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Thursday, 02 October 2008 14:11
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 No. 1 Oklahoma (4-0) at Baylor (2-2), 12:30 p.m. (FSN)
Line: Oklahoma by 27.
Series Record: Oklahoma leads 17-0.
Last Meeting: 2007, Oklahoma 55-21.
What's at Stake
Oklahoma, now No. 1 more than any other team in AP poll history, tries to keep an unblemished record against the Bears, whom the Sooners have beaten by average of 30 points last nine meetings. Sooners could set up top 5 matchup next week vs. Texas at Cotton Bowl.
Key Matchup
Experienced Sooners against Baylor team with no winning tradition. This is third time in nine seasons Oklahoma has been No. 1 when playing Bears, who haven't even had a winning record in 13 seasons as Big 12 member.
Players to watch
Oklahoma: Jermaine Gresham needs one TD reception for the 17th in his career, which would be a new mark for OU tight ends. His four this season have averaged 30 yards.
runs of at least 57 yards. ... LB Joe Pawelek has at least 10 tackles in every game.
Figures
This is Oklahoma's 96th week ranked No. 1. ... Sooners and Bears combined for 983 total yards in last year's game. ... Oklahoma is the only Big 12 team Baylor has never beaten. ... Sooners 19-of-19 in the red zone (18 TDs, one field goal). ... First-year Bears coach Art Briles faced Oklahoma once before, in 2004 when his Houston Cougars lost 63-13 in Norman.
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No. 2 Alabama (5-0) vs. Kentucky (4-0), 3:30 p.m. (CBS)
Line: Alabama by 16 1/2.
Series Record: Alabama leads 33-2-1.
Last Meeting: 2004, Alabama 45-17.
What's at Stake
Two perfect records, and all that euphoria among Crimson Tide fans who finally appear to have a legitimate national title contender. Kentucky and Alabama are among four Southeastern Conference teams still unbeaten. A win would mean instant respect for the Wildcats, who have beaten up on mediocre nonconference teams.
Key Matchup
Alabama's offensive line, which has paved the way for the league's top running game, against Kentucky's defensive front. The Wildcats haven't allowed a rushing touchdown and are holding opponents to a league-low 1.9 yards per carry.
Players to watch
trong against the run but has struggled to stop opposing quarterbacks.
Kentucky: RBs Derrick Locke and Alfonso Smith. The Tide has shut down opposing runners, then forced teams to turn to the passing game. Like Kentucky, Alabama hasn't allowed a rushing touchdown.
Figures
Kentucky has started 4-0 in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1983-84. Kentucky is 0-8 in Tuscaloosa and 0-19-1 against the Tide in the state of Alabama. ... Alabama has outscored opponents 74-0 in the first quarter and 122-20 before halftime.
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No. 4 Missouri (4-0) at Nebraska (3-1), 9 p.m. (ESPN)
Line: Missouri by 10 1/2.
Series Record: Nebraska leads 63-35-3.
Last Meeting: 2007, Missouri 41-6.
What's at Stake
The winner gets a jump in the Big 12 North race and Missouri QB Chase Daniel gets prime-time exposure for his Heisman Trophy bid. For the good of Nebraska's fragile psyche, the Cornhuskers need a win or a strong showing after last week's disappointing home loss to Virginia Tech.
Key Matchup
p against a Tigers defense holding opponents to under 100 yards rushing.
Players to watch
Missouri: Jeremy Maclin will be on the field a lot as a WR and kick and punt return man. His 193.5 average in all-purpose yards leads the Big 12 and is fifth in the nation. Opponents in the last three games have tried to limit his impact by pooch and squib kicking, but he caught a combined 20 balls for 340 yards and 3 TDs in those games.
Nebraska: QB Joe Ganz leads Nebraska's effort to play keep-away. He's thrown a Big 12-high four interceptions, including a bad one in his own end of the field last week that set up a Virginia Tech touchdown.
Figures
Missouri hasn't won in Lincoln since 1978, when the Tigers ended the Huskers' national championship hopes with a 35-31 victory. ... The Huskers' are 0-9 against top 10 opponents since beating Oklahoma in 2001. ... Nebraska has scored at least 30 points in seven straight games. ... Missouri has scored on its first possession of each game this season. ... The Tigers have trailed for just 13 seconds in four games. Illinois took a 13-10 lead, but Missouri was back ahead after Maclin returned the ensuing kickoff 99 yards.
