October 28, 2010

Week 9 Primer: Road tests for unbeatens

Three unbeatens put their perfect records on the line in tough road venues to highlight Week 9.

Michigan State plays at Iowa, Missouri plays at Nebraska and Oregon takes its high-flying offense to L.A. to play USC.

It's the last real regular-season test for the Spartans, who rallied to win at Northwestern last week. This also is the toughest remaining regular-season test for Mizzou, which knocked off visiting Oklahoma last week. Oregon has some tough games down the stretch, including the "Civil War" with Oregon State, but beating the Trojans at the Coliseum would strengthen the Ducks hold on No. 1 in the two polls used by the BCS.

Iowa and Nebraska have a lot on the line, as well. Iowa remains in the hunt for the Big Ten title and resultant BCS berth. Nebraska, meanwhile, knows that a win over Mizzou would move them a giant step closer to the Big 12 North title and a spot in the league's championship game.

As for USC, which is ineligible for the Pac-10 crown and a bowl bid, the Trojans are left playing for pride. But they have a potent offense that should have some success against the Ducks. The question is how well a mediocre USC defense holds up.

Here's a look at every game involving a FBS team this weekend; the "weekend" extends into next week because there are games on Tuesday and Wednesday.

THURSDAY'S GAMES

Florida State (6-1) at N.C. State (5-2), 7:30 p.m., ESPN
THE BUZZ: FSU has won three in a row over the Wolfpack, and a fourth in a row would all but lock up the ACC Atlantic Division title for the Seminoles. NCSU needs a huge game from QB Russell Wilson if it's to pull the upset.
THE LINE: FSU by 3.5. THE PICK: FSU 28-20

FRIDAY'S GAME

West Virginia (5-2) at Connecticut (3-4), 8 p.m., ESPN2
THE BUZZ: UConn has been a huge disappointment, but the Huskies can salvage the season with a victory. But that doesn't seem likely. WVU is 6-0 all-time against UConn and, after last week's loss to Syracuse, needs to win to remain legitimately in the hunt for the Big East title.
THE LINE: WVU by 6.5. THE PICK: WVU 31-20

SATURDAY'S GAMES

Oklahoma State (6-1) at Kansas State (5-2), noon, Fox Sports Net
THE BUZZ: Oklahoma State is coming off its first loss of the season and should be able to put up some points on K-State. But Oklahoma State's shaky defense could lead to a huge day for K-State RB Daniel Thomas. While neither team truly is in the Big 12 title hunt, this is huge as each jockeys for bowl position.
THE LINE: Oklahoma State by 5.5. THE PICK: Oklahoma State 44-35

Syracuse (5-2) at Cincinnati (3-4), noon, ESPNU
THE BUZZ: Given the wide-open nature of the Big East, both these teams have a shot at the league title -- but a win in this one basically is a must. Syracuse's offense has been mediocre, but an aggressive defense has made the Orange a pleasant surprise. Cincy, meanwhile, has had trouble protecting the passer and may be without starting QB Zach Collaros because of a knee injury.
THE LINE: OFF. THE PICK: Cincinnati 21-16

VMI (3-4) at Army (4-3), noon, CBS College Sports
THE BUZZ: A victory would enable Army to match last season's win total and mark the first time the Black Knights had won as many as five games in back-to-back seasons since 1995 and '96. VMI's coach is Sparky Woods, who was South Carolina's head man from 1988-93. This is the 15th meeting between the schools and all have been played at West Point; Army leads the series 13-1.
THE LINE: No line. THE PICK: Army 40-13

Northwestern (5-2) at Indiana (4-3), noon, Big Ten Network
THE BUZZ: Northwestern has lost two in a row after a 5-0 start, and the Wildcats now need to worry about their place in the Big Ten bowl pecking order. Indiana, meanwhile, needs to pull at least one upset to get to a bowl. The Hoosiers' offense should have some success against the Wildcats, but IU's defense is woeful.
THE LINE: Northwestern by 3. THE PICK: Northwestern 38-30

