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October 22, 2009

Weekend primer: Road test for TCU

We're closer to Dec. 1 than we are to Sept. 1, which means the season is flying by. This is Week 8, and conference races should become more in focus with the results of some of this weekend's games.

The big one is the Mountain West showdown in Provo, Utah, between BYU and TCU. This is the last truly tough road test on the Horned Frogs' schedule, and a 12-0 record definitely would be in sight if they can beat the Cougars.

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


Minnesota (4-3) at Ohio State (5-2), noon, ESPN
THE BUZZ: This is one of the most lopsided series in the Big Ten, with Ohio State holding a 41-7 advantage, including 21-3 in Columbus. The Golden Gophers have beaten the Buckeyes just twice since 1966, but one of those was at Ohio Stadium in 2000. Ohio State fired John Cooper at the end of that season.
THE LINE: Ohio State by 17.5. THE PICK: Ohio State 31-10.

Illinois (1-5) at Purdue (2-5), noon, ESPN2
THE BUZZ: Hey, get this: The phrases "Ron Zook is a bad coach" and "That cannot be argued" each have 18 letters. Coincidence? You decide.
THE LINE: Purdue by 10. THE PICK: Purdue 31-17.

Connecticut (4-2) at West Virginia (5-1), noon, ESPNU
THE BUZZ: It might be crass to talk about it, but the key in this one is how emotionally involved UConn's players will be after their teammate was knifed to death last weekend.
THE LINE: West Virginia by 7. THE PICK: West Virginia 20-17.

USF (5-1) at Pittsburgh (6-1), noon, Big East syndication/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: This is a big one in the Big East. USF needs a win to stay in the title hunt. Pitt, meanwhile, doesn't play another tough conference game until it closes the season with West Virginia on Nov. 27 and Cincinnati on Dec. 5.
THE LINE: Pitt by 6.5. THE PICK: Pitt 24-21.

Indiana (4-3) at Northwestern (4-3), noon, Big Ten Network
THE BUZZ: The winner of this one would appear to be in good shape to nab a bowl bid. And, yes, we're serious.
THE LINE: Northwestern by 5.5. THE PICK: Northwestern 34-23.

UAB (2-4) at Marshall (4-3), noon, Comcast-Charter Sports Southeast
THE BUZZ: Both teams technically are in the running for the C-USA East title. The loser of this one becomes history in the chase.
THE LINE: Marshall by 7. THE PICK: Marshall 31-21.

Georgia Tech (6-1) at Virginia (3-3), noon, ACC syndication/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: Introducing the ACC Coastal Division leaders -- your Virginia Cavaliers. Yes, it's true: The Cavs are the only team in the ACC that is unbeaten in league play. Can their defense hold up against the Yellow Jackets' powerful rushing attack?
THE LINE: Georgia Tech by 5. THE PICK: Georgia Tech 28-16.

Central Michigan (6-1) at Bowling Green (3-4), noon, ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: These are two of the three best offenses in the MAC. But CMU's defense has been much better than Bowling Green's. Both quarterbacks -- CMU's Dan LeFevour and Bowling Green's Tyler Sheehan -- have thrown 14 TD passes, but LeFevour also has run for nine scores.
THE LINE: Central Michigan by 7.5. THE PICK: Central Michigan 37-28.

Arkansas (3-3) at Ole Miss (4-2), 12:20 p.m., SEC syndication/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: Just call this the "Houston Nutt Bowl." A loss here and Ole Miss' season officially will have spiraled out of control. Look for the Hogs to sell out to stop the run in an effort to make the Rebels throw it; Ole Miss QB Jevan Snead has been a big disappointment.
THE LINE: Ole Miss by 6. THE PICK: Ole Miss 23-20.

Colorado (2-4) at Kansas State (4-3), 12:30 p.m., Fox College Sports Central
THE BUZZ: Colorado has had a problem with turnovers, committing 15, and K-State has forced 16. K-State leads the Big 12 with a plus-6 turnover margin.
THE LINE: Kansas State by 4.5. THE PICK: Colorado 28-23.

