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The eyes of college football will center on the state of Florida this week

Just when you thought the state of Florida was out of the news, think again. The eyes of the college football world will be centered on the Sunshine State this weekend when two key games with national championship implications will be played in W’s younger brother’s state.

Depending on what poll you go by, the state is currently home to two top-ranked teams in No. 1-ranked Miami (in the AP poll) and No. 1-ranked Florida (in the ESPN But before we delve into those two titanic tussles, let’s look at what the high school schedule has to offer in Week 2.

LaPorte at Aldine: Another stern test for Bill Smith’s Mustangs. Aldine opened the season against a talented Madison team and things don’t get much easier this weekend when the Bulldogs come calling at Thorne Stadium. These games are usually tight contests and this year’s edition should be more of the same. Give the edge to the home standing Mustangs in this one. My pick, Aldine 20, LaPorte 18.

MacArthur at Klein Oak: This should be another competitive contest as Terry Forga’s Generals make their first road trip of the season. A year ago, the Generals fell to Klein Oak, so revenge will be on their mind when they visit Klein Stadium this weekend. With only one non-district game left before the rigors of the District 21-5A schedule begin, you can bet MacArthur will be looking to build momentum for its league season. My pick, MacArthur 24, Klein Oak 14

Elsik at Eisenhower: When these two teams meet, as they have for almost a decade, you can bet there will be plenty of hard hits and not much offense and that should be the norm again this year. Both teams take great pride in their defenses, so look for another low scoring affair this weekend. Ike can’t afford to get caught looking past the Rams and ahead to No. 3-ranked Lufkin, which pays a visit to Thorne Stadium next Friday night. It says here Richard Carson’s troops won’t get caught looking ahead. My pick, Eisenhower 23, Elsik 10

Nimitz at Westfield: This should be a high-scoring affair, so fans should enjoy this one. The Cougars will be playing their second straight road game when they visit Spring Stadium this weekend. Both teams qualified for the playoffs a year ago and each would like to make a return visit. Look for plenty of points in this one, but the edge goes to Nimitz because of the better all-around defense. My pick, Nimitz 31, Westfield 25

Now it’s time to check out the college schedule, where the majority of the attention will center around the two Florida teams mentioned earlier.

Tennessee at Florida: These two teams simply don’t like another (do you know of any team that likes Florida?) and year-after-year the winner of this game usually takes top honors in the SEC’s Eastern Division. The same should hold true again this year. The Vols have had their troubles in The Swamp and things won’t get any easier this Saturday when they go up against a Florida team that is loaded on both sides of the ball. Expect the Gators’ speedy defense to harass Tennessee QB Casey Clausen all night, while the Florida offense mixes things up behind the arm of sophomore quarterback Burt Grossman. This would be a good time for the Gators to make a statement to voters throughout the country. My pick, Florida 34, Tennessee 20

Washington at Miami: A year ago, the Huskies handed the Hurricanes their only loss, so you had better believe that Miami will be out for blood when the defending Pac 10 champions pay a visit to the Orange Bowl this Saturday. If you saw the number Miami did on Penn State (at Penn State) then you had to come away impressed. The ‘Canes are loaded and are hungry for a national title. Another impressive win over a Top 20 program will make it hard for voters to bypass them this time around. Look for Miami to put on a show (on both sides of the ball) this Saturday. My pick, Miami 33, Washington 14.

