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Games of the week

August 28, 2008|Chris Dufresne

Utah at Michigan

Saturday, 12:30 p.m., ESPN2

Rich Rodriguez makes his debut at Michigan after his tumultuous and expensive off-season extraction from the contract clutches of West Virginia. Rodriguez, in time, might transform the Big Ten with his brand of spread offense, but right now he just needs the engine to start. Rodriguez has already embraced the Ohio State rivalry but also needs to know, as Lloyd Carr found out last year, that losing the home opener to a school outside the Bowl Championship Series sphere is also grounds for annulment.

UCLA discovered the hard way last year what can happen when you take Utah for granted, making Rodriguez's first game anything but a lock. The pick: Michigan.

Alabama vs. Clemson

Saturday at Atlanta, 5 p.m.

The combined salaries of the coaches, Nick Saban and Tommy Bowden, could feed Nova Scotia for a week so the time for these guys to win is now. This is Bowden's best team at Clemson, and the Tigers have been picked to win the Atlantic Coast Conference, which they haven't done since 1991.

Alabama didn't pay Saban to go 7-6, lose to Louisiana Monroe and hand Auburn a sixth straight win, but that's what happened in his first year. Big things are expected yesterday in Bear Bryant Country, so Saban probably wishes he was still in the NFL only because he'd get four exhibitions to prepare for this season's eye-opener. The pick: Clemson.

Illinois vs. Missouri

Saturday at St. Louis, 5:30 p.m., ESPN

Some say Illinois lucked into the Rose Bowl last year with three losses, while many think one-loss Missouri got robbed in being denied a BCS bowl bid. So how fitting it is that these schools should meet again in St. Louis. Missouri won last year's game and both schools return star quarterbacks, Juice Williams and Chase Daniel. The pick: Missouri.

Fresno State at Rutgers

Monday, 1 p.m., ESPN

Fresno State Coach Pat Hill doesn't back down from any challenge, but he would have preferred not taking on this daunting one, which became necessary when Kansas State dropped off the schedule. Rug-rat runner Ray Rice has moved on, but Rutgers' vaunted passing attack returns in full fling force. The pick: Rutgers.

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