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September 15, 2006 Many are calling this college football weekend the biggest not just this year, but the biggest in many years. So what makes that the case? A number of things, including two huge Saturday showdowns in the SEC where Florida travels to Tennessee and LSU visits Auburn. There are also a number of other huge matchups around the country, including a pair that pit two Fab 15 teams against each other: (10) Michigan at (3) Notre Dame and (15) Miami at (12) Louisville. There's still a long way to go, but we'll learn a lot more during the course of the day on Saturday.

Here are four things to keep an eye on: SHOWDOWN SATURDAY, SEC STYLE

LSU and Auburn are undoubtedly the top two favorites in this fall's SEC West race, and that pair of Tigers will get together Saturday afternoon on the plains. Neither team expects to lose more than two league games this season, and that will certainly be the case for the squad that comes out on top this weekend. With these two being the lone front-runners, the loser here actually falls two games behind the pace in the West race (since matching records at season's end would give the tie-breaker to this weekend's winner). Over on the Eastern side, Florida will pay a visit to Tennessee this weekend as the Vols look to win their third straight at home. UT's opening-weekend win over California was certainly impressive, though the squad did show some signs for concern in last week's one-point win over Air Force. Florida, meanwhile, has won their first two games with ease. With a third team (Georgia) likely to be in the East race, winning this one doesn't seem quite as imperative as the LSU/AU matchup. SHOWDOWN SATURDAY, PART II

In addition to the big games in the SEC, there are a number of other huge battles elsewhere around the country. Two of those games, (10) Michigan at (3) Notre Dame and (15) Miami at (12) Louisville, involve teams both ranked in this week's Fab 15. The Wolves have won their first two games but haven't necessarily been all that impressive in doing so. The same could be said about the Irish's opening-season win at Georgia Tech, but UND surprised many when they demolished Penn State last weekend. Will the Irish make another statement, or will UM roll along with another win? Miami, meanwhile, has already lost one game this season and must certainly win out to keep their national title hopes alive. But beating Louisville on the road, even without star RB Michael Bush, won't be easy. Other monstrous games to keep an eye on this weekend include Nebraska's trip to Southern Cal, Oklahoma's visit to Oregon, and Florida State's home ACC Bowden family reunion with Clemson. SEASON SALVAGE TIME

It's worth pointing out that a number of teams have gotten off to rather rotten starts this year, and several of those have crucial matchups this weekend that are likely to determine whether or not those squads are able to salvage the 2006 season. Washington, for example, has not had a winning record in years, but the Huskies did play well on the road at Oklahoma last weekend. UW returns home Saturday and has a chance to get things headed in the right direction if they can pull an upset of Fresno State. Colorado, meanwhile, has had their early-season struggles well documented, but the good news for the Buffs is that they're still just 0-2. A home game against Arizona State is a perfect chance for new head coach Dan Hawkins to finally get his first win and save CU's season at the same time. Elsewhere, NC State fans are beginning to get restless with coach Chuck Amato, especially after the Pack's home loss to Akron last week. A road trip to Southern Miss this Saturday will have a big impact on the direction of the NCSU program. And finally, big things were expected from Nevada this fall, but so far the Wolf Pack is 0-2. A home game with Colorado State, who beat in-state rival Colorado last week, is on the slate next. Even though this isn't a WAC conference game, UN can't afford to go in the hole three games this early in the season. ALSO WORTH WATCHING

As previously mentioned, this is arguably the biggest college football weekend of the year, and while we've covered most of the major matchups on this week's slate, there are a number of other important games to keep an eye on this weekend as well. One has BYU visiting Boston College, while another has Michigan State traveling to Pittsburgh. The Eagles picked up a huge victory over Clemson last week, but how will they follow that win up against one of the MWC's best squads? And both MSU and Pitt have room to improve after last season's results, so which one picks up the big-time early-season victory? In-state rivals Iowa State and Iowa will go head-to-head this weekend as each looks to stay unbeaten, while one of the MAC's best teams, the Ohio Bobcats, will pay a visit to red-hot Rutgers. Elsewhere, upset-minded San Diego State will try to take down Wisconsin, while Texas Tech will take on an in-state rival for the second week in a row, this time heading to TCU in hopes of possibly ending the Frogs' BCS hopes.


Well so far neither of these (Hawaii over Alabama, Minnesota over California) have taken place, but eventually one will. Perhaps it will be this weekend when Vanderbilt beats Arkansas. Now while it wouldn't be that huge of an upset, it would put a huge damper on the Hogs' hopes of contending in the SEC West this fall. UA wasn't competitive in a huge season-opening loss to Southern Cal and wasn't all that impressive in a win over Utah State last week either. Vanderbilt, meanwhile, will be at home for the first time this season after playing both Michigan and Alabama tightly but failing to come up with a win in either game. Little was expected from the Commodores this fall after the loss of star QB Jay Cutler to the NFL, but a win this weekend in Nashville would certainly be a great start to SEC play for head coach Bobby Johnson.

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