Judgment day for the Big Ten.
That might sound ominous, but the conference has a chance Saturday to make a statement with three marquee out-of-league games that could resonate with the College Football Playoff selection committee come December.
No. 7 Michigan State faces the stiffest test. The defending Big Ten champions play at No. 3 Oregon, a game that even Commissioner Jim Delany acknowledged has potential to be "disproportionately important" for the perception of the conference.
"I don't downplay the game, it takes on an added dimension," Delany told SI.com earlier this week. "I think all the emphasis on these games is merited. They're potential pivot points for the decision-making."
The other pivotal points come in South Bend, Indiana, where Michigan faces No. 16 Notre Dame, and Columbus, Ohio, where No. 8 Ohio State hosts Virginia Tech.
No. 7 Michigan State (plus 12½) at No. 3 Oregon
It's not just a big game for Spartans. The Ducks get dinged for not being tough enough against power-based teams (see consecutive losses to Stanford). Statement opportunity for Oregon, too. ... OREGON 31-21.
Virginia Tech (plus 11½) at No. 8 Ohio State
Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer says Virginia Tech's defensive line might be the best Ohio State faces this season. Hokies coach Frank Beamer says it'll take "110 percent" effort to block Ohio State's disruptive front. Whichever offensive line holds up best wins ... OHIO STATE 23-14.
No. 14 Southern California (plus 2½) at No. 13 Stanford
In a conference filled with star quarterbacks, USC's Cody Kessler and Stanford's Kevin Hogan can get overlooked. Cardinal coach David Shaw called them the "Rodney Dangerfields" of the Pac-12's elite QB class ... STANFORD 27-24.
Michigan (plus 5) at No. 16 Notre Dame
It's the last game scheduled between the Wolverines and the Fighting Irish, because Notre Dame needed to clear some room on its schedule to accommodate its new ACC relationship. Surely, those future games against North Carolina State and Wake Forest will be just as exciting ... NOTRE DAME 27-23.
No. 15 Mississippi (minus 20) at Vanderbilt
Commodores' opener under new coach Derrick Mason couldn't have gone much worse (37-7 loss at home to Temple) ... MISSISSIPPI 31-20.