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SOUTHERN SHOWDOWNS, NEW HEISMAN LEADER
September 14, 2005

SCS.comCertainly one of the best weeks in college football history just passed us by last weekend. All of the best games lived up to the hype, such as Georgia defending the home turf against Spurrier's Gamecocks, Notre Dame establishing itself as a national power in Charlie Weis's first year by winning in Ann Arbor, and Texas squeaking past Ohio State in possibly the best game we will see until November. If you had the privilege of attending any great game last weekend as I did in the Horseshoe, you know the magical feeling those three to four hours in the stadium can become. I had planned on doing a little different type of article this week, but my tape recorder batteries failed me at halftime of the Texas-OSU game. Instead of a play-by-play analysis of that game, I am instead going to make this type of article my regular one: eastern college football overall big stories, then a rundown of the conferences I cover. Please let me know through e-mail or in The College Corner if you have any ideas or if you like the format. Feedback is always appreciated here on the east side of the country.

Looking at the week just completed, the biggest news comes out of Columbus, Ohio as expected. Texas overcame mistakes and textbook Tresselball (defense + special teams + small leads = wins and championships, for the uninitiated) to become a solid top challenger to USC. Vince Young looked mediocre at times against one of the best defenses in the country, but at the end of the night, his stats and gutsy leadership proved he is Matt Leinart's biggest threat as far as the Heisman race is concerned. Ohio State had never lost a night home game and had not let a Heisman hopeful come out of Columbus with a good game (arguably) for 10 years, so Texas and Vince Young deserve as much attention as USC for the remainder of the season. The other big news came from Ann Arbor, as the third ranked Wolverines were smashed by Notre Dame much more than the 17-10 score indicates. Michigan's defense is suspect, but Notre Dame is all of a sudden a legitimate top 10 team again for the first time in many years. If they can knock off #3 Michigan in the Big House, USC and Tennessee better watch out for a upset when they get their shot at the Irish in the next month.

The week ahead seems somewhat disappointing in comparison to last weekend (for us Midwesterners at least), but there are some highlights to look forward to. The showdowns travel from the Big Ten and Big XII to the ACC and SEC this weekend as these conferences begin some important conference showdowns. #6 Tennessee travels to The Swamp to play #5 Florida in the game of the week. Florida has swept through easy games against Wyoming and Louisiana Tech, while Tennessee barely beat UAB at home and had an extra week to prepare for this one. I think Tennessee has a better team overall, but you cannot bet against Florida at home so I'll guess UF by 10.

The ACC has the other two interesting matchups of the week with Florida State visiting Boston College in the Eagles' first ACC game ever and Miami traveling to Clemson, who is 2-0 after wins over Texas A&M and Maryland in the first two weeks. Look for Miami's stifling defense to be a huge test for Clemson, and I'll take the Hurricanes by 14. I picked Boston College to finish second behind Florida State in the Atlantic Division, but that was obviously contingent upon Florida State going into Boston and winning this game. I really think this is a toss-up, and I'll switch my pick up a little by taking BC by 3.

The SEC and ACC conference races will become clearer after this week and these big showdowns.

ACC

While Florida State, Clemson, and Boston College are jockeying for early position in the tightly-contested Atlantic Division race, Miami is going into this week's showdown trying to avoid an 0-2 record, which would probably knock them out of the Coastal race with Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech. Larry Coker is not used to starting 0-2, especially with a tough defense this year, but Clemson and FSU are not easy places to come out of with wins. Maryland has an important regional game against West Virginia this week as well. North Carolina also hosts another possible national power in Wisconsin, while Virginia Tech hosts the giant-killering Ohio Bobcats. This week has a lot of interesting in-conference as well as out-of-conference games for the ACC, and it will give us a better idea how this conference stacks up nationally.

Big XII

After both division favorites Texas and Iowa State won huge games against Big Ten foes this week, the conference looks strong with a 11-1 record overall for the North and 8-2 for the South. After two very shady looking games at home for Oklahoma, a road trip to UCLA doesn't seem so easy anymore. All the Texas teams have easy home games this week, and all should be quiet enough for the conference to brag about their big wins last week as well as the conference MVP Vince Young (sorry Adrian Peterson, but your team has to do something - like beat Texas - before I believe again).

