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Six Game to Watch

November 22, 2002|Robyn Norwood

NO. 7 USC (8-2)

at NO. 25 UCLA (7-3)

Kickoff: 12:30 p.m.

TV: Channel 7.

Line: USC by 5 1/2.

USC update: This has some of the markings of one of those rivalry upset games. But one Trojan quality that seems to have disappeared under Coach Pete Carroll is haughty overconfidence.

UCLA update: This was the most humiliating defeat for the Bruins last season, a 27-0 loss by a team that packed its bags early. Don't expect another such performance from the new, younger version. But just how UCLA's freshman quarterbacks will handle the overwhelming atmosphere remains to be seen.

Story line: Forget the bowl implications -- It's USC-UCLA, and that's plenty.

The pick: USC. Too much experience, too much balance.

*

NO. 12 MICHIGAN (9-2)

at NO. 2 OHIO STATE (12-0)

Kickoff: 9 a.m.

TV: Channel 7.

Line: Ohio State by 4.

Michigan update: No need for the Wolverines to spend too much time hoping for Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett to sit out because of his nagging shoulder injury. "I'm too smart to expect that he won't [play]," Coach Lloyd Carr said.

Ohio State update: After close calls against Purdue and Illinois, it's hard to see the Buckeyes as one of the two best teams in the country. Whether Michigan's mastery over Ohio State in big games can continue is another question.

Story line: All Ohio State has to do to play for the national championship is beat Michigan.

The pick: Ohio State. On the theory the Buckeyes have already dodged their bullets.

*

WASHINGTON (6-5)

at NO. 3 WASHINGTON STATE (9-1)

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m.

TV: Fox Sports Net.

Line: Washington State by 8.

Washington update: The inclination to write off the Huskies evaporated last week with their 42-14 victory over Oregon. Washington is the underdog in the Apple Cup again, but last season the Huskies upset No. 9 Washington State, 26-14.

Washington State update: It's simple: Win Saturday, and Washington State clinches a Rose Bowl berth with an outside shot at Fiesta Bowl.

Story line: Washington State, which went 67 years between Rose Bowl appearances, can clinch its second in five years with a victory.

The pick: Washington State. But even if the Cougars lose, they can clinch a trip to the Rose Bowl by beating UCLA on Dec. 7 in the final game of the regular season.

*

NO. 24 TEXAS TECH (8-4)

at NO. 4 OKLAHOMA (9-1)

Kickoff: 4 p.m.

TV: TBS.

Line: Oklahoma by 13.

Texas Tech update: Kliff Kingsbury threw for an astounding 473 yards and six touchdowns in Texas Tech's 42-38 upset of Texas last week. One more upset would give the Red Raiders the Big 12 South title after sneaking into the race.

Oklahoma update: One thing to consider about Kingsbury against the Sooner defense: Oklahoma held him to a season-low 234 yards passing in a 30-13 victory last season.

Story line: Crystal clear: The winner goes to the Big 12 title game against Colorado.

The pick: Oklahoma. The Sooner defense, ranked fourth in the nation, should be enough to do a number on Kingsbury again and send Oklahoma to the Big 12 championship game.

*

AUBURN (7-4)

at NO. 9 ALABAMA (9-2)

Kickoff: 12:30 p.m.

TV: Channel 2.

Line: Alabama by 10 1/2.

Auburn update: Auburn lost last year's Iron Bowl, 31-7, and trails the series against Alabama, 38-27-1. The Tigers will be going against the national leaders in defense, with Alabama giving up only 244.3 yards a game, 84.1 on the ground. Auburn has rushed for at least 100 yards every game this season.

Alabama update: The Crimson Tide clinched the best record in the SEC West, but Alabama isn't eligible for the SEC title game or a bowl game because of NCAA probation.

Story line: With probation in effect, there's nothing left for Alabama to do this season but beat Auburn.

The pick: Alabama. This is the Crimson Tide's bowl game.

*

NO. 14 FLORIDA STATE (8-3)

at N.C. STATE (9-3)

Kickoff: 12:30 p.m.

TV: ESPN GamePlan.

Line: Florida State by 5 1/2.

Florida State update: The Seminoles, written off early and later revived, can clinch the ACC title and an automatic spot in one of the BCS bowl games with a victory over N.C. State or a Maryland loss.

N.C. State update: The Wolfpack is reeling with three consecutive losses after a 9-0 start. With 46 passing yards, quarterback Philip Rivers will become the third quarterback in ACC history to throw for 3,000 yards twice.

Story line: Florida State, surprisingly, is one step from taking its place at a BCS bowl game.

The pick: Florida State. After three losses in a row, N.C. State looks cooked.

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