Believe it or not, it's time to put the first quarter of the season in the rear view mirror. If this weekend's slate of games in the Big Ten is any indication it won't be missed.
We're going outside the conference footprint this week to survey the national scene.
1. No. 1 ALABAMA at No. 10 ARKANSAS, 3:30 p.m. CBS (9/25)
GRAHAM predicts ALABAMA
Everyone who watches Alabama this year is impressed by their tremendous team speed and athleticism. Gag. But still, definitely an impressive array of players. Bama reloads without a blink it seems. But will Saban blink in the face of the biggest game in recent Arkansas history? (It's a rhetorical question; Saban would never physically close his eyes). The big matchup this week is Alabama's maniacal defense versus the rocket launcher of Ryan Mallet. My money is on Mallet, but I think Alabama can score some points too. Bama wins a squeaker on the road.
JON predicts ALABAMA
A friend of mine said it best: Sure, Ryan Mallett is a great quarterback -- but it's not like he has Adrian Petersen in the backfield. The Razorbacks may have the most prolific pocket passing offense in the FBS, and Alabama may only have a single veteran in the secondary, but I think Nick Saban's defense is athletic enough to keep Arkansas grounded. Meanwhile, Arkansas will have to find some way to defend Bama's aggressive running backs. The Tide's offense is just too good.
Big Ten Portal says "In the last 2 years Alabama has won by 28 and 35 pts, respectively. Alabama is 7-1 ATS as a road favorite since 2008. Arkansas is 10-5 ATS against teams with winning records since 2008."
2. TEMPLE at No. 23 PENN STATE, 3:30 p.m. Big Ten Network (9/25)
GRAHAM predicts PENN STATE
These are the games Penn State has refused to lose in the last three years. PSU has played all kinds of MAC Schools and basically every other mid-level conference...and hasn't struggled. That's what good coaching and NFL-level defenders gets you. PSU win easily, per usual.
JON predicts PENN STATE
In three years of running the OPC, this is the first time we've featured the Owls. Here's my question: if the Big East can expel a program for failing to meet its competitive agenda, can the other BCS Conferences disband the Big East on the same grounds? Temple has been cast a bad lot, but you can't help but like what Al Golden is doing in Philadelphia. Even though Temple hasn't beaten Penn State in 70 years, it's the Owls that are 3-0 heading into State College, and it's the Owls that feature a dangerous running back in Bernard Pierce. (Sorry Evan Royster). Penn State gets the win on the strength of its defense, but Temple hangs its head high.
Penn State -15
Big Ten Portal says "In the last 2 years Penn State has won by 25 and 42 pts, respectively. Paterno is 15-6 ATS against non-BCS opponents since 2001. Temple is 9-4 ATS as an underdog since 2008."
3. No. 12 SOUTH CAROLINA at No. 17 AUBURN, 7:45 p.m. ESPN (9/25)
GRAHAM predicts SOUTH CAROLINA
What has been a tremendously boring matchup is now full of intrigue. Is Auburn's option/pistol/whatever attack going to improve as the season goes? Is this Carolina's time in a watered down and weak SEC? This game is basically a pick 'em, but I have more faith in the Gamecocks' offensive attack. South Carolina in another "Game of the Week" contestant.
JON predicts AUBURN
I read somewhere the other day that you just can't expect a team led by Stephen Garcia to make it through SEC play unbeaten. The Gamecocks looked flacid against Furman last week, although I still like what Marcus Lattimore brings to the table. (Leave it to the Ohio State fan to believe in a Freshman tailback). Auburn trailed Clemson 17-0 last week before they woke up in the third quarter. They won't make that mistake again.
Big Ten Portal says "Auburn is 6-11 ATS against SEC opponents since 2008. S Carolina is 4-2 ATS on lines between -3 and +3."
4. No. 24 OREGON STATE at No. 24 BOISE STATE, 8:00 p.m. ABC (9/25)
GRAHAM predicts BOISE STATE
The last roadblock before BSU goes into BCS purgatory. The Blue Turf Munchers are a huge favorite because of obvious reasons: They know that if they GET UP for this matchup, it'll propel them into the MNC talk. And you've got to believe with their great coaching staff and interior toughness Boise State will win this game at home.
JON predicts BOISE STATE
The Broncos season finale (just kidding) features an Oregon State Beaver team that's already been dunked by a non-BCS opponent. Sure, the Rodger brothers have amazing speed and balance -- remember when they single-handedly sunk USC in 2008? -- but Boise State has a destructively athletic and underrated front four. Not to mention the Beavers have to figure out some way to defend Kellen Moore and Boise's high powered offense. I don't think this one is close. Vegas agrees.
Big Ten Portal says "Oregon State is 9-2 ATS as an underdog since 2008. Boise State is 15-6 ATS as favorite since 2008"
5. No. 22 WEST VIRGINIA at No. 15 LSU, 9:00 p.m. ESPN 2 (9/25)
GRAHAM predicts LSU
And the valley shook. LSU, overrated as always, will take their "recipe for 8-4" team into this matchup. No cohesive offense? Yeah. Amazing defense? You bet.
I'll take Miles over Stewart.
JON predicts LSU
A trip to Death Valley spells more out of conference trouble for the Big East. No team outside the SEC has won at Tiger Stadium since UAB on Sept. 23, 2000. Although the Mountineers are trending towards a pass focused offense the bread and butter of their attack is still Noel Devine. Meanwhile the Tigers have struggled to establish the pass, but are getting a big boost from breakout tailback Stevan Ridley. This is the only ranked team on the Mountaineers' schedule, so if they find a way to win they've got a shot at an undefeated season. The problem is that Louisiana State has one of the best home field advantages in college football.
Big Ten Portal says "West Virginia is 10-16 ATS in all lined games since 2008. LSU is 10-17 ATS in all lined games since 2008."