I speak of Interstate-10. The season's three most important contests all take place within three miles of I-10, beginning with Ohio State at USC (1.7 miles south of I-10), followed by Georgia at LSU (1.4 miles south) and then Georgia versus Florida at Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville (3 miles east).
In short, from L.A. to La. to Fla.
Of course, every season brings unforeseen upstarts (Mangino!) and upsets (Pittsburgh over West Virginia) that undermine lists like this one. But, seen through the prism of May (the month, that is, not Mark), here are my I-10 Top Ten games for 2008 — the 10 games that will have the greatest impact on determining the two teams that will play in the BCS Championship Jan. 8 in Miami.
Brigham Young at Washington
You're laughing. Why are you laughing? The Cougars, currently riding the nation's longest win streak (10 games), have finished 11-2 the past two seasons. Quarterback Max Hall was the Mountain West Conference Player of the Year in 2007 and 243-pound tailback Harvey Unga the MWC Frosh of the Year — and both were first-year starters.
The offensive line, by the way, averages 6'6", 330 pounds.
So why do I have this game on my list as opposed to the Sept. 13 vengeance fest versus UCLA (the Bruins and Cougars played twice last season, splitting the series)? Because that one is in Provo, where BYU has won 12 straight.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
The Huskies, meanwhile, beat Boise State and figuratively-ranked-No. 1-for-two-hours Cal in Seattle last autumn, while also coming up just a field goal shy against USC (the Huskies also led 28-7 at Hawaii before losing). Sophomore quarterback Jake Locker is a stud.
If the Cougars beat U-Dub and UCLA on consecutive weekends, it's all downhill for Bronco Mendenhall's team.
Ohio State at USC
There won't be a game with two better teams all season, not even the BCS title game … unless these two stage an encore. Pete Carroll may have his best defense yet, with All-American-worthy talent at defensive end (Everson Griffen and Kyle Moore), linebacker (Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing), and safety (Kevin Ellison and Taylor Mays).
Troy's second-teamers at the offensive skill positions (QB Mitch Mustain, tailback Joe McKnight and wideouts David Ausberry and Damian Williams), you'd have a top-five group nationally. The only thing that can stop USC, besides another Brennan Carroll YouTube clip, may be the Buckeyes.
Ohio State returns nine starters on both sides of the line of scrimmage, and no one of great consequence on offense was lost. Senior Linebacker James Laurinaitis has already won the Nagurski and Butkus awards, and if he makes an impact play in a Buckeye win here, will receive some Heisman mentions.
The past three national champions have had one thing in common: they beat Ohio State. Carroll and the Trojans aim to push that streak to four.
Virginia Tech at Nebraska
Last September, when Bo Pellini was the curator of national champion LSU's defense, the Tigers destroyed Virginia Tech 48-7. This September Pellini, now the head coach of a Cornhusker team that finished 114th in scoring defense in 2007, will have his work cut out for him.
The Huskers are at least a couple of seasons away from being a BCS threat, but with no real challenges in-conference (Is the ACC the worst of the BCS conferences?), they and their Red Sea throng pose the greatest threat to Frank Beamer's BCS hopes.
Ohio State at Wisconsin
Brett Bielema is 14-0 at Camp Randall Stadium ("Jump Around!"), but the Badgers' third-year coach still has yet to earn a win versus a top 10 foe. The Buckeye visit is the meat in a Michigan-Ohio State-Penn State sandwich over the course of three Saturdays. And while Wisconsin returns nine starters both on offense and defense, quarterback Allan Evridge, a Kansas State transfer, is not one of them.
CFT: The University of Nevada is honoring longtime coach Chris Ault, who stepped down in the fall, by renaming the school's football field after him.
CFT: The Detroit Lions are expected to own and operate their own bowl game at Ford Field, starting play in 2014, according to a report by ESPN.
Video: Football from NBC Sports
HBO Real Sports: Bill O'Brien
Penn State football coach and 2012 National Coach of the Year shares the challenges in turning around a program shattered by scandal. Real Sports premieres Tuesday, May 21 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.
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