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November 12, 2009

Primer: Big games for those chasing big three

It's hard to believe, but it's already Week 11 - which means it's mid-November.

The Big Three - Alabama, Florida and Texas - have what should be relatively easy conference games, with all three playing on the road. The biggest game of the weekend involves TCU, the No. 4 team in the BCS this week. The Horned Frogs play host to once-beaten Utah, and a victory means TCU will have taken a giant step toward finishing unbeaten and garnering its first BCS bid.

Cincinnati, the No. 5 team in the BCS, meets West Virginia in an important Big East game on Friday night. No. 6 Boise State meets in-state rival Idaho on Saturday.

There are intriguing games with title implications in the Big Ten (Iowa at Ohio State), Big 12 (Missouri at Kansas State and Nebraska at Kansas), Pac-10 (Stanford at USC and Arizona at California) and Conference USA (Houston at UCF on Saturday and East Carolina at Tulsa on Sunday).

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


Tennessee (5-4) at Ole Miss (6-3), noon, CBS
THE BUZZ: A victory in this one, and the Vols would all but sew up a second-place finish in the SEC East - and maybe even a New Year's Day bowl bid. Ole Miss still is in the running for a New Year's Day bid, too, but the Rebels need to win this to keep those hopes alive.
THE LINE: Ole Miss by 4.5. THE PICK: Ole Miss 20-17.

Houston (8-1) at UCF (5-4), noon, CBS College Sports
THE BUZZ: Houston is in the driver's seat in the West Division of Conference USA, while UCF needs some help in the East. UCF's secondary was strafed last week by Texas QB Colt McCoy; now comes Houston QB Case Keenum, who leads the nation in passing. Houston's defense is awful, but can UCF's anemic offense take advantage?
THE LINE: Houston by 5. THE PICK: Houston 38-28.

Michigan State (5-5) at Purdue (4-6), noon, ESPN
THE BUZZ: Both remain hopeful for a bowl bid. Michigan State has to beat either Purdue or Penn State, and Purdue must win out over the Spartans and Indiana. Keep an eye on how Michigan State's defense starts the game. In their five wins, the Spartans have allowed a total of 65 points; in the five losses, that total is 157.
THE LINE: Michigan State by 2.5. THE PICK: Michigan State 27-20.

Georgia Tech (9-1) at Duke (5-4), noon, ESPN2
THE BUZZ: Georgia Tech clinches a spot in the ACC title game with a victory over the Blue Devils. The teams have played every season since 1933, and Tech has won the past five meetings. Tech's rush offense will have success against Duke's rush defense. But Duke's pass offense should have success against Tech's pass defense.
THE LINE: Georgia Tech by 13. THE PICK: Georgia Tech 37-21.

Texas (9-0) at Baylor (4-5), noon, Fox Sports Net
THE BUZZ: This is the 99th meeting in the series, and the Longhorns have won 72 of them. Baylor's offense is weak, and Texas' defense is strong. That doesn't seem to leave much of a possibility for a Bears upset, does it?
THE LINE: Texas by 24. THE PICK: Texas 38-7.

Florida State (4-5) at Wake Forest (4-6), noon, ESPNU
THE BUZZ: Both teams are in desperation mode when it comes to becoming bowl eligible. Wake must win out over Florida State and Duke, while FSU has to win two of three while playing Wake, Maryland and Florida. FSU, which is without QB Christian Ponder, has lost three in a row to the Demon Deacons.
THE LINE: Wake by 5. THE PICK: Wake 34-27.

Northwestern (6-4) at Illinois (3-6), noon, ESPN Classic
THE BUZZ: The Illini have won two in a row. These in-state rivals used to meet for the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk, but the Native American imagery of the trophy led them to discontinue the tradition last season. The teams now play for the Land of Lincoln Trophy.
THE LINE: Illinois by 4.5. THE PICK: Illinois 24-16.

Indiana (4-6) at Penn State (8-2), noon, Big Ten Network
THE BUZZ: We're not saying Penn State has beaten up on mediocre teams, but the only FBS teams with winning records that the Nittany Lions have beaten are Northwestern and Temple.
THE LINE: Penn State by 25.5. THE PICK: Penn State 34-13.

