The 2012 college football season is nearing its midway point, and the first official BCS standings will be released on Sunday.
We've seen a lot of surprises and disappointments already, and this weekend is sure to have some more signature moments.
With that in mind, here are the most intriguing matchups on the Week 7 slate.
Thursday, October 11
Arizona State at Colorado: While this may not be a great Thursday night Pac-12 clash, I'm interested to see how the Sun Devils perform in the national spotlight because they have a chance to compete for a South division title this fall. While difficult contests loom, including back-to-back road tests against Oregon State and USC as well as a game against Oregon, the only loss for Todd Graham's squad has been a four-point defeat at Missouri. With a tough schedule remaining, accumulating as many wins as possible is crucial for a talented team that is primed to continue to surprise this fall.
Saturday, October 13
ICONLandry Jones has played very well the last few meetings with Texas.
Texas vs. Oklahoma (in Dallas): Just how good are both of these teams? We'll find out a little more about each squad when the two meet in the annual Red River Shootout in Dallas. The Sooners are hoping to sneak back into the BCS national championship race after falling at home to Kansas State earlier this season, while the Longhorns are looking to put behind a home loss to West Virginia last week. Oft-criticized OU quarterback Landry Jones has a 137.2 passer rating in his last two games against Texas, completing 61.8 percent of his passes for 603 yards and 5 touchdowns against no interceptions as OU won both meetings. But Longhorns quarterback David Ash has grown up a lot since last year's disastrous loss to the Sooners.
Iowa at Michigan State: The Big Ten has taken a beating nationally because of a rough nonconference slate and the fact that Nebraska and Michigan State have already suffered league losses, while Michigan was embarassed by Alabama and Notre Dame. But the Spartans have a chance to get back into the Legends division race and hand the Hawkeyes their first league loss. Can Andrew Maxwell and Co. build on the momentum from last week's second half against Indiana?
Stanford at Notre Dame: With Cardinal head coach David Shaw announcing Tuesday that wide receiver Ty Montgomery is doubtful against Notre Dame, will Josh Nunes and the Stanford offense be able to move the football against the Fighting Irish? If Stepfan Taylor has trouble on the ground against ND's front seven, the Irish secondary will know that most of the passes will be thrown to tight ends Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo. That duo will be a tough matchup for ND, but this Cardinal offense won't have any threat on the outside at receiver without Montgomery.
Oregon State at BYU: With Sean Mannion likely out two to four weeks after suffering a slight tear of the meniscus, junior Cody Vaz will likely take over the starting job in Corvallis. He hasn't played since his freshman year of 2010, when he completed just six of his 17 attempts for 48 yards. Meanwhile, the Cougars defense is allowing a meager 8.8 points per game, good for third in the nation. Will OSU suffer its first defeat this week in a tough environment?
USC at Washington: The Huskies have already defeated Stanford, but they were blown out against LSU and Oregon on the road. They'll get the Trojans at home, however, and Steve Sarkisian has had good success against his former school, winning twice in three tries. Meanwhile, 'SC will look to continue to claw its way back up the national rankings and perhaps into the national title race.
South Carolina at LSU: How will the Gamecocks fare in the hostile nighttime environment of Baton Rouge? We saw Steve Spurrier's best team yet in Columbia take care of business in a big way last week at home in its SEC East showdown with Georgia, but the Bayou Bengals will be salty coming off of their loss to Florida at The Swamp. The big question for Les Miles and Co. is whether the offense can put together a potent attack against a tenacious Gamecocks defense. Will quarterback Zach Mettenberger get any help from his top playmakers?
Tennessee at Mississippi State: Derek Dooley will be looking to avoid going 0-3 in SEC play and prevent his coaching seat from becoming scorching hot. The Volunteers had a week off to recover from their shootout loss at Georgia, but Dan Mullen's team will be a tough test because of its balanced offense and a defense that is allowing just 13.4 points per game.
Texas A&M at Louisiana Tech: This is a rescheduled matchup from the season's opening Thursday. Now that we know that Kevin Sumlin's offense can work in the SEC, the Bulldogs know that they will have to contain a potent Aggies attack led by Johnny Manziel. Meanwhile, Sonny Dykes has an offense that has put up points against Illinois and Virginia. However, A&M will be a step up in class.
Email email@example.com or follow me on Twitter at Miller_Dave