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October 1, 2009

Weekend Primer: Plenty of important games

We're into October and into Week 5 of the college football season.

A few games that could've been huge matchups have lost some luster because of losses -- USC at California, Oklahoma at Miami -- but those games remain important in the national title race.

There also is a huge game in the SEC (LSU at Georgia) and some games of intrigue in the ACC (N.C. State at Wake Forest, Florida State at Boston College), the Pac-10 (Oregon State at Arizona State, UCLA at Stanford) and the Big Ten (Michigan at Michigan State, Wisconsin at Minnesota).

Here's a look at every Week 5 game involving an FBS program.

SATURDAY'S GAMES

Clemson (2-2) at Maryland (1-3), noon, ESPNU
THE BUZZ: The visiting team has won each of the past four meetings in the series. Given the way the Terps have been playing, you'd think that streak would increase to five. Maryland, which already has committed 13 turnovers, has struggled to stop the run. That has to make Clemson RB C.J. Spiller happy.
THE LINE: Clemson by 13.5. THE PICK: Clemson 34-17.

Arkansas State (1-2) at Iowa (4-0), noon, ESPN2
THE BUZZ: Iowa's defense dominated last week at Penn State and should be able to do so again, though Arkansas State RB Reggie Arnold is a good one. Arnold is trying to become just the eighth player in major-college history with four consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons.
THE LINE: Iowa by 21. THE PICK: Iowa 38-14.

Michigan (4-0) at Michigan State (1-3), Big Ten Network
THE BUZZ: Michigan State snapped a six-game losing streak in the series with a victory in Ann Arbor last season. Michigan State's defense has been woeful; then again, so has Michigan's. That means this should be an entertaining, high-scoring affair.
THE LINE: Michigan State by 2. THE PICK: Michigan State 35-31.

Wisconsin (4-0) at Minnesota (3-1), noon, ESPN
THE BUZZ: This is the 119th meeting in the nation's most-played rivalry. The battle for "Paul Bunyan's Axe" has a little more importance than normal because the winner remains a sleeper contender for the Big Ten title.
THE LINE: Minnesota by 2.5. THE PICK: Wisconsin 29-23.

East Carolina (2-2) at Marshall (3-1), noon, CBS College Sports
THE BUZZ: ECU was the preseason favorite in the C-USA East Division, but this is a chance for Marshall to stamp itself as a division contender. Marshall RB Darius Marshall is the nation's leading rusher at 166 yards per game.
THE LINE: East Carolina by 2.5. THE PICK: East Carolina 27-21.

Northwestern (2-2) at Purdue (1-3), noon, Big Ten Network
THE BUZZ: Northwestern had designs on an upper-division finish in the Big Ten, but if the Wildcats lose this game, it's hard to believe that upper-division finish would materialize. After a hot start to the season, Purdue's Ralph Bolden has rushed for 131 combined yards the past two weeks.
THE LINE: Purdue by 7. THE PICK: Northwestern 30-24.

USF (4-0) at Syracuse (2-2), noon, Big East syndication/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: USF is coming off a huge win at Florida State and can't afford a letdown. This is the third of six consecutive home games for Syracuse, which won the first two in the homestand.
THE LINE: USF by 6.5. THE PICK: USF 24-20.

Virginia (0-3) at North Carolina (3-1), ACC syndication/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: This is the 114th meeting in the series. The first matchup was in 1892 and the teams have met annually since 1919. The Cavs have won three in a row over the Tar Heels. This is the ACC opener for UVa., while UNC already has lost a league game. Another loss would all but eliminate the Tar Heels from the ACC Coastal Division title race.
THE LINE: North Carolina by 13. THE PICK: North Carolina 28-13.

Toledo (2-2) at Ball State (0-4), noon, ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: Toledo has been solid under new coach Tim Beckman; Ball State has fallen a long way in a short time under new coach Stan Parrish. Toledo QB Aaron Opelt has thrown nine TD passes; he threw 12 last season.
THE LINE: Toledo by 4.5. THE PICK: Toledo 26-17.

Virginia Tech (3-1) at Duke (2-2), noon
THE BUZZ: Virginia Tech is coming off back-to-back wins at home over Nebraska and Miami, and Duke obviously is a step down in competition. Still, the Hokies struggled to put away the Blue Devils last season and can't afford too big a letdown.
THE LINE: Virginia Tech by 16.5. THE PICK: Virginia Tech 23-10.

Tulane (1-2) at Army (2-2), noon
THE BUZZ: Army won by 31 over the Green Wave in New Orleans last season. Tulane's run defense has been awful, while Army is ninth in the nation in run offense with its triple-option attack.
THE LINE: Army by 6.5. THE PICK: Army 33-24.