Big East

Other than Cincinnati's loss at Penn State this week, every team with a loss looks very mediocre so far this season. Then there's Pittsburgh, which gets a tough trip to Nebraska to try and right their shipwreck of 0-2. The top 3 teams (Pittsburgh, you've been replaced) all have pretty tough tests this week. The aforementioned WVU-Maryland game will give us a better gage on what the Mountaineers really have this season. Connecticut travels to Georgia Tech in another important ACC-Big East matchup, and Louisville gets the easiest test of Oregon State at home. If the ACC wins the two big games this weekend, Louisville will be the only conference favorite left undefeated as we move into conference play.

Big Ten

Well, my home conference took a licking in the top 3 games of last week, but the good news is the rest of the conference is pristine and the overall conference record now stands at 18-3. While Ohio State, Michigan, and Iowa have nice easy home recovery games to get back on track before conference play begins, the rest of the conference will be tested toughly this weekend. Michigan State has the displeasure of being the next intended sacrifice on Notre Dame's schedule, while Illinois travels out west to take on another ranked team in California. Indiana's home game against rival Kentucky and Wisconsin's road trip to North Carolina may not be as easy as they look either. One more team has a tough road game against a ranked opponent as Northwestern goes out to Tempe to face the Sun Devils, who are looking to rebound from a tough loss to LSU. There is certainly plenty to watch as every team tries to hold on to their undefeated records going into conference play.

C-USA

Marshall and UAB almost shock Kansas State and Tennessee, while SMU beats giant-killer and rival TCU. This really is all the important news coming from this mid-major until conference play rolls around. This week's highlights include Houston visiting UTEP for a West Division showdown and SMU trying to keep the streak going at Texas A&M. Every team from the West has a big name opponent this week, so look for possibly a couple upsets at North Texas or Texas this week (OK, just kidding Longhorn fans).

MAC

Ohio grabbed the biggest headlines of the week by beating Pittsburgh, but a tougher test comes this week with a trip to Blacksburg. Bowling Green and Toledo (early division favorites) took home their first conference wins last weekend, but this week is quiet as Toledo has a game against Temple. Northern Illinois had a tough loss to Northwestern after a rough loss at Michigan, but Tennessee Tech should provide some relief and a win this week. Miami, 0-2, at 1-1 Kent State provide the best in-conference battle this week, so overall, it's a quiet week for this conference as well.

SEC

With Vanderbilt's 2-0 start, the East looks tough with the Commodores joining traditional powers Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida at the top of that division. Georgia finally takes a break from big games this week, while Vanderbilt has their second easy conference tilt (with Mississippi this week) and Florida and Tennessee determine who will be a bigger threat to the Bulldogs this year. Arkansas has the toughest game of the week by traveling to meet USC, but Alabama's trip to South Carolina will be a huge conference game alongside the game of the week discussed above. LSU gets a real off week this week, and they will be happy to sit in the national top ten after an appropriate win at "home" in Tempe last week. Just like the ACC, this conference race becomes clear early in the season starting after this weekend's tilts.

Sun Belt

Well I do not have much to report here, except North Texas looks good as usual. Tulsa probably will not break the only undefeated team in the conference, while Troy and Arkansas State try to continue their winning ways as well. Everybody else has a lot of work to do, but tough out-of-conference games and 0-2 or 0-3 records look like a sure bet for the majority of this conference after this week.

That's all the conferences I cover, and I covered them all this week! I wouldn't expect that much in the future, but I also don't want to alienate any Sun Belt or Conference USA fans and readers out there. Races in each conference get fired up this week or next week, so let's get ready for some great action to kick off conference play! We'll see you next week!

My record at picking the top 3 games of the week to date: 1-5 (0-3 last week)

Fitzy's Top 10 - Week 3
1. USC (1-0) NC
2. Texas (2-0) NC
3. Virginia Tech (2-0) +2
4. Georgia (2-0) +3
5. Florida (2-0) +4
6. LSU (1-0) NR
7. Florida State (2-0) +3
8. Ohio State (1-1) -5
9. Tennessee (1-0) -1
10. Notre Dame (2-0) NR
Dropped Out: Michigan (1-1, 4th last week), Iowa (1-1, 6th last week)

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