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September 29, 2011

Week 5 primer: Huguenin picks them all

We're already five weeks into the season, and the first weekend of October is filled with conference showdowns.

It starts Thursday night, when USF plays at Pittsburgh in a key Big East contest. Then comes the biggest Saturday of the season so far, with big games in the ACC (Clemson at Virginia Tech), MAC (Toledo at Temple), SEC (Florida at Alabama) and Big Ten (Nebraska at Wisconsin).

The national title picture will be shaped by the outcomes of the ACC, Big Ten and SEC games mentioned, so, yes, this is a big weekend.

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

THURSDAY'S GAMES

USF (4-0) at Pittsburgh (2-2), 8 p.m., ESPN
THE BUZZ: A big early-season game in the Big East, as the winner stakes a legit claim to being one of the top two contenders. USF is looking for its fourth 5-0 start in the past five seasons. Pitt has won three in a row in the series. USF won at Notre Dame, while Pitt lost to the Irish last week at home.
THE LINE: USF by 2.5 THE PICK: USF 21-20

Houston (4-0) at UTEP (2-2), 8 p.m., CBS Sports Network
THE BUZZ: This is only the ninth meeting between these in-state rivals, and the series is tied 4-4. This is UTEP's first Thursday home game since 1964. Houston coach Kevin Sumlin got his start in coaching as a graduate assistant at Washington State from 1989-90, when current UTEP coach Mike Price was the Cougars' coach.
THE LINE: Houston by 15.5 THE PICK: Houston 52-30

FRIDAY'S GAME

Utah State (1-2) at BYU (2-2), 8 p.m., ESPN
THE BUZZ: Utah State won last season to snap BYU's 10-game winning streak in the series. Before the winning streak, the series was tied at 33-33-3. Utah State has lost 15 in a row at BYU.
THE LINE: BYU by 7.5 THE PICK: BYU 28-17

SATURDAY'S GAMES

Arkansas (3-1) vs. Texas A&M (2-1) in Arlington, Texas, noon, ESPN
THE BUZZ: These once and future conference foes meet up in a game that will kick off at 11 a.m. local time at the behest of the TV gods. Both are coming off losses, and considering the high hopes each team harbored coming into the season, a second consecutive loss would be a damaging blow. Each defense has something to prove.
THE LINE: Texas A&M by 3 THE PICK: Texas A&M 31-24

Air Force (2-1) at Navy (2-1), noon, CBS
THE BUZZ: This is the 44th meeting between these service academies. Air Force squeezed past Navy 14-6 last season to snap the Midshipmen's seven-game winning streak in the series. Ten of the past 14 meetings have been decided by seven or fewer points.
THE LINE: Navy by 3 THE PICK: Air Force 21-17

Northwestern (2-1) at Illinois (4-0), noon, ESPN2
THE BUZZ: This is the 105th meeting between these in-state rivals. Incredibly, Illinois hadn't started 4-0 since 1951; that's also the last time the Illini were 5-0. Northwestern has won six of the past eight in the series, and QB Dan Persa (Achilles) is expected to return for the Wildcats this week.
THE LINE: Illinois by 8 THE PICK: Illinois 24-20

Texas Tech (3-0) at Kansas (2-1), noon, Fox Sports Net
THE BUZZ: Texas Tech leads the series 11-1, with KU's only win coming in 2001 in Lubbock. This is the seventh meeting since the beginning of the 2000 season, and the winning team has scored at least 30 in each game. KU's pass defense has been bad, and that's not good with the Red Raiders next on the schedule.
THE LINE: Texas Tech by 6 THE PICK: Texas Tech 41-28

Penn State (3-1) at Indiana (1-3), noon, ESPNU
THE BUZZ: IU's only win this season has come against a FCS foe and the Hoosiers are coming off a loss at North Texas. Penn State is 14-0 all-time against the Hoosiers.
THE LINE: Penn State by 16 THE PICK: Penn State 31-13

Tulane (2-2) at Army (1-3), noon, CBS Sports Network
THE BUZZ: This is the third road game in a row for Tulane, while Army has just one more home game this season after this one. This is the 15th time in the past 16 seasons that these teams have met. Tulane has opened 2-2 for the fourth consecutive season.
THE LINE: Army by 8 THE PICK: Army 30-24