Alabama (4-0) at Kentucky (2-1), 12:20 p.m., SEC syndication/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: Alabama leads this "rivalry" 34-2-1; UK's wins came in 1922 and 1997. This is the Tide's first true road game of the season, and they also play at Ole Miss next week.
THE LINE: Alabama by 16.5. THE PICK: Alabama 38-10.

Cincinnati (4-0) at Miami University (0-4), 1 p.m.
THE BUZZ: This is the 114th meeting in the oldest non-conference rivalry in the nation; it also is the fifth-most-played rivalry in the nation. Cincinnati is ranked 10th in this week's AP poll, the first top-10 ranking in school history.
THE LINE: Cincinnati by 28.5. THE PICK: Cincinnati 52-16.

Temple (1-2) at Eastern Michigan (0-3), 1 p.m.
THE BUZZ: EMU senior QB Andy Schmitt suffered a season-ending injury in the Eagles' loss to Michigan, and this is their first game without him. Temple is coming off a victory over Buffalo and has EMU and Ball State next, so a 3-0 start in the MAC is a distinct possibility.
THE LINE: Temple by 6. THE PICK: Temple 24-14.

Kansas State (2-2) vs. Iowa State (3-1) in Kansas City, Mo., 3 p.m., Fox College Sports Central
THE BUZZ: The hounds make their way to Kansas City for a big weekend of barbecue and bad football. This is the dog of the week; plus, the NFL's Chiefs are at home Sunday, so the hounds will get an extra helping of bad football.
THE LINE: Iowa State by 3. THE PICK: Iowa State 24-19.

LSU (4-0) at Georgia (3-1), 3:30 p.m., CBS
THE BUZZ: A big one in the SEC. This is the start of a huge stretch for LSU, which also plays Florida, Auburn and Alabama over the next five weeks. Georgia, meanwhile, won't play at home again until Nov. 7. Georgia is the only SEC team that LSU coach Les Miles hasn't beat.
THE LINE: Georgia by 3. THE PICK: Georgia 24-20.

Washington (2-2) at Notre Dame (3-1), 3:30 p.m., NBC
THE BUZZ: This is the first of four games against Pac-10 teams for Notre Dame, which also plays Stanford, USC and Washington State. Washington has had all sorts of problem stopping the run, and Notre Dame RB Armando Allen is expected to play. Notre Dame's defense has issues, as well. This could be a game in which the winner scores in the 30s.
THE LINE: Notre Dame by 13.5. THE PICK: Notre Dame 34-24.

UCLA (3-0) at Stanford (3-1), 3:30 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: This is an intriguing game in terms of the Pac-10 pecking order. Each team would take a big step toward bowl eligibility with a victory. UCLA has held each of its first three opponents to less than 300 yards.
THE LINE: Stanford by 5. THE PICK: Stanford 24-16.

Penn State (3-1) at Illinois (1-2), 3:30 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN
THE BUZZ: Illinois has been horrible in its two games against FBS foes. Penn State is coming off that fourth-quarter meltdown against Iowa and should get well against the Illini.
THE LINE: Penn State by 7. THE PICK: Penn State 26-14.

Florida State (2-2) at Boston College (3-1), 3:30 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: Florida State's offensive line was whipped last week by USF's defensive line, and BC's defensive ends have to worry FSU's offensive coaches. FSU's pass defense has been atrocious, but BC's pass offense is mediocre.
THE LINE: FSU by 4. THE PICK: FSU 23-17.

New Mexico (0-4) at Texas Tech (2-2), 3:30 p.m., Fox Sports Net
THE BUZZ: Things aren't going too well for new New Mexico coach Mike Locksley, who got into a scuffle with one of his assistants last weekend after the team dropped to 0-4. Next is a trip to Texas Tech, which should be a bit ornery after dropping two games in a row.
THE LINE: Texas Tech by 35.5. THE PICK: Texas Tech 56-17.

N.C. State (3-1) at Wake Forest (2-2), 3:30 p.m., ESPNU
THE BUZZ: In its two losses, Wake has committed seven turnovers; in its two wins, it has committed zero. This is N.C. State's ACC opener; Wake already has one Atlantic Division loss and can't afford another if it wants to legitimately stay in the race.
THE LINE: Wake by 1. THE PICK: N.C. State 27-24.

Air Force (3-1) at Navy (2-2), 3:30 p.m., CBS College Sports
THE BUZZ: This is the first game in the three-game battle for the Commander-in-Chief's trophy. Navy has won six in a row in the series, the second-longest winning streak in series history to Air Force's 11 from 1982-92. Four of the past six games between the teams have been decided by six or fewer points. Air Force leads the nation in rushing and is 119th in passing; Navy is sixth in rushing and 118th in passing.
THE LINE: Navy by 3.5. THE PICK: Air Force 32-27.

