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September 25, 2008

Top 25 Previews

Nick Saban had Alabama sitting at 6-2 with four regular-season games left last year, and it seemed as if the rebuilding of the Crimson Tide was way ahead of schedule under its $4 million coach. Four straight losses put the return to glory on hold.

At 4-0, Alabama is again looking like a team primed for a breakout season. A trip to Georgia on Saturday should determine how seriously the Tide should be taken.

Saban's team went toe-to-toe with the Bulldogs in Tuscaloosa last season, before losing 26-23 in overtime. Take down Georgia between the hedges at Stanford Stadium, and the Tide can start dreaming of a national title run.

If Alabama pulls off the upset, it'll likely be behind a dominant performance from its defensive line. Terrance Cody and Co. have been pushing around opponents, while Georgia has been tinkering with its offensive line, trying to find the best combination.

TCU also has a chance for a season changing victory. The Horned Frogs moved into the AP Top 25 this week for the first time this season. Just in time for their trip to Norman to play Oklahoma.

The Sooners haven't lost a home game since 2005 -- when TCU beat them.

The other game on the slate matching ranked teams is in the Big Ten. Illinois visits Happy Valley to face Penn State, which has yet to be challenged during a 4-0 start. The Illini beat the Nittany Lions in Champaign last season.

The picks:

Thursday

No. 1 USC (minus 25) at Oregon State
--Trojans lost their last game at Corvallis. Of course, Mark Sanchez wasn't their QB then ... USC 37-20.

Saturday

No. 24 TCU (plus 17) at No. 2 Oklahoma
--Sooners top nation in scoring (55 ppg); Horned Frogs 13th (43) ... OKLAHOMA 45-21.

No. 8 Alabama (plus 7) at No. 3 Georgia
--Tide's time will come; For now, Dawgs rule ... GEORGIA 28-17.

Ole Miss (plus 22) at No. 4 Florida
--Rebels have 14-game SEC road losing streak ... FLORIDA 48-20.

Mississippi State (plus 24) at No. 5 LSU
--Bulldogs have scored 23 points against three FBS opponents ... LSU 41-7.

Arkansas (plus 27) at No. 7 Texas
--Longhorns' leaky secondary gives Razorbacks shred of hope ... TEXAS 38-21.

No. 9 Wisconsin (minus 6) at Michigan
--Badgers don't win often at Big House, once since 1965, but this is year to do it ... WISCONSIN 17-14.

No. 22 Illinois (plus 14) at No. 12 Penn State
--Start of tough five-week stretch for Nittany Lions ... PENN STATE 32-21.

North Carolina State (plus 8) at No. 13 South Florida
--Wolfpack last beat ranked teams in consecutive games in '06 ... SOUTH FLORIDA 34-14.

Minnesota (plus 17) at No. 14 Ohio State
--Beanie's back to face unbeaten Gophers ... OHIO STATE 45-21.

Tennessee (plus 6) at No. 15 Auburn
--Just when Vols look hopeless ... TENNESSEE 24-20.

Navy (plus 16) at No. 16 Wake Forest
--Demon Deacons can tie school record with seventh straight victory ... WAKE FOREST 38-17.

Weber State (no line) at No. 17 Utah
--Former Utah coach Ron McBride leads Weber State ... UTAH 44-3.

Maryland (plus 11) at No. 20 Clemson
--Terps TB Da'rel Scott leads ACC in rushing at 136 ypg ... MARYLAND 28-21.

Houston (plus 10) at No. 23 East Carolina
--Road team has win six of last eight meetings ... EAST CAROLINA 30-21.

No. 25 Fresno State (minus 6) at UCLA
--Bulldogs coming off consecutive tough games; Bruins consecutive blowout losses .... FRESNO ST. 28-17.

---

Last week: 15-4 (straight); 5-11 (vs. points).

Season: 67-12 (straight); 32-33 (vs. points).



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