The Weekend-Of-Upsets-That-Mostly-Weren't-Upsets-At-All is now behind us. Now, it kinda feels like the college football season reset itself. The pretenders and the contenders are slowly but surely separating from each other. This weekend's slate of games should help drive that delineation home even further.
The food trays are piping hot, the bread is warm and flaky, the omelet bar chef is prepped and the butter dish is ice cold. The buffet is set. Let's find out what looks tasty and what might be worth pushing to the side of your plate this Saturday. (All times are Eastern)
Take A Heaping Helping
No. 7 USC (2-1) at No. 24 Cal (3-1) - 8 p.m., ABC
So many storylines in this one. Surely there will be some kind of call-out to injured USC RB Stafon Johnson. Cal is coming off an absolute drubbing that's forcing everyone to reevaluate how good they are. USC is coming to terms with the fact that while their offensive stats are on par with year's past, it's the turnovers and poor 3rd-down conversion rate that's doing them in. You could look at this as just another USC-Cal game. Or you could look at it the way Yahoo! Sports columnist and Cal alum Michael Silver did when he spoke to California Golden Blogs, calling it "a battle between darkness and light, and it is a mortal fight to the finish."
No. 4 LSU (4-0) at No. 18 Georgia (3-1) - 3:30 p.m., CBS
Most folks seem to think both of these teams are living on borrowed time. That LSU is still No. 4 in the poll seems quite laughable to most, except those voting apparently. That said, if Georgia wins, you'll have to look at the job Mark Richt is doing in a rebuilding year as a fantastic job. LSU's task might just be as simple as "shut down A.J. Green." Georgia fans will put their faith in Green and Joe Cox to pull out the upset.
No. 8 Oklahoma (2-1) at No. 17 Miami FL (2-1) - 8 p.m., ABC
This might be the most exciting game on the docket this weekend. Then again, it might be the most over-hyped. We're talking about two proud programs that have been shellacked by teams that are not undefeated in their own right. We know Sam Bradford won't be playing. That said, hope is not lost and Oklahoma fans still feel like they have plenty to feel confident about heading into the showdown. As for Miami fans, they're hopeful for the best but they've got old clips of Miami beating the crap out of Oklahoma in the 80's on stand-by if needed to make themselves feel better.
I'll Have One Scoop, Please
No. 3 Alabama (4-0) at Kentucky (2-1) - 12 p.m., SEC Network
According to the bloggers, Alabama is the best team in the land. We'll get a good read on whether or not that's true this weekend. Florida tuned up Kentucky by 34 points. Consider the bar set, Tide. You can be sure the Wildcats have been watching the film on Julio Jones as their fans are just trying to get through this rough stretch intact.
No. 22 Michigan (4-0) at Michigan State (1-3) - 12 p.m., BTN
Michigan might be the least-feared 4-0 team in the poll. Giving up 33 points to Indiana will do that to you. Michigan needs the win in order to silence the critics. Michigan State needs the win to, well, stop their fans from jumping off a bridge.
Wisconsin (4-0) at Minnesota (3-1) - 12 p.m., ESPN
Penn State, Michigan and Ohio State get all the noise in the Big Ten. Everyone's keenly aware of Iowa now as well. But only those who have been paying attention have noticed that Wisconsin and Minnesota are pretty decent teams this season as well. The Badgers are making their first trip to the new Gopher Stadium, which is "no Camp Randall." Gopher fans still in search of a ticket for the game better be prepared to pay through their eyeballs.
UCLA (3-0) at Stanford (3-1) - 3:30 p.m., ABC
There is an undefeated team in Los Angeles and it ain't the Trojans. At least record-wise, this match-up trumps the Cal-USC game and could actually go a long way towards determining the top tier of the Pac-10. For the Bruins, the keys to victory are found in their line and special teams play.
Washington (2-2) at Notre Dame (3-1) - 3:30 p.m., NBC
If they brought out a Ty Willingham effigy before the game and told the fans to have at it, which school's fans would burn it down faster? The Irish did little to silence doubters after barely squeaking by Purdue last week. They can earn some serious points by knocking off USC-killer Washington this week. The Huskies would feel a whole lot better about their chances if they were playing this one in Seattle instead of South Bend.
I'll Taste It First, Then Decide
No. 15 Penn State (3-1) at Illinois (1-2) - 3:30 p.m., ABC/ESPN2
Washington State (1-3) at No. 16 Oregon (3-1) - 9:15 p.m., CSN Northwest
No. 21 Mississippi (3-1) at Vanderbilt (2-2) - 7 p.m., ESPNU
Ole Miss needs to bounced back and get a win if they want to recapture any of the mojo pollsters thought they had in the pre-season. They'll want to keep an eye on Vandy RB Warren Norman just in case.