Miami (5-2) at Virginia (3-4), noon, ESPN
THE BUZZ: This is the first game in ACC football history matching two black head coaches. Other than that historic fact, this one doesn't have much else going for it, though Miami needs to win to remain in the hunt for the ACC Coastal title.
THE LINE: Miami by 15. THE PICK: Miami 34-14

Clemson (4-3) at Boston College (2-5), noon, ACC syndication/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: BC's offense has been a disaster and the Eagles desperately need some wins if they are to go bowling. Last season's game between these two took almost five hours because of two weather delays.
THE LINE: Clemson by 7. THE PICK: Clemson 24-13

Purdue (4-3) at Illinois (4-3), noon, ESPN2
THE BUZZ: How about Ron Zook? His Illini have a legit shot at a nine-win season. At the least, Illinois is in good shape to go bowling. Purdue, meanwhile, is two wins short of bowl eligibility, but it doesn't look as if the Boilermakers can pull it off.
THE LINE: Illinois by 17. THE PICK: Illinois 35-14

UAB (2-5) at Southern Miss (5-2), noon, Comcast-Charter Sports Southeast
THE BUZZ: Southern Miss has scored at least 40 points in three consecutive games and at least 30 five times this season. The Golden Eagles can't afford a loss if they want to remain in the chase for the C-USA East crown.
THE LINE: Southern Miss by 10. THE PICK: Southern Miss 38-23

Northern Illinois (6-2) at Western Michigan (3-4), noon, ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: This is the toughest game left for Western Michigan, which has a legit shot at a bowl if it can finish 7-5. NIU is 11th in the nation in rush offense, and Western Michigan is 15th nationally in pass offense. A big difference: NIU's defense is solid, WMU's isn't.
THE LINE: NIU by 8. THE PICK: NIU 27-17

Louisville (4-3) at Pittsburgh (4-3), noon, Big East syndication/SportsNet New York/Mid-Atlantic Sports Network/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: What looked in the preseason like an easy win for Pitt now has become a tough game. Charlie Strong has done a nice job in his first season as Louisville's coach and senior RB Bilal Powell has revitalized the Cardinals' offense. Pitt has been excellent against the run, ranking ninth nationally in rush defense.
THE LINE: Pitt by 9. THE PICK: Pitt 30-17

Tennessee (2-5) at South Carolina (5-2), 12:20 p.m., SEC syndication/MSG network/Comcast SportsNet California/Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: Steve Spurrier used to say, "You can't spell Citrus [Bowl] without 'UT.' " Now, he could say, "You can't spell outhouse without 'UT.' " Still, the Vols own the Gamecocks, having won 15 of 17 in this series.
THE LINE: South Carolina by 17.5. THE PICK: South Carolina 28-13

Akron (0-8) at Temple (6-2), 1 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Akron is bad. Really bad. The good news for Zips coach Rob Ianello is that at some point during this game, he can look over to the other sideline and think to himself, "Man, if Temple can turn it around and become good, so can Akron."
THE LINE: Temple by 29. THE PICK: Temple 47-14

San Diego State (5-2) at Wyoming (2-6), 2 p.m., The mtn.
THE BUZZ: The Aztecs are one win bowl eligibility and should get it against a struggling Cowboys team. San Diego State has been to just five bowls in its history. Three of the past four meetings in this series, including Wyoming's victory last season, have been decided by three points.
THE LINE: San Diego State by 10. THE PICK: San Diego State 23-17

Kansas (2-5) at Iowa State (4-4), 2 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Kansas has been ground to a pulp in recent weeks. Iowa State was able to rebound from some beatdowns to stun Texas last week, but expecting that from KU seems way too much, especially with the Jayhawks potentially down to their third-team quarterback because of injuries.
THE LINE: OFF. THE PICK: Iowa State 35-16

