Week 3 has two major showdowns that could produce major changes in the Week 3 college football rankings. Oklahoma's trip to Tallahassee to take on resurgent Florida State has potential national championship ramifications, and LSU's Thursday night venture to Mississippi State could reshape the SEC West. And then there's the Ohio State vs. Miami game that probably won't count for anything, but not until after all the money gets counted. Good times!
Here's what's at stake in Week 3.
No. 2 LSU vs. No. 25 Mississippi State, 8:00 p.m. Thursday
If LSU wins: The Tigers' march to a showdown with Alabama, one that may serve as a BCS Championship Game Quarterfinal (winner plays South Carolina in Atlanta in the
BCS Championship Game Semi-Final SEC Championship Game!) continues apace.
If Mississippi State wins: The SEC West gets a lot more interesting. As I see it, the hierarchy of the West has Alabama and LSU as unquestioned 1A and 1B teams in the division; those teams should beat 2A and 2B Arkansas and Auburn, who should, in turn, dispatch the third-rate Bulldogs and basement-dweller Ole Miss. But if the Bulldogs can upset the apple cart on Thursday, they could still win the division — especially since South Carolina and Alabama, the two best SEC teams left on the Bulldogs' slate, come to Starkville.
No. 1 Oklahoma at No. 5 Florida State, 8:00 p.m. Saturday
If Oklahoma wins: Oklahoma's path to a BCS Championship Game appearance remains clear, and the Sooners have the best scalp of the young college football season: a road win at a top-five team's house in a primetime game.
If Florida State wins: The Seminoles will be able to win out and go to a BCS Championship Game. No, really: Florida State's likely to jump past Oklahoma, at the very least, with a win, and could fairly simply sneak past Boise State, too. If the 'Noles do, and stay undefeated, they will inevitably move past the loser of Alabama-LSU after the SEC West rivals clash later this season, and be no worse than No. 2 by regular season's end; if the 'Noles don't get by Boise State this week, the drumbeat to move them past a Broncos team that will play a less strenuous schedule will get started in, oh, October.
No. 15 Michigan State at Notre Dame, 3:30 p.m. Saturday
If Michigan State wins: The Spartans might move all the way up to No. 14 in the next AP Poll. More importantly, the BCS bowl season should be Irish-free: only one team has ever earned an at-large BCS bid with three losses, Ron Zook's 2007 Illinois squad, and those Illini knocked off a No. 1 Ohio State team and a No. 5 Wisconsin team despite their three regular season losses. (They also got shelled by USC in the Rose Bowl, but that's not the point.) Notre Dame won't have such chances: the Irish might get a ranked USC team, but the only other squad that should be ranked on the remained of the Notre Dame schedule is Stanford. And that game is in Palo Alto.
If Notre Dame wins: America endures a month of "Can Brian Kelly save Notre Dame's season?" features.
No. 16 Florida vs. Tennessee, 3:30 p.m. Saturday
If Florida wins: Will Muschamp earns his first rivalry victory at Florida, and substantially increases the chance that Alabama's trip to Gainesville in two weeks will be for a match-up of top-10 teams. Florida's chances of winning the SEC East remain slim, thanks to a looming trip to South Carolina in November.
If Tennessee wins: Tennessee rejoins the national polls, Tyler Bray becomes a Heisman, and Derek Dooley's squad goes from SEC East dark horse to SEC East contender. The Vols have LSU, Alabama, and South Carolina on their October schedule, but going unbeaten against the SEC East — Tennessee's only road game against an East team this year is a season finale against punchless Kentucky — may well give the Vols the divisional crown.
No. 17 Ohio State at Miami, 3:30 p.m.
If Ohio State wins: Some player (my money's on Andy Katzenmoyer) will almost certainly be ruled retroactively ineligible for this game, causing a the win to be vacated at a later date. But for 2011, Ohio State's outside shot at a BCS bowl game, which has already survived the threat of a postseason ban, will stay alive.
If Miami wins: Some player (it could be anyone at all, possibly even Gino Torretta) will almost certainly be ruled retroactively ineligible for this game, causing the win to be vacated at a later. And for 2011, Al Golden has a signature win that he will be able to use to convince some school to rescue him from looming NCAA punishment in the offseason.
If both teams vacate the result of this game: I have no idea what happens, but I suspect it involves a singularity.