Saturday, September 6, 2003

Top 25 game previews


Today's highlights

Enquirer staff, wire services

Saturday's TV games

No. 11 North Carolina State (1-0) at Wake Forest (1-0)

Time/TV: Noon/ABC. Turf: Grass.

Line: N.C. State by 7 1/2. Sagarin ratings: Wake Forest 82.73, N.C. State 72.26.

Points: Though a much-anticipated trip to Ohio State awaits N.C. State, Wolfpack aren't likely to overlook an Atlantic Coast Conference foe. QB Philip Rivers, laser sharp against Western Carolina, found a new weapon in WR Tramain Hall to complement veteran Jerricho Cotchery. The elation that followed Wake Forest's comeback win at Boston College was tempered by serious concerns, with injured running backs and a susceptible secondary topping the list. TBs Chris Barclay and Cornelius Birgs played through turned ankles and should be able to contribute, but Dominic Anderson (knee) will not. QB Cory Randolph, who caught fire in the second half, will need an earlier spark to keep up with Rivers. Wake's Ryan Plackemeier has the nation's best net punting average after the opening week, but if he has too much work to do the Demon Deacons will be in trouble.

Extra point: Wake's last win against the Wolfpack was 31-7 in 1999.

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Houston (1-0) at No. 7 Michigan (1-0)

Time/TV: Noon/ESPN. Turf: Artificial.

Line: Michigan by 27 1/2. Sagarin ratings: Michigan 77.45, Houston 66.91.

Points: The Art Briles era at Houston began with a convincing victory against crosstown rival Rice. The seas get a bit rougher this week as rookie QB Kevin Kolb tries to solve a much more athletic defense. WRs Brandon Middleton and Vince Marshall will challenge the Michigan secondary, which will be bolstered by the return of suspended Marlin Jackson. Michigan coaches weren't happy with the 218 rushing yards surrendered against Central Michigan, but the Cougars' spread offense won't pose the same ground threat. The Wolverines' outstanding offensive line should enable QB John Navarre and RB Chris Perry to make plenty of yards. LB Lance Everson emerged as Houston's defensive leader.

Extra point: Michigan is 2-0 against Houston with a cumulative total of 103-28 in those meetings in 1992-93.

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Boston College (0-1) at No. 25 Penn State (1-0)

Time/TV: Noon/ABC. Turf: Grass.

Line: Penn State by 9 1/2. Sagarin ratings: Penn State 77.13, Boston College 70.35.

Points: Two costly fumbles and 14 penalties undid Boston College in their opening loss to Wake Forest. The Eagles won't be as close to victory this time if they can't eliminate the miscues. QB Quinton Porter must steady the ship and create chances for RB Derrick Knight. Despite the workmanlike effort turned in by RB Austin Scott in Penn State's unglamorous win against Temple, the Nittany Lions need better aerial production from QB Zack Mills. The BC defense must watch out for Michael Robinson, who could appear at any ball-handling position. Derek Wake is establishing himself as the latest in Penn State's succession of playmaking linebackers.

Extra point: Boston College holds the record for passing yards in a game against the Nittany Lions with 520 yards in 1982. Yeah, it was Doug Flutie.

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Utah State (0-1) at No. 24 Nebraska (1-0)

Time/TV: 12:30/FSN. Turf: Artificial.

Line: Nebraska by 32. Sagarin ratings: Nebraska 82.96, Utah State 65.27.

Points: Nebraska's fine defensive performance last week did not hide the fact that Barney Cotton's offense remains a work in progress. The Huskers won't need to be too fancy against Utah State, which allowed 202 rushing yards against Utah, but a few successful pocket passes wouldn't hurt QB Jammal Lord's confidence. Aggies QB Travis Cox, when he has time, will look for WR Chris Stallworth.

Extra point: Utah State's last win against a team now in the Big 12 was 28-16 vs. Kansas State in 1992.

