Today's key national games

College Football

October 23, 2004|By Orlando Sentinel

Alabama at No. 11 Tennessee

Quick slant: The Vols have won eight of the past nine in this rivalry, which grows nastier off the field each season.

About Alabama: The Tide has a strong ground game (ninth nationally) and a superb defense (third nationally). The pass offense, though, is awful, and for the Tide to pull the upset, it's vital that sophomore TB Kenneth Darby have a monster game. Alabama is stronger against the pass than against the run.

About Tennessee: The Vols are the only team that controls its own destiny in the SEC East. A revitalized rushing attack has taken pressure off freshman QB Erik Ainge, who has proved more than capable when he has time to throw. The defense is nothing special, though LB Kevin Burnett is a star.

The buzz: It's tough to overstate how much the Tide relies on the running game. If Alabama can't run effectively, it may not score.

The line: Tennessee by 7.

The pick: Tennessee, 23-13.

No. 13 Michigan at No. 12 Purdue

Quick slant: Michigan is one of two unbeatens in Big Ten play and is in the Rose Bowl chase.

About Michigan: The Wolverines have gotten better on offense as the season has progressed, thanks to freshman TB Michael Hart (104.3 ypg). There's an excellent receiving crew, but freshman QB Chad Henne is still learning. The defense has been stout, especially against the run. Purdue's passing game will test a secondary that hasn't gone against a solid passing attack.

About Purdue: QB Kyle Orton (312.8 ypg, 19 TDs, three INTs) has to bounce back from his game-losing fumble last week against Wisconsin. It would help his cause if TB Jerod Void provides help on the ground. WR Taylor Stubblefield is having a great season (101.3 ypg, 11 TDs). A rebuilt defense has been much better than expected, especially against the run.

The buzz: Michigan has won 10 consecutive league games.

The line: Purdue by 4 1/2 .

The pick: Purdue, 27-24.

No. 10 Georgia at Arkansas

Quick slant: Georgia has four SEC games left, and none is a home game.

About Georgia: The Bulldogs are fourth nationally in total defense, and in FS Thomas Davis, E David Pollack and LB Odell Thurman, they have three difference-makers. The offense has been inconsistent, though true freshman TB Danny Ware has provided a spark when healthy. QB David Greene ranks just eighth in the SEC in passing efficiency, but WRs Reggie Brown and Fred Gibson have been productive.

About Arkansas: As usual, the Hogs need a big game from QB Matt Jones, who makes the offense go with his arm and legs. Despite not having a truly elite receiver, the Hogs are No. 2 in the SEC in passing offense. The defense has struggled, especially against the run, meaning the Hogs usually have to score a lot of points to win. E Jeb Huckeba and LB Lerinezo Robinson are the guys to watch. The Hogs have only seven sacks.

The buzz: This is Arkansas' homecoming.

The line: Georgia by 8.

The pick: Georgia, 24-17.

No. 8 Texas at Texas Tech

Quick slant: The winner stays in the hunt for second place in the Big 12 South.

About Texas: The Longhorns are second nationally in rushing offense, with TB Cedric Benson (164.7 ypg) the horse. He must run effectively if the Longhorns are to win this because the passing attack is way too inconsistent. The pass defense has been excellent, but the Red Raiders' passing attack is a whole different animal. One problem: Texas is last in the Big 12 with five sacks.

About Texas Tech: The Red Raiders lead the nation in passing offense and are second in total offense. Still, QB Sonny Cumbie has more picks (eight) than TD passes (seven) in league play. WR Jarrett Hicks leads the nation with 137.2 receiving yards per game, and he and Nehemiah Glover have combined for 81 catches. The defense has improved overall from last season, but it still has been shaky against the run.

The buzz: You think Mack Brown is feeling the heat after the latest loss to Oklahoma? It might be unbearable if Texas loses this one.

The line: Texas by 1.

The pick: Texas, 34-30.

No. 4 Miami at N.C. State

Quick slant: N.C. State has 28 Floridians on its roster, including 16 players from South Florida.

About Miami: The Hurricanes are 11th in total defense and have great speed throughout the unit. But as Louisville showed last week, you can hit big plays because of UM's aggressiveness. CB Antrel Rolle and LB Rocky McIntosh are playing at a high level. You never know what kind of performance you're going to get from QB Brock Berlin, who is much better out of the shotgun.

About N.C. State: The Wolfpack leads the nation in total defense and has limited four foes to less than 75 passing yards. Four defensive starters are from Miami, including two standouts: LB Pat Thomas and SS Andre Maddox. The offense has played better of late, and N.C. State needs a big game from TB T.A. McLendon.

The buzz: N.C. State has the defense to hang with the 'Canes-assuming the offense can move the ball.

The line: Miami by 7 1/2 .

The pick: Miami, 20-14. - Orlando Sentinel

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