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College football games of the week

Oregon at Boise State is like a playoff game right off the bat.

September 03, 2009|Chris Dufresne

The kickoff to a fast-and-furious first college football weekend stretches from tonight in Idaho to Monday night in Florida. And who would have guessed the matchup on the blue field would trump a Bobby Bowden golden-years game?

Welcome to the opening five days of college football's 14-week playoff, starting tonight with Oregon's highly anticipated trip to Boise State. In other news, on Monday, Miami is playing at Florida State.

To school presidents and commissioners, every argument against a playoff in college football ends here. Oregon at Boise State is a playoff game, with the loser effectively eliminated from the national debate.

"It's like you're playing a bowl game right out of the gate," Boise State Coach Chris Petersen said this week. "And you know that's always scary."

Oregon at Boise State is more than a game between prolific offenses from the Pacific 10 and Western Athletic conferences.

This is a political battle, with the school from another so-called "mid-major" league getting the chance to bounce a worthy power-conference program.

It's an important game for poll position, bowl access and bragging rights. This game could even come up in discussion at a future Senate hearing.

It's a big weekend for the WAC too. Commissioner Karl Benson will attend tonight's game, then travel to South Bend to see if Nevada can take down another BCS icon: Notre Dame.

"These are opportunities to demonstrate just where those teams are," Benson said.

Oregon versus Boise State is about a lot of things, including revenge. Last year, Boise State shocked the Ducks in Eugene, 37-32. Oregon starting quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, who would develop into a star by year's end, left last year's game with a 6-0 lead after he was knocked unconscious from a late hit by a Boise defender.

First-year Coach Chip Kelly is trying to downplay the payback angle.

"There's no talk from our team," Kelly said. "We lost to Boise State last year. They came in here and beat us. That's the bottom line. We don't make any excuses."

Both schools have high expectations. Oregon is coming off a 10-3 season in which it averaged 54 points in its last three wins and finished No. 10 in the final Associated Press poll.

Boise State finished 12-0 in the regular season with a No. 9 ranking in the BCS standings. That would have earned the Broncos a major bowl berth had Utah not earned the automatic bid by finishing No. 6.

Boise State then lost to Texas Christian, 17-16, in the Poinsettia Bowl, and finished No. 11 in the final AP poll.

A glance at other key, first-weekend games:

Nevada at Notre Dame

Saturday, 12:30 p.m., Channel 4

If Charlie Weis wants to keep coaching in South Bend, he absolutely needs this opening win on his home field. Nevada, though, led by quarterback Colin Kaepernick, is capable of an upset.

Georgia at Oklahoma State

Saturday, 12:30 p.m., Channel 7

After years of agoraphobia, Georgia is starting to venture outside the South for nonconference games, although we wouldn't necessarily have recommended venturing out this far. Oklahoma State is being talked about as a possible national championship contender. The Cowboys are certainly loaded on offense with the pass-run-catch trio of Zac Robinson, Kendall Hunter and Dez Bryant.

BYU vs. Oklahoma at Arlington, Texas

Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPN

Another great intersectional matchup between non-power and power conference schools. BYU needs the win if it has any ideas of a top-12 BCS finish, while a loss for Oklahoma could dash the Sooners' annual plan to win the national title.

Alabama vs. Virginia Tech at Atlanta

Saturday, 5 p.m., Channel 7

Last year, Alabama routed Clemson in the Georgia Dome, jumped 11 spots in the polls and made a run to No. 1 before losing to Florida in the Southeastern Conference title game. The winner of this game, featuring two of the nation's best defenses, could launch another trip to the top.

-- Chris Dufresne

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