Saturday, September 27, 2003

Top 25 games today



Enquirer news services

No. 3 Southern Cal (3-0) at California (2-3)

Time/TV: 6:30 p.m./FSN.

Line: Southern Cal by 13 1/2.

Points: Southern California, the highest-ranked team in action this week, begins its quest for the outright Pacific 10 crown. The object of attention for USC's stifling defense this time will be WR Geoff McArthur, who can expect to see S Jason Leach doubling him often. Cal QB Aaron Rodgers must spread the ball around and hope RB Adimchinobe Echemandu can make some headway. USC has a star receiver in Mike Williams.

Extra point: California, not nearby UCLA, is Southern California's most frequent rival with 90 prior encounters. The Trojans lead the series 56-29-5 and have won the last two.

Connecticut (3-1) at No. 5 Va. Tech (3-0)

Time: Noon.

Line: Virginia Tech by 21.

Points: UConn begins Big East play next season, as Tech leaves for the Atlantic Coast Conference.

No. 6 Florida State (4-0) at Duke (2-2)

Time: 7 p.m.

Line: Florida State by 29.

Points: FSU should handle the Blue Devils easily.

No. 7 LSU (4-0) at Mississippi State (0-3)

Time/TV: 9 p.m./ESPN2.

Line: LSU by 13 1/2.

Points: After a draining win against Georgia, the Tigers must take care of business against the Bulldogs. QB Matt Mauck and WR Michael Clayton immediately will attack the MSU pass defense, which ranks last in I-A. WR Justin Jenkins has been a bright spot for the Bulldogs, but QB Kevin Fant was picked off five times last week against Houston.

Extra point: This is the fifth-longest series in the Southeastern Conference, dating to 1896. LSU won the first meeting 52-0.

South Carolina (3-1) at No. 8 Tennessee (3-0)

Time/TV: 7:45 p.m./ESPN.

Line: Tennessee by 16.

Points: Tennessee must maintain its focus following its successful invasion of the "Swamp." South Carolina has never beaten the Vols in 11 tries at Knoxville, and Tennessee OT Michael Munoz and his fellow blockers will want to eliminate any doubts by setting the tone immediately for RBs Cedric Houston and Jabari Davis. LB Marcus Lawrence is South Carolina's top run-stopper. South Carolina's offense has been sporadic.

Extra point: South Carolina coach Lou Holtz is 1-5 against Tennessee. His only win was a 34-29 decision in 1990 while at Notre Dame.

No. 9 Iowa (4-0) at Michigan State (3-1)

Time: Noon.

Line: Iowa by 7.

Points: The Hawkeyes begin defense of their Big Ten co-championship. The Spartans hope to build on their win at Notre Dame.

Indiana (1-3) at No. 10 Michigan (3-1)

Time/TV: Noon/Ch. 12.

Line: Michigan by 33 1/2.

Points: The Hoosiers are in for a long day.

Tulane (3-1) at No. 13 Texas (2-1)

Time/TV: 7 p.m./TBS.

Line: Texas by 29 1/2.

Points: Texas used last week's bounce-back game at Rice to hone its running attack. Expect another big outing from RB Cedric Benson as Texas aims to keep Tulane's talented backfield off the field. Tulane gives up more than 200 rushing yards a game.

Extra point: Tulane's only win in 18 tries against Texas came in 1908. The Longhorns have shut out the Green Wave in each of their last four encounters.

No. 14 Arkansas (3-0) at Alabama (2-2)

Time/TV: 3:30 p.m./Ch. 12, 7.

Line: Arkansas by 1.

Points: A Southeastern Conference road win would confirm the Hogs' place as the leading challengers to LSU in the West Division. They'll get it if RB Cedric Cobbs maintains his torrid pace. Alabama will dispatch LBs Derrick Pope and DeMeco Ryans to contain Cobbs. QB Matt Jones must answer with enough well-placed throws. The Crimson Tide's newly installed offense still isn't firing on all cylinders, but getting RB Shaud Williams more touches should be a priority.

Extra point: Since joining the SEC in 1992, Arkansas has a 3-2 series edge in games played in Tuscaloosa.

No. 21 Washington St. (3-1) at No. 15 Oregon (4-0)

Time: 3:30 p.m.

Line: Oregon by 4.

Points: Oregon welcomes another ranked club to Autzen Stadium, this time with Pac-10 positioning on the line. The Ducks' offense is still thriving with QBs Kellen Clemens and Jason Fife alternating. Somewhat overshadowed has been the emergence of RB Terrence Whitehead as the primary ground threat.

Extra point: Oregon leads this hotly contested series 37-36-7.

No. 17 TCU (3-0) at Arizona (1-3)

Time: 9 p.m.

Line: TCU by 14 1/2.

Points: The Horned Frogs keep winning despite numerous injuries in the backfield. The latest, RB Lonta Hobbs (ankle), remains questionable.

Stanford (2-0) at No. 18 Washington (2-1)

Time: 3:30 p.m.

Line: Washington by 13.

Points: The Huskies have home turf in the Pac-10 opener.

No. 19 Pittsburgh (2-1) at Texas A&M (2-1)

Time: 3:30 p.m.

Line: Pitt by 1.

Points: Optimistic Pittsburgh fans will look at this as an opportunity to regain credibility on the road. But Texas A&M undoubtedly studied the defensive breakdowns that undid Pittsburgh last week. A&M's scheme doesn't resemble Toledo's spread, but QB Reggie McNeal's speed could have the same effect of creating passing lanes. Pittsburgh QB Rod Rutherford has the nation's top passer rating, helped by WR Larry Fitzgerald. The Aggies are third nationally in pass defense.

Extra point: A&M's 14-12 win at Pittsburgh last year evened the series at 1-1.

No. 20 Minnesota (4-0) at Penn State (2-2)

Time/TV: Noon/ESPN.

Line: Minnesota by 2.

Points: This road trip should go a long way toward answering the question of whether Minnesota's soft non-league slate was sufficient preparation for the Big Ten. RB Marion Barber already has 10 rushing TDs, but QB Asad Abdul-Khaliq will need to dig deeper into his bag of tricks against LB Gino Capone and the Nittany Lions. Extra point: The Big Ten rotation hasn't brought these teams together since 2000. Penn State leads the series 4-2, but Minnesota has won the last two.

Iowa State (2-1) at No. 22 Northern Illinois (3-0)

Time: 4 p.m.

Line: Northern Illinois by 6 1/2.

Points: The Huskies must return to earth quickly after their historic victory at Alabama.

No. 23 Missouri (4-0) at Kansas (3-1)

Time: 12:30 p.m.

Line: Missouri by 10.

Points: Two flashy quarterbacks - Missouri's Brad Smith and Kansas' Bill Whittemore - and struggling defenses could make for a high-scoring affair in this Big 12 North clash.

Extra point: This second-most-played rivalry in Division I-A is a 51-51-9 dead heat. Neither team has a winning streak longer than five games in the series.

No. 24 Arizona State (2-1) at Oregon State (3-1)

Time/TV: 10 p.m./Fox Sports.

Line: Oregon State by 6.

Points: A trip to Corvallis might not be the best medicine for Arizona State after having its offense shut down at Iowa.

Extra point: Oregon State last beat Arizona State in 1993, 30-14 in Corvallis.

Rest of the Top 25

No. 11 Nebraska defeated Southern Miss on Thursday. No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 2 Miami, No. 12 Georgia and No. 16 Kansas State are idle.




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