Posted by Jerry Hinnen
It's easy to pick out this weekend's biggest games: LSU and Auburn , Iowa and Wisconsin , Oklahoma and Missouri . But every week there's plenty of interesting matchups -- no, really -- that don't feature ranked teams and don't make anyone's "must-watch" list other than the team's fans. Here's four of them you should keep an eye on regardless (all times Eastern):
Penn State (3-3, 0-2) at Minnesota (1-6, 0-3), 12 p.m. This one won't feature a ton of points (the Gophers and Nittany Lions rank 76th and 108th in scoring offense, respectively), and obviously it's not going to have much impact on the Big Ten race, either. But this is the game that could legitimately be the beginning of the end of the Joe Paterno era; the Lions might be able to stomach one humiliating loss (last week's 20-point home shellacking at the hands of Illinois ), but a second at the hands of the reeling, coach-less Gophers -- not to mention the accompanying 0-3 conference record and dwindling hopes of bowl eligibility -- could start the succession planning in earnest. The long-term implications alone make this contest critical.
Rutgers (4-2, 1-0) at Pitt (3-3, 1-0), 12 p.m. Both the Scarlet Knights and Panthers have suffered some serious nonconference pratfalls --- Rutgers' unthinkable loss to Tulane , Pitt's home bludgeoning at the hands of Miami -- but both got off to 1-0 starts in Big East play with big wins over UConn and Syracuse , respectively. This is the Big East, after all: once you get to 2-0, it's impossible not to call you a serious contender in the conference. The key matchup will be Pitt's fast-rising Ray Graham (118 rushing yards per game) against Greg Schiano 's 15th-ranked defense.
Kansas State (5-1, 2-1) at Baylor (5-2, 2-1), 3:30 p.m. There's honest-to-God Big 12 implications here; if Mizzou loses to Oklahoma late Saturday, the Wildcats could forge a three-way tie atop the Big 12 North with their own date against the Tigers still to come. But the stakes are probably higher for the Bears anyway; a win would push Baylor to six wins and a postseason berth for the first time since they played the 1994 Alamo Bowl. There's surprising talent on display here, too: Wildcat back Daniel Thomas is the conference's second-leading rusher at 130 yards a game, and Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin (14 TDs, 3 INT) has a Denard Robinson -esque blend of rushing speed and throwing accuracy.
Georgia (3-4, 2-3) at Kentucky (4-3, 1-3), 7:30 p.m. The storyline for this one is simple: the winner stays in the dead thick of the muddled SEC East race. Beyond that, last November the Wildcats used a bevy of Georgia turnovers to upset the Dawgs in Athens and have generally given Mark Richt 's team fits the past few seasons. If Richt wants to permanently silence the bleating for his head that began after Georgia's 1-4 start, he can't afford a second straight defeat at the hands of a team that's been Georgia's traditional inferior. Too bad for him the Wildcats have been feisty at home thus far this season, pulling one major upset against South Carolina last week and coming within one stop of doing the same to Auburn the week before. As long as Randall Cobb is around (even if Derrick Locke isn't), expect more feistiness to come, and for this one to come down to the wire.