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Four Games To Watch

September 27, 2007|Peter Yoon



Kickoff: Friday, 5 p.m. PDT.


Line: West Virginia by 7.

West Virginia update: The Mountaineers are hitting their stride just in time for their Big East Conference opener. They are coming off of a 48-7 victory over East Carolina that Coach Rich Rodriguez called "the best overall performance we've had in several years." With running back Steve Slaton and dual-threat quarterback Pat White leading the way, West Virginia is second in the nation with 357 rushing yards a game and fourth with 47.3 points a game. Defensively, they've given up only 17 points a game.

South Florida update: The Bulls have risen to national prominence behind a defense that is giving up only 237.7 yards a game -- seventh in the nation. They give up only 79 rushing yards a game, have forced 11 turnovers and have 12 sacks.

Story line: West Virginia is looking to avenge a 24-19 loss to the Bulls last season that knocked the Mountaineers out of the Big East title race and a possible bid to a Bowl Championship Series game. South Florida, which held the Mountaineers to 132 rushing yards in that game, made its first-ever top-25 appearance two weeks ago.

The pick: West Virginia. The Mountaineers may have looked past South Florida last season, but that won't be the case this season.




Kickoff: Saturday, 12:30 p.m.

TV: GamePlan, only on West Coast.

Line: Wisconsin by 7.

Michigan State update: The Spartans, coming off a 31-14 victory at Notre Dame, are undefeated thanks in part to a ball-control approach, with a solid rushing attack and a staunch defense. Running backs Javon Ringer and Jehuu Caulcrick have 399 and 300 yards for an offense that averages 200.8 rushing yards a game. Defensive lineman Jonal Saint-Dic has six sacks and leads a unit that's giving up only 265.8 yards and 15.5 points a game, both No. 14 in the nation.

Wisconsin update: The Badgers have the nation's longest winning streak, 13 games, but have needed second-half comebacks in two consecutive weeks to keep it alive. Running back P.J. Hill, averaging 128 rushing yards, is the main threat. He has scored eight touchdowns. On defense, the Badgers have given up 309.7 yards a game -- up from the 253.1 they gave up last season -- but limited Iowa to 228 last week.

Story line: The Badgers, who keep winning but keep dropping in the polls, need a convincing quality victory to justify their ranking. Michigan State is in a similar spot -- undefeated but largely untested, and a solid performance could get them climbing the national polls.

The pick: Wisconsin. But if the Badgers fall behind early again, they could be in trouble.



AT NO. 11 OREGON (4-0)

Kickoff: Saturday, 12:30 p.m.

TV: Channel 7.

Line: Oregon by 5 1/2 .

California update: The Golden Bears are averaging 41.5 points a game and have scored more than 40 three times -- impressive considering big-play receiver/punt returner DeSean Jackson has been kept in check so far. He has 17 catches for 151 yards and since a Week 1 77-yard punt return against Tennessee, he has returned six punts for 17 yards. Running back Justin Forsett has 484 rushing yards and seven touchdowns, and quarterback Nate Longshore has passed for 852 yards and five touchdowns.

Oregon update: The Ducks are seventh in the nation in average yards a game at 536.8 and seventh in scoring at 48.5. They are doing most of their damage on the ground, with running back Jonathan Stewart and quarterback Dennis Dixon leading an attack that averages 299.8 rushing yards a game, ranking fourth nationally.

Story line: It's a key Pacific 10 game with the loser becoming a longshot for the conference title. Last season, Cal defeated Oregon, 45-24, in a game that helped the Golden Bears win a share of the Pac-10 title and sent the Ducks spiraling to a 7-6 record after starting 4-0.

The pick: California. Games between high-powered offenses often come down to defense, and the Golden Bears are superior on that side of the ball.


AUBURN (2-2)

AT NO. 4 FLORIDA (4-0)

Kickoff: Saturday, 5 p.m.


Line: Florida by 18.

Florida update: The Gators, winners of 11 in a row, could match the longest winning streak in team history with a victory. Stretching it further is going to be difficult with games against No. 2 Louisiana State, No. 14 Kentucky and No. 15 Georgia -- two on the road and one at Jacksonville -- following this one. Quarterback Tim Tebow and receiver Percy Harvin lead an offense that's averaging 517 yards and 49 points a game. Defensively, they give up only 54.5 rushing yards a game.

Auburn: The Tigers, fighting to salvage their season, are coming off a 55-20 victory over New Mexico State that followed consecutive losses to South Florida and Mississippi State. Still, they have a history of rising to the occasion in big games. Auburn has won four consecutive games against top-10 opponents and eight of its last nine. It has also won six consecutive Southeastern Conference road games and 12 of its last 13.

Story line: Auburn handed Florida its only loss last season, 27-17, when the Gators were ranked No. 2. It was Florida's only loss in a national title-winning season. Auburn, a top-20 team entering the season, can still make a run at the SEC title.

The pick: Florida. The Gators could get caught looking ahead, but good teams generally don't make such mistakes.


-- Peter Yoon

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