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October 28, 2009

Viewer's guide: Big games not hard to find

Let's just say last week didn't offer the most compelling games.

There were close ones, for sure, but the only game between BCS top-25 teams turned out to be a blowout when TCU beat BYU 38-7.

This week could be the complete opposite. Two Saturday games are far and away the best matchups of the weekend and should have BCS implications: USC at Oregon in the Pac-10 and Texas at Oklahoma State in a game that could settle the Big 12 South -- and possibly the whole league.

There's one major rivalry game (Florida-Georgia), a showdown between coaches who aren't afraid to speak their minds (South Carolina at Tennessee) and a potential defining moment for a non-Big Six program (Central Michigan at Boston College).

Though you probably don't need much help this week, here are our picks for the top five games Saturday and a look into the nationally televised games on Thursday and Friday.

All times Eastern.


When: 8 p.m., ESPN2.
Broadcasters: Joe Tessitore play-by-play, Rod Gilmore analyst.
Line: West Virginia by 3.5.
Why you should watch: West Virginia is a turnover-filled fourth quarter at Auburn away from being undefeated. Since that game, West Virginia is plus-four in turnover margin. Junior Noel Devine has emerged as a sleeper in the Heisman Trophy race after rushing for 178 yards, including the winning 56-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, last week against Connecticut. With consecutive losses to Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, USF is experiencing its traditional October swoon after a 5-0 start. Maybe the back-to-back defeats are more excusable this season. The Bulls are without Matt Grothe and have to play the top three offenses in the Big East in a span of 15 days.


When: 3:30 p.m., CBS.
Broadcasters: Verne Lundquist play-by-play, Gary Danielson analyst.
Line: Florida by 16.
Why you should watch: Florida is No. 1 in the BCS; the Gators are No. 1 in both polls and second in the computers. But the Gators don't really pass the eye test. Tim Tebow looks less and less like a Heisman contender after throwing two pick-sixes in last week's win over Mississippi State. Florida's defense has been as good as advertised, though. The Gators are either first or second in the nation in total defense, scoring defense and pass efficiency defense. Georgia is suspect enough on both sides of the ball (90th in total offense, 70th in total defense) for Florida to gain some confidence and look every bit the national title favorite.

When: 3:30 p.m., ESPNU.
Broadcasters: Todd Harris play-by-play, Charles Arbuckle analyst.
Line: Boston College by 4.
Why you should watch: Yep, it's that kind of week in college football when this is one of the five most intriguing matchups of the day. It's not that bad a matchup, though. Central Michigan likely would be ranked if it wins. That makes it a big day for the Chippewas, who have not been ranked since joining Division I in 1975. Senior Dan LeFevour is having the best passing season of his career. He's completing 70 percent of his passes, with 16 touchdowns and four interceptions. Boston College has had a nice season. The Eagles could win out, with games against CMU, Virginia, North Carolina and Maryland. Then again, Boston College is shaky enough where the Eagles could lose the remaining four games, too.

When: 7:45 p.m., ESPN.
Broadcasters: Brad Nessler play-by-play, Todd Blackledge analyst.
Line: Tennessee by 5.5.
Why you should watch: Steve Spurrier used to be the mouth of the SEC, but that title is long gone. Now it belongs to Lane Kiffin, whom the SEC reprimanded for the second time this season after the loss to Alabama. This time, Kiffin was disciplined for criticizing officials. Kiffin irked South Carolina fans, too, by allegedly telling recruit Alshon Jeffery he would pump gas for the rest of his life if he signed with the Gamecocks (Kiffin denied making that comment). Spurrier, for his part, annoyed Tennessee before the season by alleging Kiffin had not taken the NCAA recruiting test before calling prospects. Only in the SEC, right? Since then, Kiffin's team has lost to Alabama and Florida by a combined 12 points, and Jeffery is developing into a No. 1 receiver for South Carolina. The Volunteers have not allowed an offensive touchdown in two games, and Jeffery has caught 19 passes for 302 yards and four touchdowns in the past three games.

When: 8 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN2.
Broadcasters: Brent Musburger play-by-play, Kirk Herbstreit analyst.
Line: USC by 3.5.
Why you should watch: The matchup in Autzen probably is for the Pac-10 title and a trip to the Rose Bowl. The winner still will have an outside shot at the national title, especially if that winner is USC. The Trojans, though, have picked a bad time to struggle on defense. Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen passed for 260 yards and two touchdowns on USC in South Bend. Then, Oregon State's Sean Canfield passed for a season-high 329 yards and three touchdowns in a 42-36 loss in Los Angeles last week. Meanwhile, Oregon's offense is humming. Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli is back from a knee injury, and redshirt freshman LaMichael James is making people forget about LeGarrette Blount. James has topped 150 yards in each of the past two games, both on the road. There is also bad news for USC freshman quarterback Matt Barkley: Oregon has intercepted two passes in each of the past three games.

When: 8 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN2.
Broadcasters: Sean McDonough play-by-play, Matt Millen analyst.
Line: Texas by 9.
Why you should watch: What should fans read into Texas' 41-7 drubbing of Missouri last week? Given the way fellow undefeated teams Florida, Alabama and Iowa have played recently, the win in Columbia should be encouraging. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State hasn't lost since falling 45-35 to Houston in the second week of the season. Texas has dodged two consecutive close calls with the Cowboys, beating Oklahoma State 28-24 last season and rallying for 24 fourth-quarter points in a 38-35 win in 2007. If Oklahoma State is going to beat Texas for the first time since 1997, it will have to do so without wide receiver Dez Bryant and with only limited contributions from running back Kendall Hunter. With 326 rushing yards and 159 receiving yards in the past three games, Cowboys running back Keith Toston has picked up the slack.

David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com.

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