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September 30, 2010

Week 5 Primer: Plenty of big games to watch

Week 5 means we're into October, and that means it's time for conference play to begin in earnest.

This is a big weekend if you consider only the 8 p.m. games: Florida at Alabama, Stanford at Oregon, Penn State at Iowa, Washington at USC and Notre Dame at Boston College.

When you throw in big games in the Big 12 (Texas A&M at Oklahoma State on Thursday and Saturday's "Red River Rivalry" between Oklahoma and Texas in Dallas), the ACC (Miami at Clemson and Virginia Tech at N.C. State), the Big Ten (Wisconsin at Michigan State) and with the service academies (Navy at Air Force), among others, it becomes obvious that the TV is going to get a workout this weekend.

There also are games next Tuesday and Wednesday, so the weekend will last an extra few days.

Here's a look at all the games involving FBS teams this weekend.

THURSDAY'S GAME

Texas A&M (3-0) at Oklahoma State (3-0), 7:30 p.m., ESPN
THE BUZZ: A big game in the Big 12 South; the winner becomes a dark-horse contender for the division title while the loser starts hoping it can win enough games to be considered for the Insight Bowl.
THE LINE: Oklahoma State by 3. THE PICK: Texas A&M 38-34

FRIDAY'S GAME

BYU (1-3) at Utah State (1-3), 8 p.m., ESPN
THE BUZZ: This is the 80th meeting in the in-state series and BYU has won 10 in a row over the Aggies. Utah State is looking for just its third win over the Cougars since 1978. It's an interesting coaching battle, as both head coaches -- BYU's Bronco Mendenhall and Utah State's Gary Andersen -- also oversee their team's defensive line.
THE LINE: BYU by 4.5. THE PICK: BYU 27-21

SATURDAY'S GAMES

Miami (2-1) at Clemson (2-1), noon, ESPN2
THE BUZZ: This will be the fourth meeting between the teams since Miami joined the ACC and the three previous matchups all went to overtime, with the visitor winning each time. Clemson has a plus-1.67 turnover margin, while UM is at minus-1 per game.
THE LINE: Miami by 3.5. THE PICK: Miami 24-17

Kansas (2-2) at Baylor (3-1), noon, Fox Sports Net
THE BUZZ: Two of the lesser lights from the Big 12, with each team thinking this is a game it can win. While it's just the first week of October, this one will go a long way toward determining if either is going to a bowl.
THE LINE: Baylor by 9. THE PICK: Baylor 27-20

Ohio State (4-0) at Illinois (2-1), noon, Big Ten Network
THE BUZZ: This is the first road game of the season for the Buckeyes, who have won 21 of their past 23 road contests. In addition, Ohio State has won seven in a row in Champaign.
THE LINE: Ohio State by 17.5. THE PICK: Ohio State 40-21

Temple (3-1) at Army (3-1), noon, CBS College Sports
THE BUZZ: This is the fourth season in a row these teams have met and the Owls have won the past two. Temple star RB Bernard Pierce has an injured ankle and may miss the game. As usual, Army's triple-option attack is going to pose a problem for an opposing defense.
THE LINE: Temple by 5. THE PICK: Temple 20-17

Vanderbilt (1-2) at Connecticut (2-2), noon, Big East syndication/SportsNet New York/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: This is a Big East-SEC matchup, which adds some intrigue. UConn has been a disappointment because its defense hasn't been as dominating as expected. Vandy's offense is based on the run, so expect UConn to focus on slowing down RBs Warren Norman and Zac Stacy.
THE LINE: UConn by 7.5. THE PICK: UConn 27-17

Ohio (1-3) at Eastern Michigan (0-4), noon, ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: Eastern Michigan, which has lost 16 in a row, was supposed to be bad. But Ohio was expected to contend for the MAC East title and needs to start playing well. The Bobcats are going for the 500th win in school history.
THE LINE: Ohio by 10. THE PICK: Ohio 30-21

Northwestern (4-0) at Minnesota (1-3), noon, ESPN
THE BUZZ: Northwestern is trying to start 5-0 for the second time in three seasons. Minnesota, meanwhile, could start 1-4 for the second time in four seasons -- and the Gophers finished 1-11 when they did that in 2007.
THE LINE: Northwestern by 5.5. THE PICK: Northwestern 33-24

