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October 15, 2009

Primer: USC-Notre Dame among big games

We're already at Week 7 of the college football season, and while it's not as good as last weekend, there still are a number of meaningful games.

It begins Thursday night, with a huge Big East battle between Cincinnati and host USF. There's also an important Big East game Friday, when Pittsburgh plays at Rutgers.

Saturday, there are showdowns in the ACC (Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech), Big Ten (Iowa at Wisconsin) and MAC (Central Michigan at Western Michigan), as well as one of the biggest games of the season with the "Red River Rivalry" - Oklahoma vs. Texas in Dallas.

Nebraska-Texas Tech and Missouri-Oklahoma State also are important Big 12 games. In the Pac-10, Arizona-Stanford and Arizona State-Washington are important matchups.

In addition, there's a big one in South Bend, with USC playing Notre Dame in a game that pits strength vs. strength (Notre Dame's offense vs. USC's defense) and question vs. question (USC's offense vs. Notre Dame's defense).

Here's a look at each game this weekend involving an FBS team.

SATURDAY'S GAMES

Oklahoma (3-2) vs. Texas (5-0) in Dallas, noon, ABC
THE BUZZ: The "Red River Shootout" - forget the "Red River Rivalry" PC stuff - will be Texas' first test of the season. The Longhorns have won three of the past four meetings with the Sooners.
THE LINE: Texas by 3.5. THE PICK: Texas 28-17.

Iowa (6-0) at Wisconsin (5-1), noon, ESPN
THE BUZZ: This is the biggest game in the Big Ten this week. An Iowa win means the Hawkeyes should be 10-0 when they travel to Ohio State on Nov. 14. Wisconsin, meanwhile, needs this one to remain on the periphery of the league title race. This is the 85th meeting in this rivalry, and it's tied 41-41-2.
THE LINE: Wisconsin by 2.5. THE PICK: Iowa 21-20.

Northwestern (4-2) at Michigan State (3-3), noon, ESPN2
THE BUZZ: This is a pecking-order game in the Big Ten. The winner has a shot to finish in the upper half of the league; it would be tough for the loser to do so.
THE LINE: Michigan State by 13.5. THE PICK: Michigan State 31-21.

Ohio State (5-1) at Purdue (1-5), noon, Big Ten Network
THE BUZZ: The Buckeyes already have dispatched Illinois and Indiana; this week, they get the last of the Big Ten's three stooges.
THE LINE: Ohio State by 14. THE PICK: Ohio State 28-10.

Delaware State (1-3) at Michigan (4-2), noon, Big Ten Network
THE BUZZ: The Wolverines have lost two in a row. Suffice it to say, that losing streak comes to an end against this FCS opponent. Too bad it's not Delaware, a FCS power that has the same helmet design as the Wolverines.
THE LINE: No line. THE PICK: Michigan 56-13.

Louisville (2-3) at Connecticut (3-2), noon, Big East syndication/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: UConn gagged away a 15-point lead in losing to Pitt last weekend. If the Huskies want to stay in the Big East title race, they must win this one. UConn's losses have come by a combined five points to North Carolina and Pitt.
THE LINE: UConn by 13. THE PICK: UConn 31-16.

Wake Forest (4-2) at Clemson (2-3), noon, ACC syndication/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: A big game in the ACC's Atlantic Division. The winner's division title hopes will be very much alive, while the loser can start wondering about finishing second at best. Wake QB Riley Skinner has been on fire the past four games.
THE LINE: Clemson by 7. THE PICK: Wake Forest 27-24.

Bowling Green (2-4) at Ball State (0-6), noon
THE BUZZ: Bowling Green QB Tyler Sheehan should be able to carve up Ball State's secondary. This is a big one for BG as it attempts to remain in the MAC East Division title hunt.
THE LINE: Bowling Green by 3. THE PICK: Bowling Green 37-31.