Notre Dame at Purdue: Another tough road game for the Irish. ND fans had better hope they have enough healthy bodies to put on the field after their game with Nebraska a week earlier. Actually, the 2001 Irish team is Bob Davie’s most talented in the five years he’s been at the helm of the ND ship, but no matter how much talent there is in South Bend, the Boilermakers always seem to play them tough and this year will be no exception. Purdue may be without quarterback Drew Brees, but head coach Joe Tiller has built one of the Big 10’s most solid programs and you can bet the fans in West Lafayette, IN want nothing more than to defeat Notre Dame for the third time in the last four years. If ND is serious about a BCS bowl, they’d better learn how to win on the road and with a date with Michigan State and a trip to College Station looming in their next two games, they’d better not stub their toe this weekend. My pick, Notre Dame 23, Purdue 18

Georgia Tech at Florida State: Is this the year Georgia Tech finally beats Florida State? Maybe, but don’t count on it. There’s an old adage that bookies use (no, I don’t have any firsthand experience, my better half controls the purse strings) which goes, “never bet on a streak to end.” Well, the Seminoles owned the Yellowjackets (and just about everybody else in the nation) during the 90s, so don’t expect Georgia Tech to waltz into FSU’s house and push them around. Tech does have a capable team. They have one of the nation’s top quarterbacks in George Godsey, a solid running game and stingy defense, but they are taking on one of the top three programs in the nation and a program that has lost two ACC games in the entire history of the league! Think about that. This will be a tight game, but look for FSU’s team speed to be the difference in this one. My pick, Florida State 31, Georgia Tech 28

Now let’s look at the NFL schedule, where the spotlight will be on Baltimore on Monday night when the high-scoring Vikings come calling.

Denver at Indianapolis: If you like high-scoring games, this could be right up your alley. Denver and Indianapolis possess numerous offensive weapons, and neither team has a defense that should be confused with Baltimore’s or Tennessee’s, which means the scoreboard could overload by the time this one’s over. Both teams have quarterbacks that can get the ball down the field, running backs that can score from anywhere on the field, receivers that can stretch the defense and kickers who have 60-yard range. Add that all up and you’re looking at a game that could produce the most points between two teams in a number of years. Even though the Colts are at home, I’m giving the nod to Denver because it’s defense is a bit better, but not by much. This should be a great game to watch. Let’s hope the powers-that-be have enough sense to televise it in Houston (are you listening Channel 11?). My pick, Denver 45, Indianapolis 41

Philadelphia at Tampa Bay: While Denver and Indy will be running up and down the field, the ason. The Eagles think they are a Super Bowl-caliber team, as do the Bucs. Philly has the edge on offense because quarterback Donovan McNabb can run, which is a big plus against a defense of TB’s caliber. McNabb may be running for his life before this one is over. Look for the field goal kickers to have a big day in this one. My pick, Tampa Bay 13, Philadelphia 12

Dallas at Detroit: Quincy Carter and his playmates make their first road trip of the year, but it won’t be all fun and games. Over the years, the Cowboys have had a tough go of it in the Motor City, and this year should be no exception. Dallas will be bruised and battered after its opener against Tampa Bay, and having to play on the road the following week isn’t much to look forward to. Look for the Lions to control the clock with running back James Stewart. Stewart’s running will open up things for quarterback Charlie Batch and the Lions’ new West Coast offense. On defense, Detroit will pressure Carter into a few costly mistakes. Cowboy fans, it’s going to be a long, long year. Thanks, Jerry! My pick, Detroit 24, Dallas 12

Minnesota at Baltimore: Do you think the Baltimore faithful will be pumped (and juiced) up for this one? It’s been more than 30 years since the bright lights of Monday Night Football has descended on Baltimore and what a game the boys in the booth have to call this coming Monday night. Minnesota’s high-octane offense, led by quarterback Daunte Culpepper and wide receiver Randy Moss, will receive a severe early-season test against the Ravens’ defense, which last year ranked as one of the all-time best in the history of the league. The Ravens returned 10 of 11 starters from that unit this year, and you had better believe that Ray Lewis and his mates will want to put on a show for the rest of the country to see. Still, with Culpepper’s and Moss’ big-play ability, the Baltimore defense will have to be on its toes all night long. The Vikings may not score at will as they do with other teams, but if they are patient and pick their spots, they could spring two or three big plays that might make the difference in this one. I still like the Ravens because of the home field and the fact that their offense, while not in the Vikings’ league, has enough weapons to get the job done. My pick, Baltimore 23, Minnesota 21.