Weekend Viewer's Guide - Part I

This is a fantastic weekend for SEC football. Florida's visit to Tennessee gets the featured spot on CBS at 3:30, but six of the seven games involving conference teams are either important league battles or interesting road trips to challenge other BCS conference teams. You could have an excellent viewing weekend watching nothing but SEC action, but there's plenty more to work with.

Given the financial market news of this past week, our five categories are named for Monopoly game pieces this time around. Here's this weekend's quality options besides Florida/UT - I'll have the leftovers in part two of the guide. As always, all times are Eastern.


Wake Forest at Florida State (7, ESPN2) -
For the first time this season, FSU takes on a division 1 team. Two years ago it was Wake Forest's 30-0 shutout of the Seminoles after 14 consecutive FSU wins which proved to be the final straw for Jeff Bowden's tenure as Seminoles offensive coordinator. Last year, the Demon Deacons beat FSU again and are trying to become just the second ACC team to hang three straight league losses on the Noles. Wake was pushed to the limit by new Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead earlier this month, and now they get to see what new FSU starting QB Christian Ponder has to offer. FSU has top offensive talent Preston Parker back from his two game suspension, but it's not clear if he'll line up at running back, receiver, or both.

LSU at Auburn (7:45, ESPN) - This game is always a physical, down to the wire affair that's not to be missed. Auburn has huge questions about its offense coming off last week's 3-2 trouncing of Mississippi State. LSU will be led into Jordan-Hare Stadium by a QB who transferred from Harvard and has never played in an SEC game previously. Whatever the posted point total from Las Vegas for this game is, take the under. Auburn's defense has only allowed three third down conversions in 46 tries! LSU's missing star linebacker Darry Beckwith, which could hurt them.


Alabama at Arkansas (12:30 PM, Raycom) -
The two most cold-blooded coaches in college football get together for the first time. Nick Saban's in his second year at Alabama after ditching the Dolphins for bigger bucks, while Bobby Petrino didn't even finish his season in Atlanta before heading for the Ozarks to take over. Both teams are unbeaten, but the Crimson Tide has looked a lot better so far this year. There have been some questions about the Bama offense's effectiveness despite the strong showing in their win over Clemson. Arkansas has had to rally in both of their games, including against a 1-AA team. Quarterback Casey Dick has done well in Petrino's scheme, but the personnel isn't there yet for him to run it effectively against SEC defenses.

Notre Dame at Michigan State (3:30 PM, ABC) - The Fighting Irish are 2-0 but still have huge questions to answer after repeated Michigan fumbles served up last week's win on a silver platter. Michigan State is in position to make a move up in the Big Ten but has to show they're not the same old Spartans. Tailback Javon Ringer is excellent, but quarterback Brian Hoyer has been shaky at times. For the Irish, it's the first road trip of the year and is against a team that's beaten them eight of the last eleven. Considering there's only one ranked team on Notre Dame's remaining schedule - USC - a win here could be the start of a big rebound season for Charlie Weis and company.

Georgia at Arizona State (8:13, ABC) - Georgia heads this far west for the first time since Eisenhower was president. The game's hype has cooled some thanks to a stunning ASU loss to UNLV last week, but it's still an important test for the Bulldogs and the SEC's national rep. The Sun Devils have an experienced quarterback in Rudy Carpenter but struggle to protect him. Georgia has just four sacks this season, and if they don't get to Carpenter this could wind up being a shootout. A.J. Green supposedly will get the ball thrown his way more by Matthew Stafford, and he should. The star freshman is already better than anyone else the Bulldogs have at the wide receiver spot.


Mississippi State at Georgia Tech (noon, ACC Raycom) -
Mississippi State's defense did everything possible to give their team a chance to win against Auburn last week, but it's hard to do that when you don't convert a third down in the entire game. Sylvester Croom says he's committed to Wesley Carroll at quarterback, but a change could come if things are as bad in this one. Running back Anthony Dixon may not be able to play due to a groin issue, which only increases the pressure on Carroll. GT quarterback Josh Nesbitt has emerged as a playmaker for them, and the Yellow Jackets have played well each week. If State gets down double digits, this one's over.

Virginia Tech at North Carolina (3:30, ABC) - Butch Davis's team isn't ready to be a BCS contender, but someone in this conference has to be. It could be the Tar Heels, who are playing well defensively and get a Virginia Tech team that's struggled on offense no matter which quarterback Frank Beamer runs out there. The Hokies have four of their next five games on the road, and a loss here would make it clear that the Coastal division is there for the taking. UNC had two extra days to get ready for this, thanks to last Thursday's road win against Rutgers. Keep your eye on UNC QB T.J. Yates, because the sophomore is playing well.

Miami at Texas A&M (3:30, ABC) - In his current book, The Maisel Report, ESPN's Ivan Maisel names these two progams as the most overrated in all of college football. Hard to argue the point. If Miami coach Randy Shannon has recovered from mean old Urban Meyer kicking a field goal two weeks ago enough to focus on a gameplan, he might want to consider running an actual offense against the Aggies. Texas A&M has been disappointing thus far, losing to Arkansas State and barely getting by New Mexico. If the Hurricanes play to their talent level rather than the way they're coached, they should run the Aggies off the field.

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