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Washington State (1-0) at No. 16 Notre Dame (0-0)

Time/TV: 2:30/NBC. Turf: Grass.

Line: Notre Dame by 6. Sagarin ratings: Notre Dame 84.48, Washington State 77.01.

Points: The 2003 version of the Fighting Irish will resemble the 2002 edition with its strong reliance on defense and ball control. Unless and until a breakaway threat emerges from the receiving corps, QB Carlyle Holiday will have to use his improvisational talents. The return of RB Julius Jones, out last year for academic reasons, will help spell Ryan Grant. Washington State S Virgil Williams will have a key role in run support. The Cougars won't be as flashy as last year with QB Jason Gesser gone. RBs Jermaine Green and Jonathan Smith will battle for first downs against LB Courtney Watson and the Irish front wall. Cougars QB Matt Kegel will have to mix in more passes than he needed in the win against Idaho.

Extra point: Washington State is the 134th different opponent for Notre Dame in 114 years of football.

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No. 19 Auburn (0-1) at Georgia Tech (0-1)

Time/TV: 3:30/ABC. Turf: Grass.

Line: Auburn by 8 1/2. Sagarin ratings: Auburn 76.41, Georgia Tech 74.86.

Points: Georgia Tech will find out what it's like to confront an angry ambush of Tigers. After being thoroughly beaten at the line of scrimmage by Southern California, Auburn will attack immediately with RBs Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown. Nevertheless, the Tigers can expect to see eight- and nine-man fronts until QB Jason Campbell and his receivers start clicking. Tech FS James Butler will try to plug the holes. The Yellow Jackets must solve their own offensive problems as freshman QB Reggie Ball tries to eliminate turnovers. Auburn LBs Dontarrious Thomas and Karlos Dansby hope to rattle Ball and keep RB P.J. Daniels from becoming a factor.

Extra point: Tech assistant coach Patrick Nix is a 1995 Auburn graduate.

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UCLA (0-0) at No. 22 Colorado (1-0)

Time/TV: 3:30/ABC. Turf: Grass.

Line: Colorado by 3. Sagarin ratings: Colorado 84.96, UCLA 83.42.

Points: While Colorado fans are eager to see QB Joel Klatt's encore, the Buffs' defensive coaches must address the number of big plays the unit permitted Colorado State. UCLA QB Matt Moore hopes the problems are still there as he tries to create openings for RB Tyler Ebell and WR Craig Bragg. Klatt had excellent results with WRs Derek McCoy and D.J. Hackett, but Bruins DBs Matt Ware and Jarrad Page will be harder to beat. Look for Colorado RBs Brian Calhoun and Bobby Purify to have bigger roles this week.

Extra point: Several UCLA coaches will be in familiar surroundings. New head man Karl Dorrell, a former Colorado and Denver Broncos assistant, hired Eric Bieniemy and Jon Embree from the Buffs' staff.

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Marshall (1-0) at No. 14 Tennessee (1-0)

Time/TV: 4/ESPN2. Turf: Grass.

Line: Tennessee by 19. Sagarin ratings: Tennessee 83.12, Marshall 72.81.

Points: Tennessee QB Casey Clausen, whose fourth-quarter interception cost his defense a shutout against Fresno State, wasn't happy with his performance. But the Vols' power running game is sound with RBs Cedric Houston and Jabari Davis capable of breaking free. The Vols' punishing blockers will severely test Marshall's depth. The Thundering Herd were able to overcome five turnovers in beating Division I-AA Hofstra. QB Stan Hill and Co. can't afford any giveaways this time. WR Darius Watts will be the primary target for Hill and the Tennessee secondary. Josh Davis must also make catches.

Extra point: Marshall last played a Southeastern Conference school in its 2001 season opener, losing 49-14 at Florida.

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Maryland (0-1) at No. 10 Florida State (1-0)

Time/TV: 7:15/ESPN2. Turf: Grass.

