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Six Games to Watch

September 24, 2004|Pete Thomas


Kickoff: 12:30 p.m. Saturday

TV: Channel 4

The line: Notre Dame by 10 1/2

Washington update: The Huskies led by 17 points early, trailed by 10 in the third quarter and rallied, only to fall two yards short on the last drive last week in a 37-31 loss to UCLA. Defensive end Mike Mapuolesega injured his knee and will sit out at least three games.

Notre Dame update: The Fighting Irish, winners of two in a row, have benefited from the running of freshman tailback Darius Walker, who gained 213 yards in those victories. Sophomore safety Tom Zbikowski had nine tackles last week.

Story line: One team is on the upswing, playing at home, the other reeling after heartbreaking losses.

The pick: Notre Dame, whose running backs must be drooling after watching UCLA's Maurice Drew rack up 322 yards rushing against the Huskies.


BRIGHAM YOUNG (1-2) at No. 21 BOISE STATE (3-0)

Kickoff: 7 tonight


The line: Boise State by 21 1/2

BYU update: The Cougars catch no break after falling to USC at home, 42-10, having to play at Bronco Stadium, where they were defeated last season, 50-12. BYU ranks 100th nationally in total offense, but Coach Gary Crowton insists that his team matches up well.

Boise State update: The Broncos, coming off a 47-31 victory over Texas El Paso, rank fourth nationally in total offense and lead the nation in scoring with an average of 55 points. They rank 44th in total defense but are stingy against the run, giving up only 78 yards a game.

Story line: The Cougars are out to avenge last season's loss while the Broncos want to extend their 14-game win streak -- the nation's longest -- and 20-game home win streak.

The pick: Boise State, which is 10-0 in games shown on ESPN.


ALABAMA (3-0) at ARKANSAS (2-1)

Kickoff: 12:30 p.m. Saturday

TV: Channel 2

The line: Arkansas by 5 1/2

Alabama update: Coach Mike Shula took heat for sticking with quarterback Brodie Croyle in the second half of last week's 52-0 rout of Western Carolina. Croyle suffered a season-ending knee injury and now the Crimson Tide is stuck with untested Marc Guillon as its starter.

Arkansas update: The Razorbacks spent the week preparing for the Alabama rushing attack, which ranks 17th nationally and will figure more prominently without Croyle in the lineup.

Story line: Alabama is 3-0 for the first time since 1996 and hopes to make it 4-0 by avenging last season's 34-31 double-overtime loss to the Razorbacks.

The pick: Arkansas, now that it doesn't have to contend with Croyle.



Kickoff: 9 a.m. Saturday


The line: Boston College by 1

Boston College update: Andre Callender, filling in for injured L.V. Whitworth, is averaging 106 yards rushing for a team that ranks 78th in total offense but 20th in total defense.

Wake Forest update: The Demon Deacons have rebounded from their season-opening overtime loss to Clemson but are suspect against the run, giving up 173 yards a game and 4.5 a carry. Offensively, they rank 20th nationally.

Story line: The Eagles, who will jump from the Big East to the ACC next season, hope to avenge last season's 32-28 loss to the Demon Deacons, who need to win games such as this if they want a bowl bid.

The pick: Boston College, whose running attack should be the deciding factor.


PENN STATE (2-1) at No. 20 WISCONSIN (3-0)

Kickoff: 2:45 p.m. Saturday


The line: Wisconsin by 3

Penn State update: Last week's 37-13 victory over Central Florida could be viewed as a confidence builder as the Nittany Lions begin Big Ten play. Quarterback Zack Mills completed 19 of 29 passes for 229 yards and a touchdown, and caught a 39-yard pass. Moving the ball will be more difficult against the nation's fourth-ranked defense.

Wisconsin update: "I love our record as it is. I'm not satisfied with any phase," Coach Barry Alvarez said of a team that hasn't looked sharp offensively, despite its success, including last week in a 9-7 victory over Arizona. Offensively, the Badgers rank 90th and await the return of injured running back Anthony Davis.

Story line: The Nittany Lions begin a stretch in which they play five nationally ranked teams.

The pick: Penn State, assuming it can manufacture any kind of an offensive attack.


No. 1 USC (3-0) at STANFORD (2-0)

Kickoff: 4 p.m. Saturday


The line: USC by 22

USC update: "We are pleased that we have made it here in pretty good shape physically," Coach Pete Carroll said of the Pac-10 opener for both. But Carroll is concerned that kicker Ryan Killeen has made only one of four field-goal attempts.

Stanford update: The Cardinal used its bye week to "emphasize fundamentals" in preparation for its biggest challenge this season. Quarterback Trent Edwards is fit and has shown poise, and the offensive line seems to have matured. Defensively, the Cardinal has been using different schemes to confuse opponents.

Story line: The Trojans tuned up nicely for the Pac-10 schedule, but opportunity knocks for a Cardinal team that hasn't played a top-ranked opponent since beating Notre Dame at South Bend in 1990.

The pick: USC in a close game.

-- Pete Thomas

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