Minnesota (1-3) at Michigan (4-0), noon, Big Ten Network
THE BUZZ: This is the 98th meeting, and Michigan leads the series 70-24-3. The teams play for the "Little Brown Jug." The Golden Gophers won four in a row in the series from 1960-63; since then, Michigan is 38-5 against Minnesota, with just two losses since 1977.
THE LINE: Michigan by 20 THE PICK: Michigan 49-23

Mississippi State (2-2) at Georgia (2-2), noon, Sun Sports/Fox Sports South/Prime Ticket
THE BUZZ: Mississippi State already is 0-2 in the SEC, and another league loss might just kill off all the enthusiasm that surrounded the Bulldogs going into the season. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs on the other side of the field are coming off a win over Ole Miss and looking to go 2-1 in league play. This is Georgia's last home game until Nov. 5.
THE LINE: Georgia by 7 THE PICK: Georgia 23-20

Rutgers (2-1) at Syracuse (3-1), noon, Big East syndication/Sportsnet New York/MASN/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: This is the 42nd meeting in the series, and Syracuse leads 30-10-1. The Orange have won two in a row in the series, but that came on the heels of a four-game winning streak by Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights have lost six in a row overall on the road.
THE LINE: Syracuse by 2.5 THE PICK: Syracuse 23-17

Toledo (1-3) at Temple (3-1), noon, ESPN Game Plan
THE BUZZ: This is the MAC opener for Toledo, and it's one of the league's biggest games this season; indeed, it could be a preview of the MAC championship game. Temple is coming off a dominating performance in a shockingly easy rout of Maryland; Toledo, meanwhile, was jobbed by the refs in losing in OT at Syracuse. Temple has the better defense, Toledo the more explosive offense.
THE LINE: Temple by 8 THE PICK: Temple 28-24

Kentucky (2-2) at LSU (4-0), 12:20 p.m., SEC syndication/MSG network/Comcast Sportsnet California/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: This is just the second home game of the season for LSU. The Tigers are 22-5-1 against UK in Baton Rouge. The last times these teams met, LSU was ranked No. 1, as it is this week. But UK won 43-37 in triple-overtime.
THE LINE: LSU by 29.5 THE PICK: LSU 38-7

Buffalo (1-3) at Tennessee (2-1), 12:30 p.m., Comcast-Charter Sports Southeast/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: Vols QB Tyler Bray has at least one TD pass in nine consecutive games, which is the longest current streak in the SEC. Actually, Bray has thrown at least two TD passes in each of those contests, which is a school record. Still, this should serve as an opportunity for the Vols to get their rushing attack on track.
THE LINE: Tennessee by 28.5 THE PICK: Tennessee 44-10

Wake Forest (2-1) at Boston College (1-3), 12:30 p.m., ACC syndication/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: This might be the first weekend in October, but it's never too early to be thinking about bowls - as in, the loser of this one is going to have trouble getting to the needed six wins. Not surprisingly, BC has had offensive issues. But the Eagles also have been surprisingly porous defensively. Wake can't run, but the Demon Deacons have been successful through the air.
THE LINE: Wake by 2.5 THE PICK: Boston College 23-20

Cincinnati (3-1) at Miami of Ohio (0-3), 1 p.m.
THE BUZZ: This is the 116th meeting in the nation's oldest non-conference rivalry. The series between schools roughly 35 miles apart began in 1888. This is the fifth-most-played rivalry in the nation. Cincy has won the past five meetings, but Miami leads the series 59-49-7. Cincy already has forced 16 turnovers and has a plus-12 turnover margin.
THE LINE: Cincinnati by 14 THE PICK: Cincinnati 34-24

Akron (1-3) at Eastern Michigan (2-2), 1 p.m.
THE BUZZ: If not for the epic New Mexico-New Mexico State stink-fest, this would be the dog of the week. Neither the Zips nor the Eagles has beaten a FBS foe this season, and it's safe to say the loser is the worst team in the MAC - and one of the two or three worst in all of FBS.
THE LINE: EMU by 8.5 THE PICK: EMU 29-24