Line: Florida State by 15. Sagarin ratings: Florida State 92.05, Maryland 74.98.

Points: Not much went wrong for Florida State in its blanking of North Carolina. QB Chris Rix, who has given the Maryland secondary fits, is off to a good start. RB depth could be an issue with Leon Washington (elbow) out, but Greg Jones and Lorenzo Booker can handle the load as they challenge Terps LB Leon Joe. With RB Bruce Perry (ankle) still questionable, it will be up to Josh Allen to take on DT Darnell Dockett and the Seminoles' front line. QB Scott McBrien, a frequent victim of his own receivers during the Northern Illinois loss, needs optimum protection from LBs Michael Boulware and Kendyll Pope.

Extra point: Florida State is 13-0 against Maryland. The closest result was 24-10 in 1998.

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No. 1 Oklahoma (1-0) at Alabama (1-0)

Time/TV: 7:45/ESPN. Turf: Grass.

Line: Oklahoma by 7 1/2. Sagarin ratings: Oklahoma 82.65, Alabama 81.76.

Points: Perhaps the most important thing Oklahoma learned in its opening win against North Texas was that QB Jason White could take a hit. His durability could be tested further by Alabama DE Antwan Odom. WR Brandon Jones established himself as White's go-to hands. After a slow start, Crimson Tide QB Brodie Croyle and RB Shaud Williams fashioned a big second half against South Florida. They'll need flawless blocking to make headway against a Sooners defense that has an honors candidate at nearly every position. Tide WR Triandos Luke probably will draw Sooners CB Derrick Strait.

Extra point: Oklahoma is the first No. 1 team other than Alabama to play in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

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No. 18 Florida (1-0) at No. 3 Miami (Fla.) (1-0)

Time/TV: 8/ABC. Turf: Grass.

Line: Miami by 14. Sagarin ratings: Miami 89.66, Florida 85.01.

Points: Don't worry that this rivalry renewal didn't live up to hype last year. Both teams have key players who are untested in big-game settings, so momentum-changing plays - or mistakes - should be plentiful. Miami QB Brock Berlin faces the most scrutiny as he takes on his former team. Trying to neutralize him will be Florida DT Ray McDonald in the backfield and DBs Guss Scott and Keiwan Ratliff at the receiving end. Berlin's success could hinge on the contribution of RB Frank Gore. Florida coach Ron Zook wants to see more of both Ingle Martin and Chris Leak at QB, but he'll need to decide whom to trust with the game on the line. Miami S Maurice Sikes and CB Antrel Rolle will show coverage schemes designed to confuse. Gators RB Ran Carthon must provide balance.

Extra point: Florida last beat Miami in the regular season in 1985, 35-23. That spans the last four regular-season meetings.

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Brigham Young (1-0) at No. 5 Southern California (1-0)

Time/TV: 8/ABC. Turf: Grass.

Line: Southern California by 22. Sagarin ratings: Southern California 92.65, Brigham Young 78.34.

Points: The clinic put on by DT Mike Patterson and Southern California defense at Auburn has to make future opponents nervous. Brigham Young QB Matt Berry doesn't have enough speed around him to beat the Trojans downfield. He'll have to depend on controlled passes to WR Toby Christensen and TE Daniel Coats to move the sticks. Any sack is likely to be a drive killer. Cougars' defense won't have an answer for WR Mike Williams, so it'll have to show enough different looks to confuse QB Matt Leinart.

Extra point: In addition to longtime BYU offensive mastermind Norm Chow, the USC coaching staff includes former Cougars QB Steve Sarkisian.

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No. 13 LSU (1-0) at Arizona (1-0)

Time/TV: 10/TBS. Turf: Grass.

Line: LSU by 12. Sagarin ratings: LSU 73.02, Arizona 69.23.

