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October 6, 2010

Viewers guide: Week 6 lacks the hype

The fifth week of the season provided plenty of highly anticipated matchups. But the second Saturday of October lacks the same type of hype. And this is a week that includes LSU-Florida and Florida State-Miami.

The game between the Tigers and Gators is the only matchup between top 15 teams this week, but it hardly feels like it. Last week, Alabama handed Florida its worst loss since 2005, and LSU beat Tennessee under the most dubious of circumstances.

Meanwhile, the luster of FSU's trip to Miami was lessened when the Hurricanes and Seminoles lost non-conference road games on Sept. 11. Still, the game may be a preview of the ACC title game.

Here's a look at the top five games to watch Saturday, plus Thursday's nationally televised prime-time game.

All times Eastern.

WEEK 6 VIEWER'S GUIDE
THURSDAY

NEBRASKA AT KANSAS STATE
When: 7:30 p.m., ESPN
Broadcasters: Rece Davis play-by-play, Craig James and Jesse Palmer analysts
The line: Nebraska by 12
Why you should watch: The Big 12 North is home of three of the conference's undefeated teams, but Nebraska seems to be everyone's pick to win the division, if not the whole conference. The Huskers have won five in a row over Kansas State, but the Wildcats could give Nebraska trouble. K-State's Daniel Thomas is the nation's fifth-leading rusher at 157 yards per game. Kansas State has had a knack for forcing timely fourth-quarter turnovers, with a fumble setting up the winning drive against Iowa State and an interception doing the same against UCF. Nebraska won its first three games by an average of 31.7 points, but it beat winless FCS school South Dakota State by "only" two touchdowns. The Huskers will find out in a hurry if that was a case of overlooking an opponent, overconfidence or a sign of major flaws. Redshirt freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez looked like a first-year player for the first time all season that day, throwing two interceptions and going only 6-of-14 through the air.

SATURDAY

MICHIGAN STATE AT MICHIGAN
When: 3:30 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN
Broadcasters: Sean McDonough play-by-play, Matt Millen analyst
The line: Michigan by 5
Why you should watch: This will be the most anticipated game in the rivalry since 2003, the last time both were ranked at kickoff. Michigan is back in the national picture thanks to Denard Robinson, who turned in another electrifying performance against Indiana last week. But the Wolverines haven't proven they have reliable playmakers beyond Robinson on either side of the ball. Minus the Bowling Green game, when he was injured, Robinson (1,724 combined rushing and passing yards) has accounted for 81.9 percent of Michigan's total offense. In addition, Michigan State has the toughest defense Robinson has faced. The Spartans rank 20th nationally in rush defense (Michigan hasn't faced anyone ranked better than 68th). They also rank 41st in total defense (Michigan hasn't face anyone ranked better than 51st). Spartans linebacker Greg Jones is one of the best defensive players in the country, and if Robinson can slip past Jones, the Wolverines may be able to slip past the Spartans.

ALABAMA AT SOUTH CAROLINA
When: 3:30 p.m., CBS
Broadcasters: Verne Lundquist play-by-play, Gary Danielson analyst
The line: Alabama by 7.5
Why you should watch: Alabama's 31-6 victory over Florida was the Crimson Tide's most convincing performance of the season. It showed in the rankings as Alabama claimed all but three first-place votes combined in the coaches' and AP polls. But South Carolina is the first of five consecutive SEC opponents that face Alabama immediately after a bye week. Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier has said Stephen Garcia will remain the starting quarterback. South Carolina needs to get freshman running back Marcus Lattimore going after he ran for just 33 yards against Auburn in the Gamecocks' last game, his lowest total of the season. Whatever happens on the South Carolina offense, the Gamecocks' defense must have a better day than it did a year ago against the Tide, when Mark Ingram gashed South Carolina for a career-high 246 yards.

LSU AT FLORIDA
When: 7:30 p.m., ESPN
Broadcasters: Joe Tessitore play-by-play, Todd Blackledge analyst
The line: Florida by 7
Why you should watch: It's tough to imagine many SEC games at this stage of a season between two top 15 teams, including one that is unbeaten, that are being criticized as much as these two. Urban Meyer's offense has had all sorts of issues this season, while LSU's Les Miles also is feeling the heat despite a 5-0 record. Both teams have stingy defenses -- Florida has the most interceptions in the country (12), LSU the 10th-most sacks (16) -- but both offenses have been among the worst in the nation in the red zone. Florida has touchdowns in 16 of 23 trips; LSU is even worse, with six TDs in 18 trips inside the 20. The team that finds a rhythm with its quarterback(s) will have a distinct advantage.

USC AT STANFORD
When: 8 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN GamePlan
Broadcasters: Mike Patrick play-by-play, Craig James analyst
The line: Stanford by 8
Why you should watch: Stanford's and USC's losses last week have removed some of the luster from this one, but the coaching matchup -- Jim Harbaugh and Lane Kiffin -- is an intriguing one. Harbaugh irked Kiffin's predecessor, Pete Carroll, in part by predicting Carroll would return to the NFL (Harbaugh was right). A more pressing concern for Kiffin will be to slow Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck a week after Washington quarterback Jake Locker carved up USC's defense. Meanwhile, Stanford is trying to recover from a disastrous second half against Oregon in which it was outscored 28-0.

FLORIDA STATE AT MIAMI
When: 8 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN GamePlan
Broadcasters: Brent Musburger play-by-play, Kirk Herbstreit analyst
The line: Miami by 6.5
Why you should watch: The same year the ACC championship game moves out of the state of Florida, Florida State and Miami finally look like legit conference contenders in the same season. After each lost in the second week of the season, each has responded in convincing fashion. FSU beat its next three opponents by a 99-24 total; Miami beat its next two by a combined 61-24. FSU and Miami rank first and second, respectively, in sacks nationally. The teams have combined to score an average of 69.3 points in this matchup over the past three seasons.

David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com, and you can click here to follow him on Twitter.



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