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PREVIOUS SPORTS
• Sideline: Yes, Non–Conference Games DO Count
• NCAA Preview 2009
• Sideline: Time For The Talking To Stop
• Sideline: In Memory of Air McNair
• Sideline: Will Goodell Hand Out Hard Time?
• Sideline: Marshall's Not Joshing
• NFL Draft: No Rush To Judgment
• NFL Draft Analysis 2009 (Part 2)
• Sideline: NFL Draft Thoughts (Part 2)
• Sideline: NFL Draft Thoughts
• Sideline: Will Play For Food
• Sideline: Wonderlic Scores
• Sideline: Manning and Sanchez
• Sideline: 2010 Leagues Sci–fi, or Fantasy? / March Madness
• Sideline: Break Out The Brackets
• Sideline: LaDainian Tomlinson On The Record
• Sideline: The Incredible Sulk Continues
• Sideline: Guildford Heat Fired Up
• Sideline: Super Bowl thoughts from the Valley of the Sun
• Sideline: I know I came in here for something
• Sideline: College Football National Signing Day
• Sideline: 27 Points — 27 Super Bowl thoughts
• Sideline: An Epic QB Matchup?
• Sideline: Appreciating Arizona for What They Were
• Sideline: NFL Divisional Weekend Preview
• Sideline: Bowl Season Hangover
• Sideline: Six weeks Later
• Sideline: Wildcard Weekend Preview
• Sideline: Santa's Sackings
• Sideline: A Weis Decision ...for Now
• Sideline: Eye on the Ticker
• Sideline: Lions — An Anagram of Losin
• Sideline: Ready for the Turkey
• Sideline: Making it to the Big Dance
• Sideline: Brighter Days Ahead for Chargers?
• Sideline: Unnecessary Hits To The Pocket / Upset: BYU
• Sideline: Romo's Pause / Seattle Seahawks
• Sideline: Weekend Prep: Red River and More
• Sideline: College Football's 'Crossroads' Weekend
• Sideline: Gramatical Error
• Sideline: Turning The Page
• Sideline: So Cal 'Quizzed
• Sideline: 3rd Tuesday Panic / Forté Yard Dash
• Sideline: Two and Oh; Oh and Two
• Sideline: No More NCAAffeine
• Sideline: Week 1 College Football
• Sideline: How To Spell Heisman / Chad Ocho Cinco
• Sideline: A Second Slice
• Sideline: The Favre story STILL won't go away
• Sideline: Olympic Notes / Ricky's Still Relevant
• Sideline: Committee Meetings
• Sideline: Let the QB Battles Begin
• Sideline: Slinging The Slinger — More Favre
• Interview: Clint Dempsey
• Sideline: Welcome to the 2008 season
• Sideline: Plus One
• 2008 NFL Draft Review
• Sideline: Draft: The Morning After
• Sideline: Draft: Thinking the Unthinkable
• Sideline: Draft: Ready For The Long Haul
• Sideline: Sofa–bound Sport
• Sideline: Post–Winter Wonderland
• Sideline: Six Impossible Things
• Sideline: Brady's Misdirection Play
• Sideline: Colorful Language
• Sideline: Let the Romo–bashing begin
• Sideline: Bowl Bites: The Wrap
• Sideline: All About The Coaches
• Sideline: Bowl Bites 3
• Sideline: Bowl Bites 2
• Sideline: Bowl Bites 1
• Sideline: Coach Situations Vacant
• Sideline: For Some, The Playoffs Are Now
• Sideline: A Certain Lack Of Welcome
• Sideline: Unrelated Notes
• Sideline: Two Thanksgiving thoughts
• Sideline: Halftime: NFC
• Sideline: Halftime: AFC
• Sideline: London / A Tale of Two Chads / Intimidation
• Sideline: Damp Squib / Other London Notes
• Sideline: Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em / Dolphins – The Aftermath
• Sideline: The Dolphins Did What?
• Sideline: Notes on the Defenses
• Sideline: Habits to be Broken
• Sideline: Overtime
• Sideline: This Week's Starters
• Sideline: USF: Covering The Spread / Fantastic Football
• Sideline: Grossman: The Final Act? / McNabb, the Epilogue
• Sideline: Eagles QB in Slight Controversy
• Sideline: Leftwich's Parting Gift / Boos cruise
• Sideline: Notre Dame M.I.A.
• Sideline: Looking Beyond NFL Wk. 1
• Sideline: Best Hope For Heisman
• Sideline: Coaching Hot Seats / AP Poll Feeling ’Appy
• Sideline: The NFL’s Prime Cuts
• Sideline: Michigan Falls to Killer Apps
• Sideline: Look Out Couch / The Taint's On You, Bud
SPORTS

SIDELINE
Observations, Opinion & Occasional Silliness by Richard L Gale

College Football's 'Crossroads' Weekend
October 9, 2008

There are rivalry weekends and there are showdown weekends. With two battles of Big 12 unbeatens (Texas v Oklahoma and Oklahoma State v Missouri), and an SEC headliner (LSU v Florida), this weekend could easily qualify in either category, but beyond the big–game hype there's enough second–tier intrigue to declare it a 'crossroads' weekend.

