Reporting Matt Ryan
All eyes in the college football world will be on Athens this weekend for a highly anticipated SEC East showdown. The Georgia Bulldogs are coming off a disappointing 38-35 loss to Clemson at Death Valley. They continue their gauntlet first month stretch against Clemon’s in-state rival, the South Carolina Gamecocks who have dominated them over the last three years. This matchup at Sanford Stadium has national title implications and may determine who will be representing the SEC East in Atlanta this December. Georgia has made it to the Georgia Dome the last two years, despite losing to the Gamecocks both times. That may not be the case this season, if they fail to beat South Carolina.
Below are the kickoff times and television schedule for the ten best games this weekend.
10. Arkansas State at Auburn (7:30pm, SportsSouth): The Tigers could be in for another shootout in game two of the Gus Malzahn era. Auburn defeated Washington State 31-24 in their home opener last weekend. They will now face Malzahn’s team from a year ago, the Arkansas State Red Wolves, who are coming off a 672 yard (509 on the ground) and 62 point performance in their opening weekend rout over Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
9. #15 Texas at BYU (7pm, ESPN2): The Cougars are coming a hard fought 19-16 loss against the Virginia Cavaliers. BYU faces another difficult test when the fifteenth ranked Longhorns come to Provo, for the first time since 1988. A westward trip will begin a tough stretch for Mack Brown’s squad, who host Ole Miss next weekend and face defending Big 12 champion – Kansas State in their conference opener, a week later.
8. Washington State at #25 USC (10:30pm, Fox Sports 1): USC was the most underachieving team of 2012, beginning the year as pre-season number one and finishing 7-6 with a loss in the Sun Bowl. Another poor record could spell the end of Lane Kiffin as their head coach. The Trojans begin conference play against a Cougars squad that nearly beat Auburn on the road.
7. Western Kentucky at Tennessee (12:21pm, Peachtree TV): Bobby Petrino and Western Kentucky will look to go two for two in 2013 against SEC Schools, after a 35-26 win over the Kentucky Wildcats in Nashville. The arrival of the former Louisville and Arkansas head coach, has made the Hilltoppers one of the more intriguing non-BCS schools to watch this season. Tennessee easily beat Austin Peay 45-0 in game one of the Butch Jones era and will get another warmup test, before heading west to face Oregon next weekend.
6. San Diego State at #3 Ohio State (3:30pm, ABC/ESPN2): The Buckeyes have slipped from second to third in the rankings this week, after having a little bit closer of call than many expected in their 20 point win over Buffalo. Ohio State was up 23-0 after the first 15 minutes of play, but was outscored 20-17 over the next three quarters. Urban Meyer’s squad should have little trouble getting past an Aztecs team, they are favored to beat by more than three touchdowns.
5. #2 Oregon at Virginia (3:30pm, ABC/ESPN2): Oregon will kickoff on the East Coast at the same time, as the team they just leapfrogged in the latest polls. The Ducks were merciless in their 66-3 rout over Nicholls State, gaining exactly 500 yards on the ground and nearly 800 yards of total offense. They may not score as many points against Virginia on their cross-country trip, but an upset will be out of the question unless the Cavaliers can keep up the pace with the nation’s most prolific offense.
4. West Virginia at #16 Oklahoma (7pm, FOX): One thing that can always be expected in a Big 12 affair is a lot of points on the scoreboard, especially after these teams combined for 1440 offensive yards and nearly reached the century mark in 2012. The Sooners barely escaped Morgantown with a 50-49 victory. West Virginia got off to a great start in their inaugural Big 12 season by winning their first five games, before dropping their next five games. It will be another wide open year for the Big 12 title, with plenty of games that should see triple digit scoring and four digit yard totals.
3. #12 Florida at Miami (12pm, ESPN): This year will mark the Hurricanes 10th season as a member of the ACC. During the past decade, Miami has failed to achieve the success it achieved as an independent during the 80′s and as a Big East member in the 90′s and early 2000′s. The Hurricanes have not won more than nine games since 2003 and the Nevin Shapiro scandal has kept them out of a bowl game for the last two years. Al Golden’s team is favored to win the ACC’s Coastal Division and could establish themselves as a BCS contender with an upset win over the Gators. Florida was one of the more surprising teams in the country last year with an 11-2 finish, but could fall back to the middle of the pack this season. How they play on the road against the Hurricanes will be a good test for them, before beginning SEC play against Tennessee in two weeks.
2. #14 Notre Dame at #17 Michigan (8pm, ESPN): The ending of long-time rivalries has been a common theme in the era of conference expansion and realignment. Another storied matchup will go on indefinite hiatus, when last year’s national title game runner-ups visit the Big House for the final time. While the off the field storylines are intriguing, it should be another competitive affair on the field as well. The last four contests have been decided by a touchdown or less.
1. #6 South Carolina at #11 UGA (4:30pm, ESPN): National title hopes for Bulldog Nation will be on the line this weekend, when the sixth ranked Gamecocks visit Athens. The good news for Georgia fans is Marcus Lattimore is no longer playing for Steve Spurrier, after rushing for 467 yards and four touchdowns against the Bulldogs over the last three years. The bad news for Georgia fans, Jadeveon Clowney will once again be lining up on defense for the Gamecocks. South Carolina has won a series record three straight games and could be in the driver’s seat for a SEC Championship Game appearance, if they can pull off the victory for a fourth straight year. Georgia had no problem scoring points against Clemson last Saturday , but will need to have a better defensive effort in their conference opener to end their three game losing streak to the Gamecocks and take control of the SEC East.