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September 6, 2010

Week 2 Watch: Trio of can't-miss clashes

Second gets a bad rap.

Sometimes, it's better than first -- like with the second week of the college football season.

The first week typically is infested with mismatches. But the second week has three "can't-miss" matches of teams that once clashed for national championships.

The schedule includes Florida State and Oklahoma, which met for the 2000 national title; Miami and Ohio State, which vied in 2002; and Alabama and Penn State, which faced off in the 1978 Sugar Bowl, a classic that was decided by the Crimson Tide's legendary goal-line stand.

By the way, the winners of those games all were ranked second.

Player Under the Gun

Penn State QB Robert Bolden

We're going to assume Bolden's solid performance in Penn State's season-opening 44-14 victory over Youngstown State will allow him to remain the starter for Saturday's game at Alabama, even though Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno continues to play it coy. For a true freshman who didn't enroll until the summer, Bolden did a remarkable job in his college debut. Then again, he also was at home against FCS member Youngstown State. Let's see how he fares on the road against the defending national champions.

Best game: Miami at Ohio State, 3:40 p.m., ESPN
Miami and Ohio State, two teams with national championship aspirations, are hoping to greatly enhance those chances when they clash in what figures to be one of the season's better non-conference matchups. The Hurricanes' Jacory Harris and the Buckeyes' Terrelle Pryor are big-play quarterbacks with explosive receivers. And each will be facing a defense that didn't allow any points in their respective season openers (Marshall scored against Ohio State on a blocked field goal).

Don't overlook this one: BYU at Air Force, 4 p.m., Versus
In the past six seasons, BYU used two starting quarterbacks: John Beck (2004-06) and Max Hall (2007-09). BYU's two-quarterback system in its opener against Washington was just as effective with Jake Heaps and Riley Nelson combining for 262 passing yards and two touchdowns. Air Force would like to compete for the MWC title and didn't have the best showcase for its abilities in a 65-21 season-opening rout of FCS Northwestern State. This winner of this game will have the best chance of chasing TCU and Utah for the MWC title.

On the midweek marquee: Auburn at Mississippi State, Thursday, 7:30 p.m., ESPN
Both teams received encouraging performances from new quarterbacks in their openers. Mississippi State redshirt freshman Tyler Russell didn't start, but he was 13-of-16 for 256 yards and four touchdowns in a rout of Memphis. After accounting for 357 yards and five touchdowns against Arkansas State, Auburn's Cameron Newton will have something to prove to Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen, who was offensive coordinator at Florida when Newton signed with the Gators out of high school in 2007.

Coach most under the gun: New Mexico's Mike Locksley
After going 1-11 and serving a one-game suspension for fighting with an assistant last season, Locksley opened his second season on the job with a 72-0 loss to Oregon. The road isn't about to get any easier for Locksley: New Mexico plays host to Texas Tech and Utah in the next two weeks. While nobody reasonably expects New Mexico to win either of those two games, the Lobos have to be much more competitive to take some of the heat off their coach.

Best coordinator chess match: Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain vs. Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley
Bradley knows that for his team to have any shot at the upset, his defense has to plays lights out. How he deploys his linebackers will be a key factor. All three are new starters, but as with Alabama, the Nittany Lions' 'backers can make plays. And how often will McElwain throw deep? He knows that unless his offense makes mistakes, it will be hard for Penn State to win.

BCS-buster watch: N.C. State at UCF, 7:30 p.m., CBS College Sports
Beware, Wolfpack. The Knights are a strong defensive team coming off of a season-opening 38-7 victory over South Dakota, which was limited to 220 yards. UCF was picked by many to win C-USA, based on the defense and an offense that continues to show potential. This will be an interesting coaching matchup between N.C. State's Tom O'Brien and UCF's George O'Leary.

Best individual matchup of the week: Ohio State WR DeVier Posey vs. Miami CB Brandon Harris
Potential All-Americas get together in the Horseshoe. Posey is a physical yet speedy receiver, and Harris is one of the nation's best at getting his hand in at the last moment and knocking the ball away. Any big plays in the passing game for Ohio State likely will come from Posey, whose size and speed can present matchup problems. It's up to Harris to make sure those big plays don't happen.

Best unit matchup of the week: Ohio State offensive line vs. Miami defensive line
Ohio State has been touting its improved offensive line; Miami has been touting its deep and athletic defensive line. The Buckeyes have lacked aggressiveness up front in recent seasons, but that better not be the case against the Hurricanes. The Buckeyes will look to run straight ahead; will they be able to do so? Important for Miami is to maintain a consistent pass rush but also not let Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor out of the pocket.

Injury report
Alabama RB Mark Ingram remains questionable after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee after hurting it in practice in late August. He wasn't needed in a season-opening 48-3 romp over San Jose State; the Crimson Tide ran for 257 yards, led by third-stringer Eddie Lacy's 111 yards. But Tide coaches sure wouldn't mind having Ingram against what should be a solid Penn State defense. Ingram's Heisman hopes will continue to dwindle if he misses another game.

Record watch
Oklahoma is the nation's active leader with 31 consecutive home wins, dating to a 2005 season-opening loss to TCU. Florida State will be a difficult test for the Sooners, especially after Oklahoma's close call with Utah State raised some questions. Oklahoma won 31-24, but mobile Aggies QB Diondre Borel passed for 341 yards and two touchdowns (and two interceptions). Mobile FSU QB Christian Ponder could be just as effective.

Coaching connection
The three coaching Stoops brothers have been on the same staffs or leading programs for more than 20 years, but they haven't played against each other. That changes Saturday when Oklahoma's Bob Stoops faces his brother Mark Stoops, Florida State's defensive coordinator, for the first meeting between Bob and one of his brothers. While Arizona coach Mike Stoops once was Bob's defensive coordinator at Oklahoma and served on a staff with Bob at Kansas State, Bob Stoops and Mark Stoops never have been on the same sideline.

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