Florida State (3-1) at Virginia (2-1), noon, ACC syndication/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: FSU leads the series 13-2. Both of Virginia's wins this season have come over FCS foes; in their only game against a FBS opponent, the Cavaliers lost by three at USC.
THE LINE: FSU by 7. THE PICK: FSU 23-14

Louisiana-Monroe (1-2) at Auburn (4-0), noon, ESPNU
THE BUZZ: This is the first day game of the season for Auburn, which is 7-0 against ULM; all of the games have been at Auburn. This also is Auburn's fourth home game of the season and ULM's third road contest.
THE LINE: Auburn by 34.5. THE PICK: Auburn 49-17

Alcorn State (3-0) at Mississippi State (2-2), noon, Sun Sports/Fox Sports South/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: This is the first meeting between the schools, whose campuses are about 180 miles apart in Mississippi. Mississippi State plays three of its next five on the road, including visits to Florida and Alabama.
THE LINE: No line. THE PICK: Mississippi State 42-13

Kentucky (3-1) at Ole Miss (2-2), 12:20 p.m., SEC syndication/MSG network/Comcast SportsNet California/Altitude/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: How good are these teams? This one is interesting within the confines of the SEC because it's a measuring-stick game. Ole Miss is coming off its best win of the season, a thrashing of Fresno State, while Kentucky -- once again -- was handed a beatdown by Florida.
THE LINE: Ole Miss by 2.5. THE PICK: Kentucky 27-23

Kent State (1-2) at Miami of Ohio (2-2), 1 p.m.
THE BUZZ: A 3-2 start would be Miami's best since 2003. Neither team has done much offensively, with Miami ranking 107th and Kent State 111th. But Kent State -- which has lost to Boston College and Penn State -- leads the nation in rushing defense, allowing just 61.3 yards per game.
THE LINE: Kent State by 3. THE PICK: Kent State 23-17

TCU (4-0) at Colorado State (1-3), 2 p.m., The mtn.
THE BUZZ: TCU has an 18-game regular-season winning streak and is facing a Rams team that snapped a 12-game losing streak last week. TCU has won six in a row in the series, with the past five victories coming by an average of 23 points.
THE LINE: TCU by 33. THE PICK: TCU 52-17

Idaho (2-2) at Western Michigan (1-2), 2 p.m., WAC syndication/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: This is one of two MAC-WAC games this season (Boise State-Toledo next week is the other). Western Michigan is fourth nationally in passing offense (332.0 ypg) and Idaho is 14th (299.3). Their quarterbacks have combined for 17 TD passes -- but also 13 picks.
THE LINE: Idaho by 3. THE PICK: Western Michigan 38-33

Tulane (1-2) at Rutgers (2-1), 2 p.m.
THE BUZZ: The last time these teams met, in 1998, Tulane won 52-24; the Green Wave finished 13-0 that season under Tommy Bowden. Rutgers plays five of its first six games at home, and this is homecoming for the Scarlet Knights.
THE LINE: Rutgers by 15. THE PICK: Rutgers 27-10

Navy (2-1) at Air Force (3-1), 2:30 p.m., Versus
THE BUZZ: Navy has won seven in a row in the series; before that, though, Air Force had owned the Midshipmen, winning six in a row and 19 of 21. Air Force leads the nation in rushing, while Navy is ninth. Conversely, Navy is 114th in passing and Air Force 117th.
THE LINE: Air Force by 10. THE PICK: Air Force 28-25

Oklahoma (4-0) vs. Texas (3-1) in Dallas, 3:30 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: Texas is coming off a shocking home loss to UCLA. Oklahoma has looked beatable in three of its four games, but, hey, winning ugly still is winning.
THE LINE: Oklahoma by 3.5. THE PICK: Oklahoma 27-21

Wisconsin (4-0) at Michigan State (4-0), 3:30 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN
THE BUZZ: The home team has won five in a row in this series, and the past three games have been decided by a total of 12 points. Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio, who suffered a heart attack a few hours after his team's win over Notre Dame on Sept. 18, will coach from the press box.
THE LINE: Wisconsin by 2. THE PICK: Wisconsin 24-20

Virginia Tech (2-2) at N.C. State (4-0), 3:30 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: Virginia Tech was the trendy pick to win the ACC Coastal Division and the overall league title. NCSU was the trendy pick to finish last in the ACC Atlantic Division. Instead, the Hokies are struggling and the Wolfpack rolling. This is an intriguing quarterback matchup between the Hokies' Tyrod Taylor and the Wolfpack's Russell Wilson. NCSU, which is 4-0 for the first time since 2002, when Philip Rivers was a senior, has four of its next six at home.
THE LINE: Virginia Tech by 4. THE PICK: Virginia Tech 20-17