Kent State (1-3) at Ohio (3-1), 2 p.m.
THE BUZZ: This is the MAC opener for both, and Ohio has designs on the MAC East title. But the home team has struggled in this series, winning just three of the past 11 meetings.
THE LINE: Ohio by 16.5 THE PICK: Ohio 28-14

Nevada (1-2) at Boise State (3-0), 2:30 p.m., Versus
THE BUZZ: Boise State has won 10 of the past 11 in the series, but the loss came last season and it knocked the Broncos out of the running for a BCS bid. The loss ended Boise State's 24-game winning streak and is the Broncos' only setback since the end of the 2008 season. Boise might be better than last season, and Nevada is far worse.
THE LINE: Boise by 27.5 THE PICK: Boise 49-20

Auburn (3-1) at South Carolina (4-0), 3:30 p.m., CBS
THE BUZZ: Neither team has been overly impressive this season. Auburn's defense has been rancid, while South Carolina has been inconsistent on both sides of the ball, especially in the passing game. Can the Gamecocks throw the ball against a shaky Auburn secondary? Even if they can't, can Auburn shut down South Carolina TB Marcus Lattimore?
THE LINE: South Carolina by 9.5 THE PICK: South Carolina 38-24

Michigan State (3-1) at Ohio State (3-1), 3:30 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN
THE BUZZ: This is the first Big Ten game for both. This also is the last game for the Buckeyes without three key suspended players: OT Mike Adams, RB Dan Herron and WR DeVier Posey. Posey, especially, has been missed because the Buckeyes lack playmakers at the position. Ohio State has won seven in a row in the series.
THE LINE: Ohio State by 3 THE PICK: Ohio State 24-23

Baylor (4-0) at Kansas State (3-0), 3:30 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: K-State is coming off an upset win at Miami that was clinched with a goal-line stand in the final minute. This week, the Wildcats have to deal with Bears QB Robert Griffin, who has more TD passes (13) than incompletions (12) this season.
THE LINE: Baylor by 3.5 THE PICK: Baylor 34-28

Arizona (1-3) at USC (3-1), 3:30 p.m., Fox Sports Net
THE BUZZ: This is the final game in a brutal four-game stretch for Arizona, which is on a three-game losing streak after falling to Oklahoma State, Stanford and Oregon in the past three weeks. USC leads the series 27-7 and has won eight of the past nine, but Arizona won 21-17 in 2009 in its most recent visit to the L.A. Coliseum.
THE LINE: USC by 13.5 THE PICK: USC 31-21

SMU (3-1) at TCU (3-1), 3:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network
THE BUZZ: This is the 91st meeting between these Dallas Metroplex private schools. They play for the "Iron Skillet," which is, well, an iron skillet. TCU has won 10 of the past 11 in the series, with all but one of the victories coming by double-digits. In the past four meetings, TCU has won by an average of 24 points.
THE LINE: TCU by 11.5 THE PICK: TCU 37-24

Georgia Tech (4-0) at N.C. State (2-2), 3:30 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: N.C. State has been pitiful defensively against FBS opponents; that bodes ill with an explosive Yellow Jackets offense next on the schedule. Tech is just the fifth team in ACC history to score at least 35 points in each of its first four games. Tech has completed 31 passes, but eight have gone for scores - and seven of the eight have covered at least 52 yards.
THE LINE: Georgia Tech by 10 THE PICK: Georgia Tech 38-23

Washington State (2-1) at Colorado (1-3), 3:30 p.m., Fox College Sports
THE BUZZ: This is the first-ever Pac-12 game for Colorado, which lost to Cal in what was considered a non-conference game earlier this season. Washington State hasn't been .500 after four games since 2007.
THE LINE: Colorado by 3 THE PICK: Colorado 31-26

Western Michigan (2-2) at Connecticut (2-2), 3:30 p.m., Big East syndication/Sportsnet New York/Altitude2/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: This is one of eight Big East-MAC regular-season games this season and one of three this weekend. UConn already has one win over a MAC school; the Huskies beat Buffalo last week. UConn's pass defense, which leads the Big East, will get a big test from Broncos QB Alex Carder.
THE LINE: UConn by 3 THE PICK: Western Michigan 28-23

