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Six Games To Watch

October 03, 2003|ROBYN NORWOOD

NO. 10 USC (3-1) AT ARIZONA STATE (2-2)

Kickoff: 12:30 p.m.

TV: Channel 7.

Line: USC by 11 1/2.

USC update: The Trojans have to try to win the Pacific 10 Conference title the hard way after their triple-overtime loss to California. Five Pac-10 teams don't have a loss yet. Troublesome statistic: USC ranks 109th of 117 teams in pass defense, giving up almost 290 yards a game.

Arizona State update: After being picked as Pac-10 contenders before the season, the Sun Devils have been a disappointment. They lost their conference opener to Oregon State, 45-17.

Story line: The winner of the Pac-10 has had one loss in five of the last six seasons, so the Trojans might be OK.

The pick: USC. Predictions for Arizona State were overly optimistic.

*

NO. 16 KANSAS STATE (4-1) AT NO. 13 TEXAS (3-1)

Kickoff: 12:30 p.m.

TV: ESPN GamePlan.

Line: Texas by 6.

Kansas State update: Quarterback Ell Roberson returns from an injury to his left wrist that sidelined him for 2 1/2 games, including the upset loss to Marshall.

Texas update: The days of the Chris Simms-Major Applewhite quarterback controversy are over. Now two Longhorn quarterbacks peacefully coexist: Chance Mock is second in the nation in pass efficiency and Vince Young is the option runner.

Story line: The loser of this Big 12 opener will consider the season a bust, with two losses before the halfway mark.

The pick: Texas. The Longhorns' NCAA-leading 51-point scoring average figures to take a dip, but they should be able to win at home.

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NO. 9 MICHIGAN (4-1) AT NO. 23 IOWA (4-1)

Kickoff: 12:30 p.m.

TV: ESPN GamePlan.

Line: Michigan by 3.

Michigan update: Could any team be more shocked over Oregon's blowout by Washington State than the Wolverines, who'd lost to the Ducks the week before? Once again, the key will be how running back Chris Perry does against a team bent on stopping him.

Iowa update: The Hawkeyes were upset by Michigan State last week, 20-10, as running back Fred Russell rushed for 122 yards.

Story line: Iowa's 34-9 victory last season at Michigan's homecoming was the Wolverines' worst home loss since 1967.

The pick: Michigan. Iowa held the Wolverines to 22 yards rushing last season. That shouldn't happen again.

*

NO. 7 (4-0) TENNESSEE AT AUBURN (2-2)

Kickoff: 4:45 p.m.

TV: ESPN

Line: Auburn by 1.

Tennessee update: After an overtime victory over South Carolina last week, the Volunteers are 4-0 for the first time since 1998, when they won the national championship with an undefeated record.

Auburn update: The Tigers opened 0-2 with losses to USC and Georgia Tech, but got back to .500 with blowout victories over Vanderbilt and Western Kentucky.

Story line: Auburn, its visions of a national championship run in the distant past, tries to stop a Tennessee team that has visions of joining the chase for a Sugar Bowl berth.

The pick: Tennessee. Rarely has a highly touted team flopped so completely as Auburn has.

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TEXAS A&M (2-2) AT TEXAS TECH (3-1)

Kickoff: 7 p.m.

TV: Fox Sports Net.

Line: Texas Tech by 5 1/2.

Texas A&M update: The Aggies have lost two in a row, to Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh, and are giving up more than 27 points a game. They defeated Arkansas State and Utah.

Texas Tech update: B.J. Symons is the latest Red Raider quarterback to put up astonishing numbers. He passed for 661 yards and six touchdowns against Mississippi last week in a 49-45 victory, and leads the nation in passing yardage and total offense.

Story line: It's another of the seemingly endless Texas rivalries, but the real reason to watch is Symons.

The pick: Texas Tech. The scoreboard might get a workout.

*

NO. 18 WASHINGTON (3-1) AT UCLA (2-2)

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m.

TV: Fox Sports Net

Line: Washington by 1.

Washington update: The Huskies opened with a thud at Ohio State, and they have yet to prove convincingly they'll be among the Pac-10's elite.

UCLA update: Quarterback Drew Olson will start, despite the return of Matt Moore from a severe leg bruise, but Moore might play.

Story line: Once predicted to challenge USC in the Pac-10, the Huskies are only narrow favorites over the Bruins, who could use a confidence boost.

The pick: Washington. UCLA ranks last in the league in rushing, at 85 yards a game, as well as scoring, with an average of 16 points.

-- Robyn Norwood

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