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No. 5 Texas (4-0) at Colorado (3-1), 7 p.m. (FSN)
Line: Texas by 13 1/2.
Series Record: Texas leads 9-7.
Last meeting: 2005, Texas won 70-3.
What's at Stake
g 12 play for both teams, a Texas win would set up a big showdown next week with No. 1 Oklahoma in Dallas, while a Colorado win would make the Buffaloes serious contenders to win the Big 12 North division.
Key Matchup
Watch the trenches when Colorado has the ball. Texas has 14 sacks in the last two games and protecting Buffalo QB Cody Hawkins is an offensive line missing starting offensive tackle Ryan Miller, who broke his leg last week in a loss to Florida State.
Players to Watch
Texas: QB Colt McCoy. Who else? McCoy is having a stellar season, completing 80 percent of his passes and throwing for 14 touchdowns. He's also the Longhorns' leading rusher with 278 yards and four TDs while averaging 8.2 yards per carry.
Colorado: RB Rodney Stewart, if you can find him. The Texas defense might have trouble spotting the 5-foot-6, 175-pound freshman who has run behind his big blockers for 349 yards. Stewart's early success has stolen the spotlight from freshman Darrell Scott, who was one of the top recruits in the country.
Figures
faloes' only victory in that stretch came in the 2001 Big 12 title game.
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No. 6 Penn State (5-0) at Purdue (2-0), noon (ESPN)
Line: Penn State by 13.
Series Record: Penn State leads 9-3-1.
Last Meeting: 2007, Penn State 26-19.
What's at Stake
Penn State doesn't want to be the latest on the list of highly ranked teams to be upset. A loss to Purdue would erase the advantage the Nittany Lions gained when one of the league's favorites, Wisconsin, was upset by Michigan last Saturday. Purdue has lost 15 straight against ranked opponents.
Key Matchup
Penn State's running game vs. Purdue's run defense. Notre Dame gouged the Boilermakers for 201 yards on the ground in a 38-21 win last Saturday, two weeks after Oregon rolled for 306 yards rushing in a 32-26 overtime win in West Lafayette. The Boilermakers rank 99th nationally against the run. Penn State ranks eighth in the nation in yards rushing per game (267.6), Evan Royster has rushed for 518 yards and averages nearly eight yards a carry. Stephfon Green has run for 314 yards - nearly seven yards a carry - and four touchdowns.
Players to watch
Purdue: Curtis Painter. The senior quarterback needs 124 yards passing in Saturday's game to reach 10,000 in his career. That would make him the fourth quarterback in Big Ten history to accomplish the feat.
was named Big Ten special teams player of the week after racking up 241 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns against Illinois.
Figures
Painter is 0-8 as a starter against ranked teams ... Purdue RB Kory Sheets could break Mike Alstott's school record for career touchdowns rushing. They are tied with 39. ... Penn State's Royster has three consecutive 100-yard games. ...
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No. 8 BYU (4-0) at Utah State (1-3), 8 p.m.
Line: BYU by 28 1/2.
Series Record: BYU leads 41-33-3.
Last Meeting: 2006, BYU 38-0.
What's at Stake
BYU hasn't allowed a point in two straight games and is trying to extend the nation's longest winning streak to 15 in a row. The Aggies might not break either streak. Utah State has lost the last eight games against the Cougars and never beaten a team in the top 10.
Key Matchup
QB Max Hall and the BYU offense vs. Utah State's defense. The Cougars have averaged 482 yards and 43 points per game. The Aggies' opponents are averaging 443 yards and 42 points.
Players to watch
BYU: TE Dennis Pitta, fifth in the country among all receivers with almost 111 yards receiving per game.
Utah State: QB Diondre Borel, who made his first start two weeks ago in Utah State's 42-17 win over Idaho. Borel faces a defense that has posted two straight shutouts.
Figures
st two opponents 103-0. ... BYU hasn't played in Logan since 2002. ... Utah State is 1-46 against teams ranked in the AP poll. ... The Aggies have punted 24 times this season, 11 more than their opponents.
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No. 23 Oregon (4-1) at No. 9 Southern California (2-1), 8 p.m. (ABC)
Line: USC by 16 1/2.
