As college football play resumes this week, we are faced with a week where few ranked teams outside of the Big Ten are playing other strong teams.

Paul Wong
Lou Holtz”s Gamecocks hope to escape from Mississippi State with a win<br><br>AP PHOTO

But, key match-ups in the SEC and the Pac-10 are on the horizon.

No. 18 South Carolina (2-0) at No. 17 Mississippi State (1-0), Thursday, 7:30 p.m., ESPN

In a conference filled with giants like Florida, Tennessee and Louisiana State, it”s easy to overlook teams like Mississippi State”s and South Carolina but don”t be mistaken, these teams are definitely contenders for the SEC crown.

Mississippi State has veteran quarterback Wayne Madkin at the helm. In the Bulldogs” first game of the season he completed 12 of 21 passes for 174 yards with a pair of touchdowns. On the ground, Mississippi State”s main weapon is Dicenzo Miller. Last year, Miller rushed for 1,005 yards and 6.6 yards per carry (best in the SEC).

South Carolina is coming off a huge victory on the road against another SEC powerhouse, Georgia. The Gamecocks feature running back Derek Watson, the SEC”s leading returning rusher.

Watson ran for 1,066 yards last year and is South Carolina”s greatest asset. But, Watson”s ankle seemed to be bothering him against Georgia when he ran for only 13 yards on eight carries.

If and only if Watson comes back at full strength against Mississippi State will South Carolina have a fighting chance.

Mississippi State”s ability to mix it up on the offensive end should be the X-factor in this one.

Mississippi St. 17, South Carolina 14

Southern California (1-1) at No. 7 Oregon (2-0), Saturday, 10:15 p.m., Fox Sports Net

This Pac 10 game is definitely one worth watching, as it features one of the nation”s best quarterbacks against what looks to be a very solid Southern Cal. defense.

Oregon quarterback and Heisman candidate Joey Harrington is one of college football”s biggest offensive threats.

In the Ducks” opener a few weeks ago, Harrington burned Wisconsin for 277 yards while throwing two touchdowns and rushing for a third.

Two weeks ago, Southern Cal. held twelfth-ranked Kansas State to only ten points. With this in mind, we must ask ourselves: Did Pete Carroll work a miracle with a Southern Cal. defense that was sub-par in 2000? Or was Kansas State”s lack of offense just a fluke?

Well, Carroll didn”t do much with the New England Patriots” defense in his short stint there, so it”s probably the latter.

At home, Oregon has won 22 straight. Make that 23 after this Saturday.

Oregon 35, Southern California 17

No. 2 Florida (2-0) at Kentucky (1-1), Saturday, 12:30 p.m.

Kentucky has the home field advantage here so it should be able to pull the upset. Wait, no scratch that the Wildcats are going to get killed.

Florida is the No. 2 team in the nation and thus far, the Gators have annihilated their opponents. In its first two games, Florida averaged 52 points per game and 431 yards. Leading the Gators” offense is quarterback Rex Grossman, who is currently fifth in the nation in passing yards with 706 yards.

In its first two contests, Kentucky allowed an average of 28 points and almost 300 total yards to mediocre Louisville and Ball State squads.

The Wildcats need to come through with some big plays if they want to stay within 30 points.

Well, what happens when you combine a nasty, relentless Florida offense with Kentucky”s less-than-stellar defense? Think Michael Jordan vs. Brian Ellerbe in one-on-one ball

Florida 41, Kentucky 6

No. 5 Florida State (2-0) at North Carolina (0-3), Saturday, Noon

With this match-up on Saturday, we”ll see one team that”s at the top of its game and another that has essentially sucked thus far. The Tar Heels just can”t get a break this year. They”ve started off the schedule against three tough teams Oklahoma, Maryland and Texas.

Now, after a cancelled game against Southern Methodist a team they likely would have beaten the Tar Heels have to play the fifth-ranked Seminoles.

Florida State redshirt freshman quarterback Chris Rix has stepped in quite nicely for the departed Chris Weinke. It”s hard to come out of the shadow of a Heisman winner, but Rix has done the job. In Florida State”s most recent game against Alabama-Birmingham, Rix completed 15 of 23 passes for 246 yards.

Then again, it was Alabama-Birmingham

The Seminoles” freshman quarterback has fared better than North Carolina”s senior quarterback. The Tar Heels had high expectations this year for Ronald Curry, but thus far, Curry has not been able to find his arm he hasn”t thrown a touchdown yet this season, and even worse, he”s been picked four times.

Can you say, “0-and-4”? North Carolina will be able to.

Florida State 37, North Carolina 7

No. 15 Fresno St (3-0) at Tulsa (1-0), Saturday, 3:00 p.m.

If you”ve ever watched the NCAA Tournament, you”ll know who the Gonzaga Bulldogs are. Everyone loves watching the Bulldogs because they”re known as a Cinderella team.

This game doesn”t feature Gonzaga, but it features another Cinderella Bulldogs squad Fresno State.

Thus far, Fresno State is undefeated, having beaten some of the toughest teams in the nation in Colorado, Oregon State and Wisconsin. The main reason why the Bulldogs have been able to win is quarterback David Carr.

Carr has turned a lot of heads, especially among NFL scouts. He looks to be in the huge pack of players with Heisman aspirations.

In three games this season, Carr has thrown for 778 yards and 7 touchdowns, only one interception, and has a completion percentage of 59.3 percent.

Fresno State shouldn”t be too worried about Tulsa, but it shouldn”t send out the reserves either. Tulsa”s Josh Blankenship went 29 of 35 with 337 yards and two touchdowns in his first game.

If Fresno State can keep the pressure on Blankenship, and Carr keeps doing what he”s been doing, the Bulldogs should have their first 4-0 start since 1991.

Fresno State 51, Tulsa 24

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