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September 17, 2008

Five to Watch: Take your pick this week

So last week's "Game to Watch" was a flop. Thanks again, Ohio State. Way to show up on the national stage.

Hopefully, this week's top games will be more exciting. And picking the top game of the week is at least open for debate.

Is it Florida-Tennessee, the first conference game for both teams? Is it Wake Forest-Florida State, a game that could perhaps resurrect interest in the ACC? If you're hosting a defensive clinic, the choice would be LSU-Auburn. And you could make a case for the East-West showdown between Georgia and Arizona State, especially if your selective memory omits the Sun Devils' loss to UNLV.

Between key conference games and a few major non-conference matchups, it is sure to be a week that sets the tone for the rest of the season.

(Note: If you're wondering why Boise State-Oregon isn't listed, it's available only if you live in Oregon. For some reason, the first meeting between the teams is only available locally or for a price online.)

All times Eastern.


When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
Broadcasters: Verne Lundquist play-by-play, Gary Danielson analyst
Line: Florida by 7
Why you should watch: Florida is considered a national title contender, but the Gators haven't proven they are in the same category as USC or Oklahoma. Florida didn't score its second touchdown against Miami until the fourth quarter. That won't be sufficient at Neyland Stadium. Tennessee is out to prove its loss to UCLA (which looks a lot worse thanks to BYU's 59-0 victory over the Bruins) was an aberration. If Tennessee loses ugly to Florida for the second season in a row (the Gators won by 39 last season), disgruntled members of Vol Nation will make their annual appearance.


When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
TV: ABC regional or ESPN
Broadcasters: Brad Nessler play-by-play, Bob Greise and Paul Maguire analysts
Line: Michigan State by 8
Why you should watch: If history is any indication, this game is not for the faint of heart - especially now that Notre Dame is competent once again. The last time the teams met in East Lansing in 2006, Michigan State blew a 16-point lead in the fourth quarter to lose 40-37. The year before that, Notre Dame lost 44-41 in overtime despite trailing by three touchdowns in the third quarter. After allowing Michigan freshman Sam McGuffie to run for 131 yards Saturday, how worried is Notre Dame about Michigan State's Javon Ringer (498 yards, nine touchdowns)?


When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
Broadcasters: Mark Jones play-by-play, Bob Davie analyst
Line: Florida State by 4
Why you should watch: After taking the first week of the season off, then playing Western Carolina and Chattanooga, Florida State actually faces a legitimate opponent. New Seminoles starting quarterback Christian Ponder won't have much to ponder Saturday: This game might be a must-win for Florida State. The Seminoles can announce their return to the conference elite by beating a team that has defeated them in consecutive seasons, including a 30-0 rout in Tallahassee in 2006.

LSU AT Auburn

When: Saturday, 7:45 p.m.
Broadcasters: Mike Patrick play-by-play, Todd Blackledge analyst
Line: LSU by 2
Why you should watch: AUBURN beat Mississippi State 3-2 last week and won the last meeting between these teams at Jordan-Hare Stadium by a score of 7-3. Could this be more of the same? Both have stifling defenses. Auburn still is figuring out Tony Franklin's spread offense, while LSU's offense hasn't seen a legit defense this season. This is a huge game in the SEC West, with the winner becoming the team to beat in the division.


When: Saturday, 8 p.m.
Broadcasters: Brent Musburger play-by-play, Kirk Herbstreit analyst
Line: Georgia by 6
Why you should watch: For the sake of entertainment, we hope Arizona State was looking ahead to this game when it lost at home to UNLV last week. If not, Arizona State may need Georgia to get lost on the way to the stadium for the Sun Devils to win. This is the Bulldogs' first regular-season road trip out of the Southeast since 1967, when they played Houston. It's Georgia's first trip to the West Coast since 1960, when the Dawgs played USC. After starting the season ranked first in the polls, Georgia has dropped to No. 3 despite starting 3-0. Why? USC and Oklahoma have been more impressive through the first three weeks. A road victory over Arizona State would reassure some voters.

David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com.

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