- Kirk Herbstreit, College Football analyst
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This week's schedule may not be loaded with marquee matchups, but there are plenty of games Saturday with huge BCS implications.
No. 5 Georgia at No. 3 Auburn (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)
Georgia has the good fortune of having David Greene under center, the winningest quarterback in Division I-A history and a guy who has gone 15-1 away from home in his career. His maturity and calm give the Bulldogs a chance at the upset here, but the real keys will be Thomas Brown and Danny Ware running the ball well enough to set up Greene for play-action passes. All three must have success early to take the wind out of the Auburn crowd and the team, because the Dawgs could get blown out if they don't weather the early storm. Another big matchup will be Georgia receivers Reggie Brown and Fred Gibson against Auburn's standout corners Montavis Pitts and Carlos Rogers.
Auburn has been virtually untested to this point in the season, and quarterback Jason Campbell may not have even had to put his uniform in the washer yet. He has been as good as any quarterback in the country under the direction of offensive coordinator Al Borges, whose scaled-down version of the West Coast offense is hitting full stride and keeping Campbell out of third-and-long situations.
Georgia defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder has a dynamic zone blitz scheme and will utilize his athletes at safety and linebacker to pressure Campbell, but the real focus for the Bulldogs will have to be stopping the tremendous running back duo of Ronnie Brown and Carnell "Cadillac" Williams. If they can get Auburn into third-and-long and bring the heat on Campbell they have a chance.
Tune in to College GameDay on Saturday morning for my prediction.
No. 4 Wisconsin at Michigan State (3:30, ABC)
Michigan State has had two gut-wrenching losses the last two weeks, first losing a 17-point fourth-quarter lead to Michigan then coming back from a 17-point deficit against Ohio State only to lose in the final minutes. Now the Spartans host the best team in the conference and perhaps the best defense in the nation. The Wisconsin offense has continued to improve thanks to the progression of quarterback John Stocco and the health of tailback Anthony Davis. This one looked like a potential upset a few weeks ago but now looks like a 31-16 Wisconsin victory.
No. 21 Boston College at No. 10 West Virginia (noon, ABC)
The Boston College defense has been solid this year and will not allow the big plays West Virginia has relied on all season from quarterback Rasheed Marshall, running back Kay-Jay Harris and wide receiver Chris Henry. The Mountaineers will have to show patience and be willing to drive the length of the field.
Boston College quarterback Paul Peterson will make some plays to keep his team in the game, but in the end the athleticism of Marshall and the entire WVU defense will be the difference. West Virginia smells the Big East championship and will get it done at home, 30-24.
No. 17 Miami at No. 11 Virginia (3:30, ABC)
Miami has obviously struggled on defense in recent weeks and it will be interesting to see if defensive coordinator Randy Shannon makes adjustments to his man-under scheme, which worked in recent seasons but is not as effective this year because the Hurricanes are not dominating the line of scrimmage with their front four. Now they face Virginia's running game, which is the best in the ACC, as well as the best scrambling quarterback in the league in Marques Hagans. If Miami continues to play man-under the Cavaliers will be successful all day.
Miami has been unable to establish its own running game because of injuries to key offensive linemen and tailback Frank Gore, forcing the 'Canes to rely on quarterback Brock Berlin and the passing game. But Virginia is too fundamentally sound on defense to get dominated by a one-dimensional attack, and with the game in Charlottesville the woes will continue for Miami. Virginia relies on the running of Wali Lundy and Alvin Pearman along with the scrambling of Hagans to get a 27-20 win, one that will be huge for the direction of coach Al Groh's program.
Alabama at No. 15 LSU (7:45, ESPN)
LSU has fallen off the radar since its blowout loss at Georgia several weeks ago, and a team once hoping for back-to-back national championships is now just trying to finish strong and make a good bowl. Alabama has the best defense in the country right now and has shown great perseverance after injuries to starting quarterback Brodie Croyle and running back Tim Castille.
LSU is without its best offensive lineman in center Ben Wilkerson, and how that affects the continuity of that line will play a big part in this game. LSU likes to rely on its running game but that will be tough against the No. 1 total defense in the nation. I like the Alabama defense to shut down the run and put the game in the hands of senior quarterback Marcus Randall, whose performance under pressure will tell the story for the Tigers' offense.
Alabama has to be very conservative and predictable on offense because of those injuries, but the Crimson Tide will put wide receiver Tyrone Prothro under center at times to get him in space and utilize his creativity. But the Tide will continue to rely on the defense, which will get the ball back to the offense in good field position and lead Alabama to a 23-16 upset.
Ohio State at Purdue (3:30, ESPN)
There has been a lot of turmoil and distraction in Columbus this week, and while it may affect the coaches and their stress level, it will bring the players closer together. The Buckeyes have found some confidence in quarterback Troy Smith, they continue to play solid defense and play well on special teams, and Ted Ginn Jr. and Santonio Holmes are providing a big-play threat.
Purdue, on the other hand, is reeling after four straight losses. Even if star quarterback Kyle Orton is healthy enough to play the Boilermakers are in a tough spot psychologically after falling so fast from a No. 5 ranking just a few weeks ago. Ohio State comes out with a 23-20 win.
Kirk Herbstreit is an analyst for ESPN "College GameDay" and a regular contributor to ESPN.com during the college football season.
ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit tells us what to look for in the weekend's best games, including Georgia-Auburn.