Florida International (0-3) at Louisiana-Monroe (2-2), 3:30 p.m., Sun Belt syndication/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: Heading into the season, FIU was seen as a sleeper contender in the Sun Belt Conference. ULM is coming off an upset victory at Florida Atlantic, and a win in this one makes the Warhawks a Sun Belt dark horse.
THE LINE: Louisiana-Monroe by 5. THE PICK: FIU 27-20.

Western Michigan (2-2) at Northern Illinois (2-2), 3:30 p.m., Comcast SportsNet Chicago
THE BUZZ: This is the MAC opener for NIU. Both teams are expected to challenge Central Michigan for the MAC West crown. WMU QB Tim Hiller has 84 TD passes, tied for fifth with Ben Roethlisberger on the MAC's career list; he is 16 shy of tying Chad Pennington for the league record.
THE LINE: Northern Illinois by 7. THE PICK: Western Michigan 31-27.

Memphis (1-3) at UCF (2-2), 3:30 p.m.
THE BUZZ: UCF is 0-2 in Conference USA action, but the losses have come against Southern Miss and East Carolina, the two best teams in the C-USA East Division. Memphis isn't in the same class. The loser of this one is going to have a tough time finishing in the top half of the division.
THE LINE: UCF by 7. THE PICK: UCF 23-13.

Central Michigan (3-1) at Buffalo (1-3), 3:30 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Central Michigan has won 15 consecutive games against MAC East foes, and that streak should be 16 when this one is over. CMU quarterback Dan LeFevour is coming off a six-TD game against Akron. Buffalo is looking for some offensive consistency.
THE LINE: Central Michigan by 8. THE PICK: Central Michigan 37-24.

Ohio (2-2) at Bowling Green (1-3), 4 p.m.
THE BUZZ: The MAC East is wide open, and these are two programs that think they can win it. Bowling Green needs to throw effectively to win it, but the secondary is Ohio's defensive strength.
THE LINE: Bowling Green by 3. THE PICK: Bowling Green 31-24.

Wyoming (2-2) at Florida Atlantic (0-3), 4 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Wyoming is 7-0 all-time against Sun Belt Conference teams. Both have had trouble scoring, with Wyoming averaging 17.3 points and FAU 14.7 points. On the flipside, neither has been that good defensively.
THE LINE: FAU by 3.5. THE PICK: FAU 27-20.

UNLV (2-2) at Nevada (0-3), 4 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Nevada has won four in a row in this nasty rivalry. The teams play for the Fremont Cannon, at 545 pounds the heaviest rivalry trophy in college sports. The cannon is a replica of one that explorer John C. Fremont brought with him before abandoning it in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in 1844.
THE LINE: Nevada by 3.5. THE PICK: Nevada 34-26.

Oregon State (2-2) at Arizona State (2-1), 7 p.m., Versus
THE BUZZ: Oregon State has lost two in a row, including a home loss last week to Arizona. Much like Stanford-UCLA, this is a big one in terms of Pac-10 pecking order. Arizona State needs to get its offense cranked up.
THE LINE: Arizona State by 4.5. THE PICK: Oregon State 27-23.

Ole Miss (2-1) at Vanderbilt (2-2), 7 p.m., ESPNU
THE BUZZ: After last week's loss at South Carolina, Ole Miss is in desperation mode. Vandy beat the Rebels in Oxford last season, but Ole Miss has won 12 of the past 16 in the series, which dates to 1894. Vandy's offense won't have much success against Ole Miss' defense. But can the Ole Miss offense get untracked?
THE LINE: Ole Miss by 8.5. THE PICK: Ole Miss 21-10.

South Carolina State (3-0) at South Carolina (3-1), 7 p.m., ESPN Classic
THE BUZZ: This is the second meeting in the series; the Gamecocks won by 35 in 2007. South Carolina has been poor in the red zone, with just nine TDs in 22 trips (40.9 percent).
THE LINE: No line. THE PICK: South Carolina 44-14.

Ohio State (3-1) at Indiana (3-1), 7 p.m., Big Ten Network
THE BUZZ: Indiana hung tough and almost upset Michigan last week in Ann Arbor. Ohio State leads this series 65-12-5 and has won 14 in a row over the Hoosiers. Ohio State has a 15-game Big Ten road winning streak, two shy of the league record set by Michigan (1988-92)
THE LINE: Ohio State by 17. THE PICK: Ohio State 38-17.

Kent State (2-2) at Baylor (2-1), 7 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Life without Robert Griffin begins for Baylor. Expect the Bears to rely heavily on their running game against the Golden Flashes, who have beaten an FCS team (Coastal Carolina) and Miami University, which this season is about as talented as a mid-level FCS team.
THE LINE: Baylor by 21. THE PICK: Baylor 37-14.

