It's one of the most asked questions by college football fans and media members: Is (insert lagging program name here) "back?" _ as in back to being one of the elite program it once was.

Alabama has been back and forth a bunch over the last decade or so. Notre Dame was back in Charlie Weis' first two seasons, then gone again.

Michigan is already showing signs of being back after a year away. Nebraska has been trying to get back for almost a decade now. Every time the Huskers get close, well, see last week at Virginia Tech.

This week, Blacksburg, Va., is again the site of a possible "they're back" game as No. 9 Miami faces No. 11 Virginia Tech.

The Hurricanes (2-0) have already beaten two teams (Florida State and Georgia Tech) ranked in the preseason and cracked the top 10 of the AP poll for the first time since 2005.

If they move to 3-0 against the Hokies on the road, the 'Canes will grab hold of the Atlantic Coast Conference's Coastal Division race and talk of a national title run will ramp up heading into next week' home game against Oklahoma.

The Hurricanes, with five national championships since 1983, went 19-19 the past three seasons.

But Randy Shannon has stocked up on blue-chip recruits in his first two years as coach and that talent has produced the first two games of this season. Jacory Harris is the third-ranked passer in the country and a defense that allowed more than 400 yards rushing to Georgia Tech's option offense last season held the Yellow Jackets under 100 last week.

Miami might not be "back" yet, but it certainly looks as if its on the way.

The picks:

Thursday

No. 4 Mississippi (minus 3) at South Carolina

Rebels have lost last five SEC openers ... OLE MISS 30-21.

Saturday, Sept. 26

No. 1 Florida (minus 21) at Kentucky

Swine flu bigger concern than Wildcats for Gators ... FLORIDA 38-14.

UTEP (plus 36) at No. 2 Texas

Mack Brown is 17-0 vs. nonconference teams from Texas ... TEXAS 55-14.

Arkansas (plus 17) at No. 3 Alabama

Razorbacks have brutal schedule, defense ... ALABAMA 38-17.

Iowa (plus 9 1/2) at No. 5 Penn State

Struggling Hawkeyes O against banged-up Nittany Lions D ... PENN STATE 21-14.

No. 6 California (minus 5 1/2) at Oregon

Bears have owned Ducks lately, winning four of five ... CALIFORNIA 34-30.

No. 7 LSU (minus 13) at Mississippi State

Tigers have won nine straight against Bulldogs ... LSU 35-10.

No. 8 Boise State (minus 17) at Bowling Green

Broncos best be wary of upstart Falcons ... BOWLING GREEN 38-30.

No. 9 Miami (minus 2 1/2) at No. 11 Virginia Tech

Yes, the Hurricanes are back ... MIAMI 24-17.

Washington State (plus 45 1/2) at No. 12 Southern California

Trojans beat Cougars 69-0 last year, but Wazzu is improved ... USC 50-10.

Illinois (plus 14) at No. 13 Ohio State

Juice Williams and Illini beat No. 1 Buckeyes at Shoe in '07 ... OHIO STATE 38-17.

Fresno State (plus 16 1/2) at No. 14 Cincinnati

Bearcats catching up to Buckeyes ... CINCINNATI 45-24.

No. 15 TCU (plus 2 1/2) at Clemson

TCU's turn to be MWC's best chance to bust BCS ... TCU 28-21.

Grambling State (no line) at No. 16 Oklahoma State

Tigers are defending SWAC champs ... OKLAHOMA STATE 60-14.

Texas Tech (plus 1) at No. 17 Houston

How about first QB to 500 yards wins? ... HOUSTON 48-42.

South Florida (plus 14 1/2) at No. 18 Florida State

Can Bulls survive without injured QB Matt Grothe? ... FLORIDA STATE 31-14.

Colorado State (plus 16) at No. 19 BYU

Rams a Mountain West dark horse ... BYU 35-27.

Southern Mississippi (plus 13 1/2) at No. 20 Kansas

Golden Eagles always up for tough road trip ... KANSAS 41-21.

Arizona State (plus 11 1/2) at No. 21 Georgia

Bulldogs found an offense, but what's up with D? ... GEORGIA 35-27.

No. 22 North Carolina (plus 2 1/2) at Georgia Tech

Yellow Jackets could find themselves in big ACC hole ... NORTH CAROLINA 28-24.

Indiana (plus 21) at No. 23 Michigan

Hoosiers are undefeated, too ... MICHIGAN 42-17.

No. 24 Washington (plus 7) at Stanford

Huskies still underdogs? Doggone right ... STANFORD 24-14.

Louisiana-Lafayette (plus 27 1/2) at No. 25 Nebraska

Cornhuskers are back ... to pounding patsies ... NEBRASKA 49-14.

___

Last week: 20-2 (straight); 13-6-1 (vs. points).

Season: 56-8 (straight); 28-25-2 (vs. points).