Georgia (3-3) at Vanderbilt (2-4), 12:20 p.m., SEC syndication/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: Georgia's defense is bad (and that bodes ill for Bulldogs defensive coordinator Willie Martinez). But is it bad enough that Vandy's inept offense actually could have some success?
THE LINE: Georgia by 7.5. THE PICK: Georgia 24-13.

Mississippi State (2-4) at Middle Tennessee (3-2), 12:30 p.m., ESPNU
THE BUZZ: Middle Tennessee already has one victory this season over a Big Six school, winning at Maryland. Can the Blue Raiders make it two such victories this season? Mississippi State is the first SEC team to play at MTSU.
THE LINE: Mississippi State by 4.5. THE PICK: Mississippi State 34-24.

Army (3-3) at Temple (3-2), 1 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Three of Army's past four games have been decided by seven or fewer points, including last week's OT victory over Vanderbilt. Speedy true freshman RB Bernard Pierce has provided a much-needed dimension to Temple's offense.
THE LINE: Temple by 9.5. THE PICK: Temple 23-16.

Wyoming (4-2) at Air Force (3-3), 2 p.m., The mtn.
THE BUZZ: Wyoming really hasn't beaten any team of note, but if the Cowboys win this, they'll be in good shape to earn bowl eligibility in coach Dave Christensen's first season. Air Force is plus-16 in turnover margin, while Wyoming is plus-nine.
THE LINE: Air Force by 10.5. THE PICK: Air Force 30-17.

Miami University (0-6) at Ohio (4-2), 2 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Miami is having all kinds of trouble scoring, averaging just 10.7 points per game. Ohio is one of the favorites to win the MAC East title, and a loss to the RedHawks would be inexcusable.
THE LINE: Ohio by 14. THE PICK: Ohio 31-14.

Nevada (2-3) at Utah State (1-4), 3 p.m., Comcast SportsNet California/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: Four of Nevada's past eight scoring drives have lasted less than a minute. The Wolf Pack lead the nation in rush offense (288.8 yards per game), and Utah State is 106th in rush defense (190.2 ypg).
THE LINE: Nevada by 9.5. THE PICK: Nevada 45-30.

USC (4-1) at Notre Dame (4-1), 3:30 p.m., NBC
THE BUZZ: Irish QB Jimmy Clausen has been as hot as any quarterback, but the Trojans haven't allowed a rushing TD this season. USC's offense has struggled a bit; the same can be said for the Irish's defense.
THE LINE: USC by 10. THE PICK: USC 28-21.

Arkansas (3-2) at Florida (5-0), 3:30 p.m., CBS
THE BUZZ: Talk about tough schedules - Florida is the fourth consecutive Arkansas opponent who was unbeaten at kickoff. Arkansas leads the SEC in pass offense (318.2 yards per game, with 15 TD passes), while Florida leads the nation in pass defense (115.2 ypg, with just one TD pass allowed).
THE LINE: Florida by 24.5. THE PICK: Florida 38-21.

Minnesota (4-2) at Penn State (5-1), 3:30 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN
THE BUZZ: This is the sixth home game of the season for the Nittany Lions, who have beaten no one with a real pulse this season. Minnesota is trying to prove it belongs in the Big Ten title chase; the Golden Gophers play at Ohio State next week.
THE LINE: Penn State by 17. THE PICK: Penn State 27-14.

N.C. State (3-3) at Boston College (4-2), 3:30 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: N.C. State is coming off a thorough beating at the hands of Duke, and this is basically a must-win for the Wolfpack if they're to stay in the hunt in the ACC's Atlantic Division. BC also was embarrassed last week, but by Virginia Tech. BC has two division losses but actually will be in OK shape if it wins this.
THE LINE: BC by 2.5. THE PICK: NC State 27-20.

Texas Tech (4-2) at Nebraska (4-1), 3:30 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: The Red Raiders won in overtime in Lubbock last season. Nebraska has allowed just one TD pass this season, while Tech has thrown 25.
THE LINE: Nebraska by 11. THE PICK: Nebraska 37-28.

