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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 Friday for the heads-up on what games are shaping up to be the best each week, the worst each week and a few others that have piqued our interest.
The Week 8 schedule features several compelling conference showdowns as we get to the point of season where the weather begins to get colder, the leaves are changing colors and teams begin jockeying for position within conference play. A pair of critical games in the Big 12, as well as showdowns in the ACC, the Big East and MAC highlight the schedule.
Game of the Week
Sat. Oct. 21 - Texas at Nebraska
This matchup brings together two teams whom many believe will be the Big 12's North and South division winners, as the defending national champions head into Lincoln for a battle with the Huskers. Nebraska appears as though it may be returning to its old form finally, as the Huskers took some tremendous strides in the right direction last year, winning their final three games, including that thrilling victory over Michigan in the Alamo Bowl. Senior quarterback Zac Taylor returns for Nebraska, as do tailbacks Marlon Lucky and Cody Glenn. The Huskers do have a tough '06 schedule ahead, though, as they also meet national runner-up USC earlier in the season. Meanwhile, Texas returns 14 starters to a lineup that will be without its leader, Vince Young, but still figures to be a contender. All of the running backs return to the fold, led by Jamaal Charles, who was named the league's top offensive freshman after rushing for 878 yards.
Two of the top teams from the ACC's Atlantic Division clash in Tallahassee as the league's defending champs host the Eagles. Expect BC to be looking for revenge, as last year's home loss to FloridaState is what put FSU into the ACC title game and left the Eagles sitting home. Despite losing a ton of talent to this year's NFL draft - the `Noles return 10 starters this season, fewest in the ACC - FSU may very well end up defending its ACC title. Back is sophomore quarterback Drew Weatherford, who came on strong late last season, becoming the first freshman to lead the ACC in total offense with an average of 244.6 yards per game.
In another important Big 12 matchup, the Red Raiders travel to Ames to face the Cyclones. IowaState hosts Nebraska and then visits Oklahoma in the two weeks before this matchup, so ISU should have a good idea of where it stands in conference positioning when it heads into this contest. The Cyclones lost just one home game all of last season. Meanwhile, the Red Raiders are coming off a season in which they finished 9-3, their best regular season mark since 1976. This is a game Tech could really use if it wants to break up the stranglehold Texas and Oklahoma have had on the Big 12's South Division in years past.
The scene shifts to western Pennsylvania in this contest of Big East rivals. Last year, Rutgers got a 37-29 victory over the Panthers in a nationally-televised Friday night game which helped put the Scarlet Knights on the path to a bowl bid, while the Panthers finished with a losing record. But after bringing in a highly rated recruiting class, Dave Wannstedt's Panthers look poised to turn things around in 2006. Quarterback Tyler Palko returns for Pittsburgh after passing for 2,392 yards and 17 touchdowns last season and should work better after struggling at times last season under offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh's new offense. Rutgers returns what should be a tremendous running game, as tailback Ray Rice and fullback Brian Leonard head up the backfield for the Scarlet Knights.
This matchup pits two heavyweights from the MAC together, as both teams look to be strong contenders for the league championship. Defending league champion Akron comes into '06 wanting to prove that last year's title was no fluke. The Zips return eight starters on offense, including quarterback Luke Getsy, who threw for 3,455 yards and 23 touchdowns last season. But the Zips will be without two receivers and their leading running back this season. Miami lost the East Division tie-breaker last season after finishing 7-4. The Redhawks lost 23 lettermen to graduation, but have enough talent to be a contender in the MAC again.
Two Big Ten foes square off in this important matchup. The Wolverines will be looking to rebound in '06 after failing to finish in the Top 25 for the first time in 21 years, while Iowa, coming off its fourth-straight January bowl appearance last season, will look to contend for the Big Ten title under the arm of senior quarterback Drew Tate.The Wolverines captured a thrilling 23-20 victory in overtime at Iowa last season, so expect this game to be packed with intensity as the scene shifts to Ann Arbor.
After hosting defending ACC champ FloridaState the week before, the Blue Devils welcome the Hurricanes to Durham. The ACC beat up on Duke last season, as the Blue Devils went 0-8 in conference play last season and managed just one win - that coming against Division I-AA Virginia Military Institute. If the Blue Devils are able to pick off someone in the ACC this year, don't expect it to happen in this game.