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Six Games To Watch Saturday

September 26, 2003|Robyn Norwood

NO. 3 USC (3-0) AT CALIFORNIA (2-3)

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m.

TV: Fox Sports Net

Line: USC by 13.

USC update: Yes, the Trojans have won 11 in a row and are ranked No. 3 in the nation. But last season USC trailed Cal, 21-3, before scoring 27 unanswered points to win, 30-28.

Cal update: Coach Jeff Tedford's new project is quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who made his first start last week against Illinois, replacing Reggie Robertson. Rodgers completed 20 of 37 passes for 263 yards and one touchdown in a 31-24 victory.

Story line: USC needs to avoid any missteps, because it has a realistic chance of going undefeated -- particularly without Oregon on the schedule.

The pick: USC. Cal has played some close games. This shouldn't be one of them.

*

NO. 21 WASHINGTON STATE (3-1) AT NO. 10 OREGON (4-0)

Kickoff: 12:30 p.m.

TV: Channel 7.

Line: Oregon by 4.

Washington State update: Quarterback Matt Kegel started with a 108-yard passing performance against Idaho. But he has improved every week, passing for 346 against New Mexico.

Oregon update: The Oregon defense held Michigan's Chris Perry to 26 yards in 11 carries in a 31-27 upset last week.

Story line: This ought to decide who will be the surprise contender in the Pac-10 now that Arizona State looks weaker than predicted.

The pick: Oregon. Washington State might be better equipped to test the Ducks' revamped pass defense than Michigan quarterback John Navarre was, but it looks as if Oregon is back.

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ARIZONA STATE (2-1) AT OREGON STATE (3-1)

Kickoff: 7 p.m.

TV: Fox Sports Net.

Line: Oregon State by 6.

Arizona State update: The offense was shut out last week in a 21-2 loss to Iowa, managing only 184 yards. The Sun Devils are still searching for a focal point in the running game, with Mike Williams, Loren Wade and Hakim Hill all in the mix.

Oregon State update: Running back Steven Jackson, seventh in the nation in rushing at 136.25 yards a game, has more name recognition, but receiver James Newson ranks second in the nation at 142 yards a game.

Story line: Neither team knows where it's going because each has a disappointing loss. The loser might have a long season.

The pick: Oregon State. The Beavers haven't beaten Arizona State since 1993, so consider it time.

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NOTRE DAME (1-2) AT NO. 22 PURDUE (2-1)

Kickoff: 12:30 p.m.

TV: ESPN GamePlan.

Line: Purdue by 10 1/2.

Notre Dame update: After losses to Michigan and Michigan State, Coach Tyrone Willingham is contemplating replacing senior quarterback Carlyle Holiday with freshman Brady Quinn. Notre Dame has fallen out of the national polls for the first time since the beginning of last season.

Purdue update: The Boilermakers opened with a one-point loss to Bowling Green before defeating Wake Forest and Arizona. But anyone who has followed Arizona isn't that impressed by the 59-7 score.

Story line: If Notre Dame loses, Willingham is no longer looking like a genius.

The pick: Notre Dame. Purdue is favored, but Notre Dame tends to win the close ones in this series.

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NORTHWESTERN (2-2) AT NO. 4 OHIO STATE (4-0)

Kickoff: 9 a.m.

TV: ESPN2.

Line: Ohio State by 22.

Northwestern update: The Wildcats made something of a game of it last season before losing to the Buckeyes, 27-16. Ohio State has won 23 in a row against the Wildcats, but 10 have been by a touchdown or less.

Ohio State update: The Buckeyes defeated Bowling Green, 24-17, without quarterback Craig Krenzel, who missed the game because of a hyperextended right elbow. He won't start against the Wildcats, but will dress.

Story line: If San Diego State, North Carolina State and Bowling Green can make Ohio State sweat, who's to say Northwestern can't?

The pick: Ohio State. The Buckeyes haven't lost to Northwestern since 1971.

*

IOWA STATE (2-1) AT NO. 20 NORTHERN ILLINOIS (3-0)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

TV: None.

Line: Northern Illinois by 6 1/2.

Iowa State update: The Cyclones defeated Northern Iowa by a touchdown and handled Ohio easily before losing to Iowa, 40-21, two weeks ago. Freshman quarterback Austin Flynn averages 283.7 yards of offense.

Northern Illinois update: The Huskies try to protect their top-25 ranking and status as one of 19 unbeaten teams against Iowa State. Michael Turner ran for 156 yards against Alabama.

Story line: Here's an illustration of how the big boys rule college football. Northern Illinois is in the top 25, and not on television.

The pick: Northern Illinois. Maybe it's wishful thinking. Maybe not.

-- Robyn Norwood

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