Saturday, October 11, 2003

Major games, major stakes


Contenders can step out of pack in key matchups

Enquirer news services

ATLANTA - When it comes to a blockbuster college football weekend like this, there is no such thing as having too much information. So as a public service, we offer these valuable tidbits.

• The most important matchup of today's Florida State-Miami game won't involve the quarterbacks. If Florida State wins, it will be because linebacker Michael Boulware contains Miami tight end Kellen Winslow.

Winslow, who has billed himself as "The Chosen One," caught six passes for 84 yards in last year's Miami win. Since Florida State last played Sept. 27, Boulware has been studying film and working on his coverage techniques with only one thing in mind - containing Kellen Winslow.

With running back Frank Gore injured, Winslow becomes the focal point of the Miami offense.

As a side story, Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden goes into the game with 337 wins, one behind Penn State's Joe Paterno, whose Nittany Lions are a 12-point underdog today against Purdue.

• Texas (4-1) has a chance against No. 1 Oklahoma (5-0) in Dallas. Here's why: In the past, coach Mack Brown has gotten his troops a little too fired up for the game, kind of the same way Tennessee's Phillip Fulmer used to get the Vols ready for Florida.

Fulmer learned that it's more important to downplay the big rivalry so his players will be more relaxed. Accordingly, Brown and his staff are being a little more low-key this time around. That, and the X-factor of freshman quarterback Vincent Young, could allow the Longhorns to break their three-game losing streak to the Sooners.

• Here's why No. 3 Ohio State (5-0) might be in trouble tonight at Wisconsin. Ohio State's first five opponents have averaged 44.6 passing attempts per game. Wisconsin averages 49.1 rushing attempts per game and is ninth in the nation in rushing yards (222.5 per game).

Granted, the Badgers have not seen a defense like Ohio State's, which is giving up only 43.4 rushing yards per game. But the Badgers should be confident in their running game; only three backs have posted 100-yard rushing games against Ohio State in Jim Tressel's three seasons as coach, and Wisconsin's Anthony Davis has two of them.

• As good as Virginia Tech (5-0) has been the past 10 years, the Hokies are only 5-5 against Syracuse in that span. The Orangemen, 3-1 for the first time since 1999, go to Blacksburg today. Syracuse has upset Virginia Tech in each of the past two seasons (winning 50-42 in three overtimes last season at the Carrier Dome and 22-14 at Lane Stadium in 2001).

The Orangemen beat the Hokies at their own game - special teams. Syracuse blocked a punt to set up a touchdown in last year's game and returned a punt for a score in 2001.

Top 25 games today

No. 1 Oklahoma (5-0) vs. No. 11 Texas (4-1) at Dallas

Time: 3:30 p.m. at Dallas.

Line: Oklahoma by 5 1/2.

Points: Most of the buzz centers on whether Chance Mock or Vince Young will start at quarterback for Texas. Young twisted an ankle in the Kansas State win but says he is 100 percent. Texas WR Roy Williams will do battle downfield with CB Derrick Strait. There are no quarterback issues at Oklahoma, where another solid game from Jason White could put him closer to the top of the Heisman list. No. 2 Miami (Fla.) (5-0) at No. 5 Florida State (5-0)

Time/TV: Noon/Ch. 9, 2.

Line: Florida State by 7.

Points: Not that this red-hot rivalry needs any spice, but the fact it will be an Atlantic Coast Conference game next season will add a little Tabasco sauce. The Seminoles should regain the services of speedy RBs Leon Washington (elbow) and Lorenzo Booker (ankle) to complement the power of Greg Jones. The loss of Miami RB Frank Gore to a season-ending knee injury puts even more burden on QB Brock Berlin. Syracuse (3-1) at No. 4 Virginia Tech (4-0)

Time/TV: Noon/ESPN.

Line: Virginia Tech by 18.

Points: The 50-42 triple-overtime upset of Tech was the highlight of last year's 4-8 campaign for Syracuse. The Hokies haven't forgotten. C Nick Romeo is the anchor of the veteran Orangemen line that paves the way for the potent ground attack led by RB Walter Reyes. Syracuse QB R.J. Anderson has yet to be intercepted this year, something CB DeAngelo Hall hopes to change. Florida (3-3) at No. 6 LSU (5-0)

Time/TV: 3:30 p.m./Ch. 12, 7.

Line: LSU by 10.

Points: Chris Leak will keep the quarterback reins for the Gators. He must be wary of DB Corey Webster as he looks for WR Kelvin Kight. Tigers QB Matt Mauck is the Southeastern Conference's top-rated passer, and WRs Michael Clayton and Devery Henderson are proven deep threats. No. 7 Nebraska (5-0) at Missouri (4-1)

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

Line: Nebraska by 7 1/2.

Points: After being held in check by Kansas, Missouri QB Brad Smith must face the nation's top-ranked defense. He must match speed with LBs Demorrio Williams and Barrett Ruud when he leaves the pocket. Nebraska QB Jammal Lord's passing is improving. The Tigers must concentrate on keeping Lord and I-back Josh Davis from running wild.