Iowa State (4-3) at Nebraska (4-2), 12:30 p.m., Fox Sports Net
THE BUZZ: Iowa State already has doubled its win total from last season, and a win in this one would give the Cyclones legit hopes for a bowl bid. The Huskers looked bad in losing at home last week to Texas Tech and can't afford another loss if they want to win the Big 12 North.
THE LINE: Nebraska by 17.5. THE PICK: Nebraska 35-14.

Oklahoma State (5-1) at Baylor (3-3), 12:30 p.m., Versus
THE BUZZ: Oklahoma State has a big one next week against Texas. Baylor has been inept on the ground in its past two games, so shutting down the run will be Oklahoma State's highest priority.
THE LINE: Oklahoma State by 9.5. THE PICK: Oklahoma State 34-20.

Northern Illinois (3-3) at Miami of Ohio (0-7), 1 p.m.
THE BUZZ: NIU is coming off a tough loss to Toledo, but the Huskies should be able to bounce back against a RedHawks team that's having trouble scoring. Miami has scored 13 points total in its past two games and has been held to 13 or fewer points five times this season.
THE LINE: Northern Illinois by 11. THE PICK: Northern Illinois 27-13.

Ball State (0-7) at Eastern Michigan (0-6), 1 p.m.
THE BUZZ: The hounds make their way to the Detroit area to catch this matchup between winless teams. And it's supposed to be rainy and in the mid-40s, too! This is the dog of the week -- and maybe of the season.
THE LINE: Ball State by 3. THE PICK: Ball State 25-16.

Maryland (2-5) at Duke (3-3), 1:30 p.m.
THE BUZZ: This is an important game in terms of bowl hopes -- Duke's bowl hopes, we mean. The Terps are just looking for some respect. The Terps have won nine of the past 10 meetings in the series.
THE LINE: Duke by 6. THE PICK: Duke 27-23.

Buffalo (3-4) at Western Michigan (3-4), 2 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Buffalo has won two in a row, and its solid secondary will get a test from Western Michigan QB Tim Hiller. Hiller has 89 career TD passes, tying him with Byron Leftwich for second place in league history, 11 behind Chad Pennington.
THE LINE: Western Michigan by 4.5. THE PICK: Western Michigan 30-21.

Kent State (3-4) at Ohio (5-2), 2 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Ohio, which has a plus-10 turnover margin, looks to be the team to beat in the MAC East race. Kent State is a game behind the Bobcats in the loss column in the division, but no one really is taking the Golden Flashes seriously as a title contender.
THE LINE: Ohio by 10.5. THE PICK: Ohio 28-16.

Louisiana Tech (3-3) at Utah State (1-5), 3 p.m., ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: Both teams are looking to break streaks. Louisiana Tech, which plays four of its next five on the road, has lost three consecutive road games. Utah State has lost 12 games in a row in October.
THE LINE: Utah State by 1. THE PICK: Louisiana Tech 30-24.

Penn State (6-1) at Michigan (5-2), 3:30 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: Penn State really hasn't beaten any team of note this season -- the Nittany Lions' best win is over Minnesota, the second-best probably over Temple -- and you'd think Michigan's offense could pose some problems. The flipside: Penn State should be able to run right at the Wolverines.
THE LINE: Penn State by 4.5. THE PICK: Michigan 27-24.

Tennessee (3-3) at Alabama (7-0), 3:30 p.m., CBS
THE BUZZ: This series dates to 1901, but this will be just the ninth game played in Tuscaloosa. If the Vols don't run effectively, they're in trouble.
THE LINE: Alabama by 14.5. THE PICK: Alabama 24-7.

Clemson (3-3) at Miami (5-1), 3:30 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: This is just the third time these teams have met in ACC play; both previous games were decided in overtime, with the visiting team winning both. Clemson's pass defense has been excellent; can the Tigers slow down Jacory Harris and the 'Canes?
THE LINE: Miami by 5.5. THE PICK: Miami 26-17.

