Posted by Chip Patterson
Well, that was fun.
The first weekend of the college football season wrapped up Monday night with an instant classic between Boise State and Virginia Tech, and now we will have just enough time to catch our breath before running it all back in Week 2. The slate of games promises an entire Saturday of elite football, including Top 25 non-conference challenges for Alabama and Ohio State, and a renewed rivalry between Michigan and Notre Dame.
If this past weekend has shown us anything it's that these high profile non-conference games are great for college football. Teams are not taking these games lightly. The games are an opportunity for a team to prove itself on the national stage, and for conferences to get an idea of how they are stacking up against each other heading into the season.
Especially now, with strength of schedule quickly becoming the most prominent phrase in the sport, everyone has a vested interest in these marquee matchups. Let's take a quick look at some of the best games on next weekend's schedule.
Saturday, September 11
12:00 ET - Georgia @ South Carolina - The Gamecocks certainly made a statement in their 41-13 rout of Southern Miss. QB Stephen Garcia was 16 of 23 for 193 yards and a pair of rushing touchdowns while freshman running back Marcus Lattimore added 53 yards and two touchdowns of his own. Georgia took care of business against Louisiana-Lafayette 55-7, with true freshman QB Aaron Murray impressing Bulldog fans with three touchdown passes despite missing wide receiver A.J. Green. But Murray will be facing a very different defense and atmosphere when the Bulldogs travel to Columbia to face the Gamecocks.
12:21 ET - South Florida @ Florida - Florida head coach Urban Meyer has some serious work to do with the Gators offense this week before hosting the South Florida Bulls on Saturday. The Gators needed some outstanding defense, including four interceptions, to defeat the Miami (Ohio) RedHawks 34-12 in the swamp. The Florida offense gave up three turnovers, and dealt with more than a half dozen fumbles and bad snaps. The offense looked uncharacteristic, including only 26 total yards heading into the fourth quarter. South Florida, led by new head coach Skip Holtz, is more than capable of stealing this game if the Gators perform the way they did in Week 1.
3:30 ET - Florida State @ Oklahoma - The Sooners were another team that struggled more than most expected to win their first game of the season. They needed every single one of running back DeMarco Murray's 218 yards rushing in order to hold on for a 31-24 win against Utah State. The Sooners defense gave up 340 yards passing to the Aggies, something it cannot afford to do against Florida State and Heisman candidate Christian Ponder. Head coach Jimbo Fisher knows a win in Norman could set the tone for the season, as the Seminoles are seeking to return to their former resting place atop the ACC.
3:30 ET - Michigan @ Notre Dame - The showdown between these two storied programs might have been a snore in the last couple of years, but some fresh faces have given a new meaning to Saturday's game. Notre Dame has been rejuvenated by new head coach Brian Kelly, and coming fresh off the 23-12 victory over Purdue, the Irish will look to continue when the Wolverines come to town. Michigan has new life as well, on the "shoelaces" of sophomore quarterback Denard Robinson, who threw for 186 yards and ran for 197 in its 30-10 win over Connecticut.
3:40 ET - Miami @ Ohio State - Both of these teams teased their Week 2 matchup by hanging 45 points each on their Week 1 opponents. Stud quarterbacks Terrell Pryor and Jacory Harris also threw three touchdowns apiece. Both teams have rock solid defenses and showed it in their openers. Ohio State held to one first-quarter touchdown while Miami shut out Florida A&M. While this game is a rematch of the 2003 National Championship game, this is a brand new chapter in the rivalry. There are very few remaining pieces from that 2003 title game. Oh yeah, except the championship ring on head coach Jim Tressel's finger.
7:00 ET - Penn State @ Alabama - The defending national champions will get their first big test of the season when the Nittany Lions come to town for the primetime match up in Bryant-Denny Stadium. Penn State's squad is led by true freshman quarterback Robert Bolden, who looked comfortable in his debut (20/29 239 yards 2 TD's 1 INT), but that was against Youngstown State. Alabama did not need Mark Ingram (knee) or Marcell Darius (suspension) in its 48-3 trouncing of San Jose State. Darius' suspension will continue through Week 2 and Ingram's status has not been determined for the game. Thankfully for Alabama fans, back up running back Trent Richardson (with his 66 yards and 2 TD's in just two quarters of play) will work just fine.