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Thursday, 25 September 2008 13:43
NCAAF Headline News

 Saturday, Sept. 27
No. 24 TCU (4-0) at No. 2 Oklahoma (3-0), 7:10 p.m. FSN)
Line: Oklahoma by 21 1/2.
Series Record: Oklahoma leads 6-4.
Last meeting: 2005, TCU won 17-10.
What's at Stake
TCU goes for its second straight upset of a top 5 Oklahoma team in Norman and can earn the Mountain West even more bragging rights after its strong start against BCS conferences. The Sooners can get some long-awaited revenge while protecting their position in the national title race.
Key Matchup
Oklahoma has the highest-scoring offense in the country (54.6 ppg) while TCU ranks first in total defense and rushing defense and second in turnover margin. The hidden truth: the Frogs offense helps out the D by controlling the ball for over 37 minutes per game, most in the nation.
Players to watch
TCU: FS Steven Coleman has produced a turnover in each game so far, with interceptions in three straight games to open the season and a fumble recovery last week against SMU.
and should test TCU's top-ranked rush defense.
TCU is 3-1 in Norman and is one of only three teams that has won its last two road games against Oklahoma. The others are Notre Dame, which won all four of its trips to Norman between 1953 and 1966, and Southern Cal, which won in 1982 and 1992. ... Oklahoma's 20-game home winning streak is the longest in the nation. TCU snapped the Sooners' 19-game streak in 2005. ... The Horned Frogs are 11-2 in their last 13 games against BCS conference teams.
No. 3 Georgia (4-0) vs. No. 8 Alabama (4-0), 7:45 p.m. (ESPN)
Line: Georgia by 6 1/2.
Series Record: Alabama leads 35-25-4.
Last Meeting: 2007, Georgia 26-23 OT.
What's at Stake
An impressive win over a top 10 team on the ol' BCS resume and a still-perfect SEC record. The loser is by no means out of the running for the SEC title game -- or possibly even the national championship, but its road will be a lot harder.
Key Matchup
Alabama RB Glen Coffee against Georgia's SEC-leading run defense, which allows 45.8 yards per game. The Tide has the league's top running game, at 236.8 yards, 101.8 of which is Coffee's.
Players to watch
Alabama: WR Julio Jones. Crimson Tide's yardage leader also has a team-high 3 receiving TDs.
Knowshon Moreno leaping defenders and the angst over injuries along the line. Perhaps he's due for a big game?

Bulldogs are 5-0 vs. Tide when both teams are ranked. ... The teams first met in 1895. ... Georgia's averaging 89 yards in penalties. ... Alabama is facing its second top-10 team of the season, after beating then-No. 9 Clemson in the opener.
Mississippi (2-2) at No. 4 Florida (3-0), 12:30 p.m. (Raycom Sports)
Line: Florida by 22 1/2.
Series Record: Mississippi leads 11-10-1.
Last meeting: 2007, Florida 28-20.
What's at Stake
Florida's streak of consecutive wins in SEC home openers. The Gators have won four straight conference home openers and 18 of their last 19. The lone loss during that span came in 2003 against Tennessee.
Key Matchup
Mississippi's coverage teams could be in for a long day against Florida's Brandon James, one of the nation's top returners. James is second in the league in punt returns, averaging 26.2 yards with two touchdowns. He's equally effective on kickoffs, averaging 33.5 yards. Although he doesn't have enough kickoff returns to qualify for the SEC standings, his average would lead the conference by more than five yards.
Players to watch
Mississippi: QB Jevan Snead has been dynamic (four TD passes against Wake Forest) and downright awful (four interceptions against Vanderbilt).
Florida: WR Percy Harvin touched the ball six times against Miami and eight times last week at Tennessee. His role should continue to grow against the Rebels, a team Harvin had 11 catches for a 121 yards against last season.
Few SEC teams have had as much success in Gainesville as Ole Miss. The Rebels are 5-3-1 all time at Florida Field and won 20-17 in their last trip to The Swamp in 2003. ... The Gators are 21-1 at home under Meyer and have won five in a row. ... Florida has yet to have a turnover this season.
Mississippi State (1-3) at No. 5 LSU (3-0), 7:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Line: LSU by 24.
