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November 4, 2010

Stretch run starts with plenty of big games

Here's a sobering thought: We're already at Week 10 of the season.

But Week 10 begins the stretch run, and there are three big games involving six teams in the BCS top 15. No. 3 TCU takes its unbeaten record on the road to face No. 5 Utah, which also is unbeaten, in a contest that should decide the Mountain West title. No. 6 Alabama, the highest-placed one-loss team in the BCS standings, travels to Baton Rouge to play No. 10 LSU. And No. 15 Arizona visits No. 13 Stanford in what essentially is a Pac-10 elimination game.

There are some other big ones, as well. Pass-happy Hawaii plays at No. 4 Boise State, which means the Broncos' secondary is going to get a workout. No. 21 Baylor plays at No. 17 Oklahoma State with the Big 12 South lead on the line; Baylor hasn't won in Stillwater in more than 70 years. No. 24 Florida State and No. 25 N.C. State have key ACC contests, against North Carolina and Clemson, respectively. No. 18 Arkansas travels to No. 19 South Carolina in an intriguing SEC matchup.

And the "weekend" extends into next Wednesday. Tuesday has a big one in the MAC, as the West Division crown basically will be on the line when Northern Illinois plays host to Toledo.

Here's a look at every game this weekend involving a FBS team.

FRIDAY'S GAMES

Western Michigan (3-5) at Central Michigan (2-7), 6 p.m., ESPNU
THE BUZZ: Forget Western's unimpressive record. The Broncos have a legitimate chance to win out, and a 7-5 record almost certainly would get them a bowl bid this season. CMU has taken a fall -- a long fall -- from the past few seasons, when the Chippewas were led by Dan LeFevour.
THE LINE: Central Michigan by 3.5. THE PICK: Western Michigan 33-28

UCF (6-2) at Houston (5-3), 8 p.m., ESPN2
THE BUZZ: UCF's in great shape to win the East Division of Conference USA and Houston is tied for the West Division lead, meaning this could be a preview of the league title game. UCF is going to have success running right at the Cougars, putting the onus on Houston's offense to produce.
THE LINE: UCF by 2. THE PICK: UCF 37-31

SATURDAY'S GAMES

Illinois (5-3) at Michigan (5-3), noon, ESPN
THE BUZZ: Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez needs all the wins he can get if he wants to remain in Ann Arbor, but it's hard to win when your defense is rancid. Illinois has been a pleasant surprise, and unlike the Wolverines, the Illini actually know how to play defense.
THE LINE: Michigan by 3. THE PICK: Michigan 26-24

Maryland (6-2) at Miami (5-3), noon, ESPNU
THE BUZZ: Maryland has been a big surprise, and the Terps are in the running for the ACC Atlantic Division title. This is just the second meeting between these teams as league rivals. Miami seems likely to be without starting QB Jacory Harris (concussion). The last time the Terps win in Miami was 1984, when the Terps rallied from a 31-0 halftime deficit to win 42-40.
THE LINE: Miami by 8. THE PICK: Miami 20-14

Air Force (5-4) at Army (5-3), noon, CBS College Sports
THE BUZZ: Each runs well but struggles to throw the ball, not surprising considering they're option teams. Each needs one more win for bowl eligibility. Air Force already has beaten Navy, which means the Falcons win the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy if they beat the Black Knights. The Falcons, who have won 12 of the past 13 against Army, haven't won the Trophy since 2002.
THE LINE: Air Force by 7. THE PICK: Air Force 24-20

Iowa (6-2) at Indiana (4-4), noon, Big Ten Network
THE BUZZ: Iowa dominated Michigan State last week and needs to avoid a letdown if it wants to stay in the Big Ten title chase. Trust us: It would take a huge letdown to lose to Indiana. A bizarre stat: Both coaches are looking for the 100th victory of their careers.
THE LINE: Iowa by 17. THE PICK: Iowa 47-24

Minnesota (1-8) at Michigan State (8-1), noon, Big Ten Network
THE BUZZ: Michigan State is coming off its first loss of the season, and, man, it's hard to imagine a better opponent for a team still licking its wounds than the awful Golden Gophers.
THE LINE: Michigan State by 24. THE PICK: Michigan State 48-20

Wisconsin (7-1) at Purdue (4-4), noon, Big Ten Network
THE BUZZ: Wisconsin is in great shape to earn at least a tie for the Big Ten title, and the Badgers also are looking good for a BCS bid. Purdue has surrendered 93 points in its past two games.
THE LINE: Wisconsin by 20. THE PICK: Wisconsin 45-17

