So far, it has been one of the greatest college football seasons in memory, certainly the most enjoyment I can remember getting out of a college football season, and here we are, about to turn the corner into the home stretch. It seems like every weekend has not only had a few marquee matchups between highly ranked teams and perennial contenders, but also games featuring the new guard rising up and challenging (and quite often defeating) those perennial contenders. This weekend will likely feature more of the same. Here is a bit of a peak ahead at what I am looking forward to this weekend.
1) Boston College at Virginia Tech: The weekend gets off to a great early start on Thursday night with Boston College taking its undefeated record and #2 BCS ranking into Lane Stadium for their biggest test of the season so far, and their first real test since the middle of September. I am personally looking forward to this game for a chance to see Boston College play for the first time this season. I believe that I have seen every other contender play at least once, so it'll be a good chance to see what the Eagles have going for them. Virginia Tech has been up and down a bit this year, with the ups generally the result of their consistently strong defense and special teams, and the downs the result of an anemic and inconsistent (at best) offense. Freshman QB Tyrod Taylor was injured two weekends ago against Duke and remains questionable for Thursday night's game.
2) Kansas at Texas A&M: Kansas is another undefeated squad traveling into a bit of danger as they prepare to head to College Station on Saturday. They have had a very potent offense this season, especially against some of the overmatched opponents they faced early in the season, but Colorado held the Jayhawks in check a bit last weekend in their first trip out of the state of Kansas this season. The Aggies had a horrible outing a couple weekends back against a Texas Tech team that likes to throw the ball around a bunch, and must play much better defensively this weekend to keep this game close. Expect A&M to try to shorten the game and keep the Jayhawk offense off the field with a liberal dose of Stephen McGee, Javorskie Lane and Mike Goodson.
3) USC at Oregon: There are quite a few games this weekend in the Pac-10 that are going to go a long way towards clearing up that race, of which this is just one. The starting QB situation for the Trojans may be the biggest question mark. Senior John David Booty, a preseason All-American candidate and Heisman trophy front-runner seems to be ready to return from a broken right middle finger. However, given Booty's less than stellar play at the start of the season, and the spark that sophomore Mark Sanchez has given the Trojans in the last two weeks, there seems to be some question as to whether Booty is still the guy for USC. Either way, the Trojans are going to have their hands full against a potent Duck offense, although this will certainly be the strongest defense that Dennis Dixon and crew have faced this season.
4) Georgia vs. Florida: The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. Despite the SEC's best efforts to do away with that moniker, a great name like that just has to stick. Some of the luster may be off of this game after Georgia got drilled by Tennessee a few weeks back, but what can I say: any excuse to watch Jesus Christ in Cleats (i.e. Tim Tebow) is a good excuse for me. Florida is probably the best two-loss team in the country, and they still control their own destiny in terms of getting back to the SEC Championship game and a potential rematch against LSU that just about everyone (outside of a few other cities in the South) is dying to see.
5) West Virginia at Rutgers: These two teams played a barnburner of a game to end last season's Big East play and these teams are once again in a log jam of teams trailing unlikely Big East leader Connecticut at this point. If you like watching the running game, you'll enjoy this game, featuring three of college football's most exciting runners, Rutgers' RB Ray Rice, and West Virginia's combo of RB Steve Slaton and QB Pat White.
6) Ohio State at Penn State: Ohio State is just now getting into the meat of their schedule and now we'll start to see just how good they are. Their defense looks to be another in a long line of great Buckeye defenses, but the offense remains a bit of a question, although they certainly have a ton of talent, not only in the big guys up front, but in a their horses at the skill positions. Penn State, also has some talented receivers and backs, and the typical tough Nittany Lion defense. This should be a grinder of a game Saturday night.
7) California at Arizona State: Cal has gone from being a team on the verge of being number one in the country, to a team coming off two straight conference losses and looking an undefeated fourth ranked BCS team straight in the eye in a tough conference road game. And for Arizona State, certainly their toughest test of the year. For both these teams, the defense is again the question mark. Both offenses seem capable of scoring points almost at will at times, while their defenses, despite some talented athletes, can be quite porous. The health of Cal QB Nate Longshore will be a big issue. Longshore did start for the Bears in last weekend's loss to UCLA, so he should be good to go again, but his effectiveness is a bit of a question mark. Also, Arizona State is coming off the loss of its leading rush leader, Ryan Torain, last week against Washington. Keegan Herring and Dimitri Nance were effective in relief, but the Sun Devils will need repeat performances from their two backs to remain undefeated.
Those figure to be seven very entertaining games, and certainly we can expect to see some other quality football played at other venues around the country. South Florida at Connecticut, Clemson at Maryland, UCLA at Washington State, South Carolina at Tennessee and even Mississippi State at Kentucky also figure to be second-tier games to keep an eye on.