April 16, 2011

Which is the best September matchup?

At the College Football Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the college football coverage staff for his opinion about a topic in the sport. There are two questions this week, one today and one Sunday.

TODAY'S QUESTION: Spring practices are winding down, which means we're in for a long four months without football. Let's look ahead anyway: Which September game interests you the most?

Olin Buchanan's answer:
I'll take the obvious one - LSU vs. Oregon in Arlington, Texas, on Sept. 3. Both have legitimate national championship aspirations. Oregon's offense should be just as explosive as it was last season, and LSU figures to have another strong defense. That's a great matchup. But what may be more interesting is seeing how LSU QB Jordan Jefferson performs. He may be the key to whether LSU can win a championship. Oregon's defense also sustained substantial losses (Kenny Rowe, Brandon Bair and Casey Matthews, among others), so there is a question of how good the Ducks can be on that side of the ball. And, of course, there's the Pac-12/SEC grudge that seems to be heating up in recent years. That will make it more fun. To me, that game is even more interesting than the Boise State-Georgia game that will draw a lot of national attention.

Tom Dienhart's answer:
I know the LSU-Oregon game on Sept. 3 in Arlington, Texas, will be a likely matchup of top-five teams and have massive national championship implications, but I am more intrigued by the Oklahoma at Florida State contest on Sept. 17. The Sooners, reigning Big 12 champs, figure to be the preseason No. 1 team in most circles. The Seminoles, coming off a 10-4 season in their first season under Jimbo Fisher, appear to be the elite squad in the ACC. A win by OU would solidify its standing as the best team in 2011, but this will be a dangerous environment and possibly toxic to the Sooners' BCS title dreams. A FSU triumph would signal the return of the program to prominence and make the Seminoles a legit national title contender. A win would give the Seminoles lots of momentum, as they would figure to be favored in every remaining game.

David Fox's answer:
LSU and Oregon have plans to play in the national championship game, so the winner of this Sept. 3 game on a neutral field should probably be the front-runner until further notice. Ducks QB Darron Thomas and RB LaMichael James struggled against Auburn's defense in the title game. How will they fare behind a rebuilt offensive line against a normally stout LSU defense? We'll also get our first look at Steve Kragthorpe's offense for LSU. The key to LSU's season could be the improvement of QB Jordan Jefferson. Between this game and Boise State-Georgia in Atlanta the same day, we'll see two key West Coast vs. SEC matchups that will set the tone for the season. The SEC could be headed to another season of dominance or the West Coast could continue the resurgence started by Oregon and Stanford last season.

Mike Huguenin's answer:
There are numerous big games this September, both conference and non-conference outings. In the SEC East, South Carolina meets Georgia in Athens on Sept. 10; in the Pac-12, USC is at Arizona State on Sept. 24; and in the Big 12, Oklahoma State is at Texas A&M on Sept. 24. Each of those three games will be huge in the conference title races. But because of its implications in the national title race, I think the LSU-Oregon game in Arlington, Texas, on Sept. 3 is bigger. I think the neutral-site aspect helps that game edge the Florida State-Oklahoma game Sept. 17 in Tallahassee. Both those non-conference showdowns will feature two teams in the top 10. LSU and Oregon each have some question marks - Oregon on both lines, LSU in the middle of its defense and at quarterback - and you wonder if either will have the answers in a season-opener.

Steve Megargee's answer:
I'm looking forward to the Sept. 17 game between Oklahoma and Florida State in Tallahassee. Oklahoma likely will head into that game ranked first in the nation, assuming the Sooners win their season opener against Tulsa. Florida State should be in the top 10 as long as it breezes past Louisiana-Monroe and Charleston Southern in its first two games. It's always fun to see the top-ranked team in the nation facing such a major challenge away from home this early in the season. This game also should let us know whether Florida State is ready to reclaim its status as one of the nation's premier programs. The Seminoles are being billed as a potential national title contender even though they haven't won the ACC or played in a BCS game in five years. A victory would show that Florida State deserved all the preseason accolades. This game also features some great matchups, most notably Oklahoma wide receivers Ryan Broyles and Kenny Stills going against Florida State cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes and Greg Reid. Oklahoma blew out Florida State 47-17 last season in Norman. Expect the rematch to be much closer.




 

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