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November 7, 2007

Michigan faces another stiff test

Who is your upset special this week? Take your pick.

There will be no true marquee matchup this week, like last week's Arizona State-Oregon game. But there could be several seasons spoiled or other seasons made this week by several teams with upsets on their mind.

No. 3 Oregon has this week off; so does No. 2 LSU -- well, sort of. The Tigers host 4-5 Louisiana Tech for homecoming.

No. 1 Ohio State, though, could be on upset alert. After beating Penn State and Wisconsin in the past two weeks, the Buckeyes host a team that defeated both the Nittany Lions and Badgers when Illinois comes to Columbus. Michigan, meanwhile, hosts Ohio State on Nov. 17, but first must get past an upset-minded Wisconsin team in Madison this week.

After scoring 76 points against Nebraska, Kansas will face a team that presumably will play some defense and has the offensive firepower to keep up when the Jayhawks go to Stillwater to face Oklahoma State.

In the SEC East, a topsy-turvy season won't let up anytime soon, with Arkansas going to Tennessee and Florida going to South Carolina.

We sort out all the big games in the Five to Watch.

All times Eastern.

SATURDAY
Michigan (8-2 overall, 6-0 in the Big Ten) at Wisconsin (7-3, 3-3)

Time: Noon
Network: ESPN
Storylines: This game doesn't carry the same weight expected when the season started. It has little weight at all, at least on a national scale. Regardless of what happens here or in Columbus, Michigan-Ohio State will determine the Big Ten championship. Michigan's Chad Henne (shoulder) and Mike Hart (ankle) returned against Michigan State, while Wisconsin could be on the wrong side of the injury bug. TB P.J. Hill's status is unknown after he missed the Ohio State game with a bruised left leg.
Player to watch: Wisconsin TE Travis Beckum gave Ohio State fits throughout Saturday's game, but the Badgers couldn't take advantage of his 140 yards and a touchdown.
Best matchup: Michigan WR Mario Manningham vs. Wisconsin CB Jack Ikegwuonu. Both have recovered from injury troubles and disappointing early-season play to justify their preseason hype over the past few weeks. Manningham is as hot as any receiver in the country, averaging 7.5 receptions and 137 yards in the past four games to go with seven total touchdowns. The speedy Ikegwuonu has eight pass deflections in his past five games but is still looking for his first interception.

Arkansas (6-3 overall, 2-3 in the SEC) at Tennessee (6-3, 3-2)

Time: 12:30 p.m.
Network: Lincoln Financial/GamePlan
Storylines: Could there be a bigger collection of unsatisfied fans of 6-3 teams than in Knoxville on Saturday? Tennessee hasn't looked pretty doing it, but if the Volunteers win out, they will make their first SEC Championship Game since 2004. Although they are likely out of the SEC West race, the Razorbacks are riding a three-game winning streak.
Player to watch: Arkansas TB Darren McFadden reignited his Heisman push with an SEC-record-tying 321 rushing yards against South Carolina. Tennessee allowed McFadden to run for 181 yards and two touchdowns last season and has had trouble stopping the run this season.
Best matchup: Tennessee QB Erik Ainge vs. Arkansas' pass defense. The Razorbacks lead the nation in pass efficiency defense and opponents are completing only 43.5 percent of their passes. With Ainge under center, Tennessee has shown a tendency to score in bunches. Ask Alabama, Kentucky and South Carolina: Teams can score on Arkansas in bunches, too.