Louisiana-Lafayette (2-5) at Ohio (5-3), 2 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Gee, there's nothing like a late-October matchup featuring a Sun Belt team playing a MAC team to get your blood a-boilin'. Ohio is in the running for the MAC East crown; ULL, meanwhile, is coming off a 33-point home loss to Western Kentucky in which the Hilltoppers snapped their 26-game losing streak.
THE LINE: Ohio by 14.5. THE PICK: Ohio 41-21

Tulsa (4-3) at Notre Dame (4-4), 2:30 p.m., NBC
THE BUZZ: Tulsa? Playing in Notre Dame Stadium, in front of Touchdown Jesus? And -- oh, the real horror -- Irish fans have reason to be worried. But Tulsa's rancid defense ultimately will be the deciding factor.
THE LINE: Notre Dame by 8.5. THE PICK: Notre Dame 38-27

UTEP (5-3) at Marshall (1-6), 3 p.m.
THE BUZZ: After starting 5-1, UTEP has blown a couple of tires in losing back-to-back games to UAB and Tulane. If the wobbling Miners want to go to a bowl, they'd better beat the Herd.
THE LINE: Marshall by 3. THE PICK: UTEP 27-24

North Texas (1-6) at Western Kentucky (1-6), 3 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Western snapped its 26-game losing streak with a rout of host Louisiana-Lafayette last week, and have a great shot at putting together a modest two-game sinning streak. UNT is playing its first game for coach Mike Canales after coach Todd Dodge was fired last week, when the Mean Green were off.
THE LINE: Western by 5.5. THE PICK: Western 41-33

Michigan State (8-0) at Iowa (5-2), 3:30 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN
THE BUZZ: This is the toughest game left on Michigan State's schedule, so a lot of folks will be interested in this outcome. The Spartans have gone from a nice human-interest story to potential national title game participant. Despite its loss last week to Wisconsin, Iowa still has a shot at the Big Ten title. It needs to win out -- and it needs some help.
THE LINE: Iowa by 6.5. THE PICK: Iowa 24-21

Arizona (6-1) at UCLA (3-4), 3:30 p.m., Fox Sports Net
THE BUZZ: Arizona rolled over Washington last week with backup QB Matt Scott at the controls and now will try to do the same to UCLA. The Wildcats remain alive in the Pac-10 title race, while the Bruins are in desperation mode as they try to become bowl-eligible. This will be the fifth time in seven weeks that UCLA is playing a team that is ranked at kickoff.
THE LINE: Arizona by 9. THE PICK: Arizona 31-16

Wake Forest (2-5) at Maryland (5-2), 3:30 p.m., ESPNU
THE BUZZ: Maryland clinches bowl eligibility with a victory. Wake is effective running the ball, but the Demon Deacons can't throw and play poor defense. The Terps, meanwhile, are winning because of their defense -- well, that and an easy schedule.
THE LINE: Maryland by 5.5. THE PICK: Maryland 21-17

Missouri (7-0) at Nebraska (6-1), 3:30 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN
THE BUZZ: Mizzou got an "A" on Part 1 of a two-part test last week by upsetting Oklahoma at home. Now, the Tigers go on the road for Part 2. This basically is the Big 12 North title game, as no one else in the division is close to these teams. Mizzou is 7-0 for the first time since 1960. The last time these teams met in Lincoln, in 2008, Mizzou rolled -- but that's the Tigers' only win at Nebraska since 1978.
THE LINE: Nebraska by 7.5. THE PICK: Nebraska 24-20

Duke (1-6) at Navy (5-2), 3:30 p.m., CBS College Sports
THE BUZZ: This is the third ACC opponent of the season for Navy, which lost by three to Maryland and beat Wake Forest by one. Duke's run defense has been bad, which bodes ill against the Midshipmen's option-based attack.
THE LINE: Navy by 14. THE PICK: Navy 37-20

California (4-3) at Oregon State (3-3), 3:30 p.m., Fox College Sports
THE BUZZ: This is a big game in terms of Pac-10 bowl positioning. Oregon State QB Ryan Katz has come on of late, with 859 passing yards and five TDs in the past three games. Cal QB Kevin Riley has thrown 10 TD passes and no picks at home, but just three TD passes and six picks on the road.
THE LINE: Oregon State by 3. THE PICK: Oregon State 27-21