California (3-2) at UCLA (3-2), 3:30 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: Cal had last week off to recuperate after being thrashed by Oregon and USC in back-to-back weeks. Will the Golden Bears come out refreshed or will they throw in the towel?
THE LINE: California by 3.5. THE PICK: California 20-14.

Marshall (4-2) at West Virginia (4-1), 3:30 p.m., Big East syndication/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: These in-state rivals have met just eight times, including each of the past three seasons. WVU has won all eight meetings. This game features the nation's No. 2 (Marshall's Darius Marshall, 147.4 ypg) and No. 3 (WVU's Noel Devine, 126.2 ypg) rushers.
THE LINE: WVU by 20.5. THE PICK: WVU 45-21.

Akron (1-4) at Buffalo (2-4), 3:30 p.m., Fox Sports Ohio
THE BUZZ: Akron is on its third quarterback of the season in true freshman Patrick Nicely, who was supposed to be redshirted. Junior RB Ike Nduka has emerged as a playmaker for Buffalo.
THE LINE: Buffalo by 9. THE PICK: Buffalo 28-13.

Houston (4-1) at Tulane (2-3), 3:30 p.m., CBS College Sports
THE BUZZ: Houston is searching for its first C-USA victory of the season. The Cougars lead the nation in pass offense (443.6 ypg), Tulane leads the league in pass defense (197.2 ypg). Still, the Green Wave is allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete an incredible 72.2 percent of their passes. Do you think Cougars QB Case Keenum is licking his chops or what?
THE LINE: Houston by 17. THE PICK: Houston 45-24.

Rice (0-6) at East Carolina (3-3), 3:30 p.m., Mid-Atlantic Sports Network
THE BUZZ: ECU is coming off a loss to SMU, and if the Pirates lose this one well, let's just say that if they lose this one, it quite possibly might be the most embarrassing loss suffered by any team this season.
THE LINE: East Carolina by 18. THE PICK: East Carolina 34-10.

Central Michigan (5-1) at Western Michigan (3-3), 3:30 p.m., Fox Sports Detroit/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: This is one of the biggest games of the season in the MAC. This is the toughest road game on CMU's conference schedule. The quarterbacks will be in the spotlight: CMU's Dan LeFevour and WMU's Tim Hiller.
THE LINE: Central Michigan by 6.5. THE PICK: Central Michigan 38-34.

Colorado State (3-3) at TCU (5-0), 4 p.m., Versus
THE BUZZ: Colorado State will breathe a sigh of relief when this is over; the Rams will have played BYU, Utah and TCU - the Mountain West's three best teams - in the past four games.
THE LINE: TCU by 22. THE PICK: TCU 38-17.

Virginia (2-3) at Maryland (2-4), 4 p.m., ESPNU
THE BUZZ: Each coach is on the hot seat, though the Cavs' modest two-game winning streak has cooled the seat under Al Groh a bit. UVa's defense has played well the past two weeks.
THE LINE: Virginia by 3.5. THE PICK: Maryland 27-23.

New Mexico State (3-3) at Louisiana Tech (2-3), 6 p.m.
THE BUZZ: New Mexico State is 3-3 for the third consecutive season. The problem is that in the past two seasons, the Aggies have gone a combined 1-12 after those 3-3 starts.
THE LINE: Louisiana Tech by 20. THE PICK: Louisiana Tech 27-10.

Kent State (2-4) at Eastern Michigan (0-5), 4 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Who really cares?
THE LINE: Kent State by 6.5. THE PICK: Kent State 31-21.

Hawaii (2-3) at Idaho (5-1), 5 p.m., Altitude2/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: Idaho has been a huge surprise, and a win in this one makes the Vandals bowl eligible; they haven't been to a bowl since 1998. Idaho hasn't beaten Hawaii since 1960, losing seven in a row in the series.
THE LINE: Idaho by 9.5. THE PICK: Idaho 34-20.

