10. #7 Georgia @ Georgia Tech, 3:30 PM (ABC)
Chan Gailey is 0-5 against rival Georgia, and after this season’s underachievement he could really use a win against his adversaries from the northeast. All people in the Peach State heard the past four years were complaints about Reggie Ball and his play at quarterback in big games. Now, Taylor Bennett (and Josh Nesbitt at times as well) get their shot to beat the Dawgs. A Georgia win would only bolster their case for at least a BCS at-large spot, and if they get a Kentucky win over Tennessee there’s the opportunity to get an automatic bid in Atlanta next weekend. Clean, old-fashioned hate…should still be a good one to watch even without a whole lot riding on it.
9. #9 Oregon @ UCLA, 3:30 PM (ABC)
After USC’s throttling of Arizona State Thursday night, Oregon is once again in the driver’s seat for the Rose Bowl. But, without quarterback Dennis Dixon, is this now the time that all the injuries of this season catch up to the Ducks? It could be, given two things: UCLA may have Ben Olson back under center; and Karl Dorrell’s Bruins are in desperate need of a win. UCLA, even though they’re only one game out in the loss column in the Pac-10, still isn’t bowl eligible. And with USC next up in the Coliseum, the prospects of getting that sixth win don’t look too good if they don’t do it here. And for his future in Westwood, Coach Dorrell could certainly use the win.
8. Oklahoma State @ #10 Oklahoma, 3:30 PM (Fox Sports Net)
The “Bedlam Series” kicks off with a little more at stake than the usual bragging rights. After notching a combined four Big 12 wins the past two seasons, OSU heads into this one with a chance to tie for the Big 12 South title. The Sooners, on the other hand, have their ticket to the conference title game punched thanks to Texas A&M’s win over Texas on Friday. Sam Bradford is back, but DeMarco Murray will be out until the bowl game (if then) with a dislocated kneecap. The Pokes will be without wide receiver Adarius Bowman due to injury, so both teams will be short a playmaker. But the key will be a sometimes porous OSU defense, and how they fare against the Sooner offense.
7. #22 Clemson @ South Carolina, 7 PM (ESPN2)
Talk about two teams who could use a win. Clemson comes into this rivalry game on the heels of a heartbreaking loss to Boston College. On the other hand, South Carolina has lost their last four after a 6-1 start. Besides bragging rights in the Palmetto State, there isn’t much riding on this one. But this rivalry has a history of producing some very entertaining football games, and the desperation should add to that.
6. Alabama @ Auburn, 8 PM (ESPN)
The “Iron Bowl” is the only game that matters in the State of Alabama for 365 days, and boy would the Crimson Tide and their faithful like to get their first win in six years against the Tigers. Nick Saban took some heat both at home and throughout the nation for his comments following the stunning loss to UL Monroe, but that can all be taken care of (at least in Alabama) with a win over Auburn. The tough loss to LSU has seemingly taken the energy out of Bama, and Auburn comes into this one off of a blowout loss at Georgia. At least they had an off week to take care of some things. Jordan Hare should be rocking for this one; Auburn would like to start working on the other hand after getting “one for the thumb” last season.
5. Florida State @ #12 Florida, 5 PM (CBS)
Now, this looked like another ho-hum rivalry game…that was, until Florida State linebacker Geno Hayes opened his mouth about Florida’s Tim Tebow. Tebow, who may be the closest thing to a leader in the Heisman race to this point, has already set an SEC record with twenty rushing touchdowns. He’s proven that he can get the job done both on the ground and through the air, while the Seminoles have had mixed success this season on the defensive side of the ball. This game is always a testy affair, but it may have been better of Hayes to simply “let sleeping dogs lie”. He may wish he had when this one is over. The key will be Drew Weatherford and the Florida State offense, which hasn’t proven able to consistently put up points all season.
4. #18 Tennessee @ Kentucky, 1:30 PM (CBS)
You’ve got two “Jekyll and Hyde” football teams meeting in this border battle. Both play much better at home than on the road, and this time its Kentucky with the home field advantage. But in the history of this series, it doesn’t matter where they play: Tennessee wins. Twenty-two straight wins for the Volunteers over UK, and in Erik Ainge and Andre Woodson two of the SEC’s best quarterbacks will be on display. Kentucky needs a win to strengthen their bowl position, while a Tennessee win gets them into the SEC Championship Game next week against LSU. Which team can buck its recent troubling trend? Tennessee on the road, or Kentucky against Tennessee?
3. #20 Connecticut @ #3 West Virginia, 3:30 (ABC)
Thanks to the LSU loss, and the fact that either Kansas or Missouri will drop in the polls after Saturday, West Virginia controls its own destiny in the national title picture. However, there’s still the business of winning the Big East, which can be done with a win over surprising Connecticut. Pat White and Steve Slaton ran all over the Husky defense last season, but this is a different (and healthier) pack of Huskies. It’s seemed all week as if the game had been already played, and WVU won (according to the experts). But take heart UConn, experts also said that Dewey defeated Truman. And if you’re looking for a Big East-specific example of “counting your chickens before they hatch”, there were “Georgetown National Champions” t-shirts on sale before the national title game on April 1, 1985. And we all know what happened there. This will be a test for WVU in regards to staying focused on the task at hand.
2. #8 Virginia Tech @ #16 Virginia, Noon (ESPN2)
To say that Virginia wasn’t exactly thrilled to see the rival Hokies join the ACC a couple of years ago would be accurate. Now, the two get to play for the Coastal Division crown, and only one of these teams was expected to be here when the season began. Virginia, who has won five games by two points or less, was not that team. Somehow, someway, the Cavaliers win football games; and when one man goes down, another one steps into his place and carries the torch. Virginia Tech, on the other hand, has gone back and forth between Tyrod Taylor and Sean Glennon at quarterback with some success. But it would be nice to see Branden Ore break his season-long slump and run for more than 100 yards in a game. Virginia’s got the dangerous Mikell Simpson in their backfield, but how consistent Jameel Sewell plays will be the difference in this one.
1. #2 Kansas vs. #4 Missouri, 8 PM (ABC)
This “border war” is one of the more heated rivalries in the country, but not too many people outside of the area pay much attention to it. That’s probably because it’s never meant as much as it will tonight. The winner makes their first trip to the Big 12 Championship Game and stays alive in the national title hunt. Todd Reesing and Chase Daniel, two of the nation’s best quarterbacks, will be looking to add some stats to the Heisman resume, but this one is first and foremost about bragging rights. Both defenses have been suspect at times this season, so whichever unit makes plays to put their offense in good position to score will win the game.