Michigan (5-5) at Wisconsin (7-2), noon, Big Ten Network
THE BUZZ: The Wolverines - who lead this series 49-12-1 - must beat either Wisconsin or Ohio State to achieve bowl eligibility. The Wolverines have lost five of their past six, and the only win was over FCS member Delaware State.
THE LINE: Wisconsin by 8.5. THE PICK: Wisconsin 35-30.

South Dakota State (7-2) at Minnesota (5-5), noon, Big Ten Network
THE BUZZ: These teams have played five times, but this will be the first meeting since 1933. South Dakota State wins with defense; the Jackrabbits have allowed just 11 offensive touchdowns.
THE LINE: No line. THE PICK: Minnesota 24-14.

Syracuse (3-6) at Louisville (3-6), noon, Big East syndication/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: Syracuse has lost four of its past five, and Louisville has lost three of four. The loser almost assuredly finishes last in the Big East.
THE LINE: Louisville by 7.5. THE PICK: Louisville 23-17.

Clemson (6-3) at N.C. State (4-5), noon, ACC syndication/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: Clemson is in the driver's seat in the ACC Atlantic Division race and has won five in a row over the Wolfpack. N.C. State QB Russell Wilson is throwing for 261.2 yards per game, with 24 TD passes. However, Clemson is sixth nationally in pass defense.
THE LINE: Clemson by 8. THE PICK: Clemson 34-23.

VMI (2-7) at Army (3-6), noon
THE BUZZ: This is the only FCS opponent of the season for Army, which is looking to win four games for the first time since the 2005 season. VMI's coach is Sparky Woods, the former South Carolina coach. The Keydets are No. 2 in the FCS in rushing, but their defense isn't very good.
THE LINE: No line. THE PICK: Army 30-13.

Kentucky (5-4) at Vanderbilt (2-8), 12:20 p.m., SEC syndication/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: UK better win this if it wants to go bowling. The Wildcats have won six of the past eight in the series, which they lead 39-38-4.
THE LINE: Kentucky by 3. THE PICK: Kentucky 20-13.

Missouri (5-4) at Kansas State (6-4), 12:30 p.m., Versus
THE BUZZ: K-State is plus-11 in turnover margin, a big reason the Wildcats control their destiny in the Big 12 North race. Mizzou is mathematically alive in the division title chase and has won three in a row over the Wildcats. But the Tigers have lost four of their past five overall and are coming off a homecoming loss to Baylor.
THE LINE: Pick 'em. THE PICK: Missouri 24-20.

UAB (4-5) at Memphis (2-7), 1 p.m., Comcast-Charter Sports Southeast
THE BUZZ: Memphis fired coach Tommy West on Monday, but he'll be allowed to finish the season. UAB quarterback Joe Webb has rushed for 1,106 yards and nine TDs, and he has thrown for 1,352 yards and 13 touchdowns.
THE LINE: UAB by 1. THE PICK: UAB 37-32.

Virginia Tech (6-3) at Maryland (2-7), 1 p.m.
THE BUZZ: This is the 30th meeting, but just the fifth since 1950. Tech redshirt freshman Ryan Williams has rushed for 1,109 yards, making Virginia Tech just the third school in major-college history to have back-to-back 1,000-yard freshman rushers, joining Nevada (2001-02) and TCU (2002-03). Darren Evans, who is out this season with an injured knee, ran for 1,265 yards last season for the Hokies as a redshirt freshman.
THE LINE: Virginia Tech by 17.5. THE PICK: Virginia Tech 38-16.

Western Michigan (4-6) at Eastern Michigan (0-9), 1 p.m.
THE BUZZ: EMU is coming off a 44-point loss to Northern Illinois, a team that beat WMU by 35. EMU is last in the MAC in total offense and next-to-last in total defense. The only team worse in defense? WMU.
THE LINE: Western Michigan by 12. THE PICK: Western Michigan 40-24.

BYU (7-2) at New Mexico (0-9), 2 p.m., The mtn.
THE BUZZ: New Mexico, which has lost 13 in a row, seems headed for its first winless season since 1987. BYU has won on its past five visits to Albuquerque. Cougars coach Bronco Mendenhall was New Mexico's defensive coordinator from 1998-2002.
THE LINE: BYU by 27. THE PICK: BYU 45-16.

Colorado (3-6) at Iowa State (5-5), 2 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Colorado leads this series 48-14-1, but the home team has won the past five meetings. Iowa State has scored 27 total points in its past three games.
THE LINE: Iowa State by 5.5. THE PICK: Colorado 20-17.

