Saturday Sports: What to Watch in College Football Today

With the college football season underway, in comes another year of debate over Heisman frontrunners and Bowl Championship Series (BCS)  rankings while your team vies for the national championship. Questions abound: powerhouses Oklahoma, Louisiana State University (LSU), and Alabama sit atop the rankings, but can Boise State finally get into a championship game? Can Quarterback Andrew Luck lead Stanford to the Rose Bowl? Can the SEC maintain its dominance? While these questions likely won’t be answered today, there’s plenty to see this weekend. Game of the Week:

No. 3 Alabama (1-0) at No. 23 Penn State (1-0) || 12:30 pm, ABC

This inter-conference matchup of storied universities pits legendary Coach Joe Paterno’s squad against last year’s South Eastern Conference (SEC) runner-up Alabama. Both teams are coming off easy victories in Week 1, and this will be their first real test. Look for Penn State to run early and often with sophomore Running Back Silas Redd, who’s coming off a 104 yard effort against Indiana State. Penn State is very one-dimensional though, and will have a hard time getting through the tough Tide defense. Look for Coach Nick Saban’s squad to have a balanced offensive attack, and if they execute they should have no problem against the Nittany Lions.

Worth checking in for:

Utah (1-0) at USC (1-0) ||4:30 pm, Versus

Utah looks to make a big splash in its Pacific 12 debut against a strong University of Southern California squad looking to make a conference run against Stanford and Oregon. In a classic case of the underdog, can Utah shock the nation and raise the case for mid-majors everywhere? Look for this game to set the balance of power for the Pac-12 this year: If Utah comes out strong then things will get interesting in the fight for the Rose Bowl; if USC brings out the steamroller then the top of the Pac can discount a potential contender. USC edged out Minnesota last week and will look to put forward a stronger performance against a former coach in Utah’s offensive coordinator Norm Chow.

Notre Dame (0-1) at Michigan (1-0) || 5 pm, ESPN, ESPN3

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly looks to improve upon a 7-5 record last year, and given his outbursts in last week’s loss to South Florida his players should hide under a couch and change their names if they don’t improve. Notre Dame is much more talented, and should air the ball out quite a bit in a large contrast to Michigan’s run-heavy approach. Brady Hoke will strive for success in his first big rivalry game as Michigan’s head coach. Michigan has won the last two meetings by four points each, so expect a tight one in one of college football’s most storied rivalries.

Other games of interest:

Nevada (1-0) at No. 13 Oregon (0-1) || 12:30 pm

Oregon tries to rebound after a 27-40 loss against No.3 LSU last week. Expect running back LaMichael James to average much more than the paltry 3.0 yards per carry he put up against the Tigers. We’ll see if Quarterback Darron Thomas can improve upon his impressive 2010 campaign as he leads the Ducks against the Wolfpack.

No. 6 Stanford (1-0) at Duke (0-1) || 12:30 pm, ESPNU, ESPN3

Who doesn’t want to watch Quarterback Andrew Luck shred a Blue Devil’s secondary? With Oregon losing and USC toiling, the Cardinal look set to make the title game if they can run through the Pac-12. Mark the date--Nov. 12th Stanford vs. Oregon.

No. 16 Mississippi State (1-0) at Auburn (1-0) || 9 am

SEC matchups always bring out the best (or worst) of both teams, and there’s quite a lot of bitterness between these two teams. Remember the Cam Newton scandal, where his father requested $180,000 from Mississippi State? Games between these two teams have been historically close, highlighted by that baseball-esque 3-2 victory for Auburn in 2008.