South Florida (4-0) at Syracuse (2-2) - 12 p.m., Big East Network
Is USF for real? For that matter, is .500 Syracuse? Two QBs you were more likely to find on a basketball court six months ago will showdown. The Orange will have to do their best to shut down USF's mighty D-line. If they don't, they might want to consider lifting that 2-beer maximum rule in the Dome.
New Mexico (0-4) at Texas Tech (2-2) - 3:30 p.m., FSN
Admit it, you want to tune in and see if Mike Locksley will punch out any assistant coaches during the game, don't you? Alas, the chances of that happening are about as likely as a Texas Tech player tweeting Mike Leach's halftime speech from the locker room.
Auburn (4-0) at Tennessee (2-2) - 7:45 p.m., ESPN
Try as they might to find reasons they're better than Auburn, Tennessee could be in for a long day. This is a match-up of two SEC teams at a crossroads. It's not do-or-die but neither team can afford many more losses.
FSU (2-2) at Boston College (3-1) - 3:30 p.m., ABC/ESPN2
Who will show up? The FSU that got beat down by Miami? The FSU that trounced BYU? The FSU that got overpowered by USF? Who the heck knows. The ACC teams in general is probably just happy that they can commence beating each other up rather than continuing to stink it up against other conferences.
Keep In Mind For The Second Trip
Arkansas State (1-3) at No. 13 Iowa (4-0) - 12 p.m., ESPN2
Judging by the way Iowa has played this season and since this is an opponent they should beat easily, expect things to come down to a last-second field goal. Regardless, expect Iowa to bring the suffering.
No. 25 Georgia Tech (3-1) at Mississippi State (2-2) - 7:30 p.m., SEC Network
Tech seems destined to live in the No. 15 - 25 realm. They don't suck, but they're not ready for the big time just yet. The Bulldogs know it's gonna take more than t-shirts to beat the Yellow Jackets.
Pittsburgh (3-1) at Louisville (1-2) - Friday 8 p.m., ESPN 2
Northwestern (2-2) at Purdue (1-3) - 12 p.m., BTN
Purdue fans are still asking questions about how their team botched the end of the Notre Dame loss. It's been a frustrating season so far for both teams. Northwestern will be counting on the likes of DE Corey Wootton to step up and make a difference.
NC State (3-1) at Wake Forest (2-2) - 3:30 p.m., ESPNU
Oregon State (2-2) at Arizona State (2-1) - 7 p.m., Versus
What is it with Oregon schools and the effect of wind on their play? I don't expect much of it this Saturday when they head to the desert. The Sun Devils did have some bright spots in their loss to Georgia, though they're not ready to settle on that just yet.
Arkansas (1-2) at Texas A&M (3-0) - 7:30 p.m., ESPN2
It's the first game between the former Southwest Conference rivals since 1991. You'll be hearing plenty about that as well as A&M QB Jerrod Johnson, who might be the best player in college football you've never heard of.
I Don't Know...Smells Funny...
No. 9 Ohio State (3-1) at Indiana (3-1) - 7 p.m., BTN
SMU (2-1) at No. 11 TCU (3-0) - 8 p.m., MTN
Clemson (2-2) at Maryland (1-3) - 12 p.m., ESPNU
Utah State (1-2) at No. 20 BYU (3-1) - Friday, 9 p.m., MTN
No Thanks, Plate's Full
UC-Davis (1-2) at No. 5 Boise State (4-0) - 8 p.m., CSN California
No. 6 Virginia Tech (3-1) at Duke (2-2) - 12 p.m., ESPN360
VT has played one of the toughest schedules in the nation to-date. It'll be nice to snack on the Blue Devils for a weekend.
No. 10 Cincinnati (4-0) at Miami Ohio (0-4) - 1 p.m., ESPN360
This one could get ugly early. Maybe a 5-0 start will finally be the impetus for Cincy to get a decent blogger?
No. 12 Houston (3-0) at UTEP (1-3)
As long as the Cougars can hold on to their helmets, they should be fine in this one.
Virginia (0-3) at North Carolina (3-1) - 12 p.m., Raycom
The ACCocalypse continues.
Kansas State (2-2) at Iowa State (3-1) - 3 p.m., FCS Central
It's Farmageddon 2009!
Western Michigan (2-2) at Northern Illinois (2-2) - 3:30 p.m., CSN Chicago
Northern Illinois needs a win here, if for no other reason than to keep their fans at bay.
Top 25 Bye Week: No. 1 Florida, No. 2 Texas, No. 14 Oklahoma State, No. 18 Kansas, No. 23 Nebraska