East Carolina (5-2) at UCF (5-2), 3:30 p.m., Mid-Atlantic Sports Network
THE BUZZ: Both are unbeaten in Conference USA action, and this appears to be the de facto East Division title game. ECU wins with a high-powered offense, while UCF is stout defensively. N.C. State is a common opponent; ECU edged the Wolfpack in OT, while UCF lost by seven in a nail-biter.
THE LINE: UCF by 7.5. THE PICK: UCF 28-24

Florida (4-3) vs. Georgia (4-4) in Jacksonville, 3:30 p.m., CBS
THE BUZZ: "The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party" is an especially apt moniker this season, as the losing fans are going to want to imbibe heavily because the losing team's season officially will have spun out of control. The Gators have won 17 of the past 20 in the series.
THE LINE: Georgia by 3. THE PICK: Florida 23-20

Troy (4-2) at Louisiana-Monroe (3-4), 3:30 p.m., Sun Belt syndication/Comcast-Charter Sports Southeast/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: Troy has won 13 Sun Belt games in a row. The last team to beat the Trojans in conference play was ULM, on Nov. 1, 2008.
THE LINE: Troy by 16.5. THE PICK: Troy 44-24

SMU (4-4) at Tulane (3-4), 3:30 p.m.
THE BUZZ: SMU is coming off a disappointing home loss to Houston and needs to rebound quickly. Tulane has played surprisingly well on defense this season, but the Green Wave offense still is lacking. That means SMU should win this one.
THE LINE: SMU by 7.5. THE PICK: SMU 24-14

Miami of Ohio (4-4) at Buffalo (2-5), 3:30 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Miami's MAC East title hopes took a big hit last week with a loss to Ohio, but the RedHawks still technically are in the hunt and can't afford a loss to Buffalo. Miami has a solid passing attack, but Buffalo's secondary might be the best in the league.
THE LINE: Miami by 3. THE PICK: Miami 27-21

Bowling Green (1-7) at Central Michigan (2-6), 3:30 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Two productive receivers will be on view in Bowling Green's Kamar Jorden and Central Michigan's Cody Wilson. As for the game itself, who cares?
THE LINE: Central Michigan by 11.5. THE PICK: Central Michigan 31-17

Texas Tech (4-3) at Texas A&M (4-3), 3:30 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Tech has won four of the past five and 10 of the past 14 in the series. This is a big one for both teams as they attempt to gain bowl eligibility. Since the start of the 2009 season, A&M is 10-0 when rushing for at least 190 yards and 0-10 when rushing for fewer than 190 yards.
THE LINE: Texas A&M by 7. THE PICK: Texas A&M 31-27

Ball State (2-6) at Kent State (3-4), 3:30 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Two years ago this week, Ball State was 8-0 and 16th in the BCS standings. Now? They're involved in one of the biggest yawners of the week.
THE LINE: Kent State by 10. THE PICK: Kent State 23-10

William & Mary (6-1) at North Carolina (4-3), 3:30 p.m.
THE BUZZ: UNC needs to take this seriously, as the Tribe is ranked third in FCS. William & Mary uses two quarterbacks, and one is UNC transfer Mike Paulus. This is the fifth season in a row William & Mary has played an ACC school; the Tribe beat Virginia last season and lost to NC State in 2008, Virginia Tech in 2007 and Maryland in 2006.
THE LINE: No line. THE PICK: UNC 27-16

Toledo (5-3) at Eastern Michigan (1-7), 4 p.m., ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: Toledo is unbeaten in MAC play and is the main challenger to Northern Illinois for the West Division title. Toledo should roll in this one to set up a showdown with NIU on Nov. 9.
THE LINE: Toledo by 10.5. THE PICK: Toledo 34-14