UTEP (3-6) at SMU (5-4), 3 p.m.
THE BUZZ: SMU looks to be in great shape to earn its first bowl bid since 1984. While UTEP has a mediocre record, the Miners do own upsets of Houston and Tulsa - but both those games were in El Paso.
THE LINE: SMU by 8. THE PICK: SMU 42-31.

San Jose State (1-7) at Utah State (2-7), 3 p.m.
THE BUZZ: The hounds make their way to Logan, Utah, on the western slopes of the Bear River Mountains. It's a scenic spot for the dog of the week. The teams have combined for one win over a FBS program, and San Jose State has been beaten by a combined 107-14 the past two weeks.
THE LINE: Utah State by 12.5. THE PICK: Utah State 40-21.

Florida (9-0) at South Carolina (6-4), 3:30 p.m., CBS
THE BUZZ: Florida has won 19 in a row overall and 11 in a row against SEC East opponents. Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier is 1-3 against his former school, including a 50-point loss last season.
THE LINE: Florida by 16. THE PICK: Florida 23-10.

Iowa (9-1) at Ohio State (8-2), 3:30 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN
THE BUZZ: Ohio State's Big Ten title hopes looked shaky after a loss to Purdue, but the Buckeyes suddenly find themselves in great shape for yet another league title. Can Iowa make a game of it without injured starting QB Ricky Stanzi?
THE LINE: Ohio State by 17. THE PICK: Ohio State 21-3.

Miami (7-2) at North Carolina (6-3), 3:30 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: UNC coach Butch Davis is 2-0 against his former employer. If Miami finishes 10-2, the Hurricanes would have a long-shot chance to become a BCS at-large selection. UNC leads the ACC in total defense and has allowed just four TD passes.
THE LINE: Miami by 3.5. THE PICK: North Carolina 24-20.

Nebraska (6-3) at Kansas (5-4), 3:30 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: This is the 116th meeting in this series; it's the third-most-played rivalry in the nation. This also is the 104th consecutive season the teams have met, making it the nation's longest uninterrupted series. KU has lost four in a row, mainly because there is no running game. The Huskers are in good shape for the Big 12 North title.
THE LINE: Nebraska by 4. THE PICK: Nebraska 16-10.

Stanford (6-3) at USC (7-2), 3:30 p.m., Fox Sports Net
THE BUZZ: USC has won 12 in a row and 47 of its past 48 home games. The loss? To Stanford in 2007. The Cardinal have a good rushing offense, and USC was carved up by Oregon's ground game two weeks ago.
THE LINE: USC by 11. THE PICK: USC 27-21.

Idaho (7-3) at Boise State (9-0), 3:30 p.m., ESPNU
THE BUZZ: This could be the first season in which both are in a bowl. Boise has won 68 of its past 70 home games, including 23 in a row. Idaho already has won three road games, the most the Vandals have won in a season since 1999.
THE LINE: Boise State by 31. THE PICK: Boise State 49-21.

Delaware (6-3) at Navy (7-3), 3:30 p.m., CBS College Sports
THE BUZZ: Navy already has clinched a Texas Bowl bid. The last time these teams met, Delaware won 59-52 in 2007 behind a 434-yard performance from Joe Flacco. The Blue Hens' quarterback this season is Penn State transfer Pat Devlin.
THE LINE: No line. THE PICK: Navy 38-13.

Washington (3-6) at Oregon State (6-3), 3:30 p.m., Fox Sports Net Northwest
THE BUZZ: Talk about fortuitous scheduling - Oregon State gets Washington and Washington State in back-to-back weeks in November.
THE LINE: Oregon State by 12. THE PICK: Oregon State 34-24.

Boston College (6-3) at Virginia (3-6), 3:30 p.m.
THE BUZZ: This is the first time BC is playing at Virginia. The Eagles still have a shot at the ACC Atlantic Division title, but they must win and need Clemson to lose. BC is 92nd nationally in total offense, while Virginia is 119th.
THE LINE: BC by 4. THE PICK: Boston College 20-14.

Tulane (3-6) at Rice (0-9), 3:30 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Rice is coming off its best showing of the season, a three-point loss to SMU. The next-closest loss is by 17 points. Tulane is coming off its best showing of the season, too, an overtime victory over UTEP.
THE LINE: Rice by 3. THE PICK: Tulane 37-33.

