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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.
Championship weekend is still well over a month away once we hit Week 9 of the college football season, but it's a great chance to watch some potential previews of conference title games in the ACC and Big 12 while the SEC East picture should be much clearer thanks to the division's top four teams all facing each other.
Could this be a preview of the ACC title game? Quite possibly as you have the clear-cut best team in the conference in Virginia Tech welcoming in Matt Ryan and BostonCollege to what will be a raucous Lane Stadium on a school night. Tech was taken to the woodshed last season in Chestnut Hill last fall when the Eagles came away with a 22-3 victory in what turned out to be by far the Hokies lowest-scoring output of the season and second-most points allowed.
Just a few years ago this matchup pretty much determined who the WAC champ would be every season. Fresno hasn't been its usual self as of late, but this could easily be one of the toughest road tests for Boise on the season other than the Broncos' venture to Hawai'i's Thanksgiving weekend. The Bulldogs' defense doesn't figure to offer much of a challenge for the Broncos' offense, not with a few questions remaining on their defensive line and backfield. But there isn't going to be a bigger home game all season in Fresno, so that ratchets up the upset potential a few notches.
Sat., Oct. 27 - Nebraska at Texas
Your early look at the Big 12 championship game to be played only a little over a month later. The Cornhuskers enter this contest still in search of that one signature win in the Bill Callahan era, and one against a team they're not expected to beat. While picking off the Longhorns in Austin might be asking a bit much of Nebraska, if they're going to be the Big 12 North champs, how about at least giving Texas a run for its money in this one?
Steve Spurrier practically owns Phil Fulmer and the Vols. During his coaching career, Spurrier is 9-5 against Tennessee, dating back to his days at Duke and Florida. The two verbal sparring partners meet in Knoxville this season where Spurrier got one of his biggest wins during his first season as Gamecocks coach, handing Fulmer his first-ever SEC loss to South Carolina. If Spurrier's going to win this time around, he's going to need to exploit that Tennessee front four.
PennState gets two of its toughest Big Ten games at home, one of those coming against the Buckeyes. The biggest question surrounding the Buckeyes is their offense. They lost six starters, none more important than Troy Smith. But they're not without talent. With the two Wells in the backfield and Brian Robiskie out wide, whoever is eventually tabbed as the quarterback won't be without options. But they'll have to contend with a Nittany Lions defense that, while only returning five starters, will be just as formidable in 2007 as it was in 2006.
Here's a treat. You have three potential Heisman winners in this game in West Virginia's dynamic duo of Pat White and Steve Slaton facing off against Rutgers Ray Rice. May the best offense win. Both the Mountaineers and Scarlet Knights will be focused on shutting down the other's rushing attack. That means this game could come down to White's passing prowess, something he doesn't get enough credit for. Or Mike Teel's ability to not turn the ball over.
Rivalry of the Week
Sat., Oct. 27 - Florida vs. Georgia (Jacksonville)
The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party as it will always affectionately be referred to could very well determine who has the inside track to the SEC East title. These two rivals have been playing each other for almost 100 years now, and while the Bulldogs have the overall edge in the series, it's the Gators who have won every meeting this decade except for 2004. Florida was a seven-point winner last fall, thanks mostly to its defense, which forced two fumbles and two interceptions. You'd figure Matthew Stafford will be a little more poised this time around.