Series Record: USC leads 36-16-2.
Last meeting: 2007, Oregon won 24-17.
What's at Stake
Another loss by USC, coming off the upset by Oregon State, likely would knock the Trojans out of the national title picture, and would dent their chances for a seventh consecutive Pac-10 title. The Ducks, plagued again this season by quarterback injuries, can stamp themselves as a legitimate conference contender if they make it two in a row over the Trojans.
Key Matchup
Oregon's running back duo of LaGarrette Blount and Jeremiah against the Trojans' defense, which was allowed Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers to rush for 186 yards and two touchdowns in the Beavers' win. USC may be missing injured linebacker Rey Maualuga, a defensive mainstay.
Players to Watch
ck Mark Sanchez.
USC: The defensive front, which often couldn't seem to locate Oregon State's 5-foot-7 Rodgers, and frequently couldn't bring him down when they did. Sanchez, who'll need to engineer some sustained drives to keep the Ducks' offense off the field.
Figures
USC has gone 19-7-1 in the last 27 meetings, but Oregon has won five of the last eight and six of the last 10. ... Two sets of brothers will be on opposite sides: Trojans linebacker/defensive end Clay Matthews and Oregon linebacker Casey Matthews; and USC nose tackle Christian Tupou and Oregon offensive tackle Fenuki Tupou. ... Sanchez was filling in for the injured John David Booty last year when USC lost to Oregon in Eugene.
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No. 12 Florida (3-1) at Arkansas (2-2), 12:30 p.m. (Raycom)
Line: Florida by 24 1/2.
Series Record: Florida leads 6-1.
Last meeting: 2006, Florida 38-28.
What's at Stake
Florida is coming off an upset loss to Mississippi, so the Gators are trying to avoid falling completely out of the national title conversation. With LSU and Georgia coming up on the schedule - along with upstarts Kentucky and Vanderbilt - Florida could use an easy win over the Razorbacks. Arkansas is in damage-control mode after losing its last two games to Alabama and Texas by a combined 77 points.
Key Matchup
or the Gators' speedy big-play threat to be a factor against the Razorbacks, who have allowed five offensive touchdowns of at least 25 yards in the last two games.
Players to watch
Florida: Already they're wondering why QB Tim Tebow isn't on track to repeat the eye-popping statistics he put up last season. That's one downside to winning the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore.
Arkansas: TE D.J. Williams leads the Razorbacks with 19 catches and has been a bright spot among an inexperienced group of pass-catchers.
Figures
The Gators' No. 12 ranking is somewhat low for them entering a matchup with the Razorbacks. Florida has been ranked No. 1 twice, No. 2 and No. 4 going into past Arkansas games, the most recent of which was the SEC title game. ... Arkansas beat Florida in the first meeting, the 1982 Bluebonnet Bowl. The Gators are 6-0 in the series since. ... Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong is from Batesville, Ark.
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No. 13 Auburn (3-1) at No. 19 Vanderbilt (4-0), 6 p.m. EDT (ESPN)
Line: Auburn by 4.
Series Record: Auburn leads 20-19-1.
Last meeting: 2007, Auburn won 35-7.
What's at Stake
econd from a loss to LSU.
Key Matchup
Vandy QB Chris Nickson against an Auburn defense that has allowed one touchdown rushing this season. Nickson ranks second on this team with 320 yards rushing and has scored five touchdowns for an offense that has not thrown for more than 91 yards in a game this season.
Players to watch
Auburn: QB Chris Todd, who was pulled for Kodi Burns in last week's 14-12 win over Tennessee.
Vanderbilt: WR George Smith is expected back after surgery to fix a stress fracture in his foot. Remember the bit about not going over 91 yards in a single game?
Figures
Vanderbilt has not beaten Auburn since the 1955 Gator Bowl, and the Tigers have won the last 13 by an average of 25 points. ... Auburn is 15-3 in SEC road games over the past five seasons. ... Auburn has won 16 of last 17 games wearing white uniforms. ... The Tigers have outscored opponents 62-9 in the first half. ... Bobby Johnson is the first Vanderbilt coach to start a season 4-0 twice since Ray Morrison in 1937 and 1938. ... This is only the 11th different season the Commodores have been ranked. Their highest ranking was No. 7 in 1937.