Points: Both squads in this night owl special are coming off easy wins and take a step up in competition. LSU QB Matt Mauck, who missed the last half of the 2002 campaign with a foot injury, re-established his rhythm quickly with WR Michael Clayton. Tagging Clayton will be Arizona CB Michael Jolivette, who is back from a serious knee injury. Arizona's defensive line will be at a size disadvantage, which could mean big numbers for LSU RB Joseph Addai. Nic Costa will start at QB for the Wildcats. RB Clarence Farmer (shoulder) is questionable; Mike Bell must hold up against SS Jack Hunt and the Tigers' defense.

Extra point: LSU won its only prior contest with Arizona 27-26 in 1984 in Baton Rouge.

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Other ranked teams in action

San Diego State (1-0) at No. 2 Ohio State (1-0)

Time: Noon. Turf: Grass.

Line: Ohio State by 32. Sagarin ratings: Ohio State 87.76, San Diego State 64.97.

Buckeyes play second of five home games in a row.

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McNeese State (1-0) at No. 6 Kansas State (2-0)

Time: 7:10. Turf: Artificial.

Line: Kansas State by 50. Sagarin ratings: Kansas State 84.94, McNeese State 66.53.

First of two I-AA teams to visit Manhattan. Wildcats RB Darren Sproles (leg) expects to play.

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Middle Tennessee State (0-1) at No. 8 Georgia (1-0)

Time: 1. Turf: Grass.

Line: Georgia by 29. Sagarin ratings: Georgia 91.68, Middle Tennessee State 45.55.

Bulldogs get breather before embarking on tough SEC stretch.

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James Madison (1-0) at No. 9 Virginia Tech (1-0)

Time: 1. Turf: Grass.

Line: Virginia Tech by 51. Sagarin ratings: Virginia Tech 81.38, James Madison 51.57.

Hokies backup QB Marcus Vick is suspended for team rules violation and will miss chance to gain experience.

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Kent State (1-0) at No. 12 Pittsburgh (0-0)

Time: 7. Turf: Grass.

Line: Pittsburgh by 28. Sagarin ratings: Pittsburgh 78.98, Kent State 65.15.

Panthers QB Rod Rutherford could face disciplinary action after being accused of kicking out car window.

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No. 15 Virginia (1-0) at South Carolina (1-0)

Time: 12:30. Turf: Grass.

Line: Virginia by 3. Sagarin ratings: Virginia 73.28, South Carolina 67.66.

Cavs QB Matt Schaub (shoulder) remains sidelined. Gamecocks were unimpressive in opening win against Louisiana-Lafayette.

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Akron (0-1) at No. 17 Wisconsin (1-0)

Time: 3:30. Turf: Artificial.

Line: Wisconsin by 24 1/2. Sagarin ratings: Wisconsin 85.48, Akron 53.19.

Badgers begin three-game home stand after escaping West Virginia.

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Bowling Green (1-0) at No. 20 Purdue (0-0)

Time: 1. Turf: Grass.

Line: Purdue by 10 1/2. Sagarin ratings: Purdue 80.76, Bowling Green 69.10.

Boilermakers will use many young players, including new starting RB Jerod Void.

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Northern Arizona (1-0) at No. 21 Arizona State (0-0)

Time: 10. Turf: Grass.

Line: Arizona State by 44. Sagarin ratings: Arizona State 78.45, Northern Arizona 57.59.

Sun Devils play first of two tuneups before toughest non-league challenge, at Iowa.

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Buffalo (0-1) at No. 23 Iowa (1-0)

Time: Noon. Turf: Grass.

Line: Iowa by 36. Sagarin ratings: Iowa 80.03, Buffalo 49.83.

Speaking of Iowa, Hawkeyes ready themselves for arch-rival Iowa State.

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Rest of the Top 25

No. 4 Texas is idle.




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Top 25 game previews

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Roundup: Friday's other games
Roundup: Friday's other games in Kentucky
Scores, how poll teams fared
Friday's prep results
Prep schedules

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