Virginia Tech (5-1) at Georgia Tech (5-1), 6 p.m., ESPN2
THE BUZZ: This is one of the biggest games of the season in the ACC. If the Hokies win, go ahead and pencil them in as ACC Coastal Division champs. If the Yellow Jackets win, the division race becomes wide open between these two and Miami. Both teams run the ball well.
THE LINE: Virginia Tech by 3. THE PICK: Virginia Tech 27-21.

BYU (5-1) at San Diego State (2-3), 6 p.m., The mtn.
THE BUZZ: BYU has won seven of the past eight in the series, by an average margin of 26 points per game. BYU is trying to move to 4-0 on the road for the first time since 2001.
THE LINE: BYU by 17. THE PICK: BYU 45-20.

Kansas (5-0) at Colorado (1-4), 7 p.m., Fox Sports Net
THE BUZZ: Kansas QB Todd Reesing has been hot this season, and Colorado's pass defense is shaky. Will a quarterback change provide a jolt for the Buffs?
THE LINE: Kansas by 9.5. THE PICK: Kansas 41-28.

Illinois (1-4) at Indiana (3-3), 7 p.m., Big Ten Network
THE BUZZ: The hounds make their way to the heartland, as this is the dog of the week. The loser has a great chance to finish winless in the Big Ten.
THE LINE: Illinois by 2. THE PICK: Illinois 24-23.

UAB (2-3) at Ole Miss (3-2), 7 p.m., Fox Sports Florida/Fox Sports South/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: This is the first meeting between the teams, and Ole Miss' moribund offense should have the opportunity to wake up against UAB's weak defense. This is homecoming for the Rebels.
THE LINE: Ole Miss by 22. THE PICK: Ole Miss 42-17.

Texas A&M (3-2) at Kansas State (3-3), 7 p.m., Fox College Sports Central
THE BUZZ: Texas A&M QB Jerrod Johnson has been sharp this season - he's the only full-time starting quarterback in the nation who has yet to throw an interception - and he'll be going against a secondary that was torched last week by Texas Tech's backup quarterback. This is the kind of opponent A&M must beat if it wants to go to a bowl.
THE LINE: Texas A&M by 5.5. THE PICK: Texas A&M 38-23.

Troy (3-2) at Florida International (1-4), 7 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Troy is 20-3 in Sun Belt Conference games since the start of the 2006 season. FIU is coming off its first victory of the season, over Western Kentucky.
THE LINE: Troy by 9.5. THE PICK: Troy 24-17.

Memphis (2-4) at Southern Miss (3-3), 7 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Southern Miss needs to prove it can win a game without starting QB Austin Davis, who is out for the season. If the Golden Eagles can stymie Tigers RB Curtis Steele, they should get that needed win.
THE LINE: Southern Miss by 14. THE PICK: Southern Miss 38-17.

Baylor (3-2) at Iowa State (3-3), 7 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Iowa State acquitted itself well in a loss to Kansas last week. If Baylor loses this, it might not win again this season.
THE LINE: Iowa State by 2.5. THE PICK: Baylor 23-20.

Louisiana-Lafayette (3-2) at Western Kentucky (0-5), 7 p.m.
THE BUZZ: ULL is searching for its second-ever 2-0 start in Sun Belt play. Starting with this one, the Ragin' Cajuns play four of their next five on the road.
THE LINE: ULL by 7.5. THE PICK: ULL 37-24.

Northern Illinois (3-2) at Toledo (3-3), 7 p.m.
THE BUZZ: This basically is a must-win game for Toledo if it wants to stay in the MAC West title race. Toledo is coming off a 58-26 loss to Western Michigan, a team that lost 38-3 to Northern Illinois.
THE LINE: NIU by 5. THE PICK: NIU 34-28.

Stanford (4-2) at Arizona (3-2), 7:30 p.m., Versus
THE BUZZ: A big one in the Pac-10, as this is a "pecking order" game for both. The winner remains at least on the periphery of the league title race, while the loser can start worrying about possibly finishing in the bottom half of the league.
THE LINE: Arizona by 4.5. THE PICK: Stanford 27-24.