Series Record: LSU leads 65-33-3.
Last Meeting: 2007, LSU 45-0.
What's at Stake
LSU cannot afford a letdown if the Tigers hope to repeat as SEC champions. Their next game is at Florida in two weeks and they host Georgia and Alabama later this season. If Mississippi State falls to 1-4, the Bulldogs will leave themselves little room for error in their quest to reach a bowl game for a second straight season.
Key Matchup
Mississippi State, which gave up 438 yards rushing in a 38-7 loss at Georgia Tech last week, will need a drastic improvement on defense to stop LSU running back Charles Scott, who has 394 yards and 4 TDs through LSU's first three games.
Players to watch
Mississippi State: Anthony Dixon leads the Bulldogs in rushing with 270 yards on 56 carries for a 4.8-yard average. Derek Pegues has averaged nearly 28 yards on kick returns and nearly 7 yards on punt returns.
LSU: QB Jarrett Lee's composure improved dramatically during the second half of LSU's 26-21 comeback victory at Auburn last week. Lee was 11-of-17 passing for 182 yards and two touchdowns during the final 22 minutes.
LSU has won eight straight and 15 of 16 against Mississippi State. ... LSU hasn't lost a Saturday night game in Tiger stadium since 2002. ... These teams have been playing each other since 1896, when LSU won 52-0. ... Mississippi State's last win in Tiger Stadium came in 1991 by a score of 28-19. ... LSU coach Les Miles is 3-0 against MSU. ... LSU gained 178 yards rushing at Auburn, lowering its team rushing average to 220 yards per game. ... Mississippi State is giving up 181.5 yards rushing per game.
Arkansas (2-1) at No. 7 Texas (3-0), 3:30 p.m.
Line: Texas by 27.
Series Record: Texas leads 55-21
Last Meeting: 2004, Texas 22-20.
What's at Stake
er rivalry. This game was supposed to be played back on Sept. 13 before Hurricane Ike forced the schools to postpone the game for two weeks. Longhorns looking to be rounding into shape heading into Big 12 play next week.
Key Matchup
Arkansas QB Casey Dick vs. Texas' young secondary. After consecutive 300-yard games in two wins, Dick threw three interceptions last week in a loss to Alabama. Two were returned for touchdowns. Texas secondary is giving up huge yards and ranks 103rd nationally in pass defense, but has surrendered only three touchdowns.
Players to Watch
Arkansas: TB Michael Smith. He leads the Hogs with 248 yards rushing in the last two games. Texas' first three opponents were all passing teams and the Longhorns haven't had to face a tough, physical running game yet.
Texas: Whoever plays tight end for Texas. The Longhorns lost a key part of their offense for the season when Blaine Irby went down last week with a dislocated kneecap, leaving them to find a starter from some unproven veterans and freshmen this week. To give an indication of how big this position is for Texas, the last three starters, Bo Scaife, David Thomas and Jermichael Finley, are all in the NFL.
McCoy has passed for 11 touchdowns with only one interception. He's also the Longhorns' leading rusher with 194 yards ... Arkansas is starting a tough stretch. After Texas, the Razorbacks face No. 4 Florida and No. 15 Auburn ... Texas had seven sacks last week against Rice after getting just two in the first two games.
No. 9 Wisconsin (3-0) at Michigan (1-2), 3:30 p.m. (ABC)
Line: Wisconsin by 6.
Series Record: Michigan leads 48-12-1.
Last Meeting: 2007, Wisconsin, 37-21.
What's at Stake
If Wisconsin has any chance of making a BCS run, the Badgers must win at Michigan. It won't be easy. Wisconsin is 6-26 in Ann Arbor, where it hasn't won in 14 years.
Key Matchup
Wisconsin RB P.J. Hill has been stellar, but the junior running back had one of the worst games of his career at Michigan in 2006, finishing with 54 yards on 20 carries. This Michigan defensive line isn't as stout as that one was, but has been impressive in the first three weeks.
Players to watch
Wisconsin: Hill, who has 379 yards on 70 carries and four TDs this year. If he is ineffective, the Badgers can turn to talented backups Zach Brown and John Clay.
Michigan: RB Sam McGuffie, who had 131 yards rushing against Notre Dame and caught a 40-yard TD pass. The freshman must use his elusiveness, which is a direct contrast to Hill's bruising style.