Fresno State (6-3) at Nevada (6-3), 4 p.m., Comcast SportsNet California/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: Fresno has scored on its first three drives in back-to-back games. Meanwhile, Nevada RB Vai Taua and QB Colin Kaepernick each have rushed for 100 yards in three consecutive games. Fresno has won five in a row, Nevada six in a row. This is one of the most intriguing games of the day.
THE LINE: Nevada by 7. THE PICK: Nevada 34-30.

Arkansas State (2-6) at Florida Atlantic (2-6), 4 p.m.
THE BUZZ: A matchup of teams expected to contend for the Sun Belt title. Instead, they've won a combined three conference games.
THE LINE: Arkansas State by 4. THE PICK: Arkansas State 24-21.

Western Kentucky (0-9) at Louisiana-Monroe (5-4), 4 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Western Kentucky fired coach David Elson on Monday despite the school being in its first full-fledged season as an FBS school. ULM will have a shot at a bowl bid if it can finish 7-5.
THE LINE: ULM by 21.5. THE PICK: ULM 37-20.

Louisiana-Lafayette (5-4) at Middle Tennessee (6-3), 4:15 p.m., Sun Belt syndication/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: ULL, which is playing its final road game of the season, has won five of the past six meetings in the series. Each of these teams still is alive for a bowl bid. Getting to seven wins will be necessary, though.
THE LINE: Middle Tennessee by 12.5. THE PICK: Middle Tennessee 31-20.

Southern Miss (5-4) at Marshall (5-4), 4:30 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Both remain alive in the Conference USA East Division race, but each needs some help. Both also need one more victory for bowl eligibility.
THE LINE: Southern Miss by 3. THE PICK: Southern Miss 28-20.

UCLA (4-5) at Washington State (1-8), 5 p.m., Fox College Sports Pacific
THE BUZZ: To have a realistic shot at a bowl bid, the Bruins need to win this. UCLA FS Rahim Moore is tied for the nation's lead with eight interceptions, and Washington State quarterbacks have thrown a league-high 12 picks.
THE LINE: UCLA by 17.5. THE PICK: UCLA 37-14.

UNLV (4-6) at Air Force (6-4), 6 p.m., The mtn.
THE BUZZ: Air Force has a plus-18 turnover margin, while UNLV is at minus-3. Air Force has won six of the past seven in the series. The Falcons are fourth nationally in rushing offense, while UNLV is 111th nationally in rushing defense.
THE LINE: Air Force by 17. THE PICK: Air Force 35-16.

Alabama (9-0) at Mississippi State (4-5), 7 p.m., ESPN
THE BUZZ: The campuses are about 85 miles apart, and Alabama leads the series 72-18-3. The Bulldogs have won two of the past three in the series. For some reason, though, we think Alabama wins for the second season in a row.
THE LINE: Alabama by 12.5. THE PICK: Alabama 24-10.

Auburn (7-3) at Georgia (5-4), 7 p.m., ESPN2
THE BUZZ: This is the 113th meeting in the series, making it the seventh-most-played rivalry in the nation. This is the first time since 1991 and just the second time since 1976 that these teams have met when neither has been ranked. Georgia hasn't lost five games since 1996, Jim Donnan's first season.
THE LINE: Georgia by 4.5. THE PICK: Auburn 27-24.

Texas A&M (5-4) at Oklahoma (5-4), 7 p.m., Fox Sports Net
THE BUZZ: Both schools are looking to become bowl eligible; that was expected of A&M but not of OU. The Sooners have struggled to run of late, but they should get well against a mediocre Aggies defense. Can the Aggies' prolific offense cause any issues for OU's defense?
THE LINE: Oklahoma by 20. THE PICK: Oklahoma 27-13.

Arizona (6-2) at California (6-3), 7 p.m., Versus
THE BUZZ: A big one in the Pac-10. Arizona is tied with Oregon in the loss column for the league lead, and Cal - which is out of the running for the conference title - is playing for bowl positioning.
THE LINE: Cal by 1. THE PICK: Arizona 31-26.

Louisiana Tech (3-6) at LSU (7-2), 7 p.m., ESPNU
THE BUZZ: The teams have met 18 times, and LSU has won 17 of them. Tech's only win was 6-0 - in 1904. In the 18 games, Tech has scored a total of 42 points.
THE LINE: LSU by 24.5. THE PICK: LSU 31-10.

