- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A burgeoning rivalry hits a peak in the SEC, a new rivalry begins to emerge in the Big Ten and Notre Dame and Miami bring an old rivalry to a new setting.

The college football season’s first huge Saturday is coming, and it’s packed with championship implications.

In the Southeastern Conference, No. 5 Georgia and No. 6 South Carolina meet in a matchup of the last two East Division winners.

“Georgia is our biggest conference rival, though we’re certainly not their biggest,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said Wednesday.

True, Florida and Auburn have a more storied history with Georgia than the Gamecocks, who are in the midst of their best run of success since joining the SEC in 1992.

For the first time in 65 meetings, the Gamecocks and Bulldogs are both ranked in the top 10 when they play.

South Carolina has won two straight in the series, though it wasn’t good enough to win the East last year. The Gamecocks ended up dropping a couple of games to SEC West opponents after beating the Bulldogs in Athens.

This season the schedule favors Georgia again. South Carolina plays at LSU next week, though that home game in November against Arkansas doesn’t look so bad now. The Bulldogs play Auburn and Mississippi out of the West, as Spurrier reminded everyone at SEC media days back in the summer.

The winner gets the inside track to Atlanta and the conference title game.

In the Big Ten, No. 21 Nebraska visits No. 12 Ohio State. It’s the Cornhuskers’ first trip to Columbus as a conference rival. The only other time Nebraska played at Ohio State was 1956. The Buckeyes won that game 34-7.

The two tradition-rich programs didn’t meet again until last season, when Nebraska, in its first Big Ten season, rallied from 21 down to beat Ohio State 34-27 in Lincoln.

This season, the Buckeyes are undefeated, though NCAA sanctions will keep them out of the postseason. They still look primed to have a large say in who does win the Big Ten in Urban Meyer’s first season as coach.

Then there is Miami and No. 9 Notre Dame at Soldier Field in Chicago. The Hurricanes and Fighting Irish haven’t played a regular-season game since 1990. The rivalry got so nasty in the late 1980s, the schools decided to stop playing.

The Sun Bowl revived the matchup a couple years ago and Notre Dame beat a Miami team that had its coach fired weeks before, 33-17.

The Irish are unbeaten and a couple of victories away from starting to have real national championship hopes. Miami is loaded with inexperienced players, especially on defense, but the `Canes also have enough skill on offense to provide a good test for the Notre Dame’s tough defense.

The picks:


No. 13 Southern California (minus 14) at Utah

Trojans last game in Salt Lake city was 1917, won 51-0 … USC 35-20.


No. 23 Washington (plus 24) at No. 2 Oregon

Ducks have won eight straight meetings, all by at least 17 points … OREGON 45-17.

No. 3 Florida State (plus 14 1/2) at N.C. State

Wolfpack’s pass defense is next-to-last in ACC … FLORIDA STATE 42-21.


No. 4 LSU (minus 2 1/2) at No. 10 Florida

Shuffled offensive line has been a problem for Tigers … FLORIDA 21-19.

No. 5 Georgia (plus 2 1/2) at No. 6 South Carolina

In 65 meetings, Gamecocks have never won three straight … SOUTH CAROLINA 34-28.

Kansas (plus 24) at No. 7 Kansas State

Coach Bill Snyder is 9-1 at home against Jayhawks … KANSAS STATE 35-14.

No. 8 West Virginia (plus 6 1/2) at No. 11 Texas

Now this is a week Geno Smith can make some real Heisman headway … WEST VIRGINIA 42-38.

No. 9 Notre Dame (minus 13) vs. Miami at Chicago

Rivalry brings back memories; current Canes’ D looks nothing like those from the glory days … NOTRE DAME 31-21.

No. 21 Nebraska (plus 3 1/2) at No. 12 Ohio State

Can Huskers contain Braxton Miller? … OHIO STATE 28-24.

Washington State (plus 15) at No. 14 Oregon State

Who would have guessed Beavers have top passing offense in Pac-12? … OREGON STATE 45-28.


Georgia Tech (plus 10) at No. 15 Clemson

Yellow Jackets have allowed 1,119 yards last two games … CLEMSON 58-28

Iowa State (plus 11 1/2) at No. 15 TCU

Cyclones LB duo of Jake Knott, A.J. Klein one of best in nation … TCU 28-20.

No. 17 Oklahoma (minus 5 1/2) at Texas Tech

Red Raiders No. 1 in total defense; time to see if it’s for real … OKLAHOMA 31-27.

Arizona (plus 9 1/2) at No. 18 Stanford

Wildcats trying to avoid three-game skid after 3-0 start … STANFORD 27-21.

No. 20 Mississippi State (minus 9 1/2) at Kentucky

Wildcats to play two freshman quarterbacks … MISSSISSIPPI STATE 35-14.

Connecticut (plus 8) at No. 22 Rutgers

Home team is 5-1 in series … RUTGERS 21-10.

No. 24 Northwestern (plus 3) at Penn State

Nittany Lions QB Matt McGloin leads Big Ten with 1,217 yards passing … PENN STATE 35-31.

No. 25 UCLA (minus 2 1/2) at California

Bears are another home loss away from being in full downward spiral … UCLA 38-24.


Last week’s record: 15-1 (straight); 12-3 (vs. points)

Season record: 86-15 (straight); 47-39 (vs. points)

Best bets: 1-4.

Upset specials: 2-3.


Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphdursso

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