Bowling Green (3-1) at West Virginia (3-1), 3:30 p.m., Big East syndication/ROOT Sports Pittsburgh/MASN/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: This is homecoming for West Virginia. This is the second of three consecutive road games for Bowling Green, which beat Pitt in 2008 in its most recent game against a Big East opponent. WVU's Geno Smith and BG's Matt Schilz are third and sixth, respectively, in passing yards nationally, so each secondary is going to get a workout.
THE LINE: WVU by 20 THE PICK: WVU 48-24

Marshall (1-3) at Louisville (2-1), 3:30 p.m., Big East syndication/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: Marshall has struggled offensively and is one of just two teams without a rushing TD this season. Louisville coach Charlie Strong and Marshall coach Doc Holliday were on the same staff at Florida under Urban Meyer from 2005-07.
THE LINE: Louisville by 10 THE PICK: Louisville 30-17

Bethune-Cookman (3-1) at Miami (1-2), 3:30 p.m., ESPNU
THE BUZZ: This is the first-ever game against a FBC opponent for Bethune-Cookman, a MEAC school located in Daytona Beach, Fla. Miami plays at Virginia Tech next weekend.
THE LINE: None THE PICK: Miami 52-13

Towson (3-0) at Maryland (1-2), 3:30 p.m., Fox Sports Florida/Fox Sports South/Prime Ticket/NESN/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: These are the two largest universities in the state of Maryland. Towson is off to a great start, especially when you consider that the Tigers were 1-10 last season and had won nine games in the past four seasons. Maryland will be just the fourth FBS foe ever for Towson, who lost the first three by a combined 139-44. Towson coach Rob Ambrose was an assistant under Terps coach Randy Edsall from 2002-08, when Edsall was coach at UConn.
THE LINE: None THE PICK: Maryland 38-14

Northern Illinois (2-2) at Central Michigan (1-3), 3:30 p.m.
THE BUZZ: This is the MAC opener for NIU, which was Rivals.com's pick to win the league. NIU has lost in its past two visits to CMU, but those came when Dan LeFevour was the Chippewas' quarterback. If NIU wants to win the MAC West title, it will win this.
THE LINE: NIU by 9 THE PICK: NIU 41-28

Idaho (1-3) at Virginia (2-2), 3:30 p.m.
THE BUZZ: This is Idaho's first-ever game against an ACC opponent. Virginia has rushed for at least 150 yards in each of its first four games, the first time that has happened for the Cavs since 2004.
THE LINE: Virginia by 17 THE PICK: Virginia 38-17

San Jose State (1-3) at Colorado State (3-1), 4 p.m., The mtn.
THE BUZZ: This is one of 10 MWC-WAC regular-season games and the second in a row for Colorado State, which won in double-overtime against Utah State last week. San Jose State has lost 16 in a row on the road.
THE LINE: Colorado State by 3 THE PICK: Colorado State 34-21

Arkansas State (2-2) at Western Kentucky (0-3), 4 p.m., Sun Belt syndication/Comcast-Charter Sports Southeast
THE BUZZ: Western TB Bobby Rainey has eight consecutive 100-yard games - the longest such streak in the nation - but that's really the only bright spot for the Hilltoppers, who were hammered by FCS program Indiana State in their most recent game. Western beat Arkansas State 36-35 in OT last season.
THE LINE: Arkansas State by 13 THE PICK: Arkansas State 31-21

Clemson (4-0) at Virginia Tech (4-0), 6 p.m., ESPN2
THE BUZZ: All of a sudden, this has become a huge ACC showdown. Clemson comes in off impressive back-to-back offensive outbursts against Auburn and Florida State. This is the Tigers' first road game of the season, and just the third meeting between these teams since the Hokies joined the ACC in 2004 and the first since 2007. This is the first time in school history that Clemson has played three consecutive ranked opponents.
THE LINE: Virginia Tech by 7 THE PICK: Virginia Tech 34-24

