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October 31, 2006

The Big East hits the big time

Experts' blog
Scenes from Saturday
The College Football Wire

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USC's reign finally ended Saturday, but the Trojans won't be the only undefeated team to fall within the span of a week.

West Virginia (7-0) will face Louisville (7-0) in the biggest game in the short history of the rebuilt Big East. And what a game it should be Thursday night.

The Mountaineers and Cardinals are also seeking a berth in the national championship game against the winner of Michigan-Ohio State. If one of them makes it, odds are fans of a one-loss SEC team will be very upset.

In other news around the country, an injury to Drew Weatherford forced a quarterback change for struggling Florida State. Weatherford certainly won't be the last QB to miss time because of injury.

Check out the other top questions and top games for Week 10:


Five Questions for Week 10
1. How big is West Virginia at Louisville?
The magnitude of this game cannot be overstated. It's the first top-five game for the Big East since Nov. 4, 2000 when No. 3 Miami beat No. 2 Virginia Tech 41-21. The winner of this game will go on to face a ranked Rutgers team and a Pittsburgh team that is inching its way into the Top 25. An undefeated Big East team has a good chance beat out a one-loss SEC team for a berth in the national title game. As pivotal as this game is for the national title hunt, Thursday's game at Papa John's Stadium is even more critical for the Big East's image. On a Thursday, this game won't get lost in the Saturday shuffle. The rebuilt Big East has come a long way since the defections of Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College. This is the day to show the country how far the league has come.
2. What now for USC?
The streak is over. The Trojans had won 27 consecutive Pac-10 games and 36 regular-season games before Saturday's 33-31 loss to Oregon State. USC is out of the national title race, but is still on track for a Pac-10 title and BCS bid - providing the Trojans beat Oregon on Nov. 11 and Cal on Nov. 18. Both games are at home, where USC still has a 30-game win streak. The main thing USC needs to take care of is the ball. In each of the last four seasons, USC has forced at least 18 more turnovers than its opponents. With four giveaways against Oregon State, the Trojans have committed 11 turnovers and forced only 10. In USC's customary spot on top of the Pac-10 in turnover margin? Cal, with a 23-13 ratio.
3. What is the status of injured players from the weekend?
Several standout players around the country are dealing with bumps and bruises, but it doesn't look like they will miss any time. Florida coach Urban Meyer said Sunday that Gators quarterback Chris Leak may have played half of Saturday's win over Georgia with a concussion. Leak insisted Monday he did not play with a concussion and instead, "just got dinged." Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge left Saturday's win over South Carolina early after a right ankle injury, but has indicated he'll be ready to play Saturday against LSU. Rutgers star running back Ray Rice will have an extra week to recover after sustaining an ankle injury against Connecticut on Sunday. The Scarlet Knights don't play again until they face Louisville on Nov. 9. Another of the country's leading rushers was limited Saturday when Wisconsin's P.J. Hill injured nerves in his neck. Bret Bielema said Monday Hill is questionable for the Penn State game. Baylor won't be so lucky. The Bears' bowl hopes were dealt a blow when they learned quarterback Shawn Bell will miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL. Baylor (4-5) would need to win two of its last three against Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma.
4. Is Xavier Lee here to stay?
Florida State (4-4) is off to its worst start since 1976 after a 27-24 loss at Maryland. The Seminoles' offense, though, might have cause for optimism following the surprise start of Xavier Lee. The QB started in place of Drew Weatherford, who sat out with a foot injury. Lee was 22 of 36 for 286 yards and two touchdown. He also added 50 yards rushing. "That's the best I've seen from a quarterback here since Chris Weinke," senior linebacker Buster Davis told Warchant.com. Florida State coach Bobby Bowden conceded he has a tough decision to make. Weatherford is uncertain for Saturday's game against Virginia.
5. Are the one-loss teams buried in the national title hunt?
Not completely, but it doesn't look too hopeful. BCS analyst Jerry Palm told Rivals.com national writer Steve Megargee an undefeated Big East champion has the inside track to a national title game - as long as it continues to have a convincing lead over all the one-loss teams in the USA Today coaches' and Harris polls. Fans of one-loss teams still hoping for a national title berth will become big fans of Rutgers and Pittsburgh. Those teams have yet to face Louisville and West Virginia, and have the best shot of defeating the winner of Thursday's matchup. Losses by Florida State, USC, Missouri and Nebraska this week have all but diminished the hopes of Florida, Notre Dame, Cal and Texas - who could have used another marquee win to jump an undefeated Big East team in the polls.
Top Five Games of Week 10
1. No. 3 West Virginia (7-0, 3-0 Big East) at No. 5 Louisville (7-0, 2-0 Big East), Thursday 7:30 p.m., ESPN2
Could this be the equivalent of a Final Four game along with Michigan at Ohio State?
2. No. 13 LSU (6-2, 2-2 SEC) at No. 8 Tennessee (7-1, 3-1 SEC), 3:30 p.m., CBS
The Volunteers are clinging to hopes of going to the SEC Championship Game, but will have to go through the Tigers.
3. No. 16 Boston College (7-1, 3-1 ACC) at No. 22 Wake Forest (7-1, 3-1 ACC), 7 p.m., ESPN2
This is the first of three games that will decide the ACC Coastal crown.
4. No. 18 Oklahoma (6-2, 3-1 Big 12) at No. 21 Texas A&M (8-1, 4-1 Big 12), 8 p.m., ABC
Texas A&M is one of the country's most anonymous one-loss teams. The Aggies could gain some notoriety with a win.
5. Missouri (7-2, 3-2 Big 12) at Nebraska (6-3, 3-2 Big 12), noon, ABC
This key Big 12 North matchup lost some luster after both teams lost to Big 12 South teams Saturday.




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