Michigan (4-0) at Indiana (3-0), 3:30 p.m., ESPNU
THE BUZZ: If you enjoy low-scoring, defense-dominated games, close your eyes, hide the kids and stockpile provisions -- because this is your worst nightmare. If either defense can force more than two punts, it will be a cause for a huge celebration. Michigan has won 16 in a row in this series and leads it 51-9.
THE LINE: Michigan by 10.5. THE PICK: Michigan 42-33

Tennessee (2-2) at LSU (4-0), 3:30 p.m., CBS
THE BUZZ: If either quarterback throws for more than 200 yards, the earth may actually come off its axis. LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis has to be frothing at the mouth at the idea of his defense unleashed against his former employer's offensive line.
THE LINE: LSU by 16. THE PICK: LSU 24-6

Washington State (1-3) at UCLA (2-2), 3:30 p.m., Prime Ticket/Fox SportsNet Northwest/Fox College Sports Pacific
THE BUZZ: UCLA gets a chance to follow up its huge upset at Texas with a game against the worst team in the Pac-10 -- and maybe the worst team in any Big Six conference. UCLA has had three games in a row in which it has passed for less than 100 yards, amazing considering that passing guru Norm Chow runs the offense.
THE LINE: UCLA by 27. THE PICK: UCLA 38-14

East Carolina (2-1) at North Carolina (1-2), 3:30 p.m.
THE BUZZ: This is only the 13th time these schools have met, and UNC leads the series 9-2-1; ECU's wins came in 1975 and 2007. This is the 11th time the game has been played at UNC. ECU hasn't won a non-conference road game since 2006.
THE LINE: UNC by 13. THE PICK: UNC 27-17

Buffalo (1-3) at Bowling Green (1-3), 3:30 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Want a sign that your defense has issues? Consider this: Since 2002, Bowling Green is 52-6 when scoring at least 30 points and just 9-36 when scoring 29 or fewer points. BG had the nation's leading receiver last season (Freddie Barnes) and Kamar Jorden is second this season with 10 receptions per game.
THE LINE: Bowling Green by 3.5. THE PICK: Bowling Green 31-20

Florida International (0-3) at Pittsburgh (1-2), 3:30 p.m.
THE BUZZ: This is FIU's fourth consecutive Big Six opponent and the Golden Panthers have acquitted themselves well in losses to Rutgers, Texas A&M and Maryland. Pitt, which was a top-15 team at the beginning of the season, is reeling and has to find a way to get its running game untracked. This is the second game in a row for Pitt against a team from Miami.
THE LINE: Pitt by 19. THE PICK: Pitt 27-14

Ball State (1-3) at Central Michigan (2-2), 3:30 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Ball State's passing offense has been a disaster, as the Cardinals are averaging just 110.0 passing yards per game. CMU has four of its next six games at home.
THE LINE: Central Michigan by 17.5. THE PICK: Central Michigan 45-20

UTEP (3-1) at New Mexico (0-4), 6 p.m., The mtn.
THE BUZZ: This will be the 76th meeting overall and the 37th at New Mexico, where the Lobos are 26-9-1 against the Miners. This is homecoming for New Mexico, which has been outscored 225-44 this season.
THE LINE: UTEP by 15. THE PICK: UTEP 40-21

Northern Illinois (2-2) at Akron (0-4), 6 p.m.
THE BUZZ: This is the MAC opener for NIU, which was the preseason pick to win the West Division. Akron has trouble stopping the run, which bodes ill against the Huskies.
THE LINE: NIU by 13.5. THE PICK: NIU 37-17

Duke (1-3) at Maryland (3-1), 6 p.m.
THE BUZZ: The hounds make their way to the D.C. area -- and not to howl at Congress. Instead, they will be taking in the dog of the week.
THE LINE: Maryland by 7.5. THE PICK: Maryland 28-16

Arizona State (2-2) at Oregon State (1-2), 6:30 p.m., Fox SportsNet Northwest/Fox Sports Arizona/Fox College Sports Central
THE BUZZ: This is the Pac-10 opener for the Beavers, while Arizona State is looking to avoid a 0-2 start to conference play. This is one of just three home games for Oregon State before Nov. 13; meanwhile, including this one, Arizona State has four of its next five on the road.
THE LINE: Oregon State by 3.5. THE PICK: Oregon State 28-23