N.C. State (6-2) at Clemson (4-4), noon, ACC syndication/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: Clemson's loss to Boston College basically has reduced the Tigers to spoiler status in the ACC Atlantic Division title chase. NC State, meanwhile, is squarely in the hunt after beating Florida State last Thursday. Clemson has won six in a row in the series.
THE LINE: Clemson by 3.5. THE PICK: NC State 28-23

Louisville (4-4) at Syracuse (6-2), noon, Big East syndication/SportsNet New York/Mid-Atlantic Sports Network/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: The past few seasons, these teams met with last place in the Big East on the line for the loser. Not this season. Syracuse has been a huge surprise, while Louisville has been a mild surprise. Syracuse is in the running for a second-place league finish, while Louisville has legit bowl hopes that will fade with a loss.
THE LINE: Syracuse by 6. THE PICK: Syracuse 30-21

Virginia (4-4) at Duke (2-6), noon
THE BUZZ: Both come in off upsets -- UVa of Miami and Duke of Navy. The Cavaliers have won 17 of the past 21 in the series, but the Blue Devils have won each of the past two. Neither team can stop the run; alas, neither can run it, either.
THE LINE: Pick 'em. THE PICK: Virginia 28-20

Florida (5-3) at Vanderbilt (2-6), 12:20 p.m., SEC syndication/MSG network/Comcast SportsNet California/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: Florida has won 19 in a row in the series, and just five of those have been decided by fewer than 10 points, A win in this one means Florida's home game next week against South Carolina will be for the SEC East title.
THE LINE: Florida by 14. THE PICK: Florida 24-7

Baylor (7-2) at Oklahoma State (7-1), 12:30 p.m., Fox Sports Net
THE BUZZ: A Baylor-Oklahoma State game that is going to play a huge role in the Big 12 South race? What alternate universe have we entered? Baylor is seeking its first eight-win season since 1991, but get this: The Bears are just 5-67 all-time against Big 12 South rivals, and they haven't won in Stillwater since 1939.
THE LINE: Oklahoma State by 7.5. THE PICK: Oklahoma State 41-35

Idaho State (1-7) at Georgia (4-5), 12:30 p.m., ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: Idaho State, a FCS program, has had just five winning records in the past 22 seasons, including this one. Georgia has scored at least 30 points in four consecutive games for just the sixth time in school history.
THE LINE: No line. THE PICK: Georgia 52-13

Charleston Southern (2-6) at Kentucky (4-5), 12:30 p.m., ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: Kentucky QB Mike Hartline leads the SEC in touchdown passes with 19. UK has won 18 consecutive regular-season non-conference games won 16 consecutive non-conference home games.
THE LINE: No line. THE PICK: Kentucky 47-17

Chattanooga (5-3) at Auburn (9-0), 1 p.m., ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: This is the 21st meeting in the series, and Auburn has won all 20. The last time these teams met, in 1995, Auburn scored 76 points against the Mocs.
THE LINE: No line. THE PICK: Auburn 56-21

Akron (0-9) at Ball State (2-7), 1 p.m.
THE BUZZ: As bad as this is, it's not the dog of the week. In most weeks, though, this would be a runaway winner. This is Akron's last real chance to get a victory this season.
THE LINE: Ball State by 13.5. THE PICK: Ball State 34-24

UNLV (1-7) at BYU (3-5), 2 p.m., The mtn.
THE BUZZ: BYU has not played well, but the Cougars remain in good shape for a bowl bid. They have won five in row over UNLV, winning those by an average of 30.2 points per game.
THE LINE: BYU by 18. THE PICK: BYU 41-21

Rice (2-6) at Tulsa (5-3), 2 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Tulsa is coming off a victory at Notre Dame, and while it needs some help to win the West Division of C-USA, a bowl bid looks extremely likely. Indeed, the Golden Hurricane should become bowl-eligible in this one.
THE LINE: Tulsa by 18. THE PICK: Tulsa 44-28

Colorado (3-5) at Kansas (2-6), 2 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Here's a selling point: This game features the only two Big 12 teams without a league win. Not surprisingly, this will not be a sellout. Kansas has lost 13 of its past 15 since opening the 2009 season at 5-0.
THE LINE: Colorado by 9. THE PICK: Colorado 31-20