Texas A&M (3-0) vs. Arkansas (1-2) in Arlington, Texas, 7:30 p.m., ESPN2
THE BUZZ: These teams are former Southwest Conference rivals that met annually from 1934-91, but they haven't played since Arkansas joined the SEC in 1992. Both offenses have been solid, but both defenses have issues.
THE LINE: Texas A&M by 1. THE PICK: Arkansas 38-28.

Georgia Tech (3-1) at Mississippi State (2-2), 7:30 p.m., Comcast-Charter Sports Southeast/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: This marks the first time Georgia Tech has played in the state of Mississippi. With the arrival of coach Dan Mullen, Mississippi State has an offensive pulse this season. But the Bulldogs' defense will be on the spot in this one. Can MSU stifle Tech's triple-option offense?
THE LINE: Georgia Tech by 5.5. THE PICK: Georgia Tech 31-21.

Tulsa (3-1) at Rice (0-4), 7:30 p.m., CBS College Sports
THE BUZZ: Rice has one of the worst defenses in the nation, and that unit will be tested by a solid Tulsa offense. Tulsa leads C-USA with 10 TD passes and is tied for first with 17 TDs overall.
THE LINE: Tulsa by 16. THE PICK: Tulsa 49-24.

Auburn (4-0) at Tennessee (2-2), 7:45 p.m., ESPN
THE BUZZ: A battle of first-year coaches in the SEC. Auburn's Gene Chizik has a solid offense but a mediocre defense. Tennessee's Lane Kiffin has a solid defense but a pitiful offense. Auburn has won four in a row in the series, including a 14-12 victory last season that set offensive football back about two decades.
THE LINE: Tennessee by 2. THE PICK: Auburn 24-20.

UC Davis (1-2) at Boise State (4-0), 8 p.m., Comcast SportsNet California/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: Boise coach Chris Petersen is a UC Davis alum (as is Colorado coach Dan Hawkins) and he was UCD's quarterback the last time these teams met, in 1985. Boise has won 51 consecutive regular-season home games. At least five Broncos have scored TDs in each of the past three games.
THE LINE: No line. THE PICK: Boise State 56-14.

USC (3-1) at California (3-1), 8 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: Before the season, these looked like the two best teams in the Pac-10. After this one, one of them will have two league losses and can start hoping for a Holiday Bowl bid.
THE LINE: USC by 4.5. THE PICK: Cal 23-20.

Oklahoma (2-1) at Miami (2-1), 8 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: This is a "prove it game" of sorts for both teams. Oklahoma has won its past two -- against less-than-stellar competition -- after falling to BYU in the opener. Miami looked sharp in winning its first two games, then looked mighty mediocre in falling last week at Virginia Tech. Both offensive lines have something to prove.
THE LINE: Oklahoma by 7. THE PICK: Oklahoma 20-17.

New Mexico State (2-2) at San Diego State (1-3), 8 p.m.
THE BUZZ: This is a battle of first-year coaches. New Mexico State is 117th in the nation in pass offense (122.8 yards per game), San Diego State is 117th in run offense (70.5 ypg).
THE LINE: San Diego State by 17. THE PICK: San Diego State 34-21.

SMU (2-1) at TCU (3-0), 8 p.m., The mtn.
THE BUZZ: SMU, which is off to its best start since 1996, leads the nation with 11 interceptions; the Mustangs had just eight picks last season. The schools, located about 30 miles apart, play for the "Iron Skillet" trophy, which - as its name would suggest - is an iron skillet.
THE LINE: TCU by 28. THE PICK: TCU 42-17.

Houston (3-0) at UTEP (1-3), 9 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Houston is riding high after back-to-back wins over Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. UTEP needs a big game from QB Trevor Vittatoe, who has been struggling.
THE LINE: Houston by 16. THE PICK: Houston 45-24.

Washington State (1-3) at Oregon (3-1), 9:15 p.m., Comcast SportsNet Northwest
THE BUZZ: After a brutal opening-week loss at Boise State, Oregon has righted itself. Washington State, on the other hand, is in the midst of another long losing season.
THE LINE: Oregon by 31.5. THE PICK: Oregon 52-17.

Colorado State (3-1) at Idaho (3-1), 10:30 p.m., ESPNU
THE BUZZ: Idaho has been a huge early season surprise; the Vandals already have equaled the victory total from the past two seasons combined. Both teams throw the ball well, but both teams also have shaky pass defenses.
THE LINE: Colorado State by 3.5. THE PICK: Colorado State 26-21.

NEXT TUESDAY'S GAME

Middle Tennessee (3-1) at Troy (2-2), 8 p.m., ESPN2
THE BUZZ: An important game in the Sun Belt, especially for Middle Tennessee - which is looking to prove it can be a league title contender. This is the start of a stretch in which Troy plays three of four games at home.
THE LINE: Troy by 5. THE PICK: Troy 28-20.

LAST WEEK

49-13 straight up, 20-31 against the spread.

YEAR TO DATE

163-39 straight up, 57-80 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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