Wisconsin last won at Michigan Stadium in 1994. ... Michigan has won 22 straight conference openers at home. ... It's the first time since 1967 that Wisconsin will faced an unranked Michigan team.
No. 22 Illinois (2-1) at No. 12 Penn State (4-0), 8 p.m. (ABC)
Line: Penn State by 14 1/2.
Series Record: Penn State leads 12-3.
Last Meeting: 2007, Illinois, 27-20.
What's at Stake
Is each team for real? After a season-opening loss to Missouri, Illinois gets another chance to show its magical 2007 season wasn't a fluke. Penn State hopes to carry its nonconference dominance over weak opponents into Big Ten play.
Key Matchup
Illinois QB Juice Williams against Penn State's linebackers. Williams leads the Big Ten in total offense (313.7 yards per game). Nittany Lions senior Tyrell Sales and new starters Josh Hull and Navorro Bowman (3 sacks, 1 INT last week) hope to contain Williams.
Players to watch
Illinois: WR-KR Arrelious Benn. Last year's freshman sensation will be a tough test for Penn State's secondary and shaky kick coverage unit. Benn had a 90-yard kick return for a TD in last year's game.
Penn State: QB Daryll Clark. The Big Ten's top-rated passer (seven TDs, 1 INT) can run, too (two TDs). But how will the cool, collected Clark fare in his first big game as a starter?
Benn has started all 16 games of his college career, and has caught a pass in each one. ... Entering this week's games, Penn State was the only team in the country averaging at least 270 yards rushing and 260 yards passing. ... The Illini are 0-5 at Penn State.
No. 13 South Florida (4-0) at North Carolina State (2-2), 7:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
Line: South Florida by 8 1/2
Series record: N.C. State leads 1-0.
Last meeting: 2005, N.C. State 14-0.
What's at Stake
South Florida's perfect start. The Bulls want to prove they learned a lesson in consistency after quickly rising to - and falling from - No. 2 last year, and they can't afford a loss to a middling Atlantic Coast Conference team if they want to remain the Big East's best shot at a national title contender. N.C. State is looking for a momentum after last week's upset of ranked rival East Carolina.
Key Matchup
South Florida QB Matt Grothe vs. N.C. State's defense. Grothe hasn't thrown an interception in two games, and will face a Wolfpack defense that has picked off eight passes but will be without injured LB Nate Irving, who has three INTs.
Players to watch
South Florida: LB Tyrone McKenzie, the team's leading tackler, is filling in for Brouce Mompremier, who had a scary injury last week against Florida International in which he collided with a teammate.
N.C. State: QB Harrison Beck, a Nebraska transfer and Florida native who will become the Wolfpack's third starting quarterback this season. He's replacing Russell Wilson, who was injured during the East Carolina win.
onents have been nationally ranked at some point this season. ... Wolfpack are playing consecutive top-15 teams for the first time since 2002.
Minnesota (4-0) at No. 14 Ohio State (3-1), noon (Big Ten Network)
Line: Ohio State by 18.
Series Record: Ohio State leads 40-7.
Last Meeting: 2007, Ohio State, 30-7.
What's at Stake
Big Ten opener for both teams should underline how much Minnesota has improved and how Ohio State's substantial lineup changes are working out.
Key Matchup
Minnesota WR Eric Decker vs. Ohio State secondary. Decker leads the Big Ten in receiving (32 catches, 454 yards) and coach Tim Brewster has almost dared opponents to try to shut him down. The Buckeyes' veteran backfield will take him up on that challenge.
Players to watch
Minnesota: QB Adam Weber is completing 72 percent of his passes and has taken every snap for the Golden Gophers in four games.
Ohio State: TB Chris ``Beanie'' Wells tests his aching foot after missing last three games.
but then lost five of six.
No. 15 Auburn (3-1) vs. Tennessee (1-2), 3:30 p.m. (CBS)
Line: Auburn by 6 1/2.
Series Record: Auburn leads 25-21-3.
Last Meeting: 2004, Auburn 38-28.
