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Every week, I'll throw a spotlight on the six most interesting games of the weekend to tell you why these are the games you should try to catch, who's going to win (and why), and what ramifications they could have on the rest of the college football landscape.

FRIDAY #14 TCU at Baylor (8pm EST, ESPN)

The pickings aren't great this weekend, but this looks like the most intriguing of the pre-Saturday options.  TCU's trying to reload after their breakthrough Rose Bowl-winning season a year ago.  Baylor's trying to wring one more good year (and a bowl berth) out of the electrifying Robert Griffin III.  The problem is that it's not clear what else they have.  Baylor might have the best player in this game (Griffin), but TCU might have the next eight or nine best players.  Griffin can be a magician on the football field, but even he can't conjure enough tricks to overcome an entire team (especially then the Baylor defense is on the field).  This seems like a game that ought to be close for about a half, before TCU's superior depth and talent starts to take hold.

THE PICK: TCU 37, BAYLOR 17


SATURDAY South Florida at #16 Notre Dame (3:30pm EST, NBC)

An intriguing opener for two teams with fairly lofty expectations for 2011.  Notre Dame enters the season with the most hype they've had in four or five years, with double digit win totals and BCS bowl trips dancing through the dreams of Domers.  There's also the history of Brian Kelly-coached teams in year two; in short, it's very very good.  South Florida is a trendy pick to finish near the top of the Big East in year two under Skip Holtz, with a talented returning QB (B.J. Daniels) and a promising defense.  Neither team will have much room for error here, although a loss would be more costly for Notre Dame since USF's Big East title aspirations won't be impacted by this game.  This is a big game for Notre Dame and an opportunity for them to make a statement as the 2011 season gets underway.  Even with some questions at the QB position, I think they get it done behind a defense that's going to make Manti Te'o a household name.

THE PICK: NOTRE DAME 31, SOUTH FLORIDA 14  

 

UCLA at Houston (3:30pm EST, FSN)

Welcome back, Case Keenum!  If it seems like Keenum is on the Van Wilder track, that's because he is, only he'll probably have an armful of NCAA records to his credit when he does finally leave the womb of academia.  Keenum's back after getting a medical redshirt and a sixth year of eligibility, ready to get his guns up for another high-powered Houston offense.  Like any good BCS buster (except perhaps Boise or TCU, whose sustained excellence and relevance has given them more benefit of the doubt than other non-BCS teams), Houston needs to run the table to have a shot at a money-spinning trip to a BCS bowl and this opener against UCLA figures to be one of the tougher games on their schedule.  UCLA enters the season with coach Rick Neuheisal on the hot seat and relatively low expectations (except from ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit, who picked them to go to the Pac-12 Championship Game).  This is a win that Neuheisal and UCLA need badly; a loss here would ratchet up the heat on Slick Rick and get the season started on a bum note.  The Slick Rick Era has been such disappointment that it's hard not to pick more Bruin misery, though. T

HE PICK: HOUSTON 38, UCLA 34  

 

#5 Boise State v. #19 Georgia (8pm EST, ESPN)

Both teams will be sporting retina-searing new duds in this game and both teams will be hoping for a win here to springboard them to big things in 2011.  A win here and it should be relatively smooth sailing to 12-0 and a shot at the national championship game for everyone's favorite Smurf Turfers.  Georgia's aspirations are probably more of the "SEC champion" variety than the "undefeated season, national champion" sort, thanks to the perpetual beartrap that is the SEC conference season and the litany of questions they have to answer.  Can they ride a virtual homefield advantage, some exciting new talents, and a (hopefully) improved Aaron Murray to an upset win over Kellen Moore & Co.?  I think they can.

THE PICK: GEORGIA 27, BOISE STATE 23  

 

#3 Oregon v. #4 LSU (8pm EST, ABC)

And now, the heayvweight clash of the weekend.  It's been a scandal-riffic offseason for both programs; Oregon got things going with Willie Lyles-gate and a traffic run-in that ensnared star corner back Cliff Harris, but LSU upped the ante (is there anything the SEC won't do bigger and badder than everyone else?) with an ugly story involving multiple players (including starting QB Jordan Jefferson) getting in a bar fight and roughing up some dudes.  One would imagine that both teams are just anxious to get back on the field and play football and forget about all the other nonsense.  Of course, from a between-the-lines standpoint this is also a fascinating match-up, with the ever-unpredictable master of chaos Les Miles on one sideline and unconventional spread offense maestro Chip Kelly on the other sideline.  Throw in LSU's defense trying to become the latest elite defense to slow down Oregon's blitzkrieg attack (after OSU in the 2010 Rose Bowl Game and Auburn in the 2011 National Championship Game) and you've got the makings of one hell of a football game here.  So who wins?  Until a few weeks ago, LSU seemed like the better pick: they have the better conference pedigree, a slew of returning stars, and a coach who has a recent penchant for coming up with feats of insane brilliance in big games.  But after everything that's gone down over the last few weeks, I find myself edging towards Oregon and their crazy-fast offense being able to outgun an LSU offense that's apparently planning to send out interception-prone Jarrett Lee as their starting QB.  It's not often wise to bet against The Hat, but in this case it feels right. 

THE PICK: OREGON 33, LSU 27

 

MONDAY Miami at Maryland (7pm EST, ESPN)

Can Miami field a competitive team in the wake of the latest scandal to strike The U?  (Yes, barely.)  Is Randy Edsall ready to kick the tires and light some fires at his "dream job"?  (Non-committal shrug.)  Can you name a single player on either team?  (Probably not.)  This is not what Al Golden signed up for, man.  Few other major conference teams this weekend will have more of a chip on their shoulder and more "no one believed in us!" energy than the Canes, but this entire situation is such a mess and they're going to be missing so many key players for this game that it's so hard to buy into Miami here.  Although not having Jacoby Harris throwing 3-4 passes a game to the other team can only help Miami.

THE PICK: MARYLAND 20, MIAMI 13