Posted by Jerry Hinnen
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 three of them you should keep an eye on regardless (all times Eastern) :
East Carolina (5-2, 4-0) at UCF (5-2, 3-0) , 3:30 p.m. It's a straight-up, head-to-head battle for first place in Conference USA 's East division, but there's plenty of other reasons to pay attention to what ought to be the C-USA game of the year. With Houston 's Case Keenum out for the season and Southern Miss having already lost to ECU at home, these appear to be the best two teams in the conference; the Pirates have the league's best nonconference win, over Florida State conquerors N.C. State , but UCF boasts C-USA's stingiest defense by a mile. Both teams have brand-name playmakers in elusive ECU quarterback Dominque Davis and explosive UCF defensie end Darius Nall. Thus far this season ECU has specialized in winning barnburners (51-49 over Tulsa , 44-43 over Southenr Miss) and this should be another tight contest on the road in Orlando, but with starting quarterback Rob Calabrese out, expect the Golden Knights to play things as close to the vest as possible.
Cal (4-3, 2-2) at Oregon State (3-3, 2-1), 3:30 p.m. His brother may be lost for the season, but any time Jacquizz Rodgers suits up for the Beavers, it's worth paying attention to. Beyond that, despite their nonconference losses at TCU and Boise State , the Beavers can still have a major say in the Pac-10 race with a win here; they'll play host to both USC and Oregon and must still travel to take on Stanford . Cal, meanwhile, has been more up-and-down than a yo-yo taken for a bungee-jump. After destroying Arizona State a week ago (a week after being destroyed at USC), they'll be expected to fold at Corvallis. But if you look past the margin of defeat, there's no particular shame in losing in Los Angeles, or at Arizona or Nevada . Both teams will still feel like their season to-date is a success with a win ... but both might also start to feel like the year might be a lost cause with a loss. The game promises to be a turning point for both.
Michigan (5-2, 1-2) at Penn State (4-3, 1-2), 8 p.m. It's pretty simple: at some point, Rich Rodriguez must start winning Big Ten games that aren't against Indiana to keep his job. (Against all other Big Ten teams, he's lost his last 11 in a row.) There's no time like the present, what with the Nittany Lions giving a sophomore walk-on his first start and their banged-up front seven looking like an excellent matchup for a fully-armed and operational Denard Robinson . On the other sideline, last week's win at Minnesota stopped the bleeding for Joe Paterno and Co., but a second straight home defeat to one of the conference's middle-of-the-pack teams -- particularly one with a Swiss cheese defense like the Wolverines' -- is not going to sit well with the Happy Valley faithful. Both teams will feel like they have reason to win this game, and as with the matchup above, the victor will wind up with plenty of reason to feel good about itself going forward. But the loser is going to have some very, very difficult questions to answer.
Below the Radar: three other games to watch
Posted on: October 29, 2010 1:33 pm
Tags: Arizona, Arizona State, Big Ten, Boise State, Cal, Case Keenum, Conference USA, Darius Nall, Denard Robinson, Dominique Davis, East Carolina, Florida State, Indiana, Jacquizz Rodgers, Joe Paterno, Michigan, Minnesota, N.C. State, Nevada, Oregon State, Pac-10, Penn State, Rich Rodriguez, Rob Calabrese, Southern Miss, Stanford, TCU, UCF, USC