National title picture could change today … Or stay exactly the same

Boise State Broncos quarterback Kellen Moore (11) (R) fakes a handoff in their NCAA football game against the Virginia Tech Hokies in Landover, Maryland, September 6, 2010.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

By the end of the day today, we could have a whole new look at the national title picture. Then again, you could say that any week in college football.

This time, however, there’s actually a chance that things could get jumbled up. The top team in the country, Alabama, is facing by far its stiffest test of the season as it travels to Fayetteville to take on Ryan Mallett and Arkansas. No. 3 Boise State will play in its second — and probably last — “showcase” game of the year when it plays host to Oregon State.

We know that if Boise State loses, a lot of the debate about who deserves what will go away, at least until we have to sort through a handful of one-loss teams at the end of the season (but we’ll save that for later). If the Tide lose and the Broncos win, is Boise all of the sudden in the driver’s seat for a spot in the title game? Probably not, actually.

It’s a big slate today, so find a spot on the couch by the mid-afternoon games and settle in for some good football.

I was 3-2 last week, as Arizona came through (for itself, not for me) against Iowa, and Notre Dame succumbed to one of the more staggering coaching calls we’ve seen in a while. Staggering in a good way, that is. Let’s see if I can’t improve upon that mark.

No. 1 Alabama at No. 10 Arkansas, 3:30 p.m.: The top-ranked Crimson Tide have been dominant early on in the season, including in a win against a ranked Penn State team. But one thing the Nittany Lions, Duke and San Jose State didn’t do is test an inexperienced secondary. Penn State didn’t because it was starting a true freshman his first time away from home, and the others didn’t because they’re San Jose State and Duke. Mallett will test that secondary, however, and he’ll do it often. But what will win this game today for Alabama is not its defense, which has been so powerful under Nick Saban, but its offense. Arkansas won’t be able to stop the Tide on the ground, and Greg McElroy will look less like a game manager and more like a Mallett. Pick: Alabama 31-27.

No. 16 Stanford at Notre Dame, 3:30 p.m.: It’s been nothing but heartbreak for Notre Dame the past two weekends. First, Dayne Crist goes down for nearly all of the first half before rallying the Irish against Michigan, only to see Denard Robinson lead one final drive for a Wolverine win. Then Mark Dantonio makes the call of his career, with a fake field goal in overtime to push the Irish to 1-2. Stanford likely won’t need dramatics in this one. The Cardinal haven’t exactly played the toughest schedule to date, but they’re the best defensive team, and most balanced offensive team the Irish have seen yet. One good thing for Brian Kelly and Irish fans to hold onto: Lou Holtz was the last Notre Dame coach to start his first season 1-3. Granted, that came with losses to two top 10 teams, but I’m just trying to help out. Pick: Stanford 38-35.

No. 12 South Carolina at No. 17 Auburn, 7:45 p.m.: I probably shouldn’t admit this on the Internet, because the last thing I want is for “man crush” to be in one of the first Google results my name would bring up, but two of my man crushes are playing in this one, which is going to make it kind of hard to decide on a winner. South Carolina freshman Marcus Lattimore is showing why he was so highly touted coming out of high school, and Auburn quarterback Cam Newton is showing glimpses of why people are so excited about his future. The key in this one is that Auburn is coming off a tough overtime win against Clemson, and now has to turn around and try and tackle Lattimore for 60 minutes, which isn’t an easy task the week after a spa treatment. Pick: South Carolina 21-17.

No. 24 Oregon State at No. 3 Boise State, 8 p.m.: One would think that Boise State’s task of blowing out everyone it plays all season long would take its toll. It hasn’t in the past, however, and with this being perhaps the best Broncos team we’ve ever seen, I don’t expect that to start now. That’s not to say Oregon State doesn’t have a chance to end the title talk, though. The Beavers have been completely written off in this game, which is always an easier place to be. With the Rodgers brothers in the lineup, the Beavers should never be completely written off. That being said, I’m writing them off tonight. Pick: Boise State 33-20.

No. 22 West Virginia at No. 15 LSU, 9 p.m.: When Boise State starts to pull away, go ahead and switch over to this one. There’s nothing quite like a night game in Baton Rouge, and I’d expect it to be rocking tonight. The Tigers may not be the most impressive offensive team in the country, and may not have the most reliable coach in the land, but they might have the best player, Patrick Peterson. West Virginia can neutralize him by kicking away in special teams, or relying on its run game, but in order to do that second thing, it will have to get ahead early on. That’s a tough thing to do, and maintain, in that environment. Pick: LSU 24-20.

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