Smith, defense make Buckeyes the team to beat

Kirk Herbstreit explains why this weekend, with its seven matchups of ranked teams, will be the most important of the entire college football season.

Updated: September 13, 2006, 5:08 PM ET
By Kirk Herbstreit | Special to ESPN.com
This weekend arguably is the best on the schedule as far as matchups go and, after Saturday, the college football picture will be much clearer in terms of who is going to be able to compete for the national title. On Saturday, there are seven games pairing two ranked teams.

Before looking ahead, we have to look back at the game between Ohio State and Texas. I left Austin, Texas, with the impression that the team to beat for the national title is Ohio State for two reasons:

1. The way the Buckeyes defense played on the road for such an anticipated matchup by breaking in nine new starters. The OSU D really flew around and played with a great deal of passion, especially considering that the defense has not played a lot as a group. These guys contained Texas' wide receivers and talented running backs; also, they rotated about two dozen players on defense in the game. This defense is playing with chip on its shoulder and is tired of hearing that it might be the weak link on this team.

Troy Smith
Harry Cabluck/AP PhotoTroy Smith has been at his best in the big games for Ohio State.

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Kirk Herbstreit

College Football analyst
Kirk Herbstreit has been an ESPN college football studio analyst since August 1996. Herbstreit, who joined ESPN in September 1995 as a college football sideline analyst for ESPN2, is also a game analyst for ESPN's Thursday night college football telecasts.