North Texas (2-7) at Florida International (2-7), 7 p.m.
THE BUZZ: This is homecoming for FIU, which plays at Florida next weekend. North Texas has allowed at least 33 points in each of its six Sun Belt Conference games.
THE LINE: FIU by 2.5. THE PICK: FIU 30-24.

Utah (8-1) at TCU (9-0), 7:30 p.m., CBS College Sports
THE BUZZ: It's all there for the taking for TCU, which has a great shot at a 12-0 finish if it can beat the Utes. TCU is 54-6 at home dating to 1999. The Horned Frogs' stout defense should be the deciding factor.
THE LINE: TCU by 19.5. THE PICK: TCU 24-10.

Troy (7-2) at Arkansas (5-4), 7:30 p.m., Comcast-Charter Sports Southeast/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: This is the third consecutive home game for the Razorbacks and it's the sixth road game of the season for Troy. The Trojans have won seven in a row since a 50-point loss at Florida.
THE LINE: Arkansas by 13.5. THE PICK: Arkansas 38-23.

Notre Dame (6-3) at Pittsburgh (8-1), 8 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: Pitt's final three opponents - the Irish, West Virginia and Cincinnati - are a combined 22-5. The Panthers haven't had a record this good this late in the season since 1982, when Dan Marino was quarterback. This is just the third true road game of the season for the Irish, who are coming off a loss to Navy that intensified the criticism of coach Charlie Weis.
THE LINE: Pitt by 7. THE PICK: Pitt 30-24.

Texas Tech (6-3) at Oklahoma State (7-2), 8 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: These teams are jockeying to finish second in the Big 12 South, which means it's important in terms of bowl positioning. Tech has won nine of the past 13 against the Cowboys, but the last time the teams played in Stillwater, Oklahoma State won and Mike Gundy delivered his infamous "I'm a man" speech.
THE LINE: Oklahoma State by 4. THE PICK: Oklahoma State 34-28.

Wyoming (4-5) at San Diego State (4-5), 10 p.m., The mtn.
THE BUZZ: Both remain alive in the bowl hunt. Each has one game left against a Mountain West power and against a Mountain West bottom-feeder. And there's also this game. Our take: This winner is going to a bowl.
THE LINE: San Diego State by 7.5. THE PICK: San Diego State 31-20.

New Mexico State (3-6) at Hawaii (3-6), 10 p.m., ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: Hawaii has committed 27 turnovers, New Mexico State 21. In its last game, against Ohio State, New Mexico State finished with two first downs and 62 total yards.
THE LINE: Hawaii by 20. THE PICK: Hawaii 48-23.

Arizona State (4-5) at Oregon (7-2), 10:20 p.m., ESPN
THE BUZZ: Arizona State can play defense, but the Sun Devils' offense is anemic. Oregon is looking to bounce back after getting run over by Stanford last week. Despite the loss, the Ducks still control their destiny in the Pac-10 title race.
THE LINE: Oregon by 17. THE PICK: Oregon 34-14.


East Carolina (5-4) at Tulsa (4-5), 8:15 p.m., ESPN
THE BUZZ: This is the third consecutive non-Saturday game for ECU, which beat Memphis on a Tuesday and lost to Virginia Tech on a Thursday. The Pirates lead the C-USA East Division race by a game. Tulsa, meanwhile, basically is out of the running in the West Division race, and the Golden Hurricane need a win to claw closer to bowl eligibility.
THE LINE: Tulsa by 5. THE PICK: East Carolina 27-24.


Buffalo (3-7) at Miami University (TBD), 6 p.m., ESPNU
THE BUZZ: Both follow Thursday night games with a Wednesday night tussle. Frankly, there aren't many reasons to watch this.
THE LINE: Buffalo by 3.5. THE PICK: Buffalo 28-20.

Central Michigan (TBD) at Ball State (TBD), 8 p.m., ESPN2
THE BUZZ: This will be the second consecutive Wednesday night game for Central Michigan, which is trying for its second 10-win season in four years; the Chippewas went 10-4 in 2006 under then-coach Brian Kelly. Meanwhile, Ball State will follow up a Thursday night game with another non-Saturday contest.
THE LINE: Central Michigan by 14.5. THE PICK: Central Michigan 47-20.


38-18 straight up, 27-23-2 against the spread.


452-143 straight up, 236-262-5 against the spread.

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

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