Entering the seventh week of the college football season, conference races are beginning to take shape with teams starting to position themselves for the postseason.
Starting in South Bend and continuing with Florida State and Texas, four top-10 teams will attempt to keep their national title hopes alive. Out west, there’s an offensive shootout between two teams whose coaches have apparently forgotten that defense is an important part of football. But, the Big East and SEC both feature games where teams are battling to improve their conference standing.
No. 1 Southern Cal (3-0 Pac-10, 5-0 overall) at No. 9 Notre Dame (4-1 overall) – 3:30 p.m. – NBC
Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis has been waiting all season for this game – the Trojans have crushed Notre Dame by 31 points per game in the last three meetings, and Weis spent the offseason talking about how things would be different this season. Maybe he should call up his old coaching pal Bill Belichick because Notre Dame is going need a great defensive gameplan.
The Trojans are an offensive powerhouse. Matt Leinart is the premier quarterback in the country, and Reggie Bush and Lendale White are the two best running backs in college football. To top it off, the Trojans have one of the best receiving corps in the nation. But defensively, the front seven is talented but young, and the secondary is banged up.
The Trojans have had a habit of starting games slowly, and if they are not careful, it could come back to bite them. The Fighting Irish have shown steady improvement each week. The Notre Dame front seven must pressure Matt Leinart. Controlling the ball and keeping the explosive Trojan offense off the field might help. The Irish have had two weeks to prepare for this game, so Weis will have something up his sleeve for Pete Carroll. For 27 straight games, no one has been able to defeat Southern Cal. This game will be different, though. The Trojans have looked mortal the past three weeks and are ripe for the upset. Leinart has been spending too much time hanging out with Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson instead of focusing on playing quarterback. Notre Dame and Charlie Weis will announce themselves to the nation and find a way squeak by the Trojan juggernaut.
Notre Dame 34, Southern Cal 31
Oregon State (1-1 Pac-10, 3-0 overall) at No. 18 California (2-1 Pac-10, 5-1 overall) – 3:30 p.m. – ABC
To teams in the Pac-10, defense is merely an inconvenience. It’s definitely not Big Ten football – neither of these teams could ever be accused of being too conservative offensively. The Golden Bears are coming off a 47-40 loss to UCLA, while Oregon State beat Washington State 44-33 last week. With the lack of defense, the game will come down to whoever has the ball last. California is a great running team, but the Beavers are known for their aerial attack. The Golden Bears have a nice one-two punch at running back with Justin Forsett and Marshawn Lynch – the problem comes when they try and throw the ball. Jeff Tedford may be known as a quarterback guru, but California quarterback Joseph Ayoob looks just like Tedford’s proteges (a la Joey Harrington) do at the pro level – not very good. The Golden Bears have a dynamic freshman receiver by the name of DeSean Jackson, but Ayoob’s difficulties have made getting Jackson the ball a problem. Oregan State’s Matt Moore has had a solid season so far, and the Beavers have had no trouble throwing the ball, and things should be no different against a suspect California secondary. The Golden Bears will ride their running game to victory at home, but the scoreboard operator better be ready for a workout.
California 48, Oregon State 44
No. 24 Colorado (2-0 Big 12, 4-1 overall) at No. 2 Texas (2-0 Big 12, 5-0 overall) – 3:30 p.m. – ABC
Mack Brown finally got the monkey off his back last week, beating Oklahoma for the first time in five tries. With recent victories over Oklahoma and Ohio State, Brown better be careful or he is going to lose his reputation of not being able to win the big game. He has silenced the critics in Austin and has his team rolling.
To call the Big 12 weak would be a compliment. It’s that bad. No team Texas plays has the talent to keep up with it. Colorado ripped Texas A&M and will be looking to pull the upset. The problem is that Colorado is not that good and Texas A&M is even worse. Vince Young is a one-man show for the Longhorns – he does it all for them offensively. Freshman running back Jamaal Charles has really come on for the Longhorns, rushing for 563 yards and six touchdowns. Colorado quarterback Joel Klatt has played all right so far this season, but in his only real test against Miami, he struggled. Expect more of the same against the No. 5 ranked Texas defense.
Texas 31, Colorado 13
No. 4 Florida State (3-0 ACC, 5-0 overall) at Virginia (1-2 ACC, 3-2 overall) – ESPN – 7:45 p.m.
Coming off a thrashing of Wake Forest, Florida State looks to continue this season’s resurgence in Charlottesville against the Cavaliers. The Seminoles, with the nation’s No. 12 defense and No. 20 offense, are getting it done on both sides of the ball. Bobby Bowden, cursed for so many years with worthless Chris Rix at quarterback, has finally found his man in Drew Weatherford, and the results speak for themselves.
Virginia is just trying to hold on while its once-promising season vanishes before its eyes. A 3-0 start has been marred by two consecutive conference losses, and one more here will end any remaining imaginary visions of ACC contention. The Cavaliers will be nothing more than another sacrificial lamb to Florida State this weekend.
Florida State 45, Virginia 28
No. 19 Louisville (0-1 Big East, 4-1 overall) at West Virginia (2-0 Big East, 5-1 overall) – ABC – 3:30 p.m.
This game will decide the eventual Big East champion, the only conference in college football where high school teams get to play. Louisville, everyone’s pick to be the least bad team, got thrashed by South Florida 45-14 two weeks ago, which is sort of like losing a hot-dog eating contest to Mischa Barton. The Cardinals’ high-powered offense has rebounded though, scoring 61 and 69 points in the last two games against defensive-stalwarts Florida Atlantic and North Carolina.
West Virginia only has one loss, but it was to No 3. Virginia Tech in a close contest. Yet, inexplicably, the Mountaineers find themselves outside the top 25 looking in at Louisville. West Virginia knows it can vault itself in with this game and place itself firmly in the driver’s seat of the Big East’s 1969 Pinto.
West Virginia 42, Louisville 28