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WHAT 2 WATCH 4: ROAD TESTS, NON-BCS SHOWDOWNS
October 27, 2006

SCS.com The 2006 calendar is just one college football weekend away from changing over to the month of November, a fact made obvious by the growing intensity of the action on the field and the increasingly inclement weather making its presence known all across the country. Whether you'll be spending the weekend in a raucous stadium or in your home dodging the chilly temps, there are a number of things to keep an eye on this Saturday, including quite a few big-time road tests for highly-ranked teams like USC, Texas, Tennessee, and Notre Dame. Also, don't overlook several big games in the non-BCS leagues set to take place this weekend, as they'll have long-lasting effects on those leagues' races to the conference title.

SCS.com ROAD TESTS FOR THE BIG BOYS

A number of national title contenders will spend their weekends away from home, including two of the top five squads in this week's Fab 15. Southern Cal will make their way to Oregon State on Saturday, and though the Beavers are just 4-3 on the year, they are coming off two huge road victories at Washington and Arizona that should have the team - and the crowd - ready to rumble come Saturday afternoon when the unbeaten Trojans march in. Texas, meanwhile, will also be away from home this weekend, as the Longhorns travel cross-state to take on Texas Tech. Like OSU, the Raiders have already lost three games this season, but they are also fresh off a dominating performance on the road at Iowa State a week ago. Elsewhere, Tennessee will visit SEC East rival South Carolina and old nemesis Steve Spurrier Saturday evening, while Notre Dame will make a trip northward to take on a Navy squad that is 5-2 on the campaign. Will any of these road challenges eliminate a title contender, or will each prevail and remain in the race as the calender turns to November?

SCS.com SMALL CONFERENCE SHOWDOWNS

There are a number of big games on the schedule this weekend in the non-BCS leagues. Perhaps the biggest of the bunch is BYU's trip to Air Force. Both teams have won three MWC games, though the Falcons (unlike BYU) do have one league loss. A Cougar win keeps them on top in the race, while a AFA victory leaves the race wide open once again. Staying out west, the WAC's top two challengers to Boise State will go head-to-head as Hawaii welcomes in Idaho. Both squads are 3-1 in league play, and each team's league loss came at the hands of the Broncos. The winner of this one stays in the hunt with that one conference loss should the Broncos slip up at some point. Elsewhere, there are four Sun Belt teams without a league loss to this point, and two of them - Middle Tennessee and LA-Lafayette - get together Saturday evening. Also this weekend, Kent State and Ohio, the top two teams in the MAC East, will go head-to-head, as will UTEP and Tulsa, two of the favorites in the CUSA West. A Hurricane victory keeps them on pace to make a run at that division title, though a tough test at Houston is on the slate for next weekend.

SCS.com TIME TO PUT UP OR SHUT UP

Both Miami and Florida State came into the season with high expectations, but both have been painful to watch thus far, for various reasons. The two have combined to lose five games already, which is basically unheard-of these days for the Canes and Noles. Each gets a chance to get the train back on track this weekend though, as FSU visits Maryland and UM travels to Georgia Tech. Bobby Bowden's squad has lost three of their last five and now must take on a Terrapin team that is feeling much better about itself after back-to-back ACC wins. Miami, meanwhile, slipped past Duke in their last outing, a week after "the brawl." This week they'll be taking on a Georgia Tech team that wasn't able to get it done at Clemson a weekend ago. The Coastal race could be wide open once again if the Hurricanes prevail.

SCS.com OUR THIRD EYE ON OSU AND MICHIGAN

The upcoming showdown between Ohio State and Michigan has been well documented on this site, but that matchup will certainly lose its luster if either were to falter between now and late November. So who do those two take on this Saturday? Both are at home, the Buckeyes against Minnesota and the Wolves against Northwestern. Obviously neither opponent should stand in the two undefeated's way, though there is a reason all the games are played. The only other matchup of note for a title contender this weekend is Auburn's trip to Mississippi. Elsewhere, West Virginia has the week off before Thursday's monstrous showdown on the road at fellow-unbeaten Louisville.

BONUS: THIS WEEKEND'S POTENTIALLY HUGE UPSET

Nothing really catches my eye this week, but I'll offer this one to keep an eye on: Notre Dame vs Navy. The Midshipmen are a quality team, though they didn't show that against Rutgers a few weeks back. Obviously an Irish loss would upset Notre Dame's BCS title hopes and allow for some shifting in next week's BCS standings.

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