College Football Corner: Joe Pa in Bear Country

How great is this? Nittany Lions at Crimson Tide; 'Canes at Buckeyes.
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NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Here's why Boise State is a legitimate national title contender. They always win. Did anyone really think they weren't going to come back Monday night and beat Virginia Tech, or TCU in the Fiesta Bowl last January to go 14-0?

So if you win all your games and start out at No. 3, you have a pretty good chance of winning the whole thing.

What will happen to the college football world if Boise beat Alabama or Ohio State for the national championship? Anyway, that's a long way off, and Boise did give up quite a few points Monday.

>>Against the Spread: NFL Picks, Week 1

But before anyone wonders if they could beat the big boys, think back to that Oklahoma game a few years ago with the trick plays and the end zone marriage proposal and that will answer your question.

We have a few humdingers this week. There's No. 18 Penn State at No. 1. Alabama (shouldn't Bear Bryant be on the sidelines if Joe Pa is?); No. 12 Miami at No. 2 Ohio State; Michigan at Notre Dame (does this game this early each year ever presage what these two teams have?); No. 17 Florida at No. 10 Oklahoma (doesn't it feel like the 'Noles are back?), and even a Sunshine State showdown with South Florida at No. 8 Florida.

Isn't it refreshing to see heavyweights going at each other early in the season? Penn State-Alabama, Miami-Ohio State -- those are championship-caliber games (and they actually were in the past).

(

Note: We'll use the AP rankings until the BCS ratings come out midseason. The College Football Corner is happy to be back, by the way. Sorry we missed the opening week, but we are a financial news site after all.

)

And away we go!

No. 18 Penn State (1-0) at No. 1 Alabama (1-0) 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)

: Penn State Coach Joe Paterno, who will turn 84 in December, has plenty of reasons to be nostalgic, but he's not one to live in the past.

"I'll talk about my relationship with Paul

Bear Bryant sometime this spring, OK?" Paterno replied to a question at his weekly press conference, referring to the legendary late Alabama coach. "Right now it's Penn State vs. Alabama. We've got a bunch of kids who, a year from now they stick my picture up and say, 'Who would wear a funny hat like that these days?' I think it's two football teams playing, and I don't think they care about Coach Paterno, and a guy by the name of Bryant who used to coach their team. I think right now Alabama is the defending national champions, and I think they want to repeat, and we want to get to be a better football team than we've been so far.

Penn State Coach Joe Paterno

"I think the point you start with is the fact that it's going to be a big hostile crowd," Paterno said. "Again, that's part of it. That's why you come to places like Penn State because you have opportunities to play in games like this. That doesn't mean a miracle's going to happen. We come home and we'll be better having played the game and we'll go on from there."

This is a tough one for the boys in blue and white from the Big Ten, but Penn State has had a knack of beating SEC teams recently, handling LSU in the Capital One Bowl last season and Tennessee in the Outback Bowl in 2006. But Alabama is so big and fast and tough, and Penn State will send a freshman quarterback out there. That said, the freshman Robert Bolden passed for 239 yards and two TDs in Linebacker U.'s 44-14 opening victory over Youngstown State.

Alabama likely will be withouth Heisman Trophy-winning running back Mark Ingram, who is nursing a knee injury. Redshirt frosh Eddie Lacy stepped up last week for the Crimson Tide, rushing for 111 yards and two TDs. The Tide also has one of the best receivers in the country in Julio Jones, who caught six passes for 93 yards and a TD in the opening 48-3 win over San Jose State.

Corner's choice: Alabama 24, Penn State 13

No. 12 Miami (1-0) at No. 2 Ohio State (1-0) 3:40 p.m. (ESPN)

: Here's a rematch from the 2002 season, when the Buckeyes won the BCS national championship in the Fiesta Bowl in double overtime, 31-24. A disputed pass interference call against the 'Canes kept OSU alive. This week's game has the feel of those glory days in the '80s when the 'Canes would bring their take-no-prisoners approach up to South Bend for that heated rivalry with Notre Dame. Miami has gradually fought its way back to national prominence and looked flat-out fierce in a 45-0 dismantling of Florida A&M last week. Miami recorded eight sacks in the game, 3.5 by Olivier Vernon, a 6'4", 250-pound sophomore. Freshman running back Lamar Miller was named ACC rookie of the week for his 122 all-purpose yards. UM QB Jacory Harris completed 12 of 15 passes for 210 yards and three TDs.

Miami quarterback Jacory Harris

The Buckeyes are their usual clockwork selves -- massive and punishing on the front lines and led offensively by a now-veteran Terrelle Pryor at quarterback. The Scarlet and Gray displayed a balanced attack in a 45-7 whomping of Marshall. Pryor threw for 247 yards (17-25, three TDs); Dane Sanzenbacher caught three of those passes -- for 113 yards and a TD. Running back Brandon Saine, a 6-1, 219-pound senior from Piqua, Ohio, rushed for 103 yards on only nine carries.

Even though Miami looked exceptionally fast on defense, it will be a tall order for them to go into the Horseshoe in Columbus and pull this one out. That doesn't mean this game doesn't have the makings of a classic. Expect some last-minute thrills.

