Today's key national games

College Football

October 16, 2004|By Orlando Sentinel

No. 15 Arizona State at No. 1 USC

Quick slant: This is the second week in a row the host Trojans' opponent is an unbeaten team also gunning for the Pac-10 title.

About Arizona State: QB Andrew Walter has all sorts of talent, and when he is on, he's one of the best - if not the best - in the nation. He and WR Derek Hagan are one of the best pass-catch combos in the nation, but the running game is lacking. The defense has been a big-time surprise. An underrated group of big-hitting linebackers is the main reason the Sun Devils excel against the run.

About USC: The Trojans were outplayed but still won last week over California. They have a superb group of tailbacks, but their passing took a big hit last week, when WR Steve Smith was lost for the season with a broken leg. The Trojans' defensive front four, headed by E Shaun Cody and T Mike Patterson, is tough, but the secondary remains a concern.

The buzz: USC is plus-11 in turnover margin, Arizona State plus-10.

The line: USC by 10.

The pick: USC, 31-28.

Arkansas at No. 4 Auburn

Quick slant: These teams rank first (Arkansas) and second in the SEC in total offense.

About Arkansas: The Hogs lead the SEC in passing and are second in rushing, and senior QB Matt Jones is a reason for both rankings. Jones has become a better passer this season, but he still makes bad decisions at times (he has seven TDs but also seven interceptions). The defense has struggled and must stand up against the run.

About Auburn: The Tigers have been a surprise, especially on defense. To no one's surprise, the running game is strong with TBs Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown. Because the running game has produced, QB Jason Campbell also has been productive. The secondary was a strength heading into the season, and it has produced with CB Carlos Rogers and SS Junior Rosegreen. LBs Travis Williams and Antarrious Williams have emerged as playmakers.

The buzz: Auburn has not allowed a rushing touchdown this season.

The line: Auburn by 13.

The pick: Auburn, 34-24.

No. 10 Wisconsin at No. 5 Purdue

Quick slant: The winner stays on track for the Big Ten title and the Rose Bowl.

About Wisconsin: The Badgers lead the nation in total defense, thanks to a line that has been wreaking havoc. T Anttaj Hawthorne and E Erasmus James lead the way. They're fourth nationally in pass defense. The offense is depends on TB Anthony Davis. If the run is shut down, the Badgers are in big-time trouble.

About Purdue: The Boilermakers are one of the nation's biggest surprises, but this is their first real test. QB Kyle Orton has been great (328.4 ypg, 18 TDs, two interceptions), and Taylor Stubblefield is the go-to receiver 113.6 ypg, 11 TDs). TB Jerod Void is a competent complement. Purdue has allowed just one rushing TD. LB George Hall and SS Bernard Pollard are the standouts.

The buzz: No way does Purdue shut down Wisconsin's running game. Then again, no way Wisconsin shuts down Purdue's passing game.

The line: Purdue by 7.

The pick: Purdue, 24-20.

No. 6 Virginia at No. 7 Florida State

Quick slant: A monster showdown in the ACC. This is only the sixth time in league history two conference teams have been in the top 10 at game time.

About Virginia: The Cavs are fifth nationally in total offense and sixth in total defense. But are they really that good, or have they had an easy schedule? Their five opponents are a combined 10-19. QB Marques Hagans has scrambling ability, but the deep passing game is a question because of the lack of talent at receiver. TE Heath Miller may be the best in the nation at his position, and TBs Wali Lundy and Alvin Pearman are excellent receivers. The defense is led by, perhaps, the nation's best linebacking crew. Ahmad Brooks has all kinds of talent.

About Florida State: This is the first "big" game for sophomore QB Wyatt Sexton. Former starter Chris Rix reportedly is healthy and could play. Expect Florida State to feed the Cavs a steady dose of TBs Leon Washington (108.2 ypg) and Lorenzo Booker (74.2 ypg). Florida State has an active linebackers who must be prepared for Virginia's short passing game. Senior DT Travis Johnson has played well and is the leader of an emerging front four. The special teams are struggling.

The buzz: Both teams will do everything they can to stop the run and force the other team to the air. Can Hagans win a game with his arm? Can Sexton? Sexton has better wide receivers, that's for sure.

The line: Florida State by 3.

The pick: Virginia, 21-17.

UCLA at No. 8 California

Quick slant: If Cal wins out and USC wins out, Cal almost certainly goes to the Rose Bowl, while USC goes to the Orange to play for the national title.

About UCLA: The Bruins, a pleasant surprise, actually have played well on offense, thanks to TB Maurice Drew (138.2 ypg). TE Marcedes Lewis is an underutilized weapon. The defense has disappointed, though LB Spencer Havner has been superb (14.2 tackles per game). The Bruins haven't beaten a team with a winning record.

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