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Over the summer, CSTV.com will be taking a look at the college football schedule, highlighting the top matchups, the can't-miss games and the storylines that make certain contests so intriguing. Check in every Thursday for the heads-up on what games are shaping up to be the best each week, the top offensive matchups, Heisman showcases and a few others that have piqued our interest.
Conference action around the country really starts to heat up as the calendar creeps closer and closer to October. The SEC is yet again the scene for the best games, but there's a Pac-10 matchup that might get overlooked yet packs a big punch. We also have a great weeknight matchup between two teams that haven't played in over 60 years and certainly aren't accustomed to playing on a Thursday. So start the weekend early.
An unusual weekday game for two teams who almost always play on Saturdays, but it nonetheless should be a good one. It'll be fun to see the A&M offense that should feature one of the nation's best running games, yet again, go up against the Miami defense that was stingy against the run (67.8 yards per game) last season. These two teams haven't met since 1944 - so this one's been a long time coming - with the only meeting between going to A&M, 70-14.
There's a lot of talk about a bowl game in Tucson and if the Wildcats are serious about that, how about finally beating a good team on the road? Remember, Arizona picked off No. 8 Cal at home last year, 24-20, giving the Bears their second loss of the season and knocking them out of the national title picture. The Wildcats were able to disrupt them offensively that afternoon. But chances are Arizona won't have as easy a time repeating that performance in Berkley.
Sat., Sept. 22 - Georgia at Alabama
This will be Bama's third SEC game of the season and we're already in the fourth week of the season.
This is a game where Nick Saban's influence on his team can really shine through. Coming off that tough game against Arkansas the week before with the Bulldogs in town, what kind of swagger will the Crimson Tide carry into Bryant-Denny Stadium, especially if they lose that game to the Razorbacks? With Saban barking at his players all week long they surely won't be feeling sorry for themselves. And just imagine if they beat Arkansas. Two relatively inexperienced offensive lines face off in this one.
Steve Spurrier thinks this is his best team yet in Columbia and he thinks big things could be in store for the Gamecocks. Big things like beating the Tigers in Baton Rogue? South Carolina isn't that good yet, but they've shown some savvy on the road losing just one game away from home last season - and that was a game South Carolina should have won had it not been for that final blocked field goal and an earlier blocked PAT attempt by Jarvis Moss that would save Florida's national championship hopes.
Michigan's going to be the favorite in the Big Ten with Wisconsin yet again being forgotten as a major player on the national scene. That being said, this matchup with the Nittany Lions will be the Wolverines' first conference game of the season and it concludes a four-game home stand to start the year. They knocked out Anthony Morelli in last year's game in HappyValley, holding the PennState offense in relative check. That won't figure to happen as easily this year with a much more seasoned Nittany Lions offensive line and a Michigan defense that's not going to dominate like it did last year.
This is a trap game for the Mountaineers. Facing Maryland the week before and with a tough contest against South Florida in Tampa the week after, could West Virginia overlook the Pirates? You'd figure the Mountaineers wouldn't as they've done nothing but pound ECU in the past. West Virginia owns a 16-2 record all-time against the Pirates and has never lost to them since Rich Rodriguez took over.
Heisman Showcase of the Week
Sat., Sept. 22 - Kentucky at Arkansas
Darren McFadden goes up against the worst rushing defense in the SEC last season - and one of the worst nationally - in the Wildcats. The two teams didn't face each other last season, but in giving up an average of 184 yards per game, Rich Brooks better hope his Kentucky team has gained some valuable experience and can ascend from the conference basement. McFadden feasted like a hog against some of the worst run defenses last year. Against UtahState, he ran for 184 yards on a team ranked 111th in rushing defense. Kentucky was No. 108 last year.