Oklahoma (3-3) at Kansas (5-1), 3:30 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: Kansas is coming off a quasi-embarrassing loss to Colorado in which its defense again did not play all that well. A weird-but-true stat: Both these teams rushed for negative yardage last week -- Oklahoma for minus-16 in a loss to Texas, KU for minus-8 in its loss.
THE LINE: Oklahoma by 7. THE PICK: Kansas 28-24.

Oregon (5-1) at Washington (3-4), 3:30 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: Oregon is the only Pac-10 team without a league loss, and the Ducks have outscored their conference foes 118-19 in three games. This is the second game in a four-game stretch in which the Ducks play three on the road; the lone home contest in that stretch is next week, against USC.
THE LINE: Oregon by 9.5. THE PICK: Oregon 27-21.

Boston College (5-2) at Notre Dame (4-2), 3:30 p.m., NBC
THE BUZZ: BC has won six in a row in the series, with three of those wins coming in South Bend. BC shut out the Irish last season, intercepting Jimmy Clausen four times.
THE LINE: Notre Dame by 8.5. THE PICK: Notre Dame 31-21.

Wake Forest (4-3) at Navy (5-2), 3:30 p.m., CBS College Sports
THE BUZZ: These teams met twice last season, with Navy winning in the regular season and Wake winning in the EagleBank Bowl. This game is important for Wake's bowl hopes this season.
THE LINE: Navy by 2. THE PICK: Wake 28-23.

Louisville (2-4) at Cincinnati (6-0), 3:30 p.m., ESPNU
THE BUZZ: Cincinnati may be without starting QB Tony Pike, who had a "procedure" Tuesday to repair a plate in his left (non-throwing) arm. But if there's any Big East team the Bearcats can beat without Pike, it would be Louisville. This is the 50th meeting in the series, and the winner gets the "Keg of Nails" trophy.
THE LINE: Cincinnati by 18. THE PICK: Cincinnati 38-17.

Western Kentucky (0-6) at Middle Tennessee State (3-3), 3:30 p.m., Sun Belt syndication/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: These teams have a good rivalry in other Sun Belt sports, so you can expect the football rivalry to become one of the best in the league. The campuses are about 80 miles apart.
THE LINE: Middle Tennessee by 18. THE PICK: Middle Tennessee 33-17.

North Texas (1-5) at Troy (4-2), 3:30 p.m., Fox College Sports Atlantic
THE BUZZ: Troy is in good shape to win another Sun Belt title. North Texas needs a big game from RB Lance Dunbar if it is to keep this one close.
THE LINE: Troy by 17.5. THE PICK: Troy 42-21.

Akron (1-5) at Syracuse (2-4), 3:30 p.m.
THE BUZZ: These teams met for the first time last season, and Akron won by 14. This is the fifth game of a six-game homestand for Syracuse, which is 2-2 in that stretch.
THE LINE: Syracuse by 10. THE PICK: Syracuse 33-21.

UCF (3-3) at Rice (0-7), 3:30 p.m.
THE BUZZ: This matches the two worst offenses in C-USA (UCF is 11th, Rice 12th). The difference: UCF can play defense and Rice cannot.
THE LINE: UCF by 10. THE PICK: UCF 31-17.

Air Force (4-3) at Utah (5-1), 4 p.m., Versus
THE BUZZ: Utah has won three straight and hasn't scored less than 24 points in any game this season. Air Force hasn't allowed more than 20 points in a game this season, and its three losses have come by a combined 13 points.
THE LINE: Utah by 9.5. THE PICK: Utah 20-14.

San Diego State (2-4) at Colorado State (3-4), 4 p.m., The mtn.
THE BUZZ: Colorado State has lost four in a row, but the losses were against teams with a combined three losses. This is big for the Rams if they want to go bowling again.
THE LINE: Colorado State by 7.5. THE PICK: Colorado State 30-20.

Idaho (6-1) at Nevada (3-3), 4 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Nevada has cranked up its rushing attack and has won three in a row. The Wolf Pack lead the nation in rushing, and the Vandals are 14th against the run. These two plus Fresno will vie for second place in the WAC behind Boise State.
THE LINE: Nevada by 15. THE PICK: Nevada 38-31.

