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Six Games To Watch

September 17, 2004|Pete Thomas

No. 21 MARYLAND (2-0) at No. 7 W. VIRGINIA (2-0)

Kickoff: 9 a.m. Saturday.


The line: West Virginia by 6 1/2 .

Maryland update: The Terrapins, 2-0 for the first time since 2001, are at full strength, but linebacker D'Qwell Jackson (elbow) and tailback Josh Allen (undisclosed injury) were held out of contact drills this week.

West Virginia update: Running back Kay-Jay Harris (hamstring) is questionable, and his absence would significantly weaken the Mountaineer ground game. Harris, injured last week against Central Florida, rushed for 337 yards in the opener against East Carolina.

Story line: Maryland has won the last four, but Coach Ralph Friedgen may have fired up the Mountaineers when he told the Washington Post that he half-expected to be hit by whiskey bottles thrown by fans. He later apologized.

The pick: Maryland, unless Harris makes a miraculous recovery.


No. 5 LOUISIANA STATE (2-0) at No. 14 AUBURN (2-0)

Kickoff: 12:30 p.m. Saturday.


Line: Auburn by 1.

LSU update: Of last week's 53-3 rout of Arkansas State, Coach Nick Saban praised an offensive line that "did a much better job of being physical and aggressive" than it did against Oregon State. The Tigers will stick with the quarterback rotation of Marcus Randall and JaMarcus Russell.

Auburn update: Coach Tommy Tuberville turns 50 Saturday and said there are "times in this business [when] you feel like 75," acknowledging that this may be one of them. Practice has been interrupted by Hurricane Ivan.

Story line: It's the Southeastern Conference opener for LSU, which is Auburn's highest-ranked opponent since it beat No. 1 Florida, 23-20, in 2001.

The pick: Auburn, which is 18-5 in September under Tuberville, and is seeking to avenge last season's 31-7 loss at LSU.


UCLA (1-1) at WASHINGTON (0-1)

Kickoff: 4 p.m. Saturday.


The line: Even.

UCLA update: A suspect defense should benefit from the return, as starters, of tackle C.J. Niusulu and linebacker Justin London. Both played limited roles in last week's victory over Illinois. The Bruin offense is ranked 25th nationally.

Washington update: Casey Paus "will probably start" at quarterback, Coach Keith Gilbertson said during a news conference, but mobile backup Isaiah Stanback may be called upon. Both were ineffective in a 35-16 loss to Fresno State.

Story line: It's the Pacific 10 Conference opener for both teams, which are coming off disappointing seasons, and a reunion of sorts for Bruin Coach Karl Dorrell, who was the Huskies' offensive coordinator and receiver coach in 1999.

The pick: UCLA, assuming the defense continues to make progress.



Kickoff: 4 p.m. Saturday.


The line: Notre Dame by 3.

Notre Dame update: Senior Ryan Grant (hamstring) will start at running back if he's healthy, but freshman Darius Walker, who ignited the Fighting Irish offense with 115 rushing yards and two fourth-quarter touchdowns in the 28-20 upset of Michigan, will get his share of carries.

Michigan State update: Jason Teague may be the No. 1 tailback, but Jehuu Caulcrick, a 245-pound freshman, had an impressive debut last week against Central Michigan. He gained 67 yards in 15 carries, including a seven-yard touchdown run.

Story line: Which Notre Dame team will show up this week -- the one that lost at Brigham Young or the one that defeated Michigan?

The pick: Michigan State, which has won five of the last six in the series, including a 22-16 victory at Notre Dame last season.


No. 11 FLORIDA (1-0) at No. 13 TENNESSEE (1-0)

Kickoff: 5 p.m. Saturday.


The line: Tennessee by 3.

Florida update: Coach Ron Zook said he "saw more good things than bad" in the Gators' 49-10 rout of Eastern Michigan and that his team had spent much of the week trying to prepare defensively for Volunteer quarterbacks with different styles.

Tennessee update: Coach Phillip Fulmer said he would stick with the quarterback rotation of Brent Schaeffer and Erik Ainge, saying there "is no reason to change things if you are experiencing success." Both played roles in leading the Volunteers to a 42-17 victory over Nevada Las Vegas.

Story line: These are the two winningest teams in the SEC, and, as Fulmer says, "It would be very crucial to be a leg up in this race."

The pick: Tennessee, even though the home team has lost the last four in the series.


No. 1 USC (2-0) at BRIGHAM YOUNG (1-1)

Kickoff: 7 p.m. Saturday.


The line: USC by 26.

USC update: The return of Hershel Dennis means the Trojans are even stronger at running back. Whether he'll play against the Cougars, however, has not been announced.

BYU update: The Cougars have been practicing holding on to the ball -- Stanford forced seven turnovers and scored the final 37 points in last week's 37-10 victory. John Beck will start at quarterback for the Cougars, who used four of them against the Cardinal.

Story line: It's a homecoming for USC offensive coordinator Norm Chow, a longtime assistant at BYU, but it's the first visit for the Trojans, who won this matchup last season at the Coliseum, 35-18.

The pick: USC, which may take some time getting used to the environs.

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