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Bring on the big boys (cont.)

Posted: Thursday September 8, 2005 1:17PM; Updated: Thursday September 8, 2005 4:35PM
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Now why do you have to be such party-poopers, Vince and Mack? It's starting to sound like we're more excited for this thing than you are. "[When the series was scheduled], the national championship game was not what it is today," said Brown. "At places like Texas and Ohio State, everyone wants you to win the last one, and obviously after Saturday, one of us is going to take a step back."

We'll give you that one, but then again a loss on Sept. 10 -- particularly to a top-five opponent -- is not necessarily a season-killer. Although the 2004 regular season ended with a staggering five undefeated teams (USC, Oklahoma, Auburn, Utah and Boise State), four of the seven BCS championship games to date have featured at least one team with a loss. If this year's does as well, the fate of the Ohio State-Texas loser may depend in part on the nature of Saturday's game. A blowout is likely to send the victim spiraling down the polls. But if it's a close, well-played contest, voters may take into account the strength of the opponent and go light on the loser. (Witness last year's hard-fought USC-Cal game, after which the Bears dropped just one spot in the AP poll and two in the coaches'.)

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So enough with the semantics. Lets all enjoy Saturday night's spectacle for the rarity it is -- and let it be the first of many more memorable intersectional clashes in the not too distant future.

Scoping out the country

• It should be a surreal scene Saturday in Tempe, Ariz., when No. 5 LSU and No. 15 Arizona State meet in a game that, as recently as Monday, was scheduled to be played in Baton Rouge, La. There's no way to know how many ASU fans will attend the hastily announced home game, but 12,000 bought tickets Tuesday, the first day they were available, and officials believe they can reach a sellout (Sun Devil Stadium holds 71,706). Meanwhile, LSU fans holding tickets to the originally scheduled game had until Wednesday to either exchange them for tickets in Tempe or get a refund. Proceeds from the game, which could reach nearly $1 million, will be donated to the Hurricane Katrina relief effort.

• Slowly but surely, the secrets behind Charlie Weis' offensive makeover at Notre Dame are coming to light. According to Irish QB Brady Quinn, "the way he handles quarterbacks is much more intense, a much more hands-on kind of approach [than predecessor Tyrone Willingham]." Quinn also likes the fact that, unlike past years, the guy calling the plays, Weis, is on the sideline rather than up in the press box. "There's less of a barrier that you have to communicate through," said the junior. "You can see his emotions, what he's thinking." Saturday, Weis and Quinn look to keep up the momentum against a vulnerable Michigan defense that allowed 411 yards to Northern Illinois last week. Whether the Irish's own defense can stop Chad Henne and Michael Hart is a whole other matter.

• Nebraska QB Zac Taylor faces the school where he started his career three years ago when Nebraska hosts Wake Forest on Saturday. The Huskers better hope the highly touted juco transfer plays better than he did in his debut against I-AA Maine or the Huskers could be in for an embarrassing upset. Taylor, a pro-style QB who coach Bill Callahan is banking on to ignite his thus-far stagnant West Coast offense, went 15-of-36 for 192 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions against Maine. Making matters worse, Nebraska was also held to 121 rushing yards on 42 attempts.

• A week after feasting on rookie Auburn quarterback Brandon Cox, Georgia Tech's blitz-happy defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta will be foaming at the mouth again Saturday against first-time North Carolina starter Matt Baker, the Tar Heels' replacement for four-year starter Darian Durant. The Tar Heels will need a big game from tailback Barrington Edwards, a highly touted transfer from LSU.

• It's beginning to look like Kansas State's sudden fall to 4-7 last season may not have been an aberration. In what should have been a sign of trouble ahead, the Wildcats opened 2004 with a tougher-than-expected 27-13 win over I-AA Western Kentucky. As in that game, the Wildcats needed a fourth-quarter touchdown to reach the same margin last Saturday against Florida International, a I-A newcomer which went 3-7 in I-AA last year. Remember when Kansas State used to win these types of games 64-0?

• Watching last weekend's Colorado-Colorado State game, you could see a potential star emerge in the second half, as Buffs RB Hugh Charles picked up 71 of his 101 yards in his first career start. The dainty (5-foot-8, 185 pounds) but quick sophomore from Southlake, Texas, showed the kind of breakaway ability CU has lacked at the position since Brian Calhoun (currently the nation's leading rusher) transferred to Wisconsin two years ago.

This week's predictions

• With neither Ohio State or Texas able to run the ball on the other's defense, a close, low-scoring game turns on one big play by Ted Ginn Jr. Ohio State 20, Texas 16.

• Michigan outlasts Notre Dame in a shootout.

• The sudden change of venue and general chaos of the last two weeks prove too much for LSU to overcome against Arizona State.

• Iowa State QB Bret Meyer goes off on Iowa's defense, but Hawkeyes QB Drew Tate one-ups him to kick-start his Heisman campaign.

Steve Spurrier returns to reality when Georgia holds his South Carolina offense to 10 points or less.

Adrian Peterson runs for at least 180 yards against Tulsa, but QB Rhett Bomar struggles early before Oklahoma pulls away.

• Boise State, unable to shake the daze of last week's debacle, falls to an Oregon State team it demolished last season.

• Texas Tech beats Florida International by a substantially greater margin than 35-21.


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