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Four Games To Watch

October 12, 2006|PETER YOON


* Kickoff: Tonight, 4:30 PDT


* Line: Virginia Tech by 3.

* Virginia Tech update: The Hokies have had nearly two weeks to fix the problems that led to a 38-27 loss to Georgia Tech -- mainly an offensive line that gave up four sacks and a running game that gained only 42 yards. Quarterback Sean Glennon leads an offense that averages 33 points a game, but Josh Hyman, the team's second-leading receiver, was suspended indefinitely Wednesday after being accused of driving under the influence.

* Boston College update: The Eagles' only loss, 17-15 to North Carolina State, doesn't look so bad now that the Wolfpack defeated Florida State. Kicker Ryan Ohliger was suspended last week after being involved in a fight outside a bar. He will be replaced by sophomore walk-on Steve Aponavicius.

* Story line: Boston College has a shot at winning the Atlantic Coast Conference's Atlantic Division, but a loss would put the Eagles two games behind North Carolina State. A loss would be equally harmful to Virginia Tech, which has yet to play Clemson and Miami.

* The pick: Boston College. Quarterback Matt Ryan, the ACC leader in total offense, should shred Virginia Tech the same way Georgia Tech did.



* Kickoff: Saturday, 2 p.m.

* TV: None.

* Line: California by 8.

* California update: Nate Longshore is among the nation's most productive passers, with 1,410 yards and 17 touchdowns. He leads an offense that is averaging 447.5 yards -- eighth in the nation. A 45-24 victory over Oregon last week should ease questions about a Week 1 loss to Tennessee, but the Golden Bears have lost the last 10 times they have played at Pullman.

* Washington State update: The Cougars showed how tough they can be at home, taking USC to the wire in a 28-22 loss on Sept. 30. Defensive end Mkristo Bruce leads the nation with 10 sacks, pacing a defense that has a national-best 27. When they don't get sacks, however, the Cougars can be vulnerable. They have given up an average of 227 passing yards a game.

* Story line: With Cal coming off a big victory and playing on the road, it seems ripe for an upset. The Golden Bears need a victory to keep alive hopes of a Pacific 10 showdown with USC on Nov. 18. Washington State has not beaten a ranked team in nine tries since December 2003.

* The pick: California. It should be close early, but Cal's offense has too many playmakers for the Cougars.


No. 2 FLORIDA (6-0) at No. 11 AUBURN (5-1)

* Kickoff: Saturday, 4:45 p.m. PDT


* Line: Pick.

* Florida update: The Gators are riding high after defeating Louisiana State and jumping USC into the No. 2 spot in the Associated Press poll. The last time the Gators were 7-0, they won the 1996 national title. The quarterback rotation of Chris Leak and Tim Tebow worked to perfection last week and has helped the Gators average 413.3 yards. The Florida defense is No. 4 in the nation against the run (56.83 yards a game) and No. 2 in scoring (9.5 points).

* Auburn update: The Tigers defense, which had been spectacular, showed vulnerability last week in a loss to Arkansas, giving up 27 points and 366 yards -- both season highs. Still, Auburn gives up an average of only 11.33 points a game. On offense, the Tigers gain an average of 331.33 yards.

* Story line: Not only did Florida pass USC in the AP poll, the Gators are right behind the Trojans in the coaches' poll -- and could jump them with a victory. Auburn needs a win to stay in Southeastern Conference title contention and the BCS bowl picture.

* The pick: Florida. While other upper-echelon teams have been sleepwalking, the Gators are actually getting better each week.


No. 4 MICHIGAN (6-0) at PENN STATE (4-2)

* Kickoff: Saturday, 5 p.m. PDT

* TV: ABC (GamePlan only on West Coast).

* Line: Michigan by 6.

* Michigan update: The Wolverines will be without receiver Mario Manningham, who last week injured his knee and required arthroscopic surgery. Manningham has 24 catches for 527 yards and a nation-leading nine touchdowns. Michigan can run and stop the run. Mike Hart is fifth in the nation with 794 rushing yards, and the Wolverines are best in the nation against the run, giving up only 40.3 yards a game.

* Penn State update: The Nittany Lions are coming off an overtime victory last week at Minnesota. Tony Hunt is ninth in the nation with 669 rushing yards. On defense, Penn State is tough against the run, giving up an average of 79.5 yards. However, pass defense (205.8 yards) is a soft spot.

* Story line: Michigan is headed for a showdown with top-ranked Ohio State, but before the Wolverines reach that point they must get past Penn State and, next week, Iowa.

* The pick: Michigan. The Wolverines have won each of its games by at least 14 points. Penn State has yet to show it can compete against top-tier teams, losing big against Notre Dame and Ohio State.

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