Temple (7-2) at Kent State (4-4), 2 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Temple looks to be the best team in the MAC East, but Kent State's stout defense gives the Golden Flashes a shot at the upset. Kent is first in the nation in rush defense and eighth in total defense.
THE LINE: Temple by 3.5. THE PICK: Temple 21-17

New Mexico State (2-6) at Utah State (2-6), 3 p.m.
THE BUZZ: This was another worthy contender for dog of the week, but there actually are two bigger pieces of ... well, there are two worse games than this. New Mexico State has lost 10 in a row on the road. One thing is for sure: The Aggies will win. (That, of course, is because both teams are nicknamed "Aggies" and there are no more ties in college football.)
THE LINE: Utah State by 18. THE PICK: Utah State 37-21

TCU (9-0) at Utah (8-0), 3:30 p.m., CBS College Sports
THE BUZZ: This is one of the biggest games of the season, with both in the BCS top five, so let's hope your cable/satellite provider has CBS College Sports. TCU's defense has been all but impregnable, but Utah's offense has been prolific. The game might come down to how well Utah's defense holds up against TCU's powerful rushing attack
THE LINE: TCU by 5. THE PICK: TCU 24-17

Alabama (7-1) at LSU (7-1), 3:30 p.m., CBS
THE BUZZ: LSU was off last week, so that means Tigers fans have been tailgating for this one for the past 10 days instead of the past three. Alabama still has legit hopes for a spot in the national title game, and you know LSU would like nothing better than to spoil Nick Saban's hopes.
THE LINE: Alabama by 6.5. THE PICK: Alabama 17-13

Northwestern (6-2) at Penn State (5-3), 3:30 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN2
THE BUZZ: An important game in the Big Ten bowl pecking order. It's also an opportunity for Joe Paterno to get his 400th career victory. Only John Gagliardi (476) of Division III St. John's (Minn.) and former Grambling coach Eddie Robinson (408) have reached the 400-victory plateau in NCAA history.
THE LINE: Penn State by 6. THE PICK: Northwestern 28-23

Washington (3-5) at Oregon (8-0), 3:30 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN2/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: Oregon is 8-0 for just the second time in school history; the first was in 1933. The Ducks are on a pace to set an NCAA record for touchdowns per game; the record is 7.0 by Nebraska in 1983, but the Ducks are at 7.3. Washington has surrendered at least 41 points three times this season, including in each of the past two games.
THE LINE: Oregon by 35. THE PICK: Oregon 56-17

Nebraska (7-1) at Iowa State (5-4), 3:30 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: Nebraska has bounced back nicely from a home loss to Texas, handing Oklahoma State and then Missouri their first losses of the season. Now, the Huskers will be out for revenge after losing last season to Iowa State. This is the 105th meeting in the series, and Nebraska leads 85- 17-2. Iowa State's win last season was just its fourth in the past 32 meetings.
THE LINE: Nebraska by 18.5. THE PICK: Nebraska 40-17

North Carolina (5-3) at Florida State (6-2), 3:30 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: These teams are in different divisions in the ACC, but this is a big one for both because of the division-title implications. UNC basically faces a must-win situation, while a loss would make things difficult for FSU. The Seminoles lead the series 15-1-1; UNC's only win came in 2001.
THE LINE: Florida State by 10. THE PICK: Florida State 24-17

Hawaii (7-2) at Boise State (7-0), 3:30 p.m., ESPNU
THE BUZZ: Hawaii QB Bryant Moniz is putting up huge numbers (360.8 passing yards per game) and the Warriors' passing attack should make this interesting, at least for a while. Boise State never has lost a WAC home game (37-0), and the Broncos are the only team in the nation that is in the top five in total offense and total defense.
THE LINE: Boise State by 21. THE PICK: Boise State 41-27

Navy (5-3) at East Carolina (5-3), 3:30 p.m., Mid-Atlantic Sports Network
THE BUZZ: Navy is coming off an embarrassing loss to Duke in which Blue Devils QB Sean Renfree had a big game. That's bad news for the Midshipmen because ECU QB Dominique Davis is better than Renfree. Navy's rushing attack needs a big day.
THE LINE: ECU by 3. THE PICK: ECU 31-30

Southern Miss (5-3) at Tulane (3-5), 3:30 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Southern Miss' C-USA East title hopes took a big hit with last week's loss to UAB, but the Golden Eagles need to regroup quickly. They have lost two of their past four despite scoring at least 40 points in each of those games.
THE LINE: Southern Miss by 10. THE PICK: Southern Miss 38-24

