Posted by ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach
It's a slim menu of marquee matchups in college football this weekend, which might be a prelude to the Oct. 10 battles in the SEC.
Here's a look at 10 things to watch around the country this weekend:
1. Which team will win the battle of Michigan?
Michigan was supposed to be rebuilding after last season's 3-9 debacle. Michigan State was a supposed to be a darkhorse contender for a Big Ten title after playing in a New Year's Day bowl game in 2008.
Instead, the teams have reversed roles after four games. The No. 22 Wolverines are 4-0 and back in the national rankings. The Spartans are 1-3 and look like one of the country's most disappointing teams.
Michigan will be trying to avenge last season's 35-21 loss to the Spartans, which ended the Wolverines' six-game winning streak in the intrastate series. Michigan quarterback Tate Forcier should be OK after spraining his right shoulder in last week's 36-33 win over Indiana. He'll face an MSU defense that has allowed a Big Ten-high 10 touchdown passes.
2. Who will win Paul Bunyan's axe?
Minnesota and Wisconsin have largely been overlooked in the Big Ten, but both teams are off to good starts heading into Saturday's game at TCF Bank Stadium (ESPN/ESPN360.com, noon ET). Badgers quarterback Scott Tolzien has been a big surprise, completing 66.7 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns and two interceptions. Wisconsin's offensive line has done a great job protecting him, allowing only two sacks in four games.
The Gophers have a high-powered offense, too. Receiver Eric Decker already has 35 catches for 499 yards with four touchdowns, and has caught at least eight passes in each of the first four games.
Wisconsin has won five games in a row against their border rivals, including a 35-32 victory in 2008. The Gophers blew a 21-7 halftime lead against the Badgers last season.
3. Can Penn State's offense get it going against Illinois?
Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno sure needs more from his team's offense when they play at Illinois on Saturday (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET). Quarterback Daryll Clark has completed 59.7 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns and six interceptions. Tailback Evan Royster has been held to less than 70 yards in three of four games this season.
Illinois' defense might be just what the No. 15 Nittany Lions need. The Illini are giving up 28 points and 386 yards per game, both second-worst in the Big Ten.
4. Can LSU stop Georgia receiver A.J. Green?
Green was one of the country's top freshman receivers last season, and he's well on his way to becoming one of the best playmakers in the country this year.
In only four games, Green has totaled nearly half his production from 13 games in 2008, with 25 catches for 428 yards with four touchdowns. He had eight catches for 153 yards and a touchdown in last week's 20-17 victory over Arizona State, and even blocked the Sun Devils' potential go-ahead field goal late in the fourth quarter.
Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said he believes Green is better than last season, even though he's getting most of the attention from opposing defenses now that former star tailback Knowshon Moreno and receiver Mohamed Massaquoi are playing in the NFL. Richt said Green added about 20 pounds during the offseason, but didn't lose much of his speed or agility.
"I think he's earning every yard he has maybe more than he did a year ago," Richt said.
Green figures to get a stiff test from No. 4 LSU's defense in Saturday's SEC showdown at Sanford Stadium. The Tigers have one of the country's biggest secondaries. Patrick Peterson is a 6-foot-1, 211-pound cornerback, and Chad Jones is a 6-foot-3, 231-pound safety.
"I like big challenges like that," Green said. "It takes my game to a new level."
5. Can Auburn win away from home?
The Tigers are off to a surprising 4-0 start under first-year coach Gene Chizik, but they'll play their first road game at Tennessee on Saturday night (ESPN/ESPN360.com, 7:45 p.m. ET).
Under offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, the Tigers have one of the country's most balanced offenses -- they average 261 rushing yards and 265 passing. Look for the Volunteer defense to try to take away running backs Ben Tate and Onterio McCalebb, forcing quarterback Chris Todd to beat them. Todd has thrown for 1,012 yards with 11 touchdowns, including nine touchdown passes in the last two games.
6. How will Landry Jones perform in his first road start at Miami?
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops decided to go with Landry Jones instead of Sam Bradford, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, for the No. 8 Sooners' game at No. 17 Miami on Saturday night (ABC/ESPN360.com, 8 p.m. ET).
Bradford hasn't played since spraining the AC joint in his right shoulder in Oklahoma's season-opening 14-13 loss to BYU. He visited orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., last week, but
has reportedly thrown the football well in practice.
"Sam has made daily progress, but we don't feel like he's quite where he needs to be yet," Stoops said in a statement. "Our team has a lot of confidence in Landry's ability and we're looking forward to going into
the game with him at quarterback."
Jones will make his third straight start for the Sooners. The redshirt freshman has played well, completing 60.5 percent of his passes for 673 yards with nine touchdowns and three interceptions.
But the road start against the Hurricanes will be the most difficult test Landry has faced this season. How he performs will help determine whether the Sooners stay in the race for the BCS National Championship
7. Which California team will show up against USC?
Will it be the Bears team that looked so good in its first three games, or the team that largely failed to show up for last week's embarrassing 42-3 loss at Oregon? The No. 24 Bears will need a much better effort when they host No. 7 USC at Memorial Stadium on Saturday night (ABC/ESPN360.com, 8 p.m. ET).
Cal had only 77 rushing yards against the Ducks, and USC's vaunted defense is allowing fewer than 60 rushing yards per game. The Trojans rebounded from their 16-13 loss at unranked Washington with a 27-16 win over Washington State. USC has beaten Cal five times in a row.
8. Which team will have the Pac-10 lead on Sunday?
Surprisingly, it won't be Cal, Oregon or USC. Stanford is already 2-0 in Pac-10 play, beating Washington and Washington State. The Cardinal will try to move to 3-0 when it hosts UCLA (ABC/ESPN360.com, 3:30 p.m. ET), which will be playing its league opener.
The Bruins will need a good defensive effort against senior tailback Toby Gerhart, who already has run for 516 yards and five touchdowns. UCLA quarterback Kevin Craft will be making his second start in place of injured Kevin Prince, who has a broken jaw.
9. Which teams will be upset?
Brace yourselves for another weekend of unpredicatable results. Three top-10 teams could be in danger of falling: No. 4 LSU plays at No. 18 Georgia; No. 7 USC plays at No. 24 California and No. 8 Oklahoma plays at No. 17 Miami.
Notre Dame could have its hands full against Washington, and Michigan State might rise up to knock off in-state rival Michigan.
10. Which coaches need victories more than others?
There are a few coaches who could use victories to quiet their critics. Maryland's Ralph Friedgen needs something good to happen against Clemson at home, and Notre Dame's Charlie Weis probably can't afford a loss at home against Washington.
Nevada's Chris Ault is under fire and can't afford a loss to in-state rival UNLV, and UTEP's Mike Price could use a big effort against Houston.