Washington (3-1) at Utah (2-1), 7 p.m., Fox Sports Net
THE BUZZ: Utah already is 0-1 in Pac-12 play and can't afford to go to 0-2 if it wants to have a legit shot at the South Division title. This is the seventh meeting between these teams but the first that hasn't been played in Seattle. Washington is aiming for its first 4-1 start since 2006. This is the second home game of the season for the Utes, who are 42-7 at home since the beginning of the 2003 season.
THE LINE: Utah by 7.5 THE PICK: Utah 24-20

Texas (3-0) at Iowa State (3-0), 7 p.m., FX
THE BUZZ: Texas is 7-1 against the Cyclones - but Iowa State's win came last season in Austin. Texas is 3-0 in Ames and has averaged 47 points per game in its previous visits. The Longhorns play Oklahoma next week and Oklahoma State on Oct. 15.
THE LINE: Texas by 9.5 THE PICK: Texas 31-20

Duke (2-2) at Florida International (3-1), 7 p.m., ESPNU
THE BUZZ: FIU beat Louisville and UCF in back-to-back weeks, then was shocked at home last week by Louisiana-Lafayette. Duke is riding a two-game winning streak and is coming off a rout of Tulane. This is a homecoming of sorts for standout Duke WRs Conner Vernon and Donovan Varner, who attended Miami's Gulliver Prep.
THE LINE: FIU by 3 THE PICK: FIU 27-21

UAB (0-3) at Troy (1-2), 7 p.m., SportSouth
THE BUZZ: The winner lays claim to being the third-best team in the state of Alabama. This is the ninth meeting in the series, and it's tied 4-4. UAB has won three of the past four. This is one of seven C-USA-Sun Belt games this season and one of three this weekend. The Sun Belt leads 2-1 going into the weekend.
THE LINE: Troy by 16.5 THE PICK: Troy 38-28

Hawaii (2-2) at Louisiana Tech (1-3), 7 p.m., ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: What was it that Ray Charles sang, something about " if it wasn't for bad luck/I'd have no luck at all"? That's Louisiana Tech. Tech is 1-1 in overtime games, and it's other two losses have come by a combined three points. Hawaii was the preseason favorite to win the WAC, but despite its bad start, Tech can make a case it's the team to beat if it wins this.
THE LINE: Louisiana Tech by 3.5 THE PICK: Louisiana Tech 38-33

Ball State (3-1) at Oklahoma (3-0), 7 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Ball State is 17-of-17 on its forays into the red zone this season. The Cardinals have lost 10 in a row to ranked foes. Ball State held Army without a pass completion in a victory last week. We'd be willing to bet OU completes a pass in this one.
THE LINE: Oklahoma by 37 THE PICK: Oklahoma 51-17

North Texas (1-3) at Tulsa (1-3), 7 p.m.
THE BUZZ: North Texas is coming in off an upset of Indiana. Tulsa, meanwhile, already has lost to Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Boise State. This is the 10th meeting since 1970 and Tulsa has won the first nine. Not football-related but still interesting: UNT has an enrollment of 36,111, while Tulsa's is 4,100, making it the smallest of the 120 FBS schools.
THE LINE: Tulsa by 23 THE PICK: Tulsa 45-24

Memphis (1-3) at Middle Tennessee (0-3), 7 p.m.
THE BUZZ: This is the 24th meeting of these in-state foes, and MTSU leads 14-8-1, including 9-2 at home. This is MTSU's homecoming. It's Memphis' second game against a Sun Belt opponent this season, and the Tigers were hammered 47-3 by Arkansas State on Sept. 10.
THE LINE: MTSU by 22.5 THE PICK: MTSU 38-14

Florida Atlantic (0-3) at Louisiana-Lafayette (3-1), 7 p.m.
THE BUZZ: This is the fourth consecutive road game for FAU. ULL is coming off an impressive win at FIU that stamps the Ragin' Cajuns as a legit contender for the Sun Belt title. But last week's win would be erased if ULL were to lose this. FAU is 5-1 all-time vs. ULL, including 3-0 at Cajun Field. This is the first of three consecutive home games for ULL.
THE LINE: ULL by 9 THE PICK: ULL 30-17

