Today's key national games

College Football

October 30, 2004|By Orlando Sentinel

No. 2 Oklahoma at No. 20 Okla. State

Quick slant: Oklahoma State has won two of the past three in this series, spoiling the Sooners' title hopes in 2001 and '02.

About Oklahoma: The Sooners are 10th nationally in total offense and have nice balance thanks to true freshman TB Adrian Peterson (146.1 ypg), who has rushed for 100 yards in each game this season. Mark Clayton and Travis Wilson are a nice duo at receiver. The defense ranks 19th overall and fifth against the rush. If Oklahoma shuts down the run, it wins easily.

About Oklahoma State: The Cowboys rallied from 17 down to win at Missouri last week, and if they can win today, they're squarely in the Big 12 title picture. TB Vernand Morency is third nationally in rushing (164.7) and must be productive if the Cowboys are to win. The passing attack scares no one. The defense is nothing special, but it does force a lot of turnovers (the Cowboys are fourth nationally with a plus-12 turnover margin).

The buzz: Oklahoma shut down Texas' rushing attack. Can it do the same to Oklahoma State?

The line: Oklahoma by 12 1/2

The pick: Oklahoma, 34-17

No. 11 Tennessee at South Carolina

Quick slant: The Vols have won 11 in a row in this series, and this is their final tough conference game.

About Tennessee: The Vols have been steady, for the most part, on both sides of the ball. True freshman QB Erik Ainge has looked good and has been helped by a revitalized running game. TB Gerald Riggs Jr. has played well of late, as Cedric Houston goes into his seemingly annual swoon. The defense has been good against the run - LB Kevin Burnett is a standout - but the secondary is shaky.

About South Carolina: The defense has been super for most of the season. The Gamecocks have held five foes to seven points or less, and only in an inexplicable home loss to Ole Miss have the Gamecocks allowed more than 20. There has been an appalling lack of pressure (a league-low seven sacks), but FS Ko Simpson, LB Marcus Lawrence and E George Gause are playing at a high level.

The buzz: An upset puts the Gamecocks in the hunt for the SEC East title - and for a New Year's Day bowl.

The line: Pick 'em

The pick: Tennessee, 24-20

Florida vs. No. 10 Georgia

Quick slant: Florida has defeated Georgia in 13 of the past 14 meetings.

About Florida: As Ron Zook's farewell tour begins, Florida must pace its emotions if it wants to last four quarters. Despite a seemingly talented front seven, the defense lacks cohesiveness and chemistry. Florida must find a way to stop Georgia's ground game to keep its streak alive. And QB Chris Leak needs time to throw, meaning Florida must slow Georgia DE David Pollack.

About Georgia: A stifling defense has managed to make up for a mediocre offense. Expect a similar approach today, as the defense attempts to stuff the offense while the Bulldogs try to wear down the Gators. Pollack, LB Odell Thurman and FS Thomas Davis are the defensive stars. Georgia needs big games from true freshman TB Danny Ware and WRs Reggie Brown and Fred Gibson.

The buzz: Florida players are angry over Zook's firing, and they're out to show the wrong decision was made. Hey, where was this passion last week, when Florida lost to woeful Mississippi State?

The line: Georgia by 7

The pick: Georgia, 28-17

Michigan State at No. 12 Michigan

Quick slant: The Spartans haven't won in Ann Arbor since 1990.

About Michigan State: The Spartans mauled Minnesota in their previous game and hope they can be that productive today. QB Drew Stanton and TB Jason Teague head a rushing offense that ranks second in the Big Ten, and if the Spartans are to have any hope in this one, they must run effectively. They also must stop the run much better than they usually do. K Dave Rayner and P Brandon Fields give the Spartans a special teams advantage.

About Michigan: True freshman TB Michael Hart has come on strong and gives the Wolverines a legit feature back. That has taken pressure off true freshman QB Chad Henne, who has the nation's best receiving corps to work with. The Wolverines lead the Big Ten in rushing defense and are second in total defense. SS Ernest Shazor and LB Lawrence Reid have been the defensive stars.

The buzz: Michigan needs to win to stay in the hunt for the Rose Bowl.

The line: Michigan by 11

The pick: Michigan, 34-27

No. 20 Arizona State at No. 7 California

Quick slant: If USC wins out, the winner of this one likely goes to the Rose Bowl.

About Arizona State: The defense has been shredded the past two weeks, giving up 87 total points. There is a nice group of linebackers headed by Dale Robinson, but the secondary is iffy. To win this, the Sun Devils are going to gave to score a ton of points, meaning QB Andrew Walter must be sharp - and must be kept upright. He has excellent targets in WR Derek Hagan and TE Zach Miller. It's obvious the running game can't be counted on this season.

About California: The Golden Bears lead the nation in total offense and are ninth in rushing offense. QB Aaron Rodgers is the man, and he is helped by TB J.J. Arrington (fourth nationally at 153.0 ypg) and WR Geoff McArthur. The Golden Bears also lead the Pac-10 in defense. E Ryan Riddle (seven sacks, 10.5 tackles for loss) is a big-play guy, and T Lorenzo Alexander is a load in the middle.

The buzz: USC is the only team to beat these teams - Cal by six and Arizona State by 38.

The line: Cal by 15 1/2

The pick: Cal, 42-28

- Orlando Sentinel

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