Georgia, Penn State, USC, Florida State, Michigan and Florida all are M.I.A. from the BCS rankings, while Nebraska, Alabama, Michigan State and Oklahoma are in the hunt for the BCS Championship. Making things even more interesting are Boise State, TCU and Utah— all ranked in the top 10 and ready to cause chaos. So which games are going to be the most compelling of the second half of the college football season? Lisa Horne identifies 12 biggies.
Boise State vs. Hawaii, Nov. 6
Since Hawaii beat Nevada 27-21 and Fresno State 49-27, and gave USC a scare before losing, 49-36, we're picking the Warriors as the biggest obstacle for Boise State's quest for a date in Glendale, Ariz. on Jan. 10. Well, that and the final BCS poll. The fact that this matchup is in Boise and Hawaii's defense is very suspect could be the two tangibles that swing in Boise State's favor. But Hawaii has one of the most prolific offenses Boise State will face in the regular season.
TCU vs. Utah, Nov. 6
These Mountain West Conference teams both are in the BCS top 10. One will lose its shot at an unprecedented BCS Championship game appearance. While many fans will cheer at the demise of a non-automatic qualifier (AQ) team losing a chance to play for the BCS title, the winner here could get bumped even higher in the polls. This game could create chaos, especially if some of the teams ranked above these two lose. Chaos is good. Chaos creates change. Change is good.
Arizona at Stanford, Nov. 6
Both teams have one loss in the Pac-10 and identical 5-1 records. Since the Pac-10 doesn't have a conference championship game this year, every big game serves as a championship. In case of a tie for first place in conference, the winner of head-to-head competition goes to Pasadena (or possibly the BCS title game). Beating Stanford likely would keep Arizona in the hunt.
Oregon at USC, Oct. 30
Of all the BCS conference teams in the BCS rankings' top 10, the Ducks look the most unstoppable. However, Oregon has beaten one, we repeat, one BCS conference team with a winning record: Stanford. USC can't play in any additional games due to NCAA sanctions and has absolutely nothing to lose. This game could define the Ducks — win and they are a legit BCS title contender; lose and it's status quack.
Florida State at N.C. State, Oct. 28
That "other" team from North Carolina was expected to make a huge statement this year, until the NCAA became the biggest obstacle in its path to a BCS bowl berth. QB Russell Wilson has made some spectacular plays and is ranked No. 6 nationally among FBS quarterbacks. Seminoles quarterback Christian Ponder was highly touted as a preseason Heisman candidate but has fallen to No. 77 in national quarterback rankings. A big statement game for both teams.
Virginia Tech at Miami, Nov. 20
These teams were almost completely written off after the first two weeks. The Hokies dropped consecutive games to Boise State and James Madison, while the Hurricanes lost to Ohio State in a nationally televised game. Both teams have recovered somewhat, with the Hokies reeling off five straight wins and the 'Canes winning two out of three conference games. This game should be the decision-maker for the ACC's Coastal division.
Missouri at Nebraska, Oct. 30
The Big 12 North looks more powerful than usual on paper, but no one really is completely hanging their hat on Nebraska , Missouri or Kansas State just yet. Still, someone has to represent the North in the Big 12 Championship game, right? We're not counting on Kansas State — only two of its five FBS opponents have a winning record. So what does this game mean? The winner most likely gets to play in the Big 12 Championship game.
Oklahoma at Oklahoma State, Nov. 27
Oklahoma and Oklahoma State both are undefeated going into this weekend. The Sooners face Missouri, and although we love chaos in college football, we don't see the Sooners dropping that game. In fact, at this point, we see the Sooners running the table and not getting seriously challenged until their date with the 'Pokes. If the Cowboys beat Nebraska this weekend, the Bedlam game between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State really will live up to its namesake.
Auburn at Alabama, Nov. 26
Depending on what happens with the Auburn-LSU game, this game could have importance beyond the Iron Bowl bragging rights. Let's assume Auburn runs the table and comes to Tuscaloosa 11-0. Let's also assume that Nick Saban whips his troops back into shape and is 10-1 coming into this game. What you have is a mini-SEC West championship game — winner goes to the SEC Championship.
LSU at Auburn, Oct. 23
Two teams undefeated in the SEC West can create problems, but someone has to lose, and the loser in this game still will have a great shot at the Sugar Bowl, since there's not much sign of life in the SEC East. If Auburn or LSU wins out, that team clinches the SEC West, since both have Alabama on their schedules in November. We're interested to see how LSU plays in a game without some incredible luck or a miraculous sequence of events.
Ohio State at Iowa, Nov. 20
At this point in the season, the Buckeyes cannot control their own destiny — they need help from Michigan State and Wisconsin. If the Buckeyes win out and both Michigan State and Wisconsin lose at least one game, preferably both to Iowa, Ohio State could play in a BCS bowl. The problem is that Ohio State and Michigan State don't play each other this year, so some complicated tiebreaker rules may come into play.
Michigan State at Iowa, Oct. 30
Both teams are undefeated in conference play, so this could be a BCS bowl elimination game. It also could throw the Big Ten into a tie-breaking mess. If Wisconsin beats Iowa on Saturday and Iowa beats Michigan State next weekend, there could be a four-way tie for first place (we're not counting on Purdue to stay undefeated in conference) going into November. This game will either clear things up or cause complete chaos.