September 26, 2007

Plenty of options late Saturday afternoon

This is the Saturday television visionaries had in mind when they invented TiVo. It is weekends like this that led enterprising entrepreneurs to open the first sports bars. If you're a little behind the times, you had better have a quick draw on the remote.

Outside of West Virginia's road trip to South Florida on Friday, the top games of the weekend will be at 3:30 Eastern on Saturday.

Cal at Oregon will be the top matchup, with both teams looking to challenge USC for the Pac-10 title. However, the Bears and Ducks will have company in that time slot.

All the following are afternoon games: Texas will try to keep Colt McCoy healthy this year in a revenge game against Kansas State. Georgia Tech, 0-2 in the ACC, will try to avoid sliding too far into obscurity against Clemson. Rutgers faces its first real test of the season and only nonconfernence test when Maryland travels to Piscataway, N.J. A pair of undefeated Big Ten teams, Michigan State and Wisconsin, will face off in Madison.

If that's not too crowded, the meeting of two legendary programs that are trying to rebound from hard times kicks off at 5 p.m. when Florida State faces Alabama in Jacksonville, Fla.

Rivals.com will help you sort out the top games and top matchups of the week in the Five to Watch.

All times Eastern.

FRIDAY, SEPT. 28
No. 5 West Virginia (4-0, 0-0 Big East) at No. 18 South Florida (4-0, 0-0 Big East)

Time: 8 p.m.
Network: ESPN2 (available in HD)
Storylines: This is shaping up to be the most anticipated game and the first sellout in South Florida's short history. West Virginia, South Florida and Rutgers appear to be the top Big East contenders (with Cincinnati looking to make things interesting) since defense followed Bobby Petrino out of Louisville. South Florida is one of only three teams to defeat West Virginia since 2005. The Bulls won 24-19 in Morgantown, W.Va., last year.
Player to watch: What, you've never heard of George Selvie? South Florida's sophomore defensive end has 8.5 sacks this year and 17.5 tackles in his last five games. Yep, West Virginia has probably watched a little film on him.
Best matchup: Pat White vs. the South Florida secondary. White continues to improve as a passer. After completing 20 of 22 passes last week, he is completing 71 percent of his throws on the season. Bulls cornerbacks Trae Williams and Mike Jenkins, the best tandem in the league, could make a dent in those totals.

SATURDAY, SEPT. 29
No. 6 Cal (4-0, 1-0 Pac-10) at No. 11 Oregon (4-0, 1-0 Pac-10)

Time: 3:30 p.m.
Network: ABC
Storylines: The Pac-10 is more than just USC. If you don't believe it, tune in for Cal-Oregon. One of these teams might unseat the mighty Trojans. Mike Bellotti and his former offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford are 2-2 against each other since Tedford left for Cal. History favors Bellotti, though, as the home coach has won each of the four meetings.
Player to watch: Dennis Dixon may have been closer to a Gold Glove than the Heisman Trophy before the season started. Dixon played minor league baseball last summer instead of staying on campus to work out with his teammates. After battling inconsistency and turnovers in the past, Dixon may be the most valuable quarterback in the Pac-10. He has accounted for 1,223 yards of total offense through four games. More importantly, he hasn't thrown an interception this year.
Best matchup: Cal's receivers vs. Oregon's secondary. Cal boasts perhaps the best corps of receivers outside of Florida, but a sprained thumb has limited the Bears' top playmaker, DeSean Jackson. Lavelle Hawkins and Robert Jordan have tried to pick up the slack. Oregon cornerbacks Walter Thurmond and Jairus Byrd were Rivals.com Freshman All-Americans, but playmaking safety Patrick Chung is the best of the bunch.