Boston College (3-5) at Wake Forest (2-6), 3:30 p.m.
THE BUZZ: BC's upset of Clemson last week gives the Eagles renewed hope they can make a bowl. BC's offense has been bad. But Wake's "defense" has a way of making bad offenses seem like the Joe Montana-led 49ers' units of yore.
THE LINE: BC by 3. THE PICK: BC 27-21

California (4-4) at Washington State (1-8), 4 p.m., Fox Sports Net Northwest/Comcast SportsNet California
THE BUZZ: From the "hey, any bit of good news is really good news when you're 1-8" dept.: Washington State's Jeff Tuel is the only Pac-10 quarterback to throw for 200 yards in each game this season. Cal is 4-0 at home and 0-4 on the road, and QB Kevin Riley has been lost for the season.
THE LINE: Cal by 14.5. THE PICK: Cal 31-21

Fresno State (5-2) at Louisiana Tech (3-5), 4 p.m., WAC syndication/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: In a weird scheduling quirk, this one of two WAC games this weekend matching teams with the same nicknames (in this case, Bulldogs). Two sets of Aggies get together in the New Mexico State-Utah State game.
THE LINE: Fresno State by 1. THE PICK: Fresno State 31-27

Marshall (2-6) at UAB (3-5), 4 p.m., Comcast-Charter Sports Southeast
THE BUZZ: UAB upset Southern Miss last week, and that means the Blazers now have a good shot at becoming bowl-eligible -- assuming they beat the teams they should, like Marshall.
THE LINE: UAB by 9.5. THE PICK: UAB 27-20

Florida Atlantic (2-5) at Western Kentucky (1-7), 4:30 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Western lost at home to North Texas last week, and this is the only time this season the Hilltoppers have back-to-back games at home. The loser will reside in last place in the Sun Belt by itself.
THE LINE: FAU by 2.5. THE PICK: FAU 30-24

Nevada (7-1) at Idaho (4-4), 5 p.m., WAC syndication/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: Idaho has a modest three-game home winning streak, but the Wolf Pack are going to be tough to stop. The Vandals have struggled against the run, and Nevada is fifth in the nation in rushing offense at 300.9 yards per game.
THE LINE: Nevada by 11.5. THE PICK: Nevada 44-31

Wyoming (2-7) at New Mexico (0-8), 6 p.m., The mtn.
THE BUZZ: The temperature should be in the high 40s or low 50s at kickoff, which means the hounds need to dress warm. This is the dog of the week. New Mexico is 118th nationally in total offense, Wyoming 120th.
THE LINE: Wyoming by 9. THE PICK: Wyoming 22-17

Arkansas (6-2) at South Carolina (6-2), 7 p.m., ESPN
THE BUZZ: South Carolina still is in good shape to play in the SEC championship game, while the Hogs are trying to keep their New Year's Day bowl hopes alive. The Gamecocks' pass coverage has been shaky. The Hogs need to be worried about stopping South Carolina freshman RB Marcus Lattimore.
THE LINE: South Carolina by 4. THE PICK: South Carolina 27-24

Oklahoma (7-1) at Texas A&M (5-3), 7 p.m., Fox Sports Net
THE BUZZ: A victory would keep A&M's long-shot Big 12 South title hopes alive. OU threw for a school-record 488 passing yards against Colorado last week; A&M, meanwhile, rolled up 623 yards against Texas Tech, the Aggies' second-highest output in a Big 12 game.
THE LINE: Oklahoma by 3. THE PICK: Oklahoma 38-28

Oregon State (4-3) at UCLA (3-5), 7 p.m., Versus
THE BUZZ: Oregon State is the only team in the nation not to have lost a fumble, and the Beavers have committed a nation's-low four turnovers. Beavers RB Jacquizz Rodgers has scored a rushing TD in 12 consecutive games.
THE LINE: Oregon State by 5. THE PICK: Oregon State 28-16

Louisiana-Lafayette (2-6) at Ole Miss (3-5), 7 p.m., ESPNU
THE BUZZ: Ole Miss is 29-1-2 against current members of the Sun Belt Conference, and that should increase to 30-1-2. Ole Miss is one of five SEC teams playing a non-conference game this weekend.
THE LINE: Ole Miss by 27.5. THE PICK: Ole Miss 51-21

