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November 3, 2010

Viewer's guide: Unusual suspects in big games

Some of the top games on the first weekend of November involve Baylor, Boise State, Hawaii, TCU and Utah. The schedule includes must-see games on CBS College Sports and ESPNU.

Let that sink in for a minute.

With two more undefeated teams falling last week, Boise State, TCU and Utah get opportunities to state their case for the national championship.

Here's a look at the top five games to watch Saturday.

All times Eastern.


When: 12:30 p.m., Fox Sports Net
Broadcasters: Bill Land play-by-play, Dave Lapham analyst
The line: Oklahoma State by 7.5
Why you should watch: A historic season for Baylor could include a trip to the Big 12 championship game. The Bears, who lead the South Division race by a half-game, have won seven games before November for the first time since 1985. Baylor beat Texas in Austin last week, but this might be the Bears' toughest Big 12 test so far. This also is Baylor's last road game of the year before facing Texas A&M and Oklahoma to end the season. Oklahoma State rebounded from a loss to Nebraska by defeating Kansas State 24-14 last week without star WR Justin Blackmon; he returns from his suspension this week. QB Robert Griffin and RB Jay Finley (509 rushing yards and five touchdowns in the past three games) lead Baylor. Both defenses are suspect, so this could become an offensive showcase.

When: 3:30 p.m., CBS
Broadcasters: Verne Lundquist play-by-play, Gary Danielson analyst
The line: Alabama by 6
Why you should watch: With two undefeated teams falling last week and one certain to fall this week, Alabama looks to be first in line among one-loss teams seeking a spot in the national championship game. Meanwhile, LSU still needs help (two Auburn losses) to win the SEC West. The key matchup is Alabama WR receiver Julio Jones vs. LSU CB Patrick Peterson. Some of Jones' best games have come against LSU; he caught seven passes for 128 yards in 2008 and four passes for 102 yards and a touchdown last season. Jones is coming of his best game of the season, with 12 catches for 221 yards against Tennessee. Peterson has been relatively quiet in recent games, without an interception or a punt return for a touchdown since the Mississippi State game on Sept. 18. But that may be a product of opponents avoiding Peterson at all costs.

When: 3:30 p.m., ESPNU
Broadcasters: Pam Ward play-by-play, Danny Kanell analyst
The line: Boise State by 21.5
Why you should watch: Boise State doesn't have any more top-10 matchups on its schedule, so the Broncos will have to make as convincing a statement as possible against its top two challengers in the WAC, Hawaii (7-2 overall, 5-0 in the WAC) and Nevada. The Warriors have a win over Nevada, ranked 23rd in the BCS, and a competitive game against USC on their resume. Boise coach Chris Petersen's only WAC loss is to Hawaii, in 2007, when Colt Brennan led the Warriors to an undefeated regular season and a Sugar Bowl berth. This is Hawaii's best team since then. The Warriors lead the nation in passing, and QB Bryant Moniz has thrown for 300 yards in five games this season. Boise State is eighth nationally in pass defense and 19th in pass efficiency defense.

When: 3:30 p.m., CBS College Sports
Broadcasters: Craig Bolerjack play-by-play, Aaron Taylor analyst
The line: TCU by 5
Why you should watch: Yes, that's CBS College Sports, not CBS. The Mountain West's television deal, which includes CBS College Sports, Versus and the Mtn., has made some TCU and Utah games tough to find. At least for this top-five matchup, the network is offering a free preview through Nov. 6, though the game still might not be available in some markets. TCU's defense is as imposing as ever. The Horned Frogs have allowed only two teams to score multiple offensive touchdowns. They've allowed one passing and one rushing touchdown total in the past five games. This game will match strength against strength with Utah's offense ranked third in the country at 45.3 points per game. The key, though, could be special teams. Utah and TCU have two of the best return men in the country. Utah's Shaky Smithson leads the nation in punt returns at 23.3 yards per return, with two touchdowns. TCU's Jeremy Kerley ranks in the top 20 nationally in punt and kick returns. TCU is 0-3 in Salt Lake City.

When: 8 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN GamePlan
Broadcasters: Brent Musburger play-by-play, Kirk Herbstreit analyst
The line: Stanford by 9.5
Why you should watch If the Pac-10 is going to have a second team in the BCS, it would be the winner of this game. Stanford has the edge in the BCS rankings (13th to 15th, at-large candidates must be in the top 14 to have a shot), but Arizona still has a chance at the Pac-10 title because an upcoming game at Oregon, which beat Stanford. Arizona QB Nick Foles appears to be on track to start after a two-game absence, but he will face a Stanford defense that had its best performance in a Pac-10 game in school history. The Cardinal shut out Washington and held the Huskies to 107 total yards last week. Stanford RB Stepfan Taylor has rushed for 100 yards in five consecutive game and run for a touchdown in four consecutive games.

David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com, and you can click here to follow him on Twitter.

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