Corner's choice: Ohio State 27, Miami 24

Michigan (1-0) at Notre Dame (1-0), 3:30 p.m. EDT (NBC)

After an easy victory over UConn in the season opener, the 2010 iteration of the

Michigan Wolverines

can be summed up by a single name: Robinson. Already the Michiganders, perhaps a little desperate for heroes among the ruins of their industry, are talking Heisman. Sophomore quarterback Denard Robinson, who once bore the nickname Shoelaces for his refusal to wear them, now wears them, throwing off idiosyncracy in favor of convention. Judged as the fastest man on the Wolverines roster, he has displaced Tate Forcier (now a grumbling third-stringer reportedly on the verge of transfer) as the chosen savior of both Rich Rodriguez as well as the institution of Michigan Football.

Denard Robinson, Michigan

Robinson raced for nearly 200 yards (not to mention a 19-for-22 completion rate) against Connecticut's defenders, who did not contain and whose angles of pursuit were specious. (The Corner knows this because the Corner reviewed the Mich-UConn game tape. We also came to another insight: Michigan's offensive strategy appears to be to line up in the Wildcat formation on every snap.)

Therein lies the challenge for

Notre Dame's

rebuilt 3-4 defense when the two teams square off in South Bend for the 38th time -- which, to the Corner, is sort of shockingly few. To shut Robinson down (enough to win the game, at least), the Irish must contain with discipline and pursue with cunning. It won't be easy. The duty of spelling and punishing dual-threat quarterbacks falls to Notre Dame's linebacking corps, a group of players who, though talented on paper, have yet to perform to the level of their billing. And that includes the Hawaiian islander super-recruit, Manti Te'o.

Notre Dame has, on offense, jettisoned the pro set along with Charlie Weis in favor of Brian Kelly and his own personal, malleable version of the spread. The Irish victory over Purdue featured stout defense but inconsistent offense, leavened with a rebooted running game that looked strong enough (178 yards, 4.2 per carry) to give Irish fans, punch drunk after 13 years of mostly embarrassing football, something to hold on to.

The first-year junior signal-caller, Dayne Crist, threw fickly in the opener, his team squandering several drives into the red zone on errant passes to open receivers. At other times, weird QB-keepers were easily stomped by the Boilers. On still another occasion, blown blocking assignments led to an easy TFL of Irish tailback Armando Allen Jr. in N.D.'s own endzone: safety. Crist and his mates will need to tighten up such loose play if they aim to score enough to defeat Robinson's Michigan, whose secondary is considered the weakest point of a less-than-great defense.

Once again, as with every meeting between these two teams for what seems like the last decade, the weight of destiny appears to ride on the game, both programs looking to resurrect themselves after prolonged periods of gross play. (

If only we could be like Boise State

, both schools seem to be thinking.) Playing at home underneath the mosaic of Touchdown Jesus, in a contest pretty well evenly matched according to a different sort of prophet in Las Vegas (N.D. is now a 4-point favorite), the Irish, we believe, will make the first move to rise from the sickbed.

Corner's Choice: Notre Dame 28, Michigan 23

-- Scott Eden

No. 17 Florida State (1-0) at No. 10 Oklahoma (1-0), 3:30 p.m. ET ( ABC)

: The Seminoles are travelling to Norman, which means they're entering the den of the nation's longest active home winning streak at31 games. Daunting? Yes. But there were many startling aspects about the Sooners' bedraggled 31-24 win over

Utah State

that have given the OU fans heartburn this past week. En route to the Aggies'421 yards of total offense, the Sooner D allowed quarterback Diondre Borel to look like a Heisman candidate, connecting on 17 for 36, which resulted in 341 yards passing and two touchdowns. If not for an interception in the last five minutes of play, OU would have been doomed to its second-straight opening game stumble after losing to

BYU

14-13 in 2009.

Christian Ponder, Florida State

Sure, many will say Seminole quarterback Christian Ponder will be readying his arm for a passing free-for-all on Saturday, particularly after dicing up

Samford

in their opening game (scrimmage?) forfour touchdowns.

So, will FSU score points? Probably.

The real crux of the match-up, then, will come down to how well the Seminole defense can contain OU's offense. On that front, it's anyone's guess. But if you're going to have an offensive playmaker, OU running back DeMarco Murray is a decent choice, even if he's their

only

offensive playmaker who can make plays on his own. His 208 yards rushing and two touchdowns nearly single-handedly kept the Sooners out of the loss column last week. And the cure for an ailing defense is a gashing running game that can keep an opposing offense on the sideline, particularly with Murray motoring at a 6.2 yard per carry clip.

Yet, if anyone is going to stop a Bob Stoops offense, it might as well be his brother Mark, who's in his first year as defensive coordinator at FSU and will be facing off against his brother for the first time. It's an intriguing story line, and many analysts may want to believe that Mark knows some secrets about Bob that could give him an edge. But let's not kid ourselves. You don't earn the nation's longest active home winning streak, then allow your little brother to take it from you, especially when your last name is Stoops.

Corner's choice: Oklahoma 35, Florida State 31.

-- Sung Moss