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Six Games to Watch

October 17, 2003|Robyn Norwood

NO. 5 USC (5-1) AT NOTRE DAME (2-3)

Kickoff: 11:30 a.m.

TV: Channel 4.

Line: USC by 8.

USC update: Notre Dame's visit to the Coliseum last season resulted in a 44-13 loss to the Trojans. USC hasn't fared so well at Notre Dame Stadium lately, with only one victory in the last 10 trips, when John Robinson's final team won there in 1997.

Notre Dame update: The Irish start the USC game with a losing record for only the 11th time. Surprisingly, Notre Dame has won six of those games, most recently in 2001.

Story line: You can throw out the records when these teams meet -- and Notre Dame would like to.

The pick: USC. Rivalry game or not, the Trojans' national standing will plummet if they don't take care of business against the Irish.

*

NO. 9 IOWA (5-1) AT NO. 8 OHIO STATE (5-1)

Kickoff: 12:30 p.m.

TV: ESPN GamePlan.

Line: Ohio State by 3 1/2.

Iowa update: The Hawkeyes lost to Michigan State three weeks ago but recovered a week later, coming from 14 points behind to defeat Michigan, 30-27.

Ohio State update: The Buckeyes' 19-game winning streak is over. Now they play the game so many hankered for last season, when Ohio State and Iowa shared the Big Ten title but never met.

Story line: Ohio State's prospects of repeating as national champion took a tumble last week. Now the Buckeyes need to focus on the Big Ten race.

The pick: Ohio State. Nobody wins 19 in a row then loses two in succession, right?

*

NO. 24 MISSOURI (5-1) AT NO. 1 OKLAHOMA (6-0)

Kickoff: 4 p.m.

TV: Fox Sports Net.

Line: Oklahoma by 26.

Missouri update: The Tigers are coming off a 41-24 upset of Nebraska, their first victory over the Cornhuskers since 1978. The Tigers lost to Oklahoma last season, but Oklahoma had to rally to win.

Oklahoma update: The Sooners are taking the rivalry out of the Red River Shootout after beating Texas, 65-13. Jason White completed 17 of 21 passes for 290 yards and four touchdowns against the Longhorns, and leads the nation in passing efficiency.

Story line: Oklahoma marches on, and White is solidifying his Heisman lead.

The pick: Oklahoma. Given what happened in the Texas game, the margin could be huge.

*

NO. 13 PURDUE (5-1) AT NO. 14 WISCONSIN (6-1)

Kickoff: 9 a.m.

TV: ESPN.

Line: Purdue by 1.

Wisconsin update: The Badgers ended Ohio State's 19-game winning streak last week. Quarterback Jim Sorgi is expected to play after being choked by Ohio State's Robert Reynolds while the players were in a pile.

Purdue update: After a loss to Bowling Green, the Boilermakers have defeated Wake Forest, Arizona, Notre Dame, Illinois and Penn State. That might be an impressive list some seasons, but not this year.

Story line: Purdue and Wisconsin are two of the three teams without a conference loss. (Michigan State is the other.)

The pick: Wisconsin. The Badgers have a more impressive resume than Purdue.

*

NO. 15 MICHIGAN STATE (6-1) AT NO. 25 MINNESOTA (6-1)

Kickoff: 9 a.m.

TV: ESPN2.

Line: Minnesota by 6.

Michigan State update: Quarterback Jeff Smoker has overcome a substance-abuse problem and is passing for 259.7 yards a game with a 66% completion rate.

Minnesota update: The Gophers lead the Big Ten in rushing and are among the nation's top 10 in rushing, scoring and total offense.

Story line: Now that Ohio State has lost, almost everybody except Indiana, Illinois, Penn State and Northwestern figures to have a shot at the title.

The pick: Michigan State. Minnesota's pass defense was vulnerable as Michigan's John Navarre passed for 353 yards.

*

CALIFORNIA (3-4) AT UCLA (4-2)

Kickoff: 12:30 p.m.

TV: Channel 7.

Line: UCLA by 3.

Cal update: Tailback Adimchinobe Echemandu has rushed for 147 and 146 yards the last two games, and Cal is the least-penalized team in the Pacific 10 at 43.9 yards a game.

UCLA update: UCLA's luck turned in the Cal game last season: Cory Paus broke his ankle and freshman backup Drew Olson suffered a shoulder injury in the third quarter of a 17-12 loss.

Story line: Although UCLA is in a three-way tie for first in the Pac-10 at 2-0, this ultimately is a key battle for the middle of the standings.

The pick: Cal. With cornerback Matt Ware out, the Bruin secondary looks vulnerable.

-- Robyn Norwood

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