A crossroads weekend is when a bunch of teams make the choice whether they're going to be a contender or not, a bowl team or not. Relevant or not. Not everybody can be in the national spotlight, not every team can be a big noise in a big division. This is a reality check weekend, when the upstarts get slapped down, when odds–defying teams cause their last upset before they cease to be considered underdogs.

Ignoring the fact that Vanderbilt's having a season to celebrate, and that every Notre Dame game is a test of their progress, here's 10 other games that'll keep the sports ticker interesting while you're watching the big games:

1. Michigan State at Northwestern
Northwestern are unbeaten, but it is Michigan State that are the ranked team here despite a loss. Such is the also–ran reputation of Northwestern. If the Wildcats can find a way to limit Spartans runner Javon Ringer — averaging 200 yards over the past three games — a leap into the top 25 would seem assured. More likely Michigan State goes jumbo on the Wildcats and smacks some reality into their record.

2. Penn State at Wisconsin
After Ohio State fell to USC, it was supposed to be Wisconsin that took up the mantle as Big Ten front–runners. Instead, the Badgers leaked points against Michigan, and find themselves looking up at unbeaten Penn State, with a mere 3–2 record. Wisconsin desperately need to upset the odds or they'll be 0–3 in the conference and on a three–game losing streak with Illinois and Michigan State still on the slate.

3. Minnesota at Illinois
Still in the Big Ten, and Illinois are in a similar situation to Wisconsin, with a 3–2 start. But this match–up is actually a crossroads game for their opponents. The Golden Gophers' 5–1 record may take a beating from here on, and finding a sixth win to be bowl eligible could be a struggle — even Purdue, their only remaining opponent with a losing record, is a road game. A winning record will require upending a favorite, such as here. That would be a major upset.

4. New Mexico at BYU
Trap game alert? Well, this shouldn't test lossless BYU, but one week before facing TCU, Brigham Young could be caught looking ahead to next Thursday. Last time they met, the Lobos lost by one score having coughed the ball up twice in the fourth quarter. Of course, BYU's defense is playing tougher than ever, surrendering only 14 points in the last three games combined, so turnovers could be the Lobos' undoing again.

5. Nebraska at Texas Tech
Unbeaten Big 12 teams will be thinner on the ground because of results elsewhere, but there's no upset alert on this game. The Red Raiders' explosive offense faces a Nebraska defense that gave up 460 yards and 52 points last week. What Huskers coach Bo Pelini needs to prove in this game is that last week was an aberration and that Nebraska is moving in the right direction. A repeat performance — or worse — could bury confidence for the season.

6. Arizona State at USC
Instead of QBs Mark Sanchez and Rudy Carpenter, it could be Mitch Mustain v Danny Sullivan, but other injuries could factor in, as Arizona State tries to get some rushing going against a Trojans defense that may again miss LB Rey Maualuga. Instead of a meeting of unbeaten Pac–10 contenders, both teams have already lost one game in conference play, and the season heads South for the loser. For USC, it's a win, or goodbye to national hopes.

7. Tennessee at Georgia
Another early pick clinging to the idea of muddling back up is Georgia, who've had to relive the loss to Alabama for two weeks. It doesn't help that a year ago Tennessee beat Georgia 35–14. The Trojans this week suspended two offensive linemen, including one prominent back–up — and the line has been a disappointment in any case. Tennessee (2–3) is clearly having a forgettable year. An upset here would do the same for the preseason no.1 Bulldogs (4–1).

8. East Carolina at Virginia
Like most BCS–busters gone awry, East Carolina vanished from sight when mortality showed. At 3–2, the Pirates now need to ensure they don't fall back to mediocrity, but it is Virginia that are the head–scratcher. They were blown out spectacularly by USC, 52–7, and lost big to both UConn and Duke. Yet, in their two wins, they shut out their opponents, including a 31–0 trouncing of Maryland last week. For both teams, this is a 'Which way now?' game.

9. Washington State at Oregon State
So who are you, Oregon State? You destroy Hawaii, upset USC, and come within a couple of minutes of defeating unbeaten Utah. But you lost to Stanford. If the Beavers are as good as the last three games suggests, they should roll against Washington State, who are surrendering 240 yards a game on the ground and may not have an answer for Oregon State RB Jacquizz Rodgers. They look a whole lot better than 2–3, but they have to prove it.

10. Clemson at Wake Forest
And the crossroad weekend starts tonight. A year ago, the Tigers destroyed Wake 44–10, but after starting the season as ACC favorites, Clemson are 3–2, and Wake are the ranked team. Still, Wake is only 1–0 in the conference, Clemson still has only one conference loss, and Clemson's D might be a lot better than Wake's O. The Atlantic division may be free of national implications, but there's still time for Clemson to turn around their season regionally.

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