What's at Stake
The chance to stay alive for an SEC championship after both lost to division rivals. Tennessee also badly wants to avoid a 1-3 start. Auburn is still holding out hopes of being the latest SEC team to make it to the BCS title game with a loss or two, but for now would settle for more signs that the offense can be worthy of such talk.
Key Matchup
Auburn QB Chris Todd against a Tennessee defense that has seven interceptions in three games, including two apiece from Eric Berry and DeAngelo Willingham. Todd was picked off twice against LSU, but still passed for a season-high 250 yards.
Players to watch
Auburn: DT Sen'Derrick Marks is a key run-stopper in the middle. He leads the SEC with seven tackles for loss, but sturdy run defense was punished by LSU and Charles Scott last week.
Tennessee: RBs Arian Foster and Montario Hardesty were held in check by Florida, but Auburn is tough to beat without a productive running game. Foster is still seeking his first rushing touchdown while Hardesty has three.
teams since 1991. Before that, they played on the month's last Saturday annually starting in 1956 ... Auburn is one of five teams - only two of which have played four games - who have not allowed a rushing touchdown ... Vols have twice played for an SEC title after dropping their first league game.
No. 16 Wake Forest (3-0) vs Navy (2-2) 3:45 p.m. (ESPNU)
Line: Wake Forest by 16.
Series Record: Wake Forest leads 6-2.
Last Meeting: 2007, Wake Forest 44-24.
What's at Stake
Wake Forest can match a 64-year-old school record with its seventh straight win dating to last season - and Jim Grobe is shooting for his 50th win at the school. After knocking off Rutgers last week to snap a two-game losing streak, Navy can give first-year coach Ken Niumatalolo a signature win.
Key Matchup
Navy's top-rated run offense vs. Wake Forest's dominating defense. The Demon Deacons forced seven turnovers in a 12-3 win over Florida State last week and lead the nation with 15 takeaways. Wake Forest is giving up only 101.3 yards on the ground, 33rd best in the country, but faces the nation's top ground attack. Navy is averaging 345.8 yards rushing and only 87.5 yards passing. Eric Kettani had a career-high 133 yards rushing in last week's win 23-21 win over Rutgers.
Players to watch
with two interceptions and one forced fumble. Patterson has three interceptions this season.
Navy: QB Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada. He got through his first full game last week after hamstring problems. He threw only eight passes, but runs the offense and must avoid mistakes against Wake's defense.
QB Riley Skinner threw for 213 yards and two touchdowns last year against Navy as Wake Forest rallied from a 17-14 second-quarter deficit. ... Skinner has thrown 131 consecutive passes without an interception. ... Wake Forest K Sam Swank leads the nation with nine field goals. ... If Wake Forest avoids an upset, it will be 4-0 ahead of its Oct. 9 ACC showdown with Clemson. ... Navy is facing an ACC team in North Carolina for the second time in three weeks. The Mids lost to Duke 41-31 on Sept. 13. ... Navy's last win over a ranked team was in 1985, 17-13 over No. 20 Virginia. ... Niumatalolo has gone for it on fourth down nine times in four games.
Weber St. (3-1) at No. 17 Utah (4-0), 8 p.m.
Line: None.
Series Record: Utah 2-0.
Last Meeting: 1984, Utah 52-16.
What's at Stake
The Utes are trying to avoid being upset by their Championship Subdivision neighbors to the north and stay healthy for next week's home game against Oregon State. Weber State coach Ron McBride coached at Utah from 1990-2002.
Key Matchup
line has been hogging all the tackles. Ends Koa Misi (25) and Paul Kruger (24) lead the team and will look to pressure Weber State QB Cameron Higgins, who has only been sacked three times.
Players to watch
Utah QB Brian Johnson fumbled twice and threw an interception in Utah's 30-23 win at Air Force last week. Johnson will try to atone for the three turnovers with a better performance against the Wildcats.
Weber St. QB Cameron Higgins has averaged 308 yards passing per game and thrown for 12 touchdowns. He's facing a defense that ranks third nationally, holding opponents to 199.5 yards.
McBride was 88-63 at Utah and took the Utes to six bowl games. Utah will show a video before the game featuring highlights of the McBride era. ... Utah hasn't played Weber State since 1984, a 52-16 win for the Utes in Salt Lake City. ... Utah coach Kyle Whittingham was on McBride's staff for nine years.