Auburn (3-2) at No. 8 Arkansas (4-0)

Time/TV: 12:30 p.m./Ch. 25.

Line: Arkansas by 6.

Points: One of these SEC West contenders will sustain its first league loss. TBs Cedric Cobbs of Arkansas and Carnell Williams of Auburn will be featured, but the game will hinge on the quarterback play of the Razorbacks' Matt Jones and the Tigers' Jason Campbell.

Stanford (2-1) at No. 9 Southern Cal (4-1)

Time/TV: 10 p.m./FSN.

Line: Southern California by 21.

Points: Stanford freshman QB Trent Edwards needs to exploit the Trojans' apparent vulnerability in the defensive backfield. USC QB Matt Leinart played through ankle and knee damage at Arizona State but could be relieved this week by Matt Cassel or Brandon Hance. No. 10 Georgia (4-1) at No. 14 Tennessee (4-1)

Time/TV: 7:45 p.m./ESPN2.

Line: Georgia by 2.

Points: First place in the SEC East is still on the line. Tennessee QB Casey Clausen needs WR James Banks, perhaps the most athletic of his receivers, to make more plays like his "Hail Mary" catch at Florida. Georgia QB David Greene might not have as much speed at his disposal with WRs Fred Gibson and Reggie Brown slowed by troublesome hamstrings. Notre Dame (1-3) at No. 16 Pittsburgh (3-1)

Time/TV: 6 p.m./ESPN.

Line: Pittsburgh by 9 1/2.

Points: QB Brady Quinn is a better fit for coach Tyrone Willingham's scheme, but he is learning under fire against a tough schedule. Irish CB Vontez Duff probably will draw the assignment of covering star WR Larry Fitzgerald, who will have a height advantage of at least 2 inches. No. 18 Northern Illinois (5-0) at Central Michigan (2-3)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Northern Illinois by 17.

Points: Northern Illinois' escape against Ohio proved its trip through the Mid-American Conference won't be easy.

Penn State (2-4) at No. 20 Purdue (4-1)

Time/TV: 3:30 p.m./Ch. 9, 2.

Line: Purdue by 12 1/2.

Points: Purdue WR John Standeford (leg) is questionable, but QB Kyle Orton still has dependable WR Taylor Stubblefield. Penn State's offense is more dynamic with QB Michael Robinson at the controls. WR Tony Johnson must make himself available while avoiding S Stuart Schweigert. Purdue LB Niko Koutivides will introduce himself to RB Austin Scott.

No. 21 Kansas State (4-2) at Oklahoma State (4-1)

Time: 12:30 p.m.

Line: Kansas State by 3.

Points: Both teams seek their first Big 12 win. K-State QB Ell Roberson hopes for better passing numbers. Oklahoma State WR Rashaun Woods needs more touches.

No. 23 Michigan State (5-1) at Illinois (1-5)

Time/TV: Noon/ESPN2.

Line: Michigan State by 4 1/2.

Points: Illini DE Derrick Strong must assert himself against Michigan State QB Jeff Smoker. Smoker's weapons include WR Agim Shabaj and pass-catching RB Jaren Hayes. The MSU secondary has shown occasional lapses, which Illinois QB Jon Beutjer hopes to exploit.

No. 24 Virginia (4-1) at Clemson (3-2)

Time: Noon.

Line: Virginia by 5 1/2.

Points: Virginia is enjoying life with QB Matt Schaub back in action. Up-and-down Clemson seeks consistency.

Rest of the Top 25

No. 12 Washington State, No. 15 Iowa and No. 25 Oregon State are idle.




PREP SPORTS
Elder 28, St. Xavier 7
Princeton 14, Lakota East 7
Conner 29, Dixie Heights 16
Colerain 44, Hamilton 24
Wyoming 40, Deer Park 13
Turpin 54, Goshen 13
Reading 38, Indian Hill 32 (3OT)
Winton Woods 16, Loveland 15
Roundup of Friday's other Ohio games
Roundup of Friday's other Kentucky games
Scores, how poll teams fared
Bacon's Zeller trails by 7 at state
CovCath finishes third in state
Friday's results
Today's schedule

REDS / BASEBALL PLAYOFFS
Allen completes interviews
NLCS: Cubs 5, Marlins 4 (11)
Pedro vs. The Rocket
Damon back in Red Sox lineup today
Boston businessman to purchase Dodgers

BENGALS / NFL
Bengals' Graham landed on his feet
Injured girl's family sues league

COLLEGE FOOTBALL
Guidugli, UC fighting for balance
Bucks braced for big battle
Clarett sues Ohio State, seeks $2.5M in damages
MU offense aims for 40-plus points vs. lowly Buffalo
Soldier trades war nightmares for college football dream
Panthers wary of 1-3 Irish
Michigan's rally stuns Gophers
Major games, major stakes

GOLF
Verplank, Flesch tied for lead at 23-under par

NBA
Bryant case strategy shifts

SOCCER
Americans want a winning ending

MOTOR SPORTS
Kenseth's recent struggles have field gaining ground

ON THE AIR
This weekend's sports on TV, radio