Georgia (1-3) at Colorado (2-1), 7 p.m., Fox Sports Net
THE BUZZ: This is the "Hot Seat Bowl," brought to you by United Van Lines. Georgia has been a big disappointment, but perhaps the offense picks up this week with the return of WR A.J. Green from an NCAA-mandated suspension.
THE LINE: Georgia by 4.5. THE PICK: Georgia 26-17

Georgia Tech (2-2) at Wake Forest (2-2), 7 p.m., ESPNU
THE BUZZ: Tech has stumbled out of the gate and doesn't look anything like the team that won the ACC last season. Wake's defense has been awful, so Tech's running game should have a big day. But can the Yellow Jackets' defense step up?
THE LINE: Georgia Tech by 9.5. THE PICK: Georgia Tech 35-23

Texas Tech (2-1) at Iowa State (2-2), 7 p.m., Fox College Sports Atlantic
THE BUZZ: "Hey, I know you!" Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads served as Tech coach Tommy Tuberville's defensive coordinator in 2008 at Auburn, Tuberville's last season with the Tigers. The Red Raiders have won six in a row against Big 12 North teams.
THE LINE: Texas Tech by 7. THE PICK: Texas Tech 23-10

SMU (2-2) at Rice (1-3), 7 p.m.
THE BUZZ: This will be the third time this season that SMU has played a former Southwest Conference rival; the Mustangs already have lost to Texas Tech and TCU. Of course, Rice and SMU now are Conference USA rivals, and if the Mustangs harbor legit conference title hopes, they need to beat the woebegone Owls. But SMU has not won at Rice since 1986, a losing streak of 10 games.
THE LINE: SMU by 12.5. THE PICK: SMU 35-16

Louisville (1-2) at Arkansas State (1-3), 7 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Arkansas State has just five home games this season, and this is the only visit from a Big Six school; it also is the Red Wolves' homecoming. This is the sixth consecutive season Louisville has played a Sun Belt opponent, and the Cardinals are 5-0.
THE LINE: Louisville by 4.5. THE PICK: Louisville 28-20

Florida Atlantic (1-2) at USF (2-1), 7 p.m.
THE BUZZ: This is the third meeting and USF won the previous two. This is the second game in a three-game homestand for the Bulls, who lead the Big East in rushing at 216.7 yards per game.
THE LINE: USF by 22. THE PICK: USF 41-24

Tulsa (2-2) at Memphis (1-3), 7 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Tulsa already has lost once in Conference USA play and can't afford a loss to Memphis if it wants to be a legit contender in the West Division. Tulsa is in a stretch where it is playing three of four away from home.
THE LINE: Tulsa by 10.5. THE PICK: Tulsa 38-23

Wyoming (1-3) at Toledo (3-1), 7 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Toledo is coming off an upset win at Purdue. This matches two of the worst offenses in the nation: Toledo averages 260.3 yards per game and ranks 116th in total offense, while Wyoming averages 246.8 yards and ranks 119th. A big difference is that Toledo has a plus-1.5 turnover margin and Wyoming is at minus-1 per game.
THE LINE: Toledo by 3.5. THE PICK: Toledo 26-24

Louisiana-Lafayette (1-2) at North Texas (1-3), 7:30 p.m., Sun Belt syndication/Comcast-Charter Sports Southeast/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: North Texas upset Florida Atlantic on the road last week in its Sun Belt opener and now the Mean Green play three league games in a row at home. ULL has won three in a row in this series, scoring at least 38 points each time.
THE LINE: North Texas by 4.5. THE PICK: North Texas 30-27

Florida (4-0) at Alabama (4-0), 8 p.m., CBS
THE BUZZ: These teams have met in the past two SEC championship games, and it certainly wouldn't be a surprise if they played again for the title in December. Can Florida take advantage of the Tide's inexperienced secondary? The Gators have to do that if they want to pull the upset.
THE LINE: Alabama by 8. THE PICK: Alabama 24-14

Stanford (4-0) at Oregon (4-0), 8 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN2
THE BUZZ: This might end up being the game of the year in the Pac-10. Both come in with high-powered offenses -- per-game averages of 560.0 yards and 57.8 points for Oregon and 457.5 yards and 48.0 points for Stanford -- and OK defenses. Stanford is off to its best start since 1986 and is in the top 10 for the first time since 2001. The Cardinal's last win as a top-10 team? Try 1970, when Jim Plunkett was the quarterback.
THE LINE: Oregon by 7. THE PICK: Oregon 38-34

