#4 BOISE STATE (1-0, 0-0) at TOLEDO (1-1, 0-0) (ESPN, 8:00pm EST)
This game wasn't even on my radar until Toledo gave Ohio State one hell of a scare last week, leading for a good chunk of the game and having the ball in Ohio State's red zone with a chance to win at the end of the game. If they could do that in Columbus, could they pull the unlikely upset against everyone's favorite Smurf Turfers when they're back on their home turf at the Glass Bowl? The reason it's possible is that they have a dynamic offensive weapon (WR Eric Page, who burned Ohio State a few times last week) and a defense that managed to slow down an Ohio State team that's not lacking for athletes (although it is lacking in experience). But the reason it's unlikely is that Boise is, quite frankly, better than Ohio State this year. Quite possibly a lot better. They have a deep, formidable defensive line (just ask Georgia) and Kellen Moore, one of the most accurate passers in the nation, not to mention a more-than-respectable ground game. Oh, and they've had two weeks to get ready for this game, while Toledo is working off a short week's preparation and a grueling game against the Buckeyes last week. It might take a few quarters, but ultimately this turns into yet another Boise rout.
THE PICK: BOISE STATE 38, TOLEDO 14
#21 AUBURN (2-0, 1-0) at CLEMSON (2-0, 0-0) (ABC, 12:00pm EST)
It seems like someone is going to catch Auburn sooner or later this season and trip them up -- they lost almost their entire starting line-up on both sides of the ball, needed a furious comeback (including a perfectly executed onside kick) in the final two minutes to get by Utah State, and narrowly edged Mississippi State in a wild shootout last weekend -- but betting against Chizik's satanic luck seems downright foolish at this point. They keep winning by the skin of their teeth, but the most important thing is the first part of that statement: they keep winning. Clemson struggled mightily with FCS power Wofford last week (they gave up almost 300 yards rushing and won only 35-27), but that probably isn't too telling of their overall ability: Wofford runs a triple-option offense that can be difficult to prepare for on a week's notice. They certainly have the ability to win this game (especially at home). On the other hand, they're Clemson and they've rarely met a potential statement game they didn't want to choke away. Given that factor (and Auburn's uncanny run of luck right now), make mine Aubie.
THE PICK: AUBURN 31, CLEMSON 24
#15 MICHIGAN STATE (2-0, 0-0) at NOTRE DAME (0-2) (NBC, 3:30pm EST)
The expression "the best [insert bad record] team" gets trotted out quite often in college football discussion; the latest recipient is 0-2 Notre Dame. The thing is, in this case, it might actually be true: Notre Dame's offense has moved down the field at will in their first two games, against South Florida (impressive) and Michigan (less impressive), and their defense has mostly contained the offenses of those teams (with the notable exception of Michigan's fourth quarter point orgy a week ago). So why are they 0-2? That would be their NCAA-worst ten turnovers, five of which have happened in the red zone. Notre Dame is either really unlucky or really sloppy (or somewhere in between), but those turnover figures probably aren't going to persist for the entire season (and if they do, poor Brian Kelly won't -- he looked fit to explode in week one against South Florida; three months of misfortune like that will surely send him to an early grave). So clean up the turnovers and they should coast to a win, right? Well... not exactly. Michigan State figures to be the most complete team they've placed yet, with a solid team on both sides of the ball and a veteran quarterback. On the other hand, Notre Dame is significant step up in terms of ability than the opponents Sparty has dealt with in the first two weeks (Youngstown State and Florida Atlantic) and assuming the ending of that Michigan game hasn't rendered them catatonic, the Fighting Irish should go into this game with a desperate edge and some powerful motivation. I think that proves to be more than Michigan State can handle.
THE PICK: NOTRE DAME 27, MICHIGAN STATE 23
TENNESSEE (2-0, 0-0) at #16 FLORIDA (2-0, 0-0) (CBS, 3:30pm EST)
Tennessee's offense has looked potent through two games particularly the Tyler Bray-Justin Hunter connection, which is among the best QB-to-WR connections in the SEC. But can they be as effective when they take their show on the road and to one of the most hostile environments in the SEC? Florida has quietly looked pretty good under Muschamp, especially on defense, although Tennessee is a considerable step up in class from FAU and UAB. This rivalry has been lopsided of late -- Florida's won six in a row and there hasn't been a particularly close game since 2006 -- and while Tennessee is improving, it's asking a bit too much for them to pull out a win in The Swamp right now.
THE PICK: FLORIDA 31, TENNESSEE 20
#17 OHIO STATE (2-0, 0-0) at MIAMI (0-1, 0-1) (ESPN, 7:30pm EST)
Ah yes, the Ineligi Bowl. No other teams in college football had offseasons as scandalous as these two programs and they're feeling the effects in the form of mass suspensions and the looming threat of further NCAA action. In the long term, Miami may be in more hot water based on the breadth and depth of their improprieties, but in the short term they may be in better shape to win this game than the Buckeyes. "Tatgate" cost Ohio State their wildly successful coach (Jim Tressel) and their occasionally erratic but still wildly effective quarterback (Terrelle Pryor) for good and led to the suspensions of a handful of other key players for the first five games of the season. Miami was hammered by suspensions as well, but many of their suspensions were of the one-game variety, meaning key players like QB Jacory Harris and LB Sean Spence will be back in action this week. Under the weight of the suspensions, Ohio State struggled to move the ball against Toledo last week and lacked much explosion on offense. Now they'll be facing a Miami team that's still dripping with athletes and that should be playing with quite a chip on their shoulder after the offseason mess and their week one loss to Miami. A full-strength Ohio State team probably pulls a win out here anyway, but this current shadow squad? I don't see it.
THE PICK: MIAMI 24, OHIO STATE 17
#1 OKLAHOMA (1-0, 0-0) at #5 FLORIDA STATE (2-0, 0-0) (ABC, 8:00pm EST)
And, finally, we have the main event: the Game of the Year of the Week. It's the year's second clash between Top 5 ranked teams (after the opening weekend tilt between Oregon and LSU) and it could be a national title preview (although both teams have significant in-conference roadblocks to clear after this game and there's the little matter of the SEC champion to contend with, too). It could be a better game than the LSU-Oregon season opener, too, considering that both teams have had a few weeks to get their legs under them: Oklahoma blew by Tulsa in week one, 47-14, while Florida State cruised past Louisiana-Monroe, 34-0, and Charleston Southern, 62-10. On the surface, the best match-up figures to be Oklahoma's incredibly potent offense versus Florida State's remarkably stingy defense. Few teams have slowed OU's attack in recent years (although it's tended to be a little more labored when the Sooners take their show on the road, too), but this FSU defense has drawn comparisons to the vicious and nigh-impenetrable units the Seminoles routinely fielded in the '90s. Still, as good as that battle should be (and it should be quite good), there's also quite a bit of intrigue in the Oklahoma defense taking on the Florida State offense, especially since defense is OU head coach Bob Stoops' bread and butter and offense is FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher's specialty: they'll be working extra-hard to try and outwit one another. The last time Oklahoma took the #1 ranking on the road into a hostile environment (last year), they got bushwhacked by Missouri. I think Landry Jones & Co. have improved enough to prevent that bit of history from repeating itself, although the Seminoles will give it a game effort. FSU is on the way back to elite status, but they aren't quite there yet.
THE PICK: OKLAHOMA 31, FLORIDA STATE 28