Rice (1-2) at Southern Miss (3-1), 7:30 p.m., Comcast-Charter Sports Southeast
THE BUZZ: This is the Conference USA opener for Rice; Southern Miss, meanwhile, already is 0-1 in league play and can't afford a loss to Rice if it wants to legitimately contend for the East Division title.
THE LINE: Southern Miss by 15 THE PICK: Southern Miss 38-21

Nebraska (4-0) at Wisconsin (4-0), 8 p.m., ABC
THE BUZZ: The first Big Ten game in Nebraska history is a doozy, as it matches the two best teams in the league. The teams haven't met since 1974. Wisconsin hasn't been tested; can its defense hold up against Nebraska's strong rushing attack? Conversely, the Huskers' "Blackshirt" defense has looked shaky; can it stop the Badgers' rushing attack? If not, Wisconsin QB Russell Wilson will be able to use play action to his heart's content.
THE LINE: Wisconsin by 9 THE PICK: Wisconsin 31-24

Alabama (4-0) at Florida (4-0), 8 p.m., CBS
THE BUZZ: Both defenses have been dominant, with Alabama first and Florida second in the SEC in scoring defense and total defense. In addition, Florida leads the league in total offense and scoring offense, while Alabama is second in total offense and fourth in scoring offense.
THE LINE: Alabama by 3.5 THE PICK: Alabama 20-13

Notre Dame (2-2) at Purdue (2-1), 8 p.m., ESPN
THE BUZZ: This is the third - and last - Big Ten opponent of the season for the Irish, who beat Michigan State but lost to Michigan. This also is the 83rd meeting between these two Indiana schools. Notre Dame leads 54-26-2 and has won 20 of the past 25 meetings, including eight of the past 12 played in West Lafayette.
THE LINE: Notre Dame by 13 THE PICK: Notre Dame 34-17

New Mexico State (1-3) at New Mexico (0-4), 8 p.m., The mtn.
THE BUZZ: This is the dog of the week - and maybe the season. New Mexico has won just twice since the beginning of the 2009 season and is coming off a loss to FCS member Sam Houston State. School officials fired coach Mike Locksley on Sunday and defensive coordinator George Barlow is the interim coach. NMSU, which has won just 17 games since the beginning of the 2005 season, has won two in a row in the series.
THE LINE: New Mexico State by 2.5 THE PICK: New Mexico State 27-21

North Carolina (3-1) at East Carolina (1-2), 8 p.m., CBS Sports Network
THE BUZZ: "Big brother" comes to town. This is just the 14th meeting between these in-state schools, and UNC leads the series 10-2-1. Both of ECU's losses this season have come to Big Six schools (South Carolina and Virginia Tech). UNC is seeking just its second 4-1 start since 1997.
THE LINE: UNC by 6.5 THE PICK: UNC 35-30

Ole Miss (1-3) at Fresno State (2-2), 9:15 p.m., ESPN2
THE BUZZ: This is the first time an SEC team has visited Fresno State. Ole Miss beat Fresno 55-38 last season in Oxford. Ole Miss is 118th nationally in total offense, averaging just 235.0 yards per game.
THE LINE: Fresno State by 3.5 THE PICK: Fresno State 27-20

UCLA (2-2) at Stanford (3-0), 10:30 p.m., Fox Sports Net
THE BUZZ: Stanford has won two in a row in the series but hasn't beaten the Bruins three consecutive times since 1929-31. Stanford has allowed just two offensive TDs this season and just nine offensive TDs in its past nine games.
THE LINE: Stanford by 21 THE PICK: Stanford 38-13

Oregon State (0-3) at Arizona State (3-1), 10:30 p.m., Fox Sports Arizona/Fox College Sports Pacific
THE BUZZ: Arizona State is coming off an impressive win over USC and can't afford a letdown against the Beavers, who look to be the worst team in the Pac-12. Oregon State is trying to avoid its first 0-4 start since 1996. The Beavers have won three in a row and four of the past five in the series.
THE LINE: Arizona State by 18 THE PICK: Arizona State 28-13

LAST WEEK

44-16 straight up, 18-29 against the spread.

YEAR TO DATE

219-48 straight up, 83-96 against the spread (no spread on games involving FCS schools)

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

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