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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.
As the 2006 season rolls along, we see Week 10 headlined with a very critical Thursday night matchup in the Big East between West Virginia and Louisville. This game may just end up deciding who wins the conference and lands a spot in the BCS. At Big East media day this past week, there was a definite sense of optimism and excitement about the direction this conference is moving, especially with the Mountaineers' Sugar Bowl victory over Georgia last year, and a primetime matchup between who many think will be the conference's two top teams this season certainly is a good thing for the Big East.
Meanwhile, several other matchups catch the eye on the Week 10 schedule, including a showdown in Miami between two teams who figure to be the major players for the ACC Coastal division championship and a spot in the ACC title game as Miami hosts Virginia Tech.
Game of the Week
Thurs Nov. 2 - West Virginia at Louisville
What can be said but, This game is huge?" The defending Big East champs head into Louisville for a matchup with the Cardinals, who figure to be right there with the Mountaineers all year along atop the Big East standings. The Mountaineers were named the preseason No.1 at this week's Big East media day, but right behind them was Louisville.
West Virginia has won at least a share of the last three Big East championships and on a squad where nine offensive starters return and 51 letterman come back from last season, people in Morgantown have high hopes, and a win at Louisville would put WVU in prime position for another Big East title. The Mountaineers can't afford to look past Louisville, though, in what may very well be West Virginia's toughest matchup of the 2006 season.
An explosive high-scoring offense behind quarterback Brian Brohm and running back Michael Bush will give opponents problems all season long in '06 and West Virginia will need to control them if they want to come out with a win. And Louisville will be ready for this one: the Cards blew a 24-7 fourth-quarter lead over WVU last season as WVU came back for the 46-44 overtime victory.
Legendary coach Joe Paterno faces new Badger coach Bret Bielema - the second-youngest coach in all of Division I-A football at age 36 - for the first time in this Big Ten matchup in Madison. The Nitttany Lions cruised to a 35-14 victory over the Badgers last season in Happy Valley. If Wisconsin is going to avenge last season's loss, they're probably going to have to do it with their defense, as they return eight starters from last season.
The offense has a lot of question marks, as Bielema is faced with the task of trying to replace eight starters on offense, including star tailback Brian Calhoun. Penn State faces questions on offense as well, as quarterback Anthony Morelli replaces Michael Robinson. But with the returns of Tony Hunt at tailback and a slew of talented sophomore receivers, Morelli has a lot of talent around him. And that defense, led by senior OLB Paul Posluszny figures to give offenses a headache.
Sat. Nov. 4 - Virginia Tech at Miami
This matchup may very well end up deciding the ACC Coastal division winner and who earns a spot in the ACC title game. Miami got a 27-7 victory over the Hokies last season, but a poor performance in the Peach Bowl - a 40-3 loss to LSU - lead Miami head coach Larry Coker to shake up his staff, canning six assistants from last season. The Hokies, meanwhile, return a defense with a lot of experience, but face big questions at quarterback to see who will replace Marcus Vick. Look for either sophomore Sean Glennon or redshirt freshman Ike Whitaker to be under center for Va. Tech in this matchup.
Last year's 30-27 overtime loss to Tennessee last season, a waste of a 21-0 halftime lead, clearly had to have been LSU's biggest disappointment of the 2005 season. The Tigers will try to erase the memories of that day when they travel to Neyland Stadium for a showdown with the Vols. It might not be easy though, as the Vols have momentum of their own. While that one game for LSU was a huge disappointment, it can be said that the entire 2005 season was a disappointment for Tennessee, as the Vols finished 5-6, posting their first losing season since 1998.
This Big 12 North matchup should provide some excitement. Having a strong finish to last season and the return of senior quarterback Zac Taylor have the Huskers favored by many to win the Big 12 north as head coach Bill Callahan looks continue leading Nebraska back to its old form. Meanwhile, Missouri will be without the services of quarterback Brad Smith, who became the first player in Division I-A football to pass for 8,000 yards and rush for 4,000 in a career. While missing those kinds of numbers will be crushing, Chase Daniel steps into the QB position with some experience under his belt, having appeared in 10 games for the Tigers last season. Winning in Lincoln is no easy task: Just ask the Tigers, who haven't won there since 1978.
The Golden Bears will be looking for revenge in this Pac-10 contest when the Bruins come to town, as UCLA scored a 47-40 victory over Cal last season. And it looks like Cal's chances of revenge in this one may be very good, as the Bears return a wealth of experience to their roster, led by Heisman Trophy candidate Marshawn Lynch at tailback. UCLA, meanwhile, loses its two stars on offense: tailback Maurice Drew and quarterback Drew Olson, who accounted for 55 touchdowns last season for the Bruins.
This matchup features what very well may end up being the Big Ten's best against the Big Ten's worst as the Buckeyes travel to Champaign for a meeting with the Illini. Last years matchup saw Ohio State come away with a 40-2 victory, and don't expect things to be much different this season. Senior QB Troy Smith, who closed out the 2005 season very strong, will lead a Buckeyes offense that returns eight starters from last season and figures to be explosive. The question for the Buckeyes will be their defense, which lost six players to the NFL draft this past April.