Washington State (1-5) at California (4-2), 4:30 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Cal bounced back nicely last week, rolling past UCLA. That roll should continue against the hapless Cougars.
THE LINE: California by 35. THE PICK: California 49-17.

Florida Atlantic (1-4) at Louisiana-Lafayette (4-2), 5 p.m.
THE BUZZ: FAU has been a surprise in the Sun Belt -- surprisingly disappointing. ULL, on the other hand, has been surprisingly solid, and the Ragin' Cajuns can stay in the league title hunt with a win.
THE LINE: ULL by 3. THE PICK: ULL 27-21.

UCLA (3-3) at Arizona (4-2), 6:30 p.m., Fox Sports Arizona/Fox Sports Prime Ticket/Fox College Sports Pacific/Fox Sports Net Northwest
THE BUZZ: UCLA played four of its first six at home; starting with this one, the Bruins play four of their final six on the road. Arizona QB Nick Foles has been on fire, throwing for 1,053 yards and seven TDs in the past three games.
THE LINE: Arizona by 7.5. THE PICK: Arizona 24-14.

Vanderbilt (2-5) at South Carolina (5-2), 7 p.m., ESPNU
THE BUZZ: Vandy has won the past two in the series. But the Commodores have scored just 29 points in their four SEC games this season and have been held to 13 or fewer points five times.
THE LINE: South Carolina by 12. THE PICK: South Carolina 24-10.

Iowa (7-0) at Michigan State (4-3), 7 p.m., Big Ten Network
THE BUZZ: Iowa has been playing superb football, but the Spartans have won three in a row to turn around their season. Michigan State is throwing the ball well of late, and Spartans quarterbacks have 15 TD passes. Iowa, though, leads the nation with 15 interceptions.
THE LINE: Iowa by 1. THE PICK: Iowa 20-17.

Louisiana-Monroe (3-2) at Kentucky (3-3), 7 p.m., Fox Sports Florida/Sun Sports/Fox Sports Southwest/Fox Sports Wisconsin/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: The last meeting came in 2006, and UK escaped with a 42-40 victory. This is the first of three consecutive home games for the Wildcats, who play Mississippi State and Eastern Kentucky next.
THE LINE: Kentucky by 16.5. THE PICK: Kentucky 35-17.

Tulane (2-4) at Southern Miss (4-3), 7 p.m., Comcast-Charter Sports Southeast
THE BUZZ: Southern Miss RB Damion Fletcher is on a pace to rush for more than 1,000 yards this season, which would make him just the eighth player in major-college history with four consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.
THE LINE: Southern Miss by 21. THE PICK: Southern Miss 42-17.

Texas A&M (3-3) at Texas Tech (5-2), 7 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Let's play comparative scores. Texas Tech beat Kansas State 66-14, and Kansas State turned around and beat Texas A&M 62-14. Crunch those numbers and, man, it looks bad for the Aggies. Plus, don't think that Tech coach Mike Leach has forgotten his mini-brouhaha with A&M coach Mike Sherman from April.
THE LINE: Texas Tech by 21.5. THE PICK: Texas Tech 56-28

Temple (4-2) at Toledo (4-3), 7 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Temple has won four in a row -- the first time that has happened since 1985 -- and looks to be Ohio's main challenger in the MAC East race. Toledo, meanwhile, still is very much alive in the MAC West title chase. Toledo leads the league in total offense (458.3 ypg); Temple leads the league in total defense (320.3 ypg).
THE LINE: Toledo by 3. THE PICK: Toledo 30-23.

Florida International (1-5) at Arkansas State (1-4), 7 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Arkansas State was considered the No. 1 challenger to Troy in the Sun Belt Conference race, but the Red Wolves are 0-2 in league play and are basically out of the running. They now need to focus on becoming bowl eligible.
THE LINE: Arkansas State by 11. THE PICK: Arkansas State 34-21.

Florida (6-0) at Mississippi State (3-4), 7:30 p.m., ESPN
THE BUZZ: Mississippi State is Florida's last SEC West opponent this season, and the Gators have lost to at least one SEC West team each season since 1998. The Gators also have lost in their past four trips to Starkville.
THE LINE: Florida by 22.5. THE PICK: Florida 30-14.

