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Inside College Football

Four Games To Watch

September 13, 2007|PETER YOON


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


* Line: Ohio State by 4.

* Ohio State update: The Buckeyes are leading the nation in defense at 122.5 yards a game and have yet to given up a touchdown, but they have played Youngstown State and Akron. They've needed the stout defense to help overcome an offense still adjusting to life after Troy Smith and Ted Ginn Jr. Quarterback Todd Boeckman has passed for four touchdowns but has had two passes intercepted and the Buckeyes have lost four fumbles.

* Washington update: The Huskies' win against Boise State last week was Washington's first victory over a ranked team since 2003. Now the team is looking for its first 3-0 start since 2002. Freshman quarterback Jake Locker is a double threat with 335 yards passing and 167 yards and three touchdowns rushing.

* Story line: Washington is seeking to gain respect for its program and the Pacific 10 Conference. Ohio State needs this to show it has rebounded from its loss to Florida in the Bowl Championship Series title game. This is also the biggest hurdle for the Buckeyes before an Oct. 27 game against Penn State.

* The pick: Washington. The Huskies defense is too good for a still-developing Ohio State offense.



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

* TV: Channel 7.

* Line: Michigan by 7 1/2 .

* Notre Dame update: The Fighting Irish are 0-2 for only the sixth time in team history and are looking to avoid their first 0-3 start. An inept offense is to blame: The lone Notre Dame touchdown thus far was on an interception return against Penn State. The Irish rank last in the nation in offense at 133 yards a game, including minus-four a game on the ground, and they have given up 15 sacks.

* Michigan update: The Wolverines, looking to avoid their first 0-3 start since 1937, have been done in by shoddy defense. They have given up 505.5 yards and 36.5 points a game -- both among the bottom 20 in the nation. The offense has averaged a respectable 422 yards, but quarterback Chad Henne will sit out because of a knee injury, leaving true freshman Ryan Mallett to run the show.

* Story line: These are the two winningest teams of all time looking to salvage their seasons. They haven't only lost their first two games this year, they are a combined 0-8 going back to the end of last season. This is a battle to see which storied program has fallen furthest.

* The pick: Notre Dame. Both teams have been dismal, but at least the Irish have been dismal against ranked teams.



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

* TV: Channel 2.

* Line: Florida by 8.

* Tennessee update: After giving up 61 points in the first six quarters of the season, the Volunteers seemed to find something on defense when they held Southern Mississippi to a field goal in the second half last week. Still, they have given up 825 yards in two games and will have to rely on Erik Ainge, who has passed for 547 yards and five touchdowns.

* Florida update: The Gators have yet to be tested, outscoring Western Kentucky and Troy, 108-34, and piling up 505 yards a game. Quarterback Tim Tebow has passed for six touchdowns and rushed for three. He has completed 73.8% of his passes and is also the team's second-leading rusher with 131 yards. Deep threat receiver Andre Caldwell will sit out the game because of a knee injury.

* Story line: Tennessee has lost consecutive games in this Southeastern Conference rivalry and a third could spell doom for Coach Phil Fullmer. Urban Meyer is attempting to become the first Florida coach to win his first three games against Tennessee.

* The pick: Florida. The defending national champions have been an afterthought in this year's title talk, but not after they rout the Volunteers.


NO. 16 ARKANSAS (1-0) AT ALABAMA (2-0)

* Kickoff: Saturday, 3:45 p.m. PDT.


* Line: Alabama by 3.

* Arkansas update: The Razorbacks enter this important Southeastern Conference game after a week off. They had little trouble with Troy in a 46-26 opening-week victory in which running backs Darren McFadden and Felix Jones combined for 280 rushing yards and two touchdowns. The Razorbacks will need to get balance from quarterback Casey Dick and a solid receiving corps if they are to contend for a conference title.

* Alabama update: The Nick Saban era is off to a good start and defense has been its signature. The Crimson Tide has given up 133 yards rushing and 16 points and has yet to give up a rushing touchdown. Running back Terry Grant is the early SEC rushing leader with 307 yards and five touchdowns.

* Story line: The winner would emerge as a challenger for the SEC West title. Last season, Arkansas won an overtime game, 24-23. That helped propel the Razorbacks to the SEC title game and sent Alabama on a skid that led to a 6-7 finish and the firing of coach Mike Shula.

* The pick: Alabama is a lot better than it showed last season and will be ready to go for Saban's first home conference game.

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