1. Cam Cameron vs. Todd Grantham
2. Mike Bobo vs. John Chavis
The biggest game of the weekend features an identical storyline on both sides of the ball. Odd as it may seem, LSU’s visit to Georgia will play out like a typical SEC game in 2013, where the defense hopes to force a red hot, experienced quarterback off the field just enough to give their own offense a chance to win the game. Through seven total games, Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger have combined to complete 118-of-173 passes (68.2 percent) for 2,066 yards (11.9 yards per attempt) with 17 touchdowns and three interceptions. First team to 30 wins.
3. The Ole Miss offensive staff vs. the Alabama defensive staff – How many times do you think Hugh Freeze and his staff have watched the Alabama – Texas A&M game tape by now? Surely the Rebels will take an idea or three from a game in which the Aggies hit the Tide for 42 points and 628 yards of total offense. Through three games, Ole Miss has been one of the most effectively balanced teams in the country, throwing for 240 yards per game and rushing for 250 yards per game. Turnovers, those forced by Alabama or the lack of them given away by Ole Miss, will tell the story.
4. Josh Heupel vs. Bob Diaco – The Notre Dame defensive staff has but one full game of film to study of new Oklahoma starting quarterback Blake Bell, and it was a spectacular one. The junior set a school record for passing yards in a debut start, throwing for 413 yards and four touchdowns on 27-of-37 passing with no interceptions. What tricks will the Irish have for Bell and, with two weeks to prepare, how will Heuepel develop Bell the offense from what we’ve seen so far?
5. Andy Ludwig vs. Luke Fickell – This one is pretty simple. If the Wisconsin offensive staff can spring the nation’s most formidable running back duo, the nation’s leading rusher Melvin Gordon (53 carries for 624 yards and seven touchdowns) and No. 24 James White (61 carries for 442 yards and three scores), against Ohio State’s ninth-ranked run defense (2.61 yards per carry allowed against some admittedly poor competition) and keep Braxton Miller/Kenny Guiton on the sidelines, they’ll have a shot at the upset. If they can’t, they won’t.
6. Lane Kiffin vs. Todd Graham – If you’re Arizona State, and you just spent your entire offseason talking about the Rose Bowl, an 0-2 start to conference play will render all that talk nothing more than wasted breath. As a four-point favorite, at home, it’s time for Todd Graham to start winning these types of games. And for Lane Kiffin, we say it every week: the most important game of his career is always the next time he steps on the field.
7. Rich Rodriguez vs. Steve Sarkisian – The way these teams arrived at this game is polar opposite. Arizona essentially played three preseason games up to this point, while Washington used a 38-6 mauling of Boise State to vault into the top 20. But what this game means to both programs is identical: the winner will serve as the official dark horse contender to Oregon, Stanford and UCLA – at least for one more week – and the loser will not.
8. Tony Franklin vs. Nick Aliotti – Through three games, Cal quarterbacks have completed more passes than all but 38 teams have attempted through four games. Nothing Virginia and Tennessee (106th and 116th nationally in passing offense, respectively) has prepared them for the onslaught Jared Goff and company will throw at the Ducks. Of course, when Oregon’s No. 2 rushing offense lines up against Cal No. 123 rushing defense whenever the Bears’ offense is sidelined, everyone in Autzen Stadium will know Cal’s upset plan: throw, baby, throw.
9. Beau Baldwin vs. Willie Fritz – The biggest FCS game of the weekend, and possibly the year, will come down to how the respective head coaches of No. 3 Eastern Washington and No. 4 Sam Houston State handle the back-and-forth of what should be a three-and-a-half hour relay race. Saturday’s game won’t have the wild swings of last year’s meeting, so managing the ups and downs will be imperative.
10. Jim Chaney vs. Mark Snyder – The Arkansas-Texas A&M game is like the Cal-Oregon game, only the exact opposite. A heavy underdog, Arkansas’ only chance at winning is pounding and pounding and pounding its 23rd-ranked rushing offense against Texas A&M’s 107th-ranked rushing defense. If the Hogs can hold the ball for 38 minutes or so, and they can force Johnny Manziel into a couple turnovers, and maybe get some big plays in the play-action game….