Auburn (5-2) at LSU (5-1), 7:30 p.m., ESPN2
THE BUZZ: A big game in the SEC West. LSU still controls its destiny in the division, but a loss in this one would be tough to overcome in the title chase. LSU's win last season snapped an eight-game winning streak in the series by the home team. Each of the past five meetings has been decided by seven or fewer points.
THE LINE: LSU by 7.5. THE PICK: LSU 23-17.

TCU (6-0) at BYU (6-1), 7:30 p.m., Versus
THE BUZZ: This might be the biggest game of the day. This is the toughest road game left for TCU, which has a solid shot at a 12-0 finish if it wins this. BYU, which was considered a potential "BCS buster" after its opening win over Oklahoma, now looks to play spoiler. TCU won by 25 last season.
THE LINE: TCU by 2. THE PICK: TCU 24-20.

SMU (3-3) at Houston (5-1), 7:30 p.m., Fox College Sports
THE BUZZ: SMU has made big strides in its second season under coach June Jones, but Houston appears to have too much firepower for the Mustangs. Cougars QB Case Keenum leads the nation in passing, averaging 410.7 yards per game.
THE LINE: Houston by 17. THE PICK: Houston 45-30.

Texas (6-0) at Missouri (4-2), 8 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: This is homecoming for Mizzou, which is 2-0 vs. Texas on homecoming (wins in 1916 and 1997). But Texas has won 14 of the past 15 in the series. This is the first of two big back-to-back road games for Texas, which is at Oklahoma State next week.
THE LINE: Texas by 13. THE PICK: Texas 34-17.

Oregon State (4-2) at USC (5-1), 8 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: USC has lost to Oregon State in it past two trips to Corvallis, but this is in the Coliseum, where the Trojans have won 46 of their past 47 overall. In their past eight home games, the Trojans have allowed just 28 total points.
THE LINE: USC by 20.5. THE PICK: USC 24-13.

UNLV (2-5) at New Mexico (0-6), 8 p.m., The mtn.
THE BUZZ: New Mexico has won four of the past five in the series. The Lobos will be without coach Mike Locksley; he has been suspended for punching one of his assistants last month.
THE LINE: New Mexico by 1. THE PICK: UNLV 29-23.

Fresno State (3-3) at New Mexico State (3-4), 10:15 p.m., ESPNU
THE BUZZ: Fresno State has won all 15 meetings in the series, though each of the past three has been decided by seven or fewer points. Fresno is third nationally in rushing offense, and New Mexico State -- which plays at Ohio State next week -- is 105th in rushing defense.
THE LINE: Fresno State by 24. THE PICK: Fresno State 48-21.

Arizona State (4-2) at Stanford (4-3), 10:15 p.m., Fox Sports Net
THE BUZZ: Arizona State is winning with defense, as it has 19 takeaways and is allowing just 247.8 yards per game. Stanford has dropped two in a row but has four of its next five at home, where the Cardinal have won eight of their past nine. Stanford RB Toby Gerhart is averaging 124.1 yards per game, and Arizona State is giving up just 57.8 rushing yards per game.
THE LINE: Stanford by 6.5. THE PICK: Stanford 20-16.

Boise State (6-0) at Hawaii (2-4), 11 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Boise, which was fourth in the nation in the first BCS standings of the season, has won nine in a row on the road. Hawaii, meanwhile, has lost four in a row and hasn't lost five in a row since 1998.
THE LINE: Boise State by 24.5. THE PICK: Boise State 47-20.


East Carolina (4-3) at Memphis (2-5), 8 p.m., ESPN2
THE BUZZ: Lou Holtz will be one of the analysts for this game. His son, Skip Holtz, is ECU's coach. Stopping Memphis RB Curtis Steele will be the highest priority for ECU.
THE LINE: TBD. THE PICK: East Carolina 31-20.


40-13 straight up, 26-25-1 against the spread.


332-95 straight up, 159-179-2 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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