Auburn (7-3 overall, 4-2 in the SEC) at Georgia (7-2, 4-2)

Time: 3:30 p.m.
Network: CBS
Storylines: The Deep South's oldest rivalry will be a critical meeting between teams clinging to hopes of making the SEC Championship Game; both need losses by others to make the title game. This also could wind up being a battle for an at-large BCS bowl bid. Auburn is looking for some revenge after unranked Georgia embarrassed the then-No. 5 Tigers 37-15 last season; Brandon Cox threw four interceptions in the loss, which knocked Auburn out of the national-title hunt.
Player to watch: Knowshon Moreno became the first Georgia running back to eclipse 1,000 yards since Musa Smith in 2002, but this is more impressive: He and Herschel Walker are the only Georgia freshmen to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. He's picked up more than half of that in the past three games (541 yards and six touchdowns).
Best matchup: Georgia's offensive line vs. Auburn's defensive line. The Bulldogs' three freshman offensive line starters have improved all season, but Auburn presents as tough a challenge as any team in the SEC. DE Antonio Coleman has emerged, allowing coordinator Will Muschamp more flexibility with DE/LB Quentin Groves.

Illinois (7-3 overall, 4-2 in the Big Ten) at Ohio State (10-0, 6-0)

Time: 3:30 p.m.
Network: ABC regional/ESPN
Storylines: Illinois caught Ohio State looking ahead last year and gave the Buckeyes all they could handle in a 17-10 loss. Ohio State's so-called statement wins have come in the past two weeks against Penn State and Wisconsin, but Illinois also has beaten both those teams this season.
Player to watch: Running the offense will be just a little bit tougher for Illinois QB Isiah Williams this week. Williams goes from facing the nation's worst defense (Minnesota, at 549 yards allowed per game) last week to facing the nation's best (221 yards per game).
Best matchup: Ohio State LB James Laurinaitis vs. Illinois' running game. The Illini run out of the no-huddle spread, with Williams and TB Rashard Mendenhall a big reason why the Illini lead the Big Ten in rushing at 261 yards per game. Behind Laurinaitis, Ohio State leads the conference in run defense.

Kansas (9-0 overall, 5-0 in the Big 12) at Oklahoma State (5-4, 3-2)

Time: 8 p.m.
Network: ABC regional/GamePlan
Storylines: Two teams heading in opposite directions will meet in Stillwater. Kansas is coming off a 76-point performance against Nebraska to continue its unexpected bid for the Big 12 and national titles. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State is coming off a 24-point fourth-quarter collapse against Texas.
Player to watch: What more does Kansas QB Todd Reesing have to do? He passed for 354 yards and a school-record six touchdowns against Nebraska, but the Big 12 chose Missouri QB Chase Daniel as its offensive player of the week.
Best matchup: Oklahoma State WR Adarius Bowman vs. Kansas CB Aqib Talib. Bowman had a career day against Kansas last year with 300 yards and four touchdowns, but Talib will be quick to point out he didn't cover Bowman most of the time.

Other games to watch

Louisville (5-4 overall, 2-2 in the Big East) at West Virginia (7-1, 2-1), 7:30 p.m. Thursday, ESPN
Stakes are lower after last year's showdown of undefeated teams.

Wake Forest (6-3 overall, 4-2 in the ACC) at Clemson (7-2, 4-2) Noon, ESPN2
A half-game behind Boston College, Clemson still has hopes for an ACC title-game berth.

Florida State (6-3 overall, 3-3 in the ACC) at Virginia Tech (7-2, 4-1), 3:30 p.m., ABC regional/GamePlan
Bobby Bowden is 16-0 against Virginia Tech.

Texas Tech (7-3 overall, 3-3 in the Big 12) at Texas (8-2, 4-2), 3:30 p.m., ABC regional/GamePlan
The Longhorns have needed fourth-quarter comebacks in each of their past two wins.

Connecticut (8-1 overall, 4-0 in the Big East) at Cincinnati (6-2, 1-2), 3:15 p.m., ESPNU
Cincinnati has new life in the league race after defeating USF last week.

Florida (6-3 overall, 4-3 in the SEC) at South Carolina (6-4, 3-4), 7:45 p.m., ESPN
South Carolina enters Spurrier Bowl III on a three-game losing streak.

USC (7-2 overall, 4-2 in the Pac-10 at Cal (6-3, 3-3), 8 p.m., ABC regional/GamePlan
Before the season, who would have thought this game might decide who get the Pac-10's spot in the Holiday Bowl?

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



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