A BCS bid could be on the line when UCF meets No. 8 Louisville on Friday night.
The winner of the nationally-televised ESPN game will have the inside track to the American Athletic Conference championship and a coveted spot in one of college football's elite bowl games.
The Cardinals (6-0, 2-0) have their sights set on an undefeated season and possible national championship, though their schedule hasn't been as challenging as that of UCF (4-1, 1-0) who defeated Penn State on the road and suffered a narrow defeat to South Carolina.
The game could also be a personal one: Louisville has 39 players from Florida, many of whom were high school teammates with UCF players.
Elsewhere in the American, Houston, quietly off to a 5-0 start, gets their first real test of the season as BYU (4-2) pays a visit to the Lone Star State. The Cougars of the UH variety haven't exactly played the most difficult schedule with Southern, Temple, Rice, UTSA and Memphis. The Cougars of BYU have solid wins this season against Texas and Georgia Tech.
Here's a look at every game involving the American, future league members East Carolina, Tulane, Tulsa and Navy, plus UCF's non-conference opponents (Akron, FIU, Penn State, South Carolina).
Lines are for entertainment purposes only, picks are head-to-head.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 18
8:00 p.m., ESPN
THE BUZZ: Though there's still plenty of football remaining, this could turn out to be an early version of the American championship game. UCF looks to be the biggest challenger standing in Louisville's way in their quest for a repeat of the league championship and an undefeated season. The winner of the game has what amounts to a two-game lead in the standings by virtue of the tiebreaker. If Louisville wins, they'll have a leg up on both Rutgers and UCF. If UCF wins, the Knights would be in great shape with four of their six remaining league games at home.
THE LINE: Louisville by 11.5
THE PICK: UCF
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 19
12 noon, American Game of the Week (WKCF CW18 in Orlando)
THE BUZZ: A former C-USA matchup is renewed in the American. Memphis leads the series 3-2, but SMU won the last two in 2011 and 2012 by a combined score of 86-13. The Mustangs have yet to win a FBS game after losing a triple-overtime game to Rutgers two weeks ago. Memphis played another tough game in a 25-15 loss at Houston, but settled for too many field goals (five) and couldn't score touchdowns.
THE LINE: Memphis by 3.5
THE PICK: SMU
12 noon, ESPNU
THE BUZZ: USF spoiled the debut of UConn interim coach T.J. Weist as the Huskies lost at home last week, 13-10. The former offensive coordinator and WR coach replaced Paul Pasqualoni, who was fired after the 0-4 start. New UConn starting QB Tim Boyle passed for a dismal 15-of-43 for 149 yards. Cincinnati stomped Temple 38-20 last Friday in a nationally televised ESPN game. The Bearcats rank sixth nationally in total defense giving up a stingy 271.8 yards per game.
THE LINE: Cincinnati by 14.5
THE PICK: Cincinnati
12 noon, ESPN
THE BUZZ: Steve Spurrier let loose with a classic zinger after South Carolina throttled Arkansas last week, 52-7. "I do feel badly for Arkansas," Spurrier said. "That's no fun getting your butt beat at home, homecoming and all that." Tennessee almost upset Georgia a couple weeks ago, losing 34-31 in overtime. If the Vols can pull an upset for a fourth win, they could have a shot at a bowl seeing they end the year with Vanderbilt and Kentucky.
THE LINE: South Carolina by 7.5
THE PICK: South Carolina
Akron (1-6, 0-3 MAC) at Miami Ohio (0-6, 0-2 MAC)
12 noon, ESPN3
THE BUZZ: Is this the week Terry Bowden gets his first FBS win at Akron? The Zips had one win in 2012 and one this year, but both were against FCS competition. They haven't won a FBS game since 2010 or a road game since 2008. This could be their week as Miami is a dismal 0-6 and even lost to UMass (who had been winless). Akron did put up a pretty good fight last week before ultimately falling to No. 23 Northern Illinois, 27-20.
THE LINE: Akron by 7.5
THE PICK: Akron
12 noon, Fox Sports Net
THE BUZZ: UCF coach George O'Leary likes to say, "It's a short drop from the penthouse to the outhouse." That aptly describes Southern Miss, who ended 2011 with a 12-2 record and C-USA Championship. Larry Fedora bolted for UNC after that season, and they've since lost 17 consecutive games, including a 24-23 loss two weeks ago to lowly FIU. Last week, future American member East Carolina lost a 36-33 overtime decision to fellow future American member Tulane.
THE LINE: East Carolina by 21
THE PICK: East Carolina
12 noon, ESPNews
THE BUZZ: Navy lost a 35-7 game at Duke last week. "That's one of the worst days that Navy football's had in a long, long time," coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "We got our butts whipped all the way around. We got outcoached, we got outplayed. It's been a long time since we got beat that bad."
THE LINE: Toledo by 7
THE PICK: Toledo
1:00 p.m., ESPN3
THE BUZZ: Temple is the only team with three league games and they've lost every one of them (Houston, Louisville and last week vs. Cincinnati). They step out of conference to take on Army, a team they beat last season 63-32. Temple has struggled on both sides of the ball. They've used three quarterbacks and three kickers this season, and the defense has given up a league-worst 510.8 yards per game. Army beat Eastern Michigan last week, 50-25. The Black Knights lead the nation in rushing offense with 352.3 yards per game. It's a big game for Army's bowl chances. If they win, they'd need to win 2 of their last 4 (at Air Force, WKU, at Hawaii, Navy) to grab their guaranteed spot in San Diego's Poinsettia Bowl.
THE LINE: Temple by 2.5
THE PICK: Army
3:30 p.m., ESPNews
THE BUZZ: Cougars vs. Cougars. How good is Houston? They're the undefeated team nobody is talking about, but that's largely in part to a weak schedule that has included Southern, Temple, Rice, UTSA and Memphis. UH ranks 27th nationally in total offense with 476.6 yards per game. BYU began the season with a slip-up against a bad Virginia team, but have beaten Texas and most recently, Georgia Tech. BYU, thanks to QB Taysom Hill and RB Jamaal Williams, rank 13th nationally in rushing offense with 262.8 yards per game. Both teams made a name for themselves with high-scoring passing-based offenses in the 1980s and early 1990s with Andre Ware and David Kingler (Houston) and Jim McMahon and Ty Detmer (BYU), but this will be the first ever meeting.
THE LINE: BYU by 9.5
THE PICK: BYU
Bye weeks: FIU (1-5, 1-1 C-USA), Penn State (4-2, 1-1 Big Ten), Tulane (5-2, 3-0 C-USA), Tulsa (2-4, 1-1 C-USA).