College Football's Best Weekend of the Year Comes Early- WEEK 3

When I saw the lineup for “Saturday, September 16” in my Athlon College Football Preview back in June, I was already getting excited. Now that it is here I am pumped for an entire day of watching some of the most intruiging matchups of the season.

 By my count, there are 8 games involving Top 25 teams or teams that are right in the running to be in the Top 25. I will break down each game briefly and give you my expert opinion as to where I will be putting my money tomorrow. But first, I impart upon you my personal TOP 25 coming into tomorrow. This is the only poll that matters.

TOP 25 OF THE MATTY, games through 9/15

  1. Notre Dame (2-0)
  2. Ohio State (2-0)
  3. USC (1-0)
  4. West Virginia (2-0)
  5. LSU (2-0)
  6. Michigan (2-0)
  7. Texas (1-1)
  8. Auburn (2-0)
  9. Oklahoma (2-0)
  10. Florida (2-0)
  11. Florida State (2-0)
  12. Louisville (2-0)
  13. Georgia (2-0)
  14. Iowa (2-0)
  15. Tennessee (2-0)
  16. California (1-1)
  17. Miami (1-1)
  18. Boston College (2-0)
  19. Clemson (1-1)
  20. Arizona State (2-0)
  21. Nebraska (2-0)
  22. Oregon (2-0)
  23. Arkansas (1-1)
  24. Alabama (2-0)
  25. Virginia Tech (2-0)

 #6 MICHIGAN at #1 NOTRE DAME, 2:30 CST, NBC

This will be the most hyped game of the day and with good reason, as both teams have a lot to play for in this fierce rivalry. Michigan is coming off its worst season in many years and has lost the last two meetings to the Irish, while ND has a national title at the forefront of its aspirations. Certainly, one would expect the winner of this one to be in the title mix going forward. Notre Dame has silenced some doubters by palying surprisingly strong defense in its first two victories. They struggled a bit moving the ball against a stout Georgia Tech defense, but seemed to be on the right track last week during a 41-17 thrashing of Penn State. Michigan has its offense in tact and clicking. The question in this game will be which defense steps up and which gives in, as the two teams have probably the two most complete offenses in the country outside of Ohio State. I have a feeling that the Wolverines are going to have their hands full trying to contain the Irish offense, especially in South Bend. Michigan will put some points on the board as well but will struggle to contain Notre Dame.   Notre Dame 38, Michigan 24

#17 Miami at #12 Louisville, 2:30 CST, ABC

Louisville’s high powered offense goes up against the strong defense of Miami–what will give here? The Canes will benefit from the return of RB Tyrone Moss, who was suspended during the narrow home loss to Florida State. On the flip side, Louisville’s offense lost a huge piece as RB Michael Bush was lost for the season in the season opener. QB Brian Brohm should still be able to produce, but I expect Miami to come out in a fury for this one in order to avoid an unthinkable 1-2 start. The offense will be ready and the defense should keep a shaken Louisville team at bay, as Miami’s D should be a bit tougher to break for Louisville than Temple’s was last week. Miami 31, Louisville 21.

#5 LSU at #8 AUBURN, 2:30 CST, CBS

ND-Michigan gets all the glory but make no mistake, this is the best matchup of tomorrow. Nothing beats SEC football, and the winner of this one will be in the driver’s seat to take the SEC West, the seemingly superior division this season. I tend to think Auburn is a tad overrated relative to the national polls. I certainly respect their running game but have questions about the passing game and defense. LSU, on the other hand is stacked across the board, with more athletes on both side of the ball. If they can keep their cool and avoid turning the ball over while keeping Irons in check on defense, I like their chances here in a defensive struggle. LSU 17, Auburn 14.

#9 OKLAHOMA at #22 OREGON, 2:30 CST, ABC

If someone could explain to me how Oregon is a five point favorite here I would be mighty grateful. In my opinion, the Ducks remain the most overrated program in football year after year. Remember when Indiana went in there two years ago and knocked them off? That was truly classic. But anyway, everybody was all over Oklahoma until QB Rhett Bomar got dismissed, and now it is as if they are a completely different team. Does anyone remember a RB named Adrian Peterson? How about that powerful OU defense? Sure the Sooners have looked a little rusty in their first two games with a new QB, but isn’t that to be expected? And of course Oregon is supposed to be a tough place to play, but please, if Indiana can win there with the team they had in 2004 than I am going to take my chances that Oklahoma can do the same in 2006. Oklahoma 28, Oregon 10

Texas Tech at TCU, 4:30 CST, ESPN 2

I personally have both teams just on the outside of the Top 25, but they are both ranked in the other polls so I suppose that this game is worth keeping an eye on. Besides, TCU has BCS aspiratons now that there are officially 25 BCS bowl games. (Okay, maybe only five, but that is still a motherload). I can respect the matchup between the former Southwest Conference rivals and it will serve as a nice in between before the night games start. TCU 35, Texas Tech 34.

#19 Clemson at #11 Florida State, 6:45 CST, ESPN

Clemson lost a really tough game on a missed PAT in OT last week against Boston College, but don’t be fooled, this is one of America’s most underrated teams. If they do lose this game, I’ll be looking for them to fly under the radar for the rest of the season. The ‘Noles always seem to have trouble with Clemson, whether the game is home or away. And they had quite a lot of trouble with lowly Troy at home last week coming off the big win at Miami. I expect this one to be incredibly close, with whichever defense makes the most big plays determining the winner. Florida State 24, Clemson 23

#10 Florida at #15 Tennessee, 7:00 CST, CBS

I have to admit I was shocked at how easily Tennessee handled Cal opening weekend. I was equally shocked when they narrowly escaped at home in a game they probably should have lost against mediocre Air Force. In that game, they lost two key defensive starters, so Urban Meyer is probably not the guy they want to see on the opposing bench this weekend. The Vols should play hard and will have 100,000 hillbillies draped in orange on their side but Florida just has way too much talent on both sides of the ball. Florida 34, Tennessee 17

#21 Nebraska at #3 USC, 7:00 CST, ABC

This is a great spotlight game showcasing two historic programs, but I’m not quite convinced that Nebraska is back to its glory day form, or in all honesty, anywhere near it. They’ve had blowout victories against hapless opponents to start the season, which is probably not the best way to prepare to enter the Colliseum for a night game. Some will argue it is a statement game for the Huskers, and they may be able to keep it close for a half, but in the end USC just has way too much athleticism. USC 45, Nebraska 21

Hopefully all of you either have 4 television sets in your home or you are planning to go to a bar that has as much, as I am planning to do. And don’t give me any of this nonsense about watching one game and Tivo-ing the other games. There is nothing exciting about watching a game that has already ended, regardless of whether or not you “check the score.” The game is over, get on with your day.

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