10. Navy @ Notre Dame (Saturday 2:30 PM EST, NBC)
By now, you know all about the streak. The last forty-three times the Middies and Irish have met, Notre Dame has won. 43 straight…currently the longest win streak for one team over another, and whenever it ends it will indeed be the longest of all time. But given 1-7 Notre Dame’s struggles, this could be the year for Navy. QB Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada has thrown for 634 yards and run for another 655 (and eleven rushing touchdowns) this season, but this one could also provide an opportunity for Notre Dame’s offense to put some points on the board. Delaware hung 59 on Navy last weekend in their 59-52 win.
9. East Carolina @ Memphis (Saturday 2 PM EST)
ECU currently leads the East Division of Conference USA with a 4-1 league mark, but the Tigers are right behind them at 3-1. Memphis, recovering from a disastrous 2006 campaign, is now 4-4 after back-to-back road wins over Rice and Tulane. Martin Hankins has thrown for nearly 1500 yards and ten touchdowns this season, but he and the rest of the Tigers will have their hands full with an ECU team that’s currently first in the conference in turnover margin. The Pirates won’t overwhelm you with their offense, but running back Chris Johnson has run for 672 yards and nine touchdowns thus far.
8. Buffalo @ Miami-Ohio (Saturday 3 PM EST, ESPN GamePlan)
Just like the number nine selection, these two will be playing with first place on the line in the MAC East. To say that not too many people expected Turner Gill’s Bulls to be in first place at this point in the season would be an understatement, but there they are atop the East at 4-1. But Miami at 3-1 has to be a surprise as well, but these are two of the best scoring defenses in the MAC. Miami leads the league (25.8 ppg allowed) and Buffalo is fourth (27.3 ppg allowed). Bulls QB Drew Willy and Miami’s Daniel Raudabaugh are two of the better quarterbacks in the conference, so this should be an entertaining affair.
7. Nebraska @ #8 Kansas (Saturday 12:30 PM EST, Fox Sports Net)
Not too far behind Notre Dame’s domination of Navy would be the way in which Nebraska has handled Kansas, winning 37 of their last 38 meetings. But these are much different teams than in years past, almost pulling a role reversal when it comes to their rankings. Nebraska, now without quarterback Sam Keller for the remainder of the season due to a shoulder injury, has been engulfed in turmoil this season and it remains to be seen if Bill Callahan is back as head coach next season. Kansas, on the other hand, boasts an undefeated record (8-0, 4-0 Big 12) and one of the frontrunners for National Coach of the Year honors in Mark Mangino. QB Todd Reesing has played well in his first season as starter, and running backs Brandon McAnderson and Jake Sharp seem to take turns gashing defenses. And Nebraska’s defense has been poor to say the least this season.
6. #11 Virginia Tech @ Georgia Tech (Thursday 7:30 PM EST, ESPN)
Yes, the Yellow Jackets are 2-3 in the ACC Coastal, and yes they may indeed be without star running back Tashard Choice (knee) tonight. But if you like defense, then this is the game for you. Two of the country’s best defensive coordinators, Bud Foster (Virginia Tech) and Jon Tenuta (Georgia Tech) will be devising ways in which to make life a living hell for quarterbacks Taylor Bennett (Georgia Tech) and Sean Glennon (Virginia Tech). Branden Ore still hasn’t run for 100 yards in a game this season, but going up against Georgia Tech will be a mighty task for the senior runner. The only bad thing about this one: if you’re not in Atlanta, you can’t have chili dogs at The Varsity.
5. Vanderbilt @ #20 Florida (Saturday 12:30 PM EST, ESPN GamePlan)
A week after their tough defeat at the hands of rival Georgia, Florida has to host a Vanderbilt team that stands one win away from becoming bowl eligible for the first time since 1982. But being at home after three straight games away from Gainesville (all against ranked foes) should be a good thing for Florida, who despite their three conference losses still has a chance to win the SEC East. And believe it or not, so do the Commodores, who’ve played better offensively since Mackenzi Adams has taken over at quarterback. The last time these two played in The Swamp, Florida needed overtime to win the game. This one could be just as close.
4. Rutgers @ #13 Connecticut (Saturday 7:15 PM EST, ESPNU)
It was just one year ago when Rutgers was the darling of college football, finding ways to win football games and simply keep “chopping away”. And while thanks to questionable officiating decisions in games against Temple and Louisville has made it tougher for the casual fan to embrace the Connecticut Huskies, there they are atop the Big East with a 3-0 conference record. Just like Rutgers in 2006, UConn has a solid running game, an outstanding defense, and a quarterback in Tyler Lorenzen who does a good job of protecting the football. The key player in this one will be Rutgers QB Mike Teel, who has struggled throwing the football of late due to injury. But an important piece of advice for his young receivers, who struggled mightily in their 31-3 loss to West Virginia last week: when Teel hits you in the hands with the ball, catch it.
3. #15 Texas @ Oklahoma State (Saturday 3:30 PM EST, ABC)
Well, ever since head coach Mike Gundy declared himself “a man”, the Cowboys have only one loss: a 24-23 heartbreaker at Texas A&M. OSU, currently tied with rival Oklahoma atop the Big 12 South at 3-1, has a versatile offense (10th nationally) that can force defenses to pick their poison. Stop the run, and there goes wide receiver Adarius Bowman. Shut down Bowman, and running backs Dantrell Savage and Kentrell Hunter will have a field day. But it’s their defense that will have some questions asked of it this weekend, and how they slow down running back Jamaal Charles will decide who wins this game. The Cowboys are tenth in the conference in total defense, and last against the pass. The recent history of this matchup has been the Pokes jumping out to a big lead, only to have the Longhorns put together some of the greatest comebacks in their storied history. Expect some points in this one.
2. #3 LSU @ #17 Alabama (Saturday 5 PM EST, CBS)
“Saban Bowl I” is what fans are calling it, a date circled on the SEC calendar since Nick Saban left the Miami Dolphins for Tuscaloosa and Les Miles referred to the “addition” of a rival as “bleeping Alabama” during the spring. What seems to be forgotten by many is the fact that the Tigers and Crimson Tide are deadlocked atop the SEC West with 4-1 marks. Ryan Perrilloux has once again gotten into some trouble off the field, meaning that Matt Flynn will take all the snaps this weekend for the Bayou Bengals. John Parker Wilson, who has been able to show what he can do at quarterback thanks to a line that’s done a better job of keeping him upright this season, will have his hands full with the SEC’s best defense. The winner takes a major step towards the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta, and LSU will have their national title hopes on the line as well.
1. #4 Arizona State @ #5 Oregon (Saturday 6:40 PM EST, ESPN)
Showcase games out of the Pac-10 in recent years have usually meant one thing: USC was involved. But Oregon last week pretty much ended the Trojans’ hopes of winning yet another conference title. Their reward: a visit by undefeated Arizona State, who would be the best team in the nation if they only counted the second half. The conference’s lone undefeated in league play (5-0), the Sun Devils play only their third road game of the season, and let’s just say that the environments at Stanford and Washington State have nothing on the “Autzen Zoo”. QB Rudy Carpenter has been unable to throw thus far in practice due to a sprained thumb, but don’t expect the junior to miss this one for anything. ASU’s rush defense, ranked ninth nationally, will have a significant challenge in stopping Oregon’s Dennis Dixon and Jonathan Stewart on the ground.