Today's key national games

October 09, 2004|By Orlando Sentinel

No. 2 Oklahoma vs. No. 5 Texas

Quick slant: This is the third time in four years both have been ranked in the top five at game time. Oklahoma has won four in a row in the series by an average score of 44-14.

About Texas: The Longhorns lead the nation in rushing, and senior TB Cedric Benson is the nation's leading rusher (186.5 ypg). But he has rushed for just 75 yards on 34 carries (a 2.2 average) in his career vs. the Sooners. QB Vince Young is a great athlete but an inconsistent passer. The defense has been excellent, but Oklahoma's is the best offense it's faced.

About Oklahoma: True freshman TB Adrian Peterson has given the Sooners a running threat, shoring up the biggest weakness of last season's offense. QB Jason White doesn't have the gaudy numbers, but he has been ultra-effective. WR Mark Clayton is a big-time deep threat.

The buzz: If Texas runs effectively (say, 175 or so yards), it can win. If Benson is shut down, this could get nasty.

The line: Oklahoma by 7.

The pick: Oklahoma, 31-21.

No. 13 Minnesota at No. 14 Michigan

Quick slant: Minnesota hasn't won in this series since 1986.

About Minnesota: The Gophers want to run and run, then run some more. They rank third nationally in rushing offense, and TBs Laurence Maroney (134.0 ypg) and Marion Barber III (120.4 ypg) rank first and second in the Big Ten and ninth and 11th nationally in rushing. The defense has looked good, and the Gophers' plus-8 turnover margin leads the league.

About Michigan: The Wolverines lead the nation in rushing defense. But in their one loss, Notre Dame ran effectively against the Wolverines, and Minnesota's backs and linemen are better than Notre Dame's. That means Michigan's offense is going to have to produce.

The buzz: Minnesota can stamp itself as a legit Big Ten contender with a victory in "The Battle for the Little Brown Jug."

The line: Michigan by 3 1/2 .

The pick: Minnesota, 30-27.

No. 15 Wisconsin at No. 18 Ohio State

Quick slant: Wisconsin basically eliminates the Buckeyes from the Big Ten title race with a win.

About Wisconsin: The Badgers, who beat the Buckeyes last season, lead the nation in total defense and scoring defense. T Anttaj Hawthorne and E Erasmus James are wreaking havoc up front, and CB Scott Starks heads the secondary. The offense, though, ranks just 95th overall. Injury-hampered TB Anthony Davis is the key guy.

About Ohio State: The Buckeyes have struggled on offense, too. The running game is ineffective, and while there are some excellent receivers - most notably sophomore Santonio Holmes - new QB Justin Zwick has been erratic. The defense is stout, headed by the best group of linebackers in the nation.

The buzz: This is the first time since 1959 that the Badgers have been ranked higher than the Buckeyes at game time.

The line: Ohio State by 3 1/2 .

The pick: Ohio State, 16-10.

No. 7 California at No. 1 USC

Quick slant: The winner of this game is a lock to play in a BCS bowl - and maybe even in the Orange Bowl.

About California: The Golden Bears, who rank first in the Pac-10 in total offense and total defense, are a mystery team no more. QB Aaron Rodgers is one of the best in the nation, and he oversees an offense full of high-level skill-position guys, such as TB J.J. Arrington (155.3 ypg) and WRs Chase Lyman and Geoff McArthur.

About USC: The Trojans have won 24 of their past 25 games, with the only loss coming last season to California. QB Matt Leinart is a stud, but his receiving corps needs to prove itself. There is a devastating tailback duo with Reggie Bush and LenDale White.

The buzz: Both offenses are high-powered, so it's up to the defenses to win this. The big questions: Can Cal stop USC's running game? And can USC stop Cal's passing attack?

The line: USC by 7 1/2 .

The pick: Cal, 28-24.

No. 17 Tennessee at No. 3 Georgia

Quick slant: Tennessee must win if it is to stay in the SEC race. But Georgia has won the past four in the series.

About Tennessee: The Vols' young quarterbacks were overwhelmed last week against Auburn - and so was a shaky defense. UT must run the ball effectively (at least 150 yards) to have a shot. In addition, the Vols must pressure Georgia QB David Greene, who has been sacked only four times. You have to think coordinator John Chavis will use a lot of blitzes.

About Georgia: The Bulldogs dismantled LSU, but can they play that well two weeks in a row? True freshman TB Danny Ware is fifth in the league in rushing (95.0 ypg) and gives the Bulldogs a running threat.

The buzz: Since the start of the 2000 season, Tennessee is 12-4 on the road in the SEC.

The line: Georgia by 12 1/2 .

The pick: Georgia, 27-17.

No. 24 LSU at No. 12 Florida

Quick slant: These teams have played every season since 1971, and the Gators have won 14 of the past 16 in the series.

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