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No. 14 Ohio State (4-1, 1-0) at No. 18 Wisconsin (3-1, 0-1), 8 p.m. (ABC)
Line: Ohio State by 1 1/2.
Series Record: Ohio State leads 51-17-5.
Last Meeting: 2007, Ohio State, 38-17.
What's at Stake,
The loser probably can say goodbye to the last shreds of a national title shot, and if it's Wisconsin, the Rose Bowl might get out of reach, too. The Buckeyes are seeking a fourth straight conference title
Key Matchup
Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor vs. Wisconsin's defense. The freshman, making his third career start, has never seen heat like he'll see at loud and rowdy Camp Randall Stadium. The Badgers secondary only allowed 96 yards passing last week in a crushing 27-25 loss at Michigan in which they blew a 19-0 halftime lead.
Players to watch
Ohio State: TB Chris ``Beanie'' Wells, WR Brian Robiskie, LB James Laurinaitis and entire DL against Wisconsin's running attack. Buckeyes start true freshmen at QB and C (Mike Brewster) in what can be an ugly, abusive environment.
Wisconsin: Badgers like to run the ball and TBs P.J. Hill and John Clay are likely to go until they drop. QB Allan Evridge must be better than he was in The Big House. TE Travis Beckum can exploit OSU's defense. DL must apply pressure to Pryor.
Figures
. Buckeyes, meanwhile, have dropped their last two night games away from home (USC, LSU in last year's national championship game).
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No. 16 Kansas (3-1) at Iowa State (2-2), 12:30 p.m. (Versus)
Line: Kansas by 12.
Series Record: Kansas leads 47-34-6.
Last Meeting: 2007, Kansas 45-7.
What's at Stake
For Iowa State, respect. The Cyclones haven't beaten a ranked team since 2005, and getting over that hump is critical for coach Gene Chizik's rebuilding efforts. The Jayhawks simply can't afford to fall to one of the Big 12's weakest teams if they want to keep pace with No. 4 Missouri in the Big 12 North.
Key Matchup
Iowa State's front seven against Kansas's running backs. The Jayhawks have struggled mightily running the ball, but Iowa State's been just as bad stopping the run. If Kansas can get the Cyclones to respect the ground game, things should open up for quarterback Todd Reesing and a talented group of Jayhawks receivers.
Players to watch
Iowa State: QB Austen Arnaud. The Cyclones will likely have to sling it to keep up with the high-flying Jayhawks, and Arnaud has passed for over 200 yards just once in his short career.
Kansas: WR Dexton Fields. He's had just one catch in two games while dealing with a foot injury, but he's expected to start against Iowa State. Fields torched the Cyclones for 109 yards receiving and two TDs in 2007.
Figures
Kansas has won 12 of the last 17 in the series. ... Iowa State has outscored its opponents 43-7 in points off of turnovers. ... The Jayhawks are one of four Big 12 teams averaging over 350 passing yards a game. ... Kansas is averaging 18.5 yards per punt return, but just 12.2 on kickoff returns.
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Western Kentucky (2-3) at No. 20 Virginia Tech (4-1), 1:30 p.m.
Line: Virginia Tech by 28.
Series Record: first meeting.
What's at Stake
Only one year away from completing its transition to the Bowl Subdivision, Western Kentucky gets another chance to see how it stacks up against the upper echelon. It already is 0-3 against BCS conference teams. The Hokies hope to fine-tune things before getting back into ACC play.
Key Matchup
Virginia Tech running back Darren Evans against the Hilltoppers. They won't meet on the field, but Evans played in high school for Kevin Wright at Warren Central in Indiana, and Wright is now the offensive coordinator for Western Kentucky and has three Warren Central alums on his team.
Players to Watch
Western Kentucky: RB Bobby Rainey. The redshirt freshman is coming off a huge couple of weeks, having rushed for 99 yards on nine carries last week against Kentucky and boasting a kickoff return average of 40.8 for his last two games with returns on 74 and 92 yards.
lor continues to gain confidence and comfort as the Hokies' full-time quarterback, and he had his best game in the biggest spot last week, throwing for 171 yards and running for 87 more, including a touchdown, as the Hokies won before 85,000 at Nebraska.
