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Six Games To Watch

October 24, 2003|Robyn Norwood

NO. 12 NORTHERN ILLINOIS (7-0) AT NO. 23 BOWLING GREEN (6-1)

Kickoff: 1 p.m., ESPN2

Line: Bowling Green by 3 1/2.

Northern Illinois update: The Huskies are one of four unbeaten teams in major college football. They have victories over three teams from BCS conferences and were ranked 10th this week in the initial BCS standings.

Bowling Green update: The Falcons beat Purdue and made Ohio State sweat in a 24-17 loss. They rank second in the nation in total offense, averaging 514.6 yards.

Story line: The outsiders are insiders, at least for a day, as two top-25 teams from the Mid-American Conference play on national TV.

The pick: Bowling Green. With a 1-1 record against the Big Ten and home-field advantage, the Falcons are the choice here -- as well as in the private club of the BCS.

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NO. 10 PURDUE (6-1) AT NO. 13 MICHIGAN (6-2)

Kickoff: 12:30 p.m., ESPN GamePlan.

Line: Michigan by 5.

Purdue update: The Boilermakers are one of two teams still unbeaten in Big Ten games, along with Michigan State. Since losing to Bowling Green in the opener, the Boilermakers have won six in a row and emerged as one of the nation's best rushing defenses, giving up 66 yards a game.

Michigan update: Even though the Wolverines have a conference loss already, they could move up quickly with consecutive games against Purdue and Michigan State.

Story line: Resurgent Michigan tries to derail Purdue and regain its traditional stature in the Big Ten.

The pick: Michigan. But quarterback John Navarre will have to take the pressure off running back Chris Perry against a stout Purdue defense.

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NO. 5 USC (6-1) AT WASHINGTON (4-3)

Kickoff: 12:30 p.m., Channel 7

Line: USC by 10.

USC update: The Trojans are riding high after their 45-14 romp at Notre Dame. Still, they haven't beaten Washington in Husky Stadium since 1993, and Cody Pickett and receivers Reggie Williams and Charles Frederick will test the USC secondary.

Washington update: After two stunning losses -- a 46-16 blowout by UCLA and to Nevada at home -- the Huskies recovered with a victory over Oregon State last week. Frederick is the new star after rolling up 371 all-purpose yards against Oregon State.

Story line: USC can't afford another loss if it wants to stay in the BCS picture.

The pick: USC. Unless the pass defense becomes the Achilles' heel that ruins the Trojans' season, USC should win again.

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ARIZONA STATE (4-3) AT UCLA (5-2)

Kickoff: 7 p.m., Fox Sports Net 2.

Line: UCLA by 3.

Arizona State update: The Sun Devils were a major disappointment after a three-game losing streak but have recovered somewhat with victories over Oregon and North Carolina, two teams with notably weak pass defenses.

UCLA update: Matt Moore returns as starting quarterback after Drew Olson helped lead UCLA to a surprising 3-0 Pac-10 start, tying the Bruins for first with Washington State.

Story line: UCLA looks like an impostor to some, but this game might tell whether the Bruins can stay near the top for the long haul.

The pick: Arizona State. UCLA is a tempting pick, but with tackle Rodney Leisle not at full strength and cornerback Matt Ware out because of injury, UCLA's defense isn't at its best.

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NO. 17 AUBURN (5-2) AT NO. 9 LOUISIANA STATE (6-1)

Kickoff: 4:45 p.m., ESPN.

Line: LSU by 3 1/2.

Auburn update: With a 4-0 start in the Southeastern Conference, Auburn has regained some momentum after starting with losses to USC and Georgia Tech. The Tigers are fourth in the nation in scoring defense at 12.4 points a game -- but LSU is No. 1 at 9.9.

LSU update: The SEC's other Tigers have lost only to Florida. Their NCAA-leading rushing defense gives up 53.1 yards a game, but Auburn's Carnell Williams will put it to the test.

Story line: Auburn, one of the biggest disappointments after being picked to contend for the national title, could redeem itself in the SEC.

The pick: Auburn. This game is such a tough call, the only sure pick is to say the Tigers will win.

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OREGON STATE (5-2) AT NO. 6 WASHINGTON STATE (6-1)

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

Line: Washington State by 8.

Oregon State update: The Beavers' hopes of contending in the Pac-10 were dealt a blow by last week's loss to Washington. Steven Jackson has 926 yards rushing.

Washington State update: The Cougars have beaten their first three Pac-10 opponents by a margin of 109-37. Known for offense, they lead the Pac-10 in scoring defense (15.0), total defense (305.6) and rushing defense (75.7). Quarterback Matt Kegel has 13 touchdown passes.

Story line: Washington State, tied for first in the Pac-10 with the Bruins, tries to keep a firm grip with USC and UCLA next.

The pick: Washington State. The Pac-10's surprise team keeps rolling.

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-- Robyn Norwood

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