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Four Games To Watch

September 21, 2006|Peter Yoon

No. 12 NOTRE DAME (2-1) at MICHIGAN STATE (3-0)

* Kickoff: Saturday, 5 p.m. PDT

* TV: ABC (Game Plan only on West Coast)

* Line: Notre Dame by 3 1/2 .

* Notre Dame update: The Irish are reeling after having their national title hopes all but washed out in a 47-21 loss at home to Michigan. They'll need to bounce back or else their chances of getting into a Bowl Championship Series game could go down the drain too. Quarterback Brady Quinn, who has passed for 767 yards and six touchdowns with three interceptions this season, has passed for 805 yards and seven touchdowns in three games against the Spartans.

* Michigan State update: The Spartans are No. 3 in the nation in total offense, averaging 506 yards a game, and are No. 7 in scoring average at 39 points. Those numbers should worry a Notre Dame defense that was touted as suspect during the preseason and was dismal last week. Quarterback Drew Stanton leads the way, having passed for 677 yards and six touchdowns with two interceptions. The Spartans struggle on pass defense, however, ranking 85th in the nation.

* Story line: Michigan State has a long history of upsetting the Irish, winning seven of their last nine meetings, but Notre Dame has won its last two games in East Lansing. Last year, after a 44-41 overtime victory at Notre Dame, the Spartans ruffled Irish feathers when they celebrated by sticking their flag at midfield.

* The pick: Notre Dame. Revenge factor aside, the Irish passing game should have a field day.


No. 8 LOUISVILLE (3-0) at KANSAS STATE (3-0)

* Kickoff: Saturday, 9 a.m. PDT.

* TV: FSN West.

* Line: Louisville by 14.

* Louisville update: Quarterback Brian Brohm tore a ligament in his throwing hand last week and is out for at least a month. Running back Michael Bush was already lost for the season with a broken leg, but Louisville still routed Miami, 31-7. Hunter Cantwell, who completed three of four passes for 113 yards in relief last week, will start at quarterback for the Cardinals, who, despite the key injuries, lead the nation in total offense and scoring, averaging 563.7 yards and 50.7 points.

* Kansas State update: First-year Coach Ron Prince has picked up right where 17-year coach Bill Snyder left off, using a tough defense that has not given up an offensive touchdown in its last two games. The Wildcats, who have defeated Illinois State, Florida Atlantic and Marshall, rank 14th in the nation in scoring defense and are 15th in sacks. Tight end Rashaad Norwood, the team's leading receiver with 13 catches, is suspended for the game after getting arrested Sunday for disorderly conduct.

* Story line: Louisville is ripe for an upset and Manhattan is a difficult place for a visiting team to play, but the Cardinals want to be undefeated for their Nov. 3 game against No. 4 West Virginia, so they have to avoid a letdown.

* The pick: Louisville. It should be a much closer game than the oddsmakers are predicting, but the Cardinals showed last week that they have the depth to overcome their injuries.


WISCONSIN (3-0) at No. 6 MICHIGAN (3-0)

* Kickoff: Saturday, 9 a.m. PDT


* Line: Michigan by 14.

* Wisconsin update: The Badgers are No. 7 in the nation in scoring defense, giving up only eight points a game, but they haven't really been tested yet because their opponents have been Bowling Green, Western Illinois and San Diego State. Running back P.J. Hill has carried the load on offense, rushing for 415 yards, with more than 100 in all three games.

* Michigan update: Coach Lloyd Carr removed himself from the hot seat with an impressive 47-21 victory over Notre Dame last week. A loss Saturday would put him right back on it, however, so he'll look to the nation's top-ranked rushing defense to stop a Badgers offense that relies on the run. The Wolverines have given up only 20.7 rushing yards a game. Michigan's 38.3 scoring average is ninth in the nation. Running back Mike Hart has rushed for 386 yards and quarterback Chad Henne has passed for 468.

* Story line: It's a border rivalry that has been among the nation's most competitive. These teams have played five times since 1999 and never has the outcome been decided by more than seven points, though Michigan won four. Wisconsin won last year, 23-20. Michigan is coming off a big win and must avoid a letdown.

* The pick: Michigan. The Wolverines' defense will stuff Hill, forcing the Badgers to go to the air -- not the ideal situation for the nation's 99th-ranked pass offense.


No. 22 ARIZONA STATE (3-0) at No. 21 CALIFORNIA (2-1)

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

* TV: FSN West.

* Line: California by 7 1/2 .

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