Figures
Western Kentucky has been outscored 113-23 by BCS opponents Indiana, Alabama and Kentucky this season. ... One of the Hilltoppers' victories came by 50-9 against Murray State, the team Frank Beamer coached before coming to Tech in 1987. ... Virginia Tech has won 29 consecutive non-league home games. ... Tyrod Taylor is 8-0 as a starting quarterback.
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M (2-2) at No. 21 Oklahoma State (4-0), 7 p.m.
Line: Oklahoma State by 25.
M leads 17-6.
M 24-23.
What's at Stake
Oklahoma State is in the Top 25 for the first time since 2004 and looking to protect its national ranking, while the Aggies are after their first signature win under first-year coach Mike Sherman.
Key Matchup
M could get trampled if it doesn't improve on the fifth-worst rush defense in the land (227.5 ypg).
Players to watch
ack for the Aggies? Stephen McGee's status is questionable after he injured his shoulder for the second time this season. Backup Jerrod Johnson has filled in, throwing for 452 yards and seven TDs.
Oklahoma State: Tight end Brandon Pettigrew, the team's second-leading receiver, could miss his second straight game with a sprained ankle, leaving two freshmen to take his place. Only WR Dez Bryant and Pettigrew have more than four catches for the Cowboys this season.
Figures
M.
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Hawaii (1-3) at No. 22 Fresno State (3-1), 10 p.m.
Line: Fresno State by 22 1/2.
Series Record: Fresno State leads 20-19-1.
Last meeting: 2007, Hawaii won 37-30.
What's at Stake
k to its winning ways in the WAC after San Jose State snapped the Warriors' 15-game conference win streak in a 20-17 victory last week. Hawaii hasn't lost three straight in a season since 2000.
Key Matchup
Inoke Funaki will make his third start at QB for Hawaii after throwing three interceptions last week against San Jose State. He'll have to contend with a solid secondary led by CBs Sharrod Davis and Marvin Haynes. Using Funaki, Tyler Graunke and Greg Alexander, Hawaii is last in the WAC with 216.2 yards passing per game. The Warriors had ranked in the top 4 nationally in that category in each of the past nine seasons.
Players to Watch
Hawaii: Kealoha Pilares returned to running back this season because of injuries to the top three backs and leads the team with four TDs. LB Solomon Elimimian leads the team with 25 tackles and is on pace to leave Hawaii as the school's all-time leading tackler.
Fresno State: RB Ryan Mathews is 10th in the country with 117.5 yards rushing per game. He scored on a 49-yard run and 25-yard reception last week against UCLA. A.J. Jefferson is the NCAA active leader in career kickoff return average with 34.1 yards per return.
Figures
41 blocked kicks are the most in the NCAA since 2002. The Bulldogs have allowed opponents to convert just 29 percent of third downs, while Hawaii has converted just 21 percent of its chances.
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No. 24 Connecticut (5-0) at North Carolina (3-1), 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
Line: North Carolina by 7.
Series record: North Carolina leads 1-0.
Last meeting: 1990, North Carolina 48-21.
What's at Stake
Connecticut's best start in 13 years. The Huskies are 5-0 for the second straight year, but haven't opened with six wins since Skip Holtz's team did it in 1995. The Tar Heels are looking for their first victory over a ranked team since 2005, and haven't beaten a Top 25 team from outside the Atlantic Coast Conference since topping then-No. 17 Stanford in 1997.
Key Matchup
Connecticut RB Donald Brown vs. North Carolina's defense. With sophomore QB Zach Fraser making his first start, the nation's leading rusher once again will have to carry the Huskies against an improved Tar Heels defense that has allowed only one 100-yard rusher this season.
Players to watch
Connecticut: Brown, who is responsible for nearly half of the Huskies' 1,965 total yards so far and carries the ball on 41 percent of UConn's plays from scrimmage.
r Heels to a last-minute win at Miami, but is 1-4 in his career as a starter.
Figures
Tar Heels haven't beaten an undefeated Bowl Subdivision team since knocking off Miami in 2004. ... Big East is 2-1 against ACC this season, but North Carolina's 44-12 win at Rutgers was the ACC's lone victory. ... UConn hasn't lost since its last trip to the state of North Carolina, a 24-10 loss to Wake Forest last December in the Meineke Bowl in Charlotte.
 

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