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Four Games To Watch

October 26, 2006|Peter Yoon

No. 10 CLEMSON (7-1) at VIRGINIA TECH (5-2)

* Kickoff: Tonight, 4:30 PDT.

* TV: ESPN.

* Line: Clemson by 4 1/2 .

* Clemson update: The Tigers, who are on a six-game winning streak, statistically are the most complete team in the nation, ranking fourth in total defense (230.38 yards per game) and sixth in total offense (456.25 yards). No other team is among the top 10 in both. Leading rusher James Davis, seventh in the nation with 961 yards and second with 16 touchdowns, injured his shoulder in a victory over Georgia Tech last week and his availability will be a game-time decision. In his place, C.J. Spiller had 116 yards in 16 carries last week.

* Virginia Tech update: The Hokies reached No. 11 in the nation before consecutive losses to Georgia Tech and Boston College. They match up well against Clemson, with a run defense that gives up an average of only 98.6 yards a game. On offense, they average a respectable 29.14 points a game but have struggled to run the ball, averaging only 119 yards a game on the ground. They combined for 75 yards in their two losses.

* Story line: Clemson would be in the thick of the national title hunt if not for a missed extra point in a double-overtime loss to Boston College in Week 2. But the Tigers might not even win the Atlantic Coast Conference title because Boston College holds the tiebreaker if they both win out.

* The pick: Clemson. Virginia Tech has shown that it can't compete with top teams.

*

No. 19 OKLAHOMA (5-2) at No. 23 MISSOURI (7-1)

* Kickoff: Saturday, 9 a.m.

* TV: Game Plan only on West Coast.

* Line: Missouri by 2.

* Oklahoma update: With running back Adrian Peterson out because of a broken collarbone, the Sooners will have to rely on a defense that ranks 12th nationally, giving up 266.71 yards per game. The Sooners gave up 71 points in their first three games, but have given up only 40 in their last four and only 12 in their last two. Allen Patrick, subbing for Peterson, had 35 carries for 116 yards last week against Colorado, but quarterback Paul Thompson passed for a season-low 105 yards.

* Missouri update: The Tigers start this week with an offense averaging 419 yards a game -- No. 14 in the nation. Sophomore quarterback Chase Daniel is eighth in the nation in passing yards, with 2,003, and touchdowns, with 19 -- a school single-season record. Defensive lineman Brian Smith, who is fifth in the nation with 7 1/2 sacks and is the school's all-time leader with 31 1/2 , is out for the rest of the regular season after suffering a broken hip last week.

* Story line: Missouri started the season 6-0, yet is still fighting for credibility. A victory in this game would go a long way. Oklahoma is trying to hang on for a decent bowl bid while Peterson is out.

* The pick: Oklahoma. The Sooners should be able to control the clock by handing to Patrick, a bruising runner, 35 more times.

*

GEORGIA (6-2) vs. No. 9 FLORIDA (6-1)

* Kickoff: Saturday, 12:30 p.m., at Jacksonville, Fla.

* TV: Channel 2.

* Line: Florida by 14.

* Georgia update: Through five games, Georgia had given up 34 points, was undefeated, and ranked No. 10 in the nation. Over the next three weeks, the Bulldogs gave up 99 points, lost twice, and dropped from the top 25. The Bulldogs still have the No. 12 defense in the nation, giving up an average of 267.38 yards a game, but they have given up 324 per game over the last three. The Georgia offense has 17 turnovers.

* Florida update: The Gators had an open date last week, meaning they had two weeks to think about a loss to Auburn that knocked them from the No. 2 spot in the rankings. The strength of the team is a defense that gives up an average of only 12 points a game, which is fifth in the nation. Opponents have averaged only 67.71 yards a game on the ground.

* Story line: They'll have to come up with a new nickname after Southeastern Conference officials urged the game no longer be referred to as "The world's largest outdoor cocktail party." Florida could make it "Celebration Day" with a victory because it has a relatively easy remaining schedule.

* The pick: Florida. The Bulldogs are struggling on both sides of the ball while Florida still has to be considered one of the nation's elite teams.

*

MIAMI (5-2) at No. 21 GEORGIA TECH (5-2)

* Kickoff: Saturday, 12:30 p.m.

* TV: Game Plan only on West Coast.

* Line: Georgia Tech by 5 1/2 .

* Miami update: A series of setbacks has led many fans to give up on Miami, but, believe it or not, the Hurricanes can still win the Atlantic Coast Conference. Miami is No. 8 in the nation in total defense and No. 3 against the run. The Hurricanes, who have given up only 35 points during their current four-game winning streak, will get 12 players back from suspensions for their roles in an Oct. 14 brawl with Florida International. Receiver Ryan Moore, suspended since allegedly assaulting a woman on Aug. 26, practiced with the team this week and might play for the first time this season.

* Georgia Tech: Receiver Calvin Johnson and the Yellow Jackets' offense had been rolling since a 14-10 opening-game loss to Notre Dame. But they hit a wall in a 31-7 loss to Clemson last week. Johnson, the ACC leader in receiving yards with 559, was held without a catch for the first time in his career.

* Story line: The winner of this game takes control of the ACC Coastal Division and has the inside track for a spot in the conference title game. Georgia Tech, which last won a conference title in 1990, has a half-game lead over Miami.

* The pick: Miami. Motivated by turning talk of their season-long troubles into ACC title talk, the Hurricanes come out on top.

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