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AROUND THE COLLEGE NATION
September 30, 2004

THE BEST WEEKEND SO FAR

The first weekend of the second full month of the 2004 college football season is also the young season's potentially most exciting Saturday so far. Not only are there big-time conference matchups involving the SEC, ACC, Big XII, Mountain West, and PAC 10, but there are also a couple of huge non-conference battles set to take place this weekend.

The first big game of the weekend actually takes place Friday night when MWC favorite Utah travels to New Mexico. UNM RB DonTrell Moore wasn't able to knock off Washington State at home earlier this season, but the Lobos get a shot at a team ranked even higher this week. Second year head coach Urban Meyer led the Utes to a conference title last year and could take a huge stride towards doing that again this year with a victory in Albuquerque Friday night.

If you are looking to tune in to one conference on Saturday, the league of choice would have to be the SEC, and the action lasts all day. Arkansas and Florida get things started Saturday morning at 11:00 AM CST. The Hogs have played well in recent weeks after nearly knocking off Texas back in early September. Florida, meanwhile, struggled against Kentucky but came away with a win a week after falling just short of Tennessee on the road.

The second part of the CBS double-header is set for a 2:30 PM CST when LSU and Georgia get together for a rematch of last year's SEC title game. The Tigers and Dawgs actually met twice last year, once in Baton Rouge and once in Atlanta, both resulting in LSU victories. Saturday's showdown is set to take place in Athens. Both teams have not looked sharp this season but could improve their image with a win here.

The final SEC throwdown of the day takes place in Knoxville and is set for a 6:45 PM CST start on ESPN. Auburn travels to Tennessee in SCS.com's national game of the week, a showdown between two unbeatens. Both teams are very capable on offense, so whoever plays better defense will likely win this one.

In the ACC, Miami will visit Georgia Tech. The Jackets are back home after splitting a two-game road trip, knocking off Clemson before getting throttled at UNC two weeks ago. This the Canes' first big road test of 2004. It will also be interesting to keep an eye on Wake Forest and NC State in Raleigh. Both teams had huge wins last week, the Deacons over Boston College and the Pack over Virginia Tech.

The Big XII North has one of the nation's premier games this week as Colorado visits Missouri. The Buffs have been the most impressive team in the North so far this season after claiming early-season wins against Colorado State and Washington State. Missouri, a popular preseason favorite, dropped a decision at Troy earlier this year and could regain some respect with a win over CU.

Though not as big as some of the ones previously mentioned, the PAC 10 has a couple of important games on the schedule for Saturday. Arizona State, still unbeaten on the season, will pay a visit to Eugene to take on the Ducks. Oregon lost a shocker at home to Indiana a few weeks ago and needs to get back on track.

California, who was a popular BCS-buster pick prior to the season, has given no one a reason to think otherwise so far this season. However, the Bears will visit Oregon State this weekend, which won't be easy. The Beavers have been followed by bad luck all year and desperately need something right to happen. A win over Cal would go over real nice with the OSU faithful.

As mentioned earlier, there are also a couple of non-conference battles on the slate for this weekend that should be exciting. The biggest would probably be West Virginia's trip to Blacksburg to take on Virginia Tech. WVU's high-powered offense led many sports writers (like this one) to pick the Mountaineers as the Big East favorite in 2004. However, Rich Rodriquez's bunch has a larger goal in mind: a national title. For that to happen, a win at VT is a must.

Elsewhere, Purdue will visit in-state rival Notre Dame on Saturday afternoon. Both teams are on fire as of late, the Boilers still unbeaten and the Irish recovering nicely from a season-opening loss at BYU. We'll see where both teams stand after this showdown.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH IN WEEK FIVE

(1) It's West Virginia's big chance. The Mountaineers have been hyped as a national title contender, but one loss will knock WVU out of contention. Rich Rodriquez and crew should be pumped up after the Hokies abandoned WVU and the Big East Conference after last season. Can they get the job done and prove they're a BCS and national title contender?

(2) Who can take charge in the SEC? That question won't be answered this weekend, but we'll learn a lot about who's in charge of the league after Saturday's action. The UA/UF, LSU/UGA, and AUB/UT matchups mentioned earlier involve half the teams in the SEC and the top three from each division. I've picked all three road teams to win. Can that happen?

(3) Speaking of road teams, how will they fare not only in the SEC but around the country? Take a look at these teams who are away from home in Week Five: Auburn (at Tennessee), West Virginia (at Virginia Tech), Purdue (at Notre Dame), LSU (at Georgia), Miami (at Georgia Tech), Colorado (at Missouri), Utah (at New Mexico), Arkansas (at Florida), Michigan (at Indiana), Arizona State (at Oregon), California (at Oregon State), Fresno State (at LA Tech), Kansas State (at Texas A&M), and Ohio State (at Northwestern). SCS.com predicts that the road teams will go 11-3 in the games mentioned.

WHAT WE WATCHED LAST WEEK

(1) We said one team's Big Ten title hopes would fade after last weekend, and that team was Iowa. The Hawkeyes couldn't hang with Michigan in Ann Arbor and now find themselves in a hole in the conference race. UM needs to follow up last weekend's big win by staying focused on the road at Indiana this week.

(2) Memphis / UAB, we said, would be a huge CUSA battle, and the teams did not let us down. The Blazers and Tigers swapped late TDs and went into overtime. UAB prevailed, and the Blazers are now one of the league's favorites heading into a road game at Cincinnati this week.

(3) After getting a little too involved in the outcome of games two weeks ago, the refs appeared to stay out of the way this past weekend. Hopefully it will stay that way for the rest of the season. There were as many errors in Week Three as we'd like to see in an entire season.

 > Talk about it in The College Corner...

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