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Buckeyes-Nittany Lions headline matchups to watch

Updated: October 15, 2007, 2:46 PM ET

In light of Thursday night's compelling South Florida at Rutgers (ESPN, 7:30 ET) game that I will be attending, this week's list is about the most intriguing regular-season matchups for the second half of the season.

1. Ohio State at Penn State, Oct. 27
James Laurinaitis

Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

James Laurinaitis and the Buckeyes have plenty of big games left.

Another 8 p.m. ET kick and another White Out deal for the Nittany Lions. JoePa's team (perhaps galvanized by the improved play of Anthony Morelli) did knock off OSU in 2005 in the White Out game, which actually is the last time the Buckeyes lost in Big Ten play. In the game within the game, you'll see two of the country's best defenders in OSU LB James Laurinaitis and Penn State LB Dan Connor. The Buckeyes lead the nation in total defense, while the Nittany Lions are seventh.

2. Boston College at Virginia Tech, Oct. 25
The last time the Eagles went into Lane Stadium for a Thursday night game, they looked thoroughly intimidated, save for Brian Toal. The linebacker obviously won't be playing in this one, but QB Matt Ryan is much more experienced, and it's highly unlikely he'll be rattled. The Eagles did take it to the Hokies last year, winning 22-3. A BC win and the road looks fairly manageable to a possible title game.

3. Cal at Arizona State, Oct. 27
The Golden Bears haven't had much trouble with ASU as of late, winning four in a row by at least 17 each. Last season Cal intercepted four passes, but don't expect Rudy Carpenter to play like that this time around, especially since the Cal D isn't as tough. Dennis Erickson's club also should be primed after a bye week.

4. Florida at South Carolina, Nov. 10
Whenever the Ol' Ballcoach gets a crack at his old team, it's always interesting. This year, it means much more, given the Gamecocks' legit national title hopes. Last year, UF blocked a last-second field goal to preserve a 17-16 win. The home team has won 4 of the last 5 in this series.

5. LSU at Alabama, Nov. 3
The Nick Saban Bowl. This game probably would be even more dramatic if it were Saban visiting his old team's house. However, given all of the hostile feelings you know both sides have had, this one has been marked since the schedule came out. Beating the Tigers probably wouldn't trump beating Auburn, but for Saban to potentially ruin LSU's title hopes, it might.

6. USC at Oregon, Oct. 27
Both teams cling to national title hopes. Obviously the loser can forget them. Oregon moved the ball very well against USC last year but made some big turnovers deep in Trojans territory. Dennis Dixon is a whole different QB this year, and the Trojans look like a whole different offense. Autzen will be rocking for this game.

7. Ohio State at Michigan, Nov. 17
There probably won't be a countdown clock this year, but if the Buckeyes keep rolling along, it obviously will have huge national title game implications. And of course, it also could do wonders for Lloyd Carr's standing in Ann Arbor since Michigan has lost three in a row to its hated rival. The Wolverines haven't dropped four straight to OSU since the early 1960s.

8. Missouri at Kansas, Nov. 24
It might seem crazy enough to think that this one has Big 12 title ramifications, but if Mark Mangino's team keeps winning, this one has national title bearings, as well. The big question is, can Kansas, with the nation's No. 4 defense, contain Chase Daniel and the country's fifth-rated offense?

9. Navy at Notre Dame, Nov. 3
Forget USC-ND: This is the Notre Dame game worth tuning in for. If there was ever a season where Navy had a chance to knock off the Irish, this is it. ND has won an NCAA series-record 43 straight games against Navy. They've done so in nine different stadiums, but this is the worst Irish team in that span. Their offense is horrible and their run defense isn't much better (93rd overall) and Navy has a very potent ground attack. The Irish have scored 80 points in the last two meetings in this series, which is exactly the same number of points the Irish have scored in their first seven games this season.

10. Boise State at Hawaii, Nov. 23
Colt Brennan's Heisman hopes seem to be a long shot at best at this point, but UH keeps scuffling and staying unbeaten. Still, I do not think Hawaii is this year's Boise State. The Broncos have the best shot to knock the Warriors from the unbeaten ranks and have history on their side (they have won all six meetings since Hawaii joined BSU in the WAC.) Expect fireworks: In the last five meetings, they have combined to average 79 points. Then again, the Broncos should be a great test for Brennan since they are third in the nation in total D.

Bruce Feldman is a senior writer with ESPN The Magazine. His new book, "Meat Market: Inside the Smash-Mouth World of College Football Recruiting," is on sale now.


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