This is a good Saturday for the college football fans across the country. Three of the top four conferences have huge games that will shape the league races and help the national championship picture come into focus.

This Sunday’s NFL slate is pretty lackluster – Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers on Sunday night in what better be Brett Favre’s final visit to Lambeau Stadium is the one must-see game – and helps narrow the football focus to Saturday.

Top-ranked Oregon (7-0, 4-0 Pacific-10) got the college football weekend rolling with a 60-13 pounding of UCLA on Thursday night. LaMichael James continues to run wild and quarterback Darron Thomas has proven to be a big passing upgrade over Jeremiah Masoli, who was booted out of the school in the offseason for his repeated off-field issues.

The Ducks are looking powerful and are easily the best team in the Pac-10. If they can keep their defense in line, they can go undefeated and land a spot in the BCS title game.

A Saturday Big East game that would be third-rate based on records – Rutgers (4-2) at Pittsburgh (3-3) – also jumps into the national spotlight due to the serious injury suffered by Rutgers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand last weekend.

LeGrand was paralyzed from the neck down while making a tackle in a game against Army. The school has set up a trust fund to help provide care for LeGrand – “Eric LeGrand Believe Fund” and the Scarlet Knights will wear a sticker saying “Believe” on their helmets.

The Pittsburgh players have signed a banner for LeGrand and it will be displayed before the game at Heinz Field in a nice sportsmanship gesture. I expect Rutgers to put up an incredible battle in honor of their fallen teammate.

Now here are some comments about the big games in the Big 12, the SEC and Big Ten:

Big 12

Oklahoma (6-0, 2-0) sits atop the BCS standings – which means absolutely nothing in mid-October – and should get a supreme test by visiting undefeated Missouri (6-0, 2-0).

I’m still attempting to figure out how good the No. 3 Sooners are. They looked great while pounding Florida State and they defeated Texas in the annual clash but that early-season struggle to beat Utah State still baffles me. Utah State is not a good team and scored seven points against San Diego State and six against Louisiana Tech.

No. 18 Missouri is looking for its first 7-0 start since 1960 and coming off a dominating road victory at Texas A&M. The Tigers had some luck in remaining undefeated as two San Diego State defenders ran into each other to allow Missouri to score a late game-winning touchdown.

No. 17 Oklahoma State (6-0, 2-0) is the only other unbeaten Big 12 team. The Cowboys also have a big game Saturday against No. 14 Nebraska (5-1, 1-1), which suffered a hit to its national title hopes by losing to Texas last weekend.


The last two undefeated teams in the Southeastern Conference hook up with No. 5 Auburn (7-0, 4-0) hosting No. 6 LSU (7-0, 4-0) in a major SEC West showdown.

The winner of this game becomes a leading contender for a national championship game appearance though both teams still have to play defending national championship Alabama in November. The No. 7 Crimson Tide (6-1, 3-1) lost to South Carolina two Saturdays ago and could play itself into the SEC title game by beating both squads.

Auburn is led by multi-talented quarterback Cam Newton, an incredible athlete who leads the SEC in rushing as well as being a top passer. The Tigers put up 65 points against Arkansas last week.

As for LSU, you almost want to see this game come down to the wire to see what kind of time-management mistakes Tigers coach Les Miles makes this week. Eventually, Miles’ Pop Warner-type blunders will cost LSU an important game.

Big Ten

An important game in the Big Ten race features No. 10 Wisconsin (6-1, 2-1) visiting No. 13 Iowa (5-1, 2-0).

The Badgers are coming off a huge upset of then-No. 1 Ohio State (6-1, 2-1) that kept them in race and they have a nice running back combination in bruiser John Clay and elusive James White.

Iowa features one of the nation’s top defenses – the Hawkeyes finally allowed their first rushing touchdowns of the season last Saturday against Michigan – and need a win over Wisconsin to set up another showdown next weekend against Michigan State.

The Spartans (7-0, 3-0) play Northwestern (5-1, 1-1) on Saturday as they try to keep their best start since 1966 going.

One other game

It certainly isn’t a huge game and it also is one that will be hard to find on television (that very bad Mountain West Conference television deal at play) but San Diego State can close in on being bowl-eligible by beating hapless New Mexico (0-6, 0-2).

The Aztecs (4-2, 1-1) haven’t played in a bowl game or had a winning season since 1998. The upperclassmen on the roster want nothing better than to smack the Lobos around a bit. This was the score two years ago when San Diego State last played New Mexico in Albuquerque:

New Mexico 70, San Diego State 7.

That’s not a misprint. It was the worst loss in the Aztecs’ history and one that made it obvious that Chuck Long was never going to turn San Diego State into a winner. The Lobos’ head coach that night – Rocky Long – is now San Diego State’s defensive coordinator.


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