San Jose State (1-7) at New Mexico State (1-6), 4 p.m., Altitude2/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: Man, isn't everyone abuzz about this one! Well, no, and that's why the hounds already have started their trek to Las Cruces. This is the dog of the week -- and a leading contender for dog of the year.
THE LINE: San Jose State by 3.5. THE PICK: New Mexico State 17-16

Florida International (2-4) at Florida Atlantic (1-5), 3 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Defense-minded FIU is 2-0 in Sun Belt play and has a legit shot at finishing at least .500 overall, which might be enough this season for its first-ever bowl bid. FAU has had all sorts of trouble running the ball.
THE LINE: FIU by 4.5. THE PICK: FIU 30-21

Auburn (8-0) at Ole Miss (3-4), 6 p.m., ESPN2
THE BUZZ: History is on Auburn's side, as the Tigers are 13-0 against the Rebels when nationally ranked; Auburn also has won in seven of its past eight trips to Oxford. Perhaps the one legitimate ray of hope for Ole Miss is that Auburn is coming in off back-to-back showdowns against Arkansas and LSU; can the Tigers muster their "A" game again?
THE LINE: Auburn by 7. THE PICK: Auburn 33-28

New Mexico (0-7) at Colorado State (2-6), 6 p.m., The mtn.
THE BUZZ: New Mexico has won five of the past seven in the series, including a victory last season that was the Lobos' only win. Three of the past four have come down to a last-minute field goal. These teams have combined to score 26 TDs; they've given up a combined 75.
THE LINE: Colorado State by 16. THE PICK: Colorado State 31-17

Kentucky (4-4) at Mississippi State (6-2), 7 p.m., ESPNU
THE BUZZ: Mississippi State has been one of the nation's biggest surprises. This is important as both teams jockey for bowl positioning. This is the toughest remaining game for UK, while Mississippi State still has Arkansas, Alabama and archrival Ole Miss down the road.
THE LINE: Mississippi State by 6.5. THE PICK: Kentucky 26-21

Stanford (6-1) at Washington (3-4), 7 p.m., Versus
THE BUZZ: Washington has won 10 of the past 12 meetings with the Cardinal in Seattle. Stanford is 6-1 for the first time since 1970 and has scored at least 30 points in each game this season. This is an interesting quarterback battle between Stanford's Andrew Luck and Washington's Jake Locker.
THE LINE: Stanford by 7.5. THE PICK: Stanford 38-27

Baylor (6-2) at Texas (4-3), 7 p.m., Fox Sports Net
THE BUZZ: Baylor has clinched bowl eligibility and will be in the postseason for the first time since 1994. This week, the Bears will be trying to beat Texas for the first time since 1997. Texas needs to play angry -- and the Longhorns should be able to do that, considering they lost at home to Iowa State last week.
THE LINE: Texas by 7. THE PICK: Texas 30-24

Houston (4-3) at Memphis (1-6), 7 p.m., Comcast-Charter Sports Southeast
THE BUZZ: Just when we were ready to bury Houston, the Cougars rise up and win at SMU. That means the Cougars still are in the hunt for the C-USA West title. Teams that want to win titles don't lose to teams such as Memphis.
THE LINE: Houston by 14. THE PICK: Houston 40-21

Vanderbilt (2-5) at Arkansas (5-2), 7 p.m., Sun Sports/Fox Sports South/Fox Sports Southwest/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: It's hard to see Vandy pulling the upset because it's hard to see the Commodores' weak offense being able to score enough points to hang with the Hogs. Arkansas' SEC West title hopes are gone, but the Hogs still have a good shot at a New Year's Day bowl.
THE LINE: Arkansas by 20.5. THE PICK: Arkansas 38-14

Washington State (1-7) at Arizona State (3-4), 7 p.m.
THE BUZZ: These teams have a combined one win over FBS foes. This is the Sun Devils' first home game since Sept. 25, a span of 34 days. Arizona State has won six in a row in the series.
THE LINE: Arizona State by 21. THE PICK: Arizona State 35-17

