The state of football in Florida will become much clearer Saturday.
Florida, Florida State and Miami each play pivotal conference games against nationally ranked opponents. Last season, for the first time since 1982, no team from the Sunshine State finished ranked among the nation's top five. The Gators, Seminoles and Hurricanes are all back in the top 15, with a chance to show they deserve to be there this week.
The sixth-ranked Gators, with new coach Urban Meyer, open their Southeastern Conference season against No. 5 Tennessee. No. 8 Florida State faces No. 17 Boston College, welcoming the Eagles to the Atlantic Coast Conference. No. 13 Miami is at No. 20 Clemson, where coach Tommy Bowden has the Tigers off to a 2-0 start.
The Volunteers have won three of four against Florida in a series that consistently has gone a long way toward determining the SEC East race since the league split into two divisions in 1992.
The Vols had a week off to prepare for Meyer's spread-option offense, directed by quarterback Chris Leak. The Vols opened the season with a lackluster 17-10 win over UAB, which prompted a switch at quarterback. Senior Rick Clausen gets the start over heralded sophomore Erik Ainge.
Florida State and Miami opened the season against each other on Labor Day with a 10-7 Seminoles' victory that didn't do much for the image of either team.
Florida State's redshirt freshman quarterback, Drew Weatherford, followed up his awful first start against the Hurricanes with a big game in a 62-10 win over The Citadel, as expected. Weatherford passed for 342 yards and two touchdowns against the Bulldogs, but how much will that matter against a solid BC team?
The Hurricanes lost to the Tigers at home in overtime last season and can't afford to dig themselves into an 0-2 hole with Virginia Tech also in the Coastal Division.
Miami's first-year starting quarterback, Kyle Wright, showed some positive signs in the loss to Florida State. Wright was 16-for-28 for 232 yards against the Seminoles, but the 'Canes will likely need far more points against Charlie Whitehurst and the Tigers. The picks:
Arkansas (plus 31) at No. 1 Southern California
Razorbacks lost to Vandy at home! ... USC 50-16.
Rice (plus 41) at No. 2 Texas
Momentum carries Longhorns ... TEXAS 52-8.
Ohio (plus 34) at No. 4 Virginia Tech
Hokies won't let Bobcats hang around like Pitt did ... VIRGINIA TECH 46-10.
No. 5 Tennessee (plus 6) at No. 6 Florida
Welcome to the SEC, Urban ... TENNESSEE 24-21.
Louisiana-Monroe (plus 38) at No. 7 Georgia
Confidence booster for D.J. Shockley ... GEORGIA 44-14.
No. 8 Florida State (minus 1) at No. 17 Boston College
Eagles make themselves comfortable in ACC ... BOSTON COLLEGE 20-16.
San Diego State (plus 27 1/2) at No. 9 Ohio State
Buckeyes brush off Texas disappointment ... OHIO STATE 32-13.
Michigan State (plus 6 1/2) at No. 10 Notre Dame
Spartans have won last four in South Bend ... NOTRE DAME 27-23.
Oregon State (plus 13 1/2) at No. 11 Louisville
Cardinals won't let up in second half this week ... LOUISVILLE 52-24.
No. 12 Purdue (minus 7 1/2) at Arizona
Big Ten could take another hit ... ARIZONA 20-18.
No. 13 Miami (minus 7) at No. 20 Clemson
Bowden family goes for sweep of Hurricanes ... MIAMI 23-17.
Eastern Michigan (plus 29) at No. 14 Michigan
Wolverines are much better against the MAC ... MICHIGAN 48-16.
Illinois (plus 21) at No. 15 California
New QB Joe Ayoob getting hang of Cal's offense. ... CALIFORNIA 44-20.
Connecticut (plus 15) at No. 16 Georgia Tech
Yellow Jackets trying to open 3-0 for first time since 2001 ... GEORGIA TECH 38-21.
Northwestern (plus 15) at No. 18 Arizona State
Wildcats can't keep up with ASU for four quarters ... ARIZONA STATE 40-28.
Sam Houston State (no line) at No. 19 Texas Tech
First of two straight I-AA opponents for Red Raiders ... TEXAS TECH 66-10.
No. 21 Oklahoma (plus 6 1/2) at UCLA
UCLA coach Karl Dorrell needs win like this ... UCLA 28-17.
Northern Iowa (no line) at No. 22 Iowa
Hawkeyes can be careful with injured QB Drew Tate ... IOWA 39-6.
No. 23 Fresno State (plus 2 1/2) at Oregon
No peeking ahead: USC up next for Ducks ... OREGON 36-26.
No. 25 Virginia (minus 7 1/2) at Syracuse
Orange stay close with defense ... VIRGINIA 17-13.
Last week 12-5 (straight); 10-5 (vs. points).
Season 27-10 (straight); 19-14-1 (vs. points).
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