Kentucky (2-3) at Auburn (5-1), 7:30 p.m., ESPNU
THE BUZZ: Auburn will be looking to bounce back from its first loss, to Arkansas. Good news for the Tigers' mediocre defense is that UK can't throw the ball nearly as well as the Hogs. A win makes Auburn bowl-eligible a season after the Tigers finished 5-7.
THE LINE: Auburn by 13.5. THE PICK: Auburn 38-23.

Miami (4-1) at UCF (3-2), 7:30 p.m., CBS College Sports
THE BUZZ: This is a big one for UCF, which doesn't often get a Big Six team to play in Orlando. While UM just wants to avoid a loss, UCF is playing for much bigger stakes.
THE LINE: Miami by 14.5. THE PICK: Miami 35-17.

South Carolina (5-1) at Alabama (6-0), 7:45 p.m., ESPN
THE BUZZ: Alabama is No. 2 nationally in total defense, the Gamecocks 15th. But the Tide's offense has been much more efficient than South Carolina's. This is the third Nick Saban-Steve Spurrier matchup. The previous two came when Saban was at LSU and Spurrier at Florida; Spurrier is 2-0, with his teams outscoring Saban's 85-24.
THE LINE: Alabama by 17. THE PICK: Alabama 24-10.

Navy (4-2) at SMU (3-2), 8 p.m., Mid-Atlantic Sports Network
THE BUZZ: SMU is a heck of a lot better than it was last season. But unless the Mustangs stop the run, they will lose this. Navy played in Houston (against Rice) last week and heads to Dallas this week.
THE LINE: Navy by 7.5. THE PICK: Navy 31-21.

Florida Atlantic (0-4) at North Texas (1-4), 8 p.m., Sun Belt syndication/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: FAU was expected to be a contender for the Sun Belt Conference title, but if the Owls lose this one, they'll need to be worried about staying out of the conference cellar.
THE LINE: North Texas by 2. THE PICK: FAU 33-28.

Missouri (4-1) at Oklahoma State (4-1), 9:15 p.m., ESPN2
THE BUZZ: This is an important "pecking order" game in the Big 12. Mizzou can't afford to drop to 0-2 in league play; Oklahoma State can't afford a loss to a Big 12 North opponent. Plus, a loss means you can lump Oklahoma State in with Ole Miss as the biggest preseason fraud.
THE LINE: Oklahoma State by 7. THE PICK: Oklahoma State 35-30.

San Jose State (1-4) at Fresno State (2-3), 10 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Fresno State has won 14 of the past 15 meetings in the series, and San Jose State hasn't won at Fresno since 1987. Fresno State has run the ball well, while San Jose State has been awful against the run.
THE LINE: Fresno by 19.5. THE PICK: Fresno State 41-20.

Utah (4-1) at UNLV (2-4), 10 p.m., The mtn.
THE BUZZ: The Utes have won 12 of the past 13 in the series, and they've scored at least 42 on the Rebels in four of the past five meetings. Utah's next victory will be the 600th in program history; the Utes are 599-418-31 all-time.
THE LINE: Utah by 16.5. THE PICK: Utah 44-24.

Washington (3-3) at Arizona State (3-2), 10:15 p.m., Fox Sports Net
THE BUZZ: Washington is coming off a last-minute, come-from-behind victory over Arizona. Arizona State has been strong defensively but mediocre on offense. Starting with this one, Arizona State plays three of four at home and Washington plays three of four on the road.
THE LINE: Arizona State by 6.5. THE PICK: Arizona State 24-21.

NEXT WEDNESDAY'S GAME

Tulsa (4-2) at UTEP (2-4), 8 p.m., ESPN
THE BUZZ: This will be the second consecutive Wednesday night game for Tulsa. In their meeting last season, UTEP scored 35 points - and lost by 42 to the Golden Hurricane.
THE LINE: Tulsa by 7.5. THE PICK: Tulsa 44-31.

LAST WEEK

45-11 straight up, 26-25 against the spread.

YEAR TO DATE

292-82 straight up, 133-154-1 against the spread.

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.



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