Seven solid games on the "undercard" this week....
It's not all about Ohio State-USC this weekend. If you call yourself a college football fan but don't watch the following games, you're a disgrace to the species:
Kansas at South Florida, Friday (ESPN2, 8 p.m. ET)
What's at stake: The last shred of Big East pride, plus the Jayhawks' staying power as a national contender. As usual, Kansas has stayed home and played chumps so far -- now comes the hard part. Or at least what theoretically is the hard part against a Bulls team that barely got by Central Florida last week to stave off complete Big East embarrassment. Winner stands a good chance of getting through the first half of the season 6-0.
Wisconsin at Fresno State (ESPN2, 10:30 p.m. ET)
What's at stake: BCS dreams will live on at least one more week for the winner and take a mortal blow for the loser. These are the kind of games Bulldogs coach Pat Hill lives for, taking on the establishment team. The Badgers could use the return of ace tight end Travis Beckum (hasn't played yet this year with a hamstring injury) to ward off another ugly first true road game of the year. They've averaged 14 points in those games over the past four years.
Michigan at Notre Dame
What's at stake: Hell or heaven. Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis gave Michigan some bulletin-board ammo last spring when he said, "The hell with Michigan" and predicted the Wolverines would be making excuses about their coaching transition. (Dash comment: It would be a truly boring world if coaches can't even talk a little trash to their own boosters every once in a while without it turning into some massive sign of disrespect. Please.) Both teams are badly in need of a feel-good victory, because neither could feel too giddy after scraping by last week. Michigan wheezed past Miami (Ohio) 16-6 and ranks 114th nationally in total offense. Notre Dame rallied to beat mighty San Diego State 21-13 and ranks 98th in rushing offense. Last time the two winningest programs in college football history were train-wreck bad at the same time: 1963, when Notre Dame was 2-7 and Michigan was 3-4-2. This season shouldn't get that bad, but you never know.
Georgia at South Carolina
What's at stake: For the Bulldogs, national title hopes. For the Gamecocks, season-altering redemption after an ugly loss to Vanderbilt. Georgia looks much better, but know this: Steve Spurrier has upset at least one ranked team every year at South Carolina (No. 23 Tennessee and No. 12 Florida in 2005, No. 24 Clemson in '06, and No. 11 Georgia last season). For Georgia, this game begins the meat of what might be the most grueling schedule in America. Combined record of the Dogs' final 10 opponents: 16-2.
UCLA at BYU
What's at stake: Credibility. The Bruins have a chance to prove they didn't simply fluke out by somehow rallying to beat Tennessee in Rick Neuheisel's debut. The Cougars have a chance to prove they're better than the highly regarded team that was unimpressive in beating Northern Iowa and flatly lucky in beating Washington. BYU's last two victories over FBS opponents have both come down to last-second blocked kicks, last week against the Huskies and last December against none other than UCLA in the Las Vegas Bowl.
Oregon at Purdue (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET)
What's at stake: The Ducks are trying to prove it doesn't matter who plays in their high-octane spread offense (as long as it isn't Brady Leaf). The Boilermakers are trying to prove their quarterback deserves mention among the best in the country. Oregon might have lost quarterback Dennis Dixon and running back Jonathan Stewart, but it currently has three QBs with an efficiency rating of 138 or better; eight runners averaging 5.3 yards per carry or better; and seven receivers averaging at least 11.7 yards per catch. Purdue counters with Curtis Painter, who has thrown for more than 9,000 yards in his career. Scoreboard might erupt here.
Arkansas at Texas (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET)
What's at stake: Nothing like the 1969 game that helped decide the national championship, that's for sure. Razorbacks are trying to refute the suspicion that they're the worst 2-0 team in America after needing double-digit, fourth-quarter comebacks to beat Western Illinois and Louisiana-Monroe. Longhorns are trying not to be overshadowed in the Big 12 South by the early offensive orgy at Oklahoma. Both quarterbacks, Casey Dick of Arkansas and Colt McCoy of Texas, look better than they ever have. Dick has had the first two 300-yard passing games of his career to start this season, flourishing in Bobby Petrino's QB-friendly system. McCoy has thrown seven touchdowns and one interception after having 22 TDs and 18 picks last year.