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Six Games To Watch

September 27, 2002|Robyn Norwood

NO. 23 OREGON STATE (4-0)

AT NO. 18 USC (2-1)

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. TV: Fox Sports Net

Line: USC by 3.

Oregon State update: Quarterback Derek Anderson ranks second in the nation in passing efficiency and has thrown 15 touchdown passes and only one interception. Steven Jackson leads the Pacific 10 Conference in rushing.

USC update: Even after losing to Kansas State last week, 27-20, the Trojans rank third in total defense at 229.7 yards a game. Another impressive statistic: The offensive line has given up only three sacks in three games.

Story line: USC plays Oregon State, Washington State, California, Washington and Oregon the next five weeks. That's a make-or-break stretch.

The pick: Oregon State. The number of inexperienced players playing for the Trojans could cost them.

*

UCLA (2-1)

AT SAN DIEGO STATE (0-4)

Kickoff: 11 a.m. TV: ESPN2.

Line: UCLA by 14 1/2.

UCLA update: The Bruins are still trying to find themselves--and it's time, with their Pacific 10 season opening next week at Oregon State. A romp over San Diego State would do a lot for their confidence.

San Diego State update: The Aztecs haven't been outgained but have only losses to show for it. One culprit: turnovers. Still, it's difficult to overlook quarterback Adam Hall, who has passed for more than 500 yards in each of the last two games. Receiver J.R. Tolver leads the nation in receptions (11) and yards per game (179.25).

Story line: Middling Pac-10 team takes on a winless Mountain West team looking to turn around its season.

The pick: UCLA. But the Bruins better not dally.

*

KENTUCKY (4-0)

AT NO. 7 FLORIDA (3-1)

Kickoff: 12:30 p.m. TV: Channel 2.

Line: Florida by 19.

Kentucky update: Kentucky's victories were against Louisville, Texas El Paso, Indiana and Middle Tennessee. Southeastern Conference surprise: Kentucky's Jared Lorenzen--sometimes called the Hefty Lefty and the Pillsbury Throw Boy at 6 feet 4 and 275 pounds--is the top-rated passer in the league.

Florida update: That 30-13 victory over Tennessee took care of the fan uprising against Coach Ron Zook for now, and quarterback Rex Grossman has rebounded since loss to Miami.

Story line: This matchup looks better on paper than it's likely to be in person. Kentucky hasn't beaten Florida since 1986 and has lost 31 of 36 since 1957.

The pick: Florida. Take your eyes off the won-lost records and look at the bottom line: the official line.

*

NO. 20 NEBRASKA (3-1)

AT NO. 19 IOWA STATE (4-1)

Kickoff: 12:30 p.m. TV: None.

Line: Pick 'em.

Nebraska update: Seeing Iowa State ranked higher than Nebraska must hurt Cornhusker fans almost as much as that 40-7 loss to Penn State. Nebraska hasn't fared well on the road against ranked teams since Frank Solich became coach: Cornhuskers are 1-6 in such games, and have been outscored, 136-60, in the last three.

Iowa State update: Here's your chance for another look at Seneca Wallace, the nimble quarterback from Rancho Cordova and Sacramento City College.

Story line: Nebraska already proved quite beatable in that loss to Penn State, and Iowa State is eager to step into the national consciousness.

The pick: Nebraska. The Cyclones have lost 23 of the last 24 to Nebraska.

*

IOWA (3-1)

AT NO. 12 PENN STATE (3-0)

Kickoff: 9 a.m. TV: ESPN.

Line: Penn State by 8.

Iowa update: The Hawkeyes have fared well against Penn State lately, beating the Nittany Lions in Iowa City last year, but this Penn State team has its confidence back after a 40-7 victory over Nebraska two weeks ago. The Hawkeyes' loss was to Iowa State, 36-31.

Penn State update: The Nittany Lions have a good running back in Larry Johnson and a quarterback, Zack Mills, who has not thrown an interception. They've displayed the ability to put up points and yardage, but the defense has done a workmanlike job too.

Story line: There's a race this season for best comeback by a former power. Right now, Notre Dame still has the edge, but Penn State might be gaining.

The pick: Penn State.

*

NO. 16 WASHINGTON STATE (3-1)

AT CALIFORNIA (3-1)

Kickoff: 2 p.m. TV: None.

Line: No line.

Washington State update: Quarterback Jason Gesser appears ready to play despite dislocating a rib last week against Montana State. Backup Matt Kegel also is expected to be available despite a sprained knee.

California update: Bears' surprising start was grounded by Air Force, knocking Cal from the top 25. Three Cal receivers combined for 13 catches and 11 drops in the loss to Air Force.

Story line: Cal's feel-good start could be over with games against Washington State, Washington, USC, UCLA and Oregon State ahead.

The pick: Washington State. Maybe it would have made a difference if the third-string quarterback had to start. Maybe not.

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