Maryland (3-1) at No. 20 Clemson (3-1), noon, (Raycom)
Line: Clemson by 11.
Series Record: Clemson leads 30-24-2.
Last Meeting: 2007, Clemson 30-17.
What's at Stake
Can Clemson continue its climb to its first ACC title in 17 years? Is Maryland the team that lost at Middle Tennessee or the one that rebounded to defeat then-No. 23 Cal.
Key Matchup
sher Da'rel Scott. Clemson's Scott is second on Tigers with three tackles for loss this season. Maryland's Scott is the ACC's only runner averaging better than 100 yards a game (135.7), but missed the Terps' last game with a shoulder injury.
Players to watch
Maryland: Receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey has sparked the Terps' offense so far this season. He rushed for 81 yards on two reverses during Maryland's 51-24 victory over Eastern Michigan last week. He also caught a 32-yard touchdown pass.
Clemson: Safeties Michael Hamlin and Chris Clemons. The two were expected to be a big part of the Tigers' defense. However, coordinator Vic Koenning says he considered moving others over there to increase production.
Maryland is looking for its fourth straight victory against a ranked opponent: It beat Rutgers and Boston College, both ranked, at the end of 2007, then Cal earlier this season. ... Clemson has lost two of its past three home games with Maryland. ... Clemson quarterback Cullen Harper, the ACC's passing efficiency leader last year, ranks sixth in the league this season.
Houston (1-3) at No. 23 East Carolina (3-1), 3:30 p.m. (CBS College Sports)
Line: East Carolina by 10 1/2
Series record: East Carolina leads 5-3.
Last meeting: 2007, East Carolina 37-35.
What's at Stake
tes can't afford to let the disappointment from its overtime loss at rival N.C. State carry over into Conference USA play against a Houston team that is looking for its first Bowl Subdivision victory under new coach Kevin Sumlin.
Key Matchup
Houston QB Case Keenum vs. East Carolina's secondary. The FBS leader in total offense could lead the Cougars to an upset if he can take advantage of the Pirates defensive backfield, which allowed three touchdown throws and 257 yards passing last week at North Carolina State.
Players to watch
Houston: TE Mark Haffner. Keenum's favorite target is averaging 7 1/2 catches, and has at least seven receptions and a touchdown in each game this season.
East Carolina: Pick a running back. The Pirates' three-man rotation of Jon Williams, Brandon Simmons and Norman Whitley will look to get going against Conference USA's worst run defense.
Cougars are playing a ranked team for the first time since losing to No. 4 Miami in 2004, and haven't beaten a ranked team since knocking off Cincinnati in 1997. ... The home team hasn't won in this series since East Carolina's 62-20 victory in Greenville in 2000. ... Pirates are playing a home game as a ranked team for the first time since 1999.
No. 25 Fresno State (2-1) at UCLA (1-2), 3:30 p.m. (ABC)
Line: Fresno State by 6 1/2.
Series Record: UCLA leads 6-1.
Last Meeting: 2003, Fresno State 17-9.
What's at Stake
The Fresno State Bulldogs, who have shown over the past few years that they can match up with anybody, will try to beat UCLA for just the second time in eight meetings. Unlike like in past years, they're favored over the Bruins, who are struggling under first-year coach Rick Neuheisel.
Key Matchup
Quarterback Kevin Craft and the Bruins' sputtering offense against a Fresno State defense that was solid in a 13-10 loss to Wisconsin and shaky in a 55-54 double-overtime win at Toledo.
Players to watch
UCLA: Craft, who has to make better decisions - and better throws - if the Bruins are to come out of an offensive slumber of two games without an offensive touchdown.
Fresno State: Tailback Ryan Mathews, who has averaged 101.3 yards rushing, more than twice what UCLA has managed as a team.
The Bulldogs of the Western Athletic Conference are 5-7 in their last 12 games against Pac-10 teams and played No. 1 Southern California close in the Coliseum in 2005 before losing 50-42. ... Craft has thrown for one touchdown, has been intercepted five times and has a rating of 92.19. Fresno State's Tom Brandstater has passed for five touchdowns, thrown one interception and has a 150.57 rating. ... The schools first met in 1927, when UCLA won 7-0.

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