Notre Dame (1-3) at Boston College (2-1), ABC regional/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: This matches the only two Catholic universities to play FBS football. BC has won six of the past seven meetings, but the Irish won last season in South Bend. This is the fifth consecutive Big Six conference opponent for the Irish, who will make it six in a row when they play host to Pitt next week.
THE LINE: Notre Dame by 2.5. THE PICK: Notre Dame 21-16

Washington (1-2) at USC (4-0), 8 p.m., ESPN2/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: Just call this the "Guys Who Used to Work for Pete Carroll Bowl." Head coaches Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian can meet at midfield before the game and commiserate about how easy it was when they had Reggie Bush carrying the load. Well, perhaps that's not the best example. Let's make it how easy it was when they had Matt Leinart carrying the load.
THE LINE: USC by 10. THE PICK: USC 38-24

Penn State (3-1) at Iowa (3-1), 8 p.m., ESPN
THE BUZZ: Iowa has had two weeks to stew about its loss at Arizona. We bet the Hawkeyes take out their frustrations on the Nittany Lions. Look for the Iowa defensive line to make life tough for Penn State true freshman QB Robert Bolden.
THE LINE: Iowa by 7. THE PICK: Iowa 27-16

Marshall (1-3) at Southern Miss (3-1), 8 p.m., CBS College Sports
THE BUZZ: Southern Miss looks to be a prime contender in the East Division of C-USA and this is its league opener. The Golden Eagles play three of their first four league games at home.
THE LINE: Southern Miss by 10. THE PICK: Southern Miss 34-21

Boise State (3-0) at New Mexico State (0-3), 8 p.m., WAC syndication/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: The tough part of Boise's schedule is over with. Now, the Broncos get to feast on the soft underbelly of their schedule -- i.e., their conference opponents. This series began in 1996 and Boise has won all 10 previous meetings.
THE LINE: Boise State by 42.5. THE PICK: Boise State 56-10

Cal Davis (1-3) at San Jose State (1-3), 8 p.m.
THE BUZZ: This is the second FCS opponent of the season for San Jose State, which already has squeaked past Southern Utah. And this looks like the last winnable game on the schedule for the Spartans.
THE LINE: No line. THE PICK: San Jose State 24-13

Nevada (4-0) at UNLV (1-3), 10 p.m., The mtn.
THE BUZZ: Nevada's offense has been potent, which isn't a surprise. The defense actually has shown signs of life, which is a surprise. The Wolf Pack have won five in a row in this annual series; a sixth victory would be a record in the series for either team. Nevada has won the past two by a combined 57 points.
THE LINE: Nevada by 21. THE PICK: Nevada 49-20

Cal Poly (3-1) at Fresno State (2-1), 10 p.m.
THE BUZZ: This is the first of three consecutive home games for Fresno. That's not really a rarity in college football -- but it is for Fresno; this is just the third time since 1993 that the Bulldogs have played three in a row at home. Cal Poly is a ranked FCS team.
THE LINE: No line. THE PICK: Fresno State 33-17

Louisiana Tech (1-3) at Hawaii (2-2), 11:30 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Hmmm -- stay in Honolulu or go back to Ruston, La. You wonder if some LaTech players will choose to stay behind. If either of these teams has designs on a top-four finish in the WAC, it would behoove them to win this game.
THE LINE: Hawaii by 8. THE PICK: Hawaii 30-24

TUESDAY'S GAME

Troy (2-2) at Middle Tennessee (2-2), 8 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Middle Tennessee star QB Dwight Dasher returns from an NCAA-mandated four-game suspension -- and just in time for the Sun Belt's game of the year. Mark it down: The winner of this one will win the league title. The question is how much rust Dasher has accumulated.
THE LINE: Middle Tennessee by 3.5. THE PICK: Middle Tennessee 27-24

WEDNESDAY'S GAME

UAB (1-3) at UCF (2-2), 8 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Staying with the "alphabet" theme with the school names, let's just say this: "MWG 4 UCF n C-USA." To translate, it means this basically is a must-win game for UCF if it wants to win the East Division of Conference USA.
THE LINE: UCF by 12.5. THE PICK: UCF 31-21

LAST WEEK

50-8 straight up, 24-25 against the spread.

YEAR TO DATE

222-42 straight up, 93-91-2 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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