Troy (4-3) at North Texas (2-6), 7 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Troy is coming off a rare conference loss, while North Texas is coming off a rare win. We're betting things get back to normal this week.
THE LINE: Troy by 12. THE PICK: Troy 37-21

Louisiana-Monroe (4-4) at Florida International (2-5), 7:30 p.m., Sun Belt syndication/Comcast-Charter Sports Southeast/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: ULM is coming in off a huge upset of Sun Belt pace-setter Troy. That upset gives the Warhawks a legit chance to finish 6-6, which could earn them a bowl bid this season. FIU fell at archrival Florida Atlantic last week but still is tied for the league lead.
THE LINE: FIU by 9.5. THE PICK: Louisiana-Monroe 27-24

Arizona (7-1) at Stanford (7-1), 8 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: Stanford has scored at least 30 points in every game this season, the longest such streak in school history. Stanford has won five in a row at home and Arizona has won five in a row on the road. The Wildcats are 7-1 for just the fifth time in school history; the last time was 1998.
THE LINE: Stanford by 9.5. THE PICK: Stanford 34-28

Missouri (7-1) at Texas Tech (4-4), 8 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: Mizzou suffered its first loss of the season last week and needs to prove it can bounce back quickly. The Tigers have won five of the six meetings since the Big 12 was formed in 1996. Texas Tech is 2-4 in Big 12 action, and a loss to Mizzou would guarantee the Red Raiders their first losing conference record since 2000.
THE LINE: Missouri by 4. THE PICK: Missouri 38-31

Texas (4-4) at Kansas State (5-3), 8 p.m., ESPN2
THE BUZZ: This is the last home game of the season for K-State, and it comes against a Longhorns team that has lost four of five. Barring a huge miracle (like winning out, which would need to include a victory in the Big 12 championship game and then its bowl game), Texas' run of nine consecutive 10-win seasons is going to end.
THE LINE: Texas by 4. THE PICK: Texas 20-17

Tennessee (2-6) at Memphis (1-7), 8 p.m., CBS College Sports
THE BUZZ: This is the 23rd meeting between these in-state schools, and the Vols lead the series 21-1. Memphis LB Jamon Hughes has made 101 tackles, the second-highest total in the nation.
THE LINE: Tennessee by 20. THE PICK: Tennessee 37-14

SMU (5-4) at UTEP (5-4), 9 p.m.
THE BUZZ: UTEP started 5-1 but has stumbled to the extent that a bowl bid now looks out of reach. SMU, meanwhile, is tied for the C-USA West lead, and its defense should rule the day against the suddenly punchless Miners.
THE LINE: SMU by 7. THE PICK: SMU 24-13

Colorado State (3-6) at San Diego State (6-2), 10 p.m., The mtn.
THE BUZZ: SDSU coach Brady Hoke has the Aztecs headed to a bowl in his second season on the job, which has led to speculation that he will be coaching elsewhere next season. Colorado State obviously likes visiting San Diego: The Rams have on six of their past seven trips.
THE LINE: SDSU by 17.5. THE PICK: SDSU 44-24

Arizona State (4-4) at USC (5-3), 10:30 p.m., Fox Sports Net
THE BUZZ: USC has won 10 in a row over the Sun Devils, who are in desperation mode when it comes to a bowl bid. Because they have two wins over FCS opponents, the Sun Devils need to get to seven victories to become bowl-eligible.
THE LINE: USC by 5.5. THE PICK: USC 28-20

TUESDAY'S GAME

Toledo (6-3) at Northern Illinois (7-2), 7 p.m., ESPN2
THE BUZZ: Both are 5-0 in MAC play, and they are tied for the West Division lead, two games ahead of anyone else. Thus, this basically is the MAC West title game. Both look good for bowl bids, but the winner of this knows it almost certainly will get to play for the league title.
THE LINE: NIU by 10.5. THE PICK: NIU 31-20

WEDNESDAY'S GAME

Miami of Ohio (5-4) at Bowling Green (2-7), 8 p.m., ESPN2
THE BUZZ: Miami won once last season, but has been the most pleasant surprise in the MAC this season. The RedHawks still have a shot at the MAC East title, and they certainly can't afford a loss to the Falcons, who are 1-4 in league play. Miami QB Zac Dysert might be the best in the league at his position.
THE LINE: Miami by 2.5. THE PICK: Miami 26-20

LAST WEEK

39-17 straight up, 22-28-2 against the spread.

YEAR TO DATE

410-123 straight up, 208-230-9 ATS (games involving FCS schools don't have a spread).

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.



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