Utah (7-0) at Air Force (5-3), 7:30 p.m., CBS College Sports
THE BUZZ: Air Force is first nationally in rush offense (326.5 ypg), and Utah is sixth nationally in rush defense (87.4 ypg). The Falcons have to run extremely well to have a shot at the upset. Air Force's rush defense is horrible, so expect Utah to have a solid game on the ground.
THE LINE: Utah by 7. THE PICK: Utah 37-28

Ohio State (7-1) at Minnesota (1-7), 8 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: Why is this one on ABC? Unless you're a Buckeyes fan -- or a fan of seal clubbing -- why tune in? And to think some folks are going to miss out on Oregon-USC for this. This is the 50th meeting in the series, and the Buckeyes lead 42-7.
THE LINE: Ohio State by 25.5. THE PICK: Ohio State 43-7

Michigan (5-2) at Penn State (4-3), 8 p.m., ESPN
THE BUZZ: An intriguing matchup, even if neither program is where it wants to be. Michigan can move the ball but is lousy on defense. Can Penn State's shaky offense take advantage? And can the Nittany Lions slow Michigan QB Denard Robinson, who has had a week to rest and presumably is at full strength?
THE LINE: Michigan by 2.5. THE PICK: Michigan 28-21

Oregon (7-0) at USC (5-2), 8 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: This looks like the toughest remaining game for Oregon, which has outscored opponents 156-23 in the second half. The Ducks are 7-0 for just the third time in school history and the first time since 1933. Both of USC's losses have come on last-play field goals.
THE LINE: Oregon by 7. THE PICK: Oregon 41-31

Colorado (3-4) at Oklahoma (6-1), 9:15 p.m., ESPN2
THE BUZZ: Despite last week's loss at Missouri, Oklahoma still controls its own destiny in the Big 12 race -- which means losing to Colorado would be very bad, indeed.
THE LINE: Oklahoma by 24. THE PICK: Oklahoma 45-16

Utah State (2-5) at Nevada (6-1), 10:30 p.m., ESPNU
THE BUZZ: Nevada QB Colin Kaepernick is on pace to throw for2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards for the third consecutive season. He should get a nice chunk of yardage against a shaky Aggies defense.
THE LINE: Nevada by 26. THE PICK: Nevada 51-21

TCU (8-0) at UNLV (1-6), 11 p.m., CBS College Sports
THE BUZZ: TCU has a 21-game regular-season winning streak and has won six in a row over UNLV. The Rebels are awful on offense, ranking 114th nationally. TCU is second nationally in total defense.
THE LINE: TCU by 35. THE PICK: TCU 45-7

Idaho (4-3) at Hawaii (6-2), 11:30 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Hawaii has been a pleasant surprise and has a legit shot at a 10-3 regular season if it wins this one. Idaho, meanwhile, has Nevada and Boise State in its next two after this one.
THE LINE: Hawaii by 14.5. THE PICK: Hawaii 44-28

TUESDAY'S GAME

Middle Tennessee (3-4) at Arkansas State (3-5), 7 p.m., ESPN2
THE BUZZ: Forget the records; because of the Sun Belt's bowl tie-ins, each of these teams is very much in the running for a postseason bid. Middle Tennessee has a minus-13 turnover margin, but if the Blue Raiders take care of the ball, they will have success against Arkansas State's porous defense.
THE LINE: TBD. THE PICK: Middle Tennessee 34-30

WEDNESDAY'S GAME

Rutgers (4-3) at USF (4-3), 7 p.m., ESPN2
THE BUZZ: Neither team has looked all that good; then again, they're in the Big East, so they fit right in with the rest of their conference brethren in that regard. USF's offense came alive in its last game. Was that because of the opponent (Cincinnati) or because everything finally has clicked? Rutgers is having all sorts of problems offensively, especially along the line. But the defense has done a good job of keeping things close.
THE LINE: USF by 10.5. THE PICK: USF 20-17

LAST WEEK

36-15 straight up, 21-30 against the spread.

YEAR TO DATE

371-106 straight up, 186-202-7 ATS (games involving FCS schools don't have a spread).

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




 

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