Just three weeks into a new season, and already one of those Showdown Saturdays is upon us.
And who says seasons -- and national championship aspirations -- can't hit that make or break point in September?
Take a look at what this weekend brings: Seven matchups between ranked and unbeaten teams, including a couple of dandies that would look damn good in the BCS title game on Jan. 8.
It truly doesn't get much better than this, especially with six of 'em available on TV locally if you own a digital package of some sort.
And don't we need this, after the latest "Game of the Century" -- No. 1 Ohio State at No. 2 Texas -- turned into quite the dud, thanks to the Buckeyes' dominance.
Let's just say Jim Tressel's crew got a serious leg up on snaring one of the big game's two berths, though Iowa and Michigan could have a lot to say about that before we're done.
Showdown Saturday should also go a long way toward helping us to separate contenders from pretenders (hello Nebraska?), while embellishing the resumes of some of the true championship hopefuls.
All that being said, let's dispense with the preamble now and expend our words on what really matters: The big games themselves.
Week 3 selections (odds supplied by Sportsbook.com):
GAMES OF THE WEEK
No. 6 LSU (+3) at No. 3 Auburn (Saturday, 3:30 p.m., CBS) -- For the first time since 1972, this battle of Tigers involves two Top 10 teams. LSU's defence hasn't allowed a touchdown in 14 quarters going back to last year, but Kenny Irons and Co. are a whole different story. Home team has won last six in this series. Until now ... PICK: LSU.
No. 11 Michigan (+61/2) at No. 2 Notre Dame (Saturday, 3:30 p.m., NBC) -- Wolverines haven't looked imposing, but RB Michael Hart has the goods to give the Irish defence fits. Notre Dame offence finally sprang to life against Penn State a week ago in a major way. History isn't on the side of Michigan, which has lost last six road openers and hasn't won in South Bend since 1994. PICK: Notre Dame.
NEXT BEST THINGS
No. 7 Florida (-31/2) at No. 13 Tennessee (Saturday, 8 p.m., CBS) -- Gators are 9-4 in last 13 against Vols, and QB Chris Leak hasn't looked this good in quite some time. But Tennessee pivot Erik Ainge's play has been an early season revelation for rejuvenated Volunteers. Still, we like the visitors by a field goal. PICK: Tennessee.
No. 19 Nebraska (+181/2) at No. 4 USC (Saturday, 8 p.m., ABC) -- Okay, Huskers, so you beat up on poor Louisiana Tech and Nicholls State. Now comes the real deal against the Trojans, who have won 33 straight regular-season games. Make it 34, by a bunch. PICK: USC.
No. 17 Miami (Fla.) (+4) at No. 12 Louisville (Saturday, 3:30 p.m., ABC regional) -- Cardinals lead nation in scoring (60.5 ppg), but now they face a real defence. Here's where the season-ending injury to RB Michael Bush could hurt, as Hurricanes own a stud secondary. Louisville is 0-9-1 all time vs. 'Canes, but wins a tight one here. PICK: Miami.
No. 15 Oklahoma (+41/2) at No. 18 Oregon (Saturday, 3:30 p.m., ABC regional) -- Sooners are 6-0 all-time vs. Ducks, but none of those games were played in the Autzen zoo. While Oklahoma RB Adrian Peterson is a Heisman candidate, Oregon soph RB Jonathon Stewart is no slouch. Ducks in a tight one. PICK: Oklahoma.
No. 24 Texas Tech (-2) at No. 20 TCU (Saturday, 3:30 p.m.) -- Horned Frogs own nation's longest winning streak (12) and can make a real BCS statement at home against Red Raiders, who barely survived a trip to UTEP last week. PICK: TCU.
(STRAIGHT-UP SELECTIONS IN BOLD)
No. 5 West Virginia (-17) over Maryland
No. 1 Ohio State (-291/2) over Cincinnati
Rice (+311/2) over No. 8 Texas
Clemson (+41/2) over No. 9 Florida State
UAB (+17) over No. 10 Georgia
No. 14 Virginia Tech (-35) over Duke
Iowa State (+31/2) over No. 16 Iowa
No. 21 California (NL) over Portland State
No. 22 Arizona State (-101/2) over Colorado
BYU (+61/2) over No. 23 Boston College
No. 25 Penn State (NL) over Youngstown State
Last week -- 22-0 straight up; 14-7-1 ATS.
Season record -- 43-2 straight up; 28-16-1 ATS.
Best bet -- Oklahoma (2-0).