No. 13 Clemson (4-0, 2-0 ACC) at Georgia Tech (2-2, 0-2 ACC)

Time: 3:30 p.m.
Network: ABC
Storylines: Georgia Tech has stumbled since its 2-0 start with back-to-back ACC losses to Boston College and Virginia. A loss to Clemson could knock the Yellow Jackets out of contention. Clemson is off to a 4-0 start for the first time since 2000, but the Tigers aren't immune to letdowns either. Remember the way 2006 ended? Nine of the last 11 meetings between Clemson and Georgia Tech have been decided by five or fewer points.
Player to watch: Where has Tashard Choice gone? Choice, once the owner of a nine-game streak of at least 100 rushing yards, has run for only 50 in the last two games. Limited by a strained hamstring, Choice says he'll be ready for the Tigers.
Best matchup: Clemson quarterback Cullen Harper vs. the Georgia Tech defense. Harper has burned opposing defenses for 804 yards and 10 touchdowns over the last three games, but the first-year starter has yet to face a defense quite like the blitzing Yellow Jackets. Linebacker Philip Wheeler leads the way for the Tech defense.

Michigan State (4-0, 0-0 Big Ten) at No. 9 Wisconsin (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten)

Time: 3:30 p.m.
Network: ABC (available in HD)
Storylines: Wisconsin's defense got back on track against Iowa, allowing a season-low 228 yards to the Hawkeyes. That's 25 yards fewer than the Badgers averaged last season when they ranked sixth in the country in defense. However, the Badgers needed a second-half comeback to put away Iowa. The Badgers have nation's longest winning streak at 12 games. Michigan State will play its first Big Ten game under new coach Mark Dantonio.
Player to watch: Wisconsin will find out how much it really misses Outland Trophy winner Joe Thomas at left tackle. Michigan State defensive end Jonal Saint-Dic has come out of nowhere to force five fumbles and accumulate six sacks in four games.
Best matchup: Wisconsin cornerback Jack Ikegwuonu vs. Michigan State wide receiver Devin Thomas. The Spartans' bread and butter is the running tandem of Javon Ringer and Jehuu Caulcrick. If Ikegwuonu isn't careful he could get burned by Thomas. The wideout is averaging 23.1 yards per catch.

Florida State (2-1) vs. No. 22 Alabama (3-1) (in Jacksonville, Fla.)

Time: 5 p.m.
Network: CBS (available in HD)
Storylines: Among these two successful programs, Alabama appears to be a little closer to reclaiming past glory. The Tide will find out how much closer Saturday. It's also a matchup of traded coordinators. Kevin Steele, FSU's linebackers coach from 2003 to last year, is Alabama's defensive coordinator. Jimbo Fisher, Nick Saban's offensive coordinator at LSU from 2000-04, is in the same position with the Seminoles. Saban was in his first year as a graduate assistant at Kent State when his father died. One call he received was from then-West Virginia coach Bobby Bowden. "He says, 'Nick, I don't really have a position,'" Saban told reporters. "But I know you're a graduate assistant (at Kent State). If you need to come home and be around your mother, I'll create a position for you here so that you can be here, and you can be closer to home."
Player to watch: Quarterback Drew Weatherford isn't the cause of all of Florida State's offensive ineptitude, but he's not helping either. Weatherford was 8-for-18 in his last game against Colorado.
Best matchup: Alabama wide receiver D.J. Hall vs. Florida State safety Myron Rolle. Rolle is a rising star on the national scene. Hall will just try to come close to his totals against Arkansas six catches for 172 yards and two touchdowns, by far his most productive game of the season.

Other games to watch
Southern Miss (2-1) at Boise State (2-1), 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, ESPN
Get acquainted with two of the best non-BCS conference running backs: Ian Johnson and Damion Fletcher

No. 21 Penn State (3-1, 0-1 Big Ten) at Illinois (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten), Noon, Big Ten Network
No, those Big Ten records aren't reversed.

Maryland (2-2) at No. 10 Rutgers (3-0), 3:30 p.m., ABC
It's an indictment of the Rutgers schedule that this is its out-of-conference statement game.

No. 1 USC (3-0, 1-0 Pac-10) at Washington (2-2, 0-1 Pac-10), 8 p.m., ABC
Don't forget: Washington sans Jake Locker lost by less than a touchdown last year in Los Angeles.

Auburn (2-2, 0-1 SEC) at No. 4 Florida (4-0, 2-0 SEC), 8 p.m., ESPN
Is the Florida secondary so bad even Auburn can pass against it?

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