Never has perfection looked so unimpressive. Last week, the Big Ten went a far-from-spotless 11-0. Its poster child, Ohio State, nearly succumbed to the biggest upset of the year against Ohio, Wisconsin spotted Marshall 14 points before deciding to play, Michigan narrowly escaped MAC “powerhouse” Miami (Ohio) and Illinois’s sluggish start against Eastern Illinois wasn’t pretty.
This week poses much stiffer competition. In 10 games, the Big Ten will play five BCS teams — Southern Cal, Oregon, Iowa State, Syracuse and Notre Dame — and one of the biggest giant killers in the non-BCS ranks, Fresno State. Even the most optimistic Big Ten fan can’t expect another undefeated weekend, but no one can deny that this weekend is a whole lot more exciting on paper.
These are the best games of the weekend and why you should watch them.
No. 5 Ohio State at No. 1 Southern Cal
Is it just me, or did this matchup lose a whole lot of draw after the Buckeyes’ 54-minute suckfest against THE Ohio University Bobcats? While it was great to see Ohio State almost lose its title as The Best Team in Ohio for a year, I would be a lot more excited for the Buckeye-Trojan matchup if both teams still looked invincible.
Beanie Wells’s injury is still a major question, freshman wunderkind Terrelle Pryor has looked human so far, and it’s no stretch to say that the Buckeyes need to play a whole lot less sloppy this weekend. The Trojans, however, played so well against Virginia two weeks ago that it looks as though the NCAA is simply holding the national championship trophy for them until January.
Still, any time two historic powerhouse programs collide in an early season game, it’s a must-watch matchup.
[five out of five]
No. 16 Oregon at Purdue
Yeah, yeah, Southern Cal and Ohio State are playing this week. We know. But, in all the time spent hyping that game, both media pundits and college football fans have forgot about this intriguing Big Ten-Pac 10 battle.
To say this game is not for the defensive-minded fan would be a grotesque understatement. Through three games (Oregon has played two and Purdue just one), the Boilermakers and the Ducks have combined to score 152 points. Granted, those numbers came against less-than-stellar competition, but all signs point to huge offensive numbers in air and on the ground.
And while the strength of the Big Ten continues to come into question, this game is a huge opportunity for the conference to assert itself on a national stage.
[four out of five]
No. 10 Wisconsin at No. 21 Fresno State
The Sleeper Award for the best game of the week goes here. For starters, Fresno State is perennially one of the scariest non-BCS teams in the country. The Bulldogs have taken down several big-conference teams in the past. They’ve beaten Wisconsin (already) in 2001, Oregon State, Virginia, UCLA and Georgia Tech, as well as a 24-7 drubbing of Rutgers this year. It’s a night game in California, which means the stadium is going to be rocking when the top-10 Badgers come to town.
This has upset written all over it, and maybe it’s just me, but those are the best games to watch.
[four out of five]
No. 17 Penn State at Syracuse
Saying that the Nittany Lions are playing a BCS team is like buying a Rolex on the streets of New York and saying it’s real. Sure, it says Rolex, but you’re really not fooling anyone. Syracuse is — well, other than Duke — the worst BCS team out there. Let’s be honest — you can’t lose to Akron by two touchdowns and have much dignity left. But hey, with the Big East as weak as it is, the Orange may still be in contention for a conference crown and BCS berth.
After watching Penn State completely dismantle Oregon State last week, it’s hard to imagine this game being worth three hours of your time.
[zero out of five]
Iowa State at Iowa
This is one of the most mind-boggling rivalries in college football. Anyone who hasn’t paid attention to the battle for the CyHawk Trophy would expect it to be lopsided — towards the Hawkeyes, no doubt. But Iowa is a head-scratching 3-7 against the Cyclones in the BCS era, including a 36-31 loss in the Hawkeyes’ 2002 Orange Bowl season.
A rivalry is a rivalry, so there’s obviously going to be excitement and collegiate pageantry, but both teams are rebuilding and far from the upper echelons of their conferences at the moment.
[two out of five]