies will fall victim to the more talented Irish.
Notre Dame 45, Washington 21