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Six Games to Watch

November 29, 2002

TEXAS A&M (6-5) at NO. 10 TEXAS (9-2)

Kickoff: 9 a.m. today.

TV: Channel 7.

Line: Texas by 13.

Texas A&M update: Aggie players will wear Brandon Fails' No. 89 on their helmets in memory of the freshman defensive lineman who died Monday after collapsing in his dorm.

Texas update: The Longhorns have a chance at a BCS bowl, providing they don't lose. "I don't want to go out like a chump," quarterback Chris Simms said. ''I want to go out like a champ."

Story line: Tragedy has been too common for Texas A&M in recent years, with memories of the 1999 bonfire tragedy still fresh. Today's game will be followed Saturday by the solemnity of a teammate's funeral.

The pick: Texas. Simms has a history of trouble in big games, but should win this one.

*

No. 18 LOUISIANA STATE (8-3) at ARKANSAS (8-3)

Kickoff: 11:30 a.m. today.

TV: Channel 2.

Line: Arkansas by 5.

LSU update: The Tigers have struggled down the stretch, going 2-2. Quarterback Marcus Randall came off the bench last week to bail out the Tigers in a close victory over Mississippi.

Arkansas update: Unranked Arkansas could end up in the Sugar Bowl. All the Razorbacks, who started 3-3, have to do to qualify for an automatic BCS bid is defeat LSU, then beat Georgia in the SEC title game Dec. 7.

Story line: Big stakes: Winner goes to the SEC title game against Georgia and gets a shot at a BCS bowl, mostly likely the Sugar.

The pick: Arkansas. The Razorbacks have won five in a row, and LSU has been going the other direction.

*

No. 1 MIAMI (10-0) at SYRACUSE (4-7)

Kickoff: 10 a.m. Saturday.

TV: Channel 7.

Line: Miami by 20.

Miami update: Only two more steps to the national championship game against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl for the Hurricanes, whose winning streak is 32 games. After Syracuse comes Virginia Tech.

Syracuse update: Keep in mind, the Orangemen beat Virginia Tech, but Miami has won the last three games against Syracuse by a combined 130-13. Syracuse's last victory over Miami was in 1998, 66-13, in the Carrier Dome.

Story line: Only Miami can keep Miami from reaching the Fiesta Bowl now, it seems.

The pick: Miami. The last time the Hurricanes lost to a team with a losing record was 1978, a 20-16 loss to Tulane.

*

No. 7 NOTRE DAME (10-1) at No. 6 USC (9-2)

Kickoff: 5 p.m. Saturday

TV: Channel 7.

Line: USC by 11.

Notre Dame update: The Irish probably can sneak into a BCS game with two losses, but finishing with one loss and a top-six BCS ranking would guarantee a spot in one of the big bowls.

USC update: The Trojans have plenty to gain from a victory, possibly a BCS berth. USC will go to the Rose Bowl if UCLA can upset Washington State on Dec. 7. Otherwise, the Trojans' BCS chances depend on beating Notre Dame -- and a stumble by Oklahoma and Georgia.

Story line: Both teams are in the top 10 for the first time since 1989.

The pick: USC. The Irish defense is outstanding, but it can't stop Carson Palmer enough for the Notre Dame offense to keep pace.

*

GEORGIA TECH (7-4) at No. 5 GEORGIA (10-1)

Kickoff: 12:30 p.m. Saturday

TV: Channel 2.

Line: Georgia by 9.

Georgia Tech update: This is the first time since 1997 Georgia Tech has gone into its rivalry game against the Bulldogs unranked. The strength of this Yellow Jacket team is defense. None of the last four opponents has scored more than 21 points.

Georgia update: The Bulldogs are headed to the SEC title game, but a loss would hurt their BCS ranking. Bottom line is Georgia better win the SEC if the Bulldogs want to play in the Sugar Bowl.

Story line: A loss by the Bulldogs could help USC reach the magic No. 4 BCS ranking that would guarantee a BCS bowl appearance for the Trojans.

The pick: Georgia, but it could be close.

*

No. 3 OKLAHOMA (10-1) at OKLAHOMA STATE (6-5)

Kickoff: 11:30 a.m. Saturday

TV: Fox Sports Net

Line: Oklahoma by 14 1/2

Oklahoma update: The Sooners will play Colorado in the Big 12 title game Dec. 7 in Houston, but a loss to rival Oklahoma State would be costly, likely knocking the Sooners out of a BCS game if they don't win the Big 12 next week.

Oklahoma State update: The Cowboys upset Oklahoma last season, 16-13, and have won four of their last five games.

Story line: The rivalry is known as the Bedlam Series. And if Oklahoma State pulls another stunner, there could be BCS bedlam to follow--with USC among the possible beneficiaries.

The pick: Oklahoma. Sooners won't be caught snoozing two years in a row.

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