1. Bob Diaco vs. Pat Narduzzi – We’re fully aware both guys are defensive coordinators and thus will not match up against each other. But when you’ve got two of the best defensive minds of the business facing off against offenses that, shall we say, are unpredictable from one play to the next-you’ve got the makings of a game where the defense that forces the most big plays wins the game.
2. John Chavis vs. Gus Malzahn – Each a mastermind behind an opposing side of the ball that should be pretty good in time, but faces its biggest test yet in this young season. Chavis won this matchup handily the last time they faced off, forcing Auburn into more turnovers than touchdown in a 45-10 LSU win in 2011, while Malzahn earned the upper hand in 2010 thanks to 217 rushing yards and two scores from Cam Newton.
3. Mack Brown vs. Bill Snyder – Two seasoned veterans with places reserved in the College Football Hall of Fame, where one has just completely owned the other. Brown is just 2-5 all-time against Snynder, on top of an 0-2 mark against Ron Prince, and enters this game with much more to lose than his counterpart. The usage of Kansas State’s ultra-athletic back-up quarterback Daniel Sams in the running game, and UT’s reponse, could tell the story.
4. John Jancek vs. Brent Pease – Seven days after flying cross-country for a 59-14, 687-yard flattening at the hands of Oregon, Tennessee’s defense heads back on the road for a key conference game. Jancek will need to dial up more of the “five turnovers in six snaps” magic he dusted on the Western Kentucky offense in order to give a fragile Tennessee offense a chance to score enough points to win. Pease has to recover from a disaster of his own, as the Gators take the field for the first time since their 21-16, five-turnover loss at Miami.
5. David Shaw vs. Todd Graham – Graham has done a solid job in winning 10 of his first 15 games at Arizona State, but still lacks the “clean it, stuff it and mount it on your wall” type of win. That opportunity stands 53 and a half yards away from him Saturday afternoon in Stanford Stadium. On the opposite sideline, Stanford has looked good in wins over San Jose State and Army, certainly nothing alarming, but this is the first opponent that should test whether the Cardinal has that extra gear or two beyond what they’ve shown so far.
6. Lane Kiffin vs. Matt Wells – As much talk as the bumbling USC offense has inspired, the Trojans’ defense has posted a sparkling start to 2013. Take out points allowed by the offense and USC leads the nation in points allowed. That said, Chuckie Keeton and the Utah State offense will cause real problems for Clancy Pendergast and his unit. Good luck getting anyone in Los Angeles outside of Heritage Hall to understand that, though.
7. Chris Petersen vs. Tim DeRuyter – How Boise State defends Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr, the No. 9 passer nationally with 330.5 yards per game to go along with eight touchdowns and one pick, will tell the story. Petersen will need a better effort than what his bunch showed against Washington, when they allowed Huskies quarterback to throw for 324 yards and 10.5 yards per attempt. Fresno State wins this game, and DeRuyter’s bunch is at least a 10-point favorite for the rest of the regular season and has a real shot at crashing the BCS. All they have to do is hand Boise State it’s second loss in a four-game stretch, someting that hasn’t been done since the Broncos lost two straight to close the 2007 season.
8. Chad Morris vs. Dave Huxtable – In his first two games as N.C. State’s defensive coordinator, Huxtable’s unit performed admirably – forcing six turnovers against five touchdowns, while surrendering a respectable 4.86 yards per play – against Louisiana Tech and Richmond. The team lining up across from the Wolfpack tonight isn’t Louisiana Tech and Richmond. It will take a meltdown by Morris’ unit, like the four turnovers and 13 points Clemson posted the last time Morris and Tajh Boyd visited Raleigh, to spring the upset.
9. Kyle Flood vs. Bret Bielema – This is a temperature-taker for both programs. With comfortable but not explosive wins over Louisiana-Lafayette, Samford and Southern Miss, Arkansas goes on the road for the first time in the Bret Bielema era for a game that his program may not be ready to win. But if you don’t get this one, and you’ve got Texas A&M, Florida, South Carolina and Alabama in successive weeks as part of an SEC slate littered with six ranked teams in eight games, where are your other three wins coming from if you can’t get this one? And for Kyle Flood, it’s the only chance you’ve got in who knows how long to slay an SEC giant in your house. Sure, the giant may not be as tall as some of the others in its neighborhood, but it’s got those three letters next to its name every recruit recognizes. If you can’t win this game, can you realistically expect to beat Louisville and run the table in the AAC?
10. Gary Pinkel vs. Kevin Wilson – Like Arkansas, Missouri is a middle-class SEC team with two solid but unspectacular wins to its credit, and a schedule full of landmines waiting ahead. On the march to six wins, you certainly don’t want to leave a possible W behind in September with five games against ranked foes in October and November ahead. For Indiana, it’s another opportunity to grow the stock of a rapidly-rising program, a chance to be 3-1 for the first time since 2010, and a shot at the program’s first non-conference win over a BCS program since 2004 – not to mention what a win like this will do on the recruiting trail. The only people cheering harder for Indiana than the folks in Bloomington can be found in Chicago, where the people in the Big Ten offices are looking for something, anything, to turn back the tide against the SEC.