Six Games to Watch

No. 5 VIRGINIA TECH (7-1) at No. 25 PITTSBURGH (6-2)

Kickoff: 4:45 p.m.


Line: Virginia Tech by 5

Virginia Tech update: The excitement of a 31-7 domination of Miami will end in a hurry if the Hokies lose. Bryan Randall remains the starting quarterback over Marcus Vick.

Pittsburgh update: Sophomore receiver Larry Fitzgerald is the show. He leads the nation at 146.8 receiving yards a game. And take note: Pittsburgh -- not Virginia Tech or Miami -- is in first place in the Big East.

Story line: Virginia Tech is one of six one-loss teams jostling for position in the bowl championship series standings.

The pick: Virginia Tech. But cornerback DeAngelo Hall's suspension for the first half for fighting in the Miami game could give Fitzgerald all the daylight he needs.


No. 14 MICHIGAN STATE (7-2) at No. 7 OHIO STATE (8-1)

Kickoff: 9 a.m.

TV: ESPN GamePlan

Line: Ohio State by 7

Michigan State update: The Spartans fell out of first place in the Big Ten with a 27--20 loss to Michigan after Jeff Smoker's 47-yard "Hail Mary" pass was intercepted in the end zone as the clock ran out.

Ohio State update: Quarterback Craig Krenzel is expected to start despite getting knocked out of last week's 21-20 victory over Penn State after a hard hit in the first half, but faces a challenge from backup Scott McMullen.

Story line: Ohio State's lingering chances of returning to the national championship game will be kaput if the Buckeyes lose again.

The pick: Michigan State. But even if Ohio State wins, the Buckeyes still must play Purdue and Michigan.


No. 18 TENNESSEE (6-2) at No. 6 MIAMI (7-1)

Kickoff: 9 a.m.

TV: ESPN GamePlan

Line: Miami by 12

Tennessee update: That was some October. The Volunteers lost to Auburn and Georgia and needed five overtimes to beat Alabama. They've come from behind in four victories.

Miami update: The road to the national championship game got more difficult after last week's 31-7 loss to Virginia Tech knocked Miami to No. 4 in the BCS standings, behind Oklahoma, USC and Florida State. The defeat was the first regular-season loss since Miami fell to Washington on Sept. 9, 2000.

Story line: Time for the Hurricanes to rebound if they are to stay in contention for the Sugar Bowl, but they'll need help to get there now.

The pick: Miami. The Hurricanes won't lose two in a row.


UCLA (6-3) at No. 12 WASHINGTON STATE (7-2)

Kickoff: 4 p.m.

TV: Channel 7

Line: Washington State by 10

UCLA update: The Bruins' perfect Pacific 10 record went splat last week in a 21-14 loss to Stanford, but UCLA remains tied for first with USC and Washington State. UCLA has lost three in a row at Pullman, and hasn't won there since 1993.

Washington State update: USC took care of the Cougars' unbeaten Pac-10 record by pounding Washington State, 43-16. Quarterback Matt Kegel is expected to start despite a sore knee and problems with both shoulders, but backup Josh Swogger has appeared in the last two games.

Story line: The loser of this game is out of the Pac-10 race.

The pick: Washington State. Unless Kegel gets knocked out of the game.


No. 10 IOWA (7-2) at No. 16 PURDUE (7-2)

Kickoff: 12:30 p.m.


Line: Purdue by 2 1/2

Purdue update: The Boilermakers are one of four teams with one loss in Big Ten play, but the competition is Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State. During last week's 34-14 victory over Northwestern, John Standeford became the conference's career receiving leader with 3,418 yards.

Iowa update: The Hawkeyes handed Michigan its only conference loss but lost to Michigan State and Ohio State. Like Purdue, Iowa ranks among the nation's top 10 in rushing defense and total defense.

Story line: Big Ten pecking order is at stake, though probably not the Rose Bowl.

The pick: Iowa. Purdue's 31-3 loss to Michigan didn't instill confidence.


No. 11 TEXAS (7-2) at No. 21 OKLAHOMA STATE (7-2)

Kickoff: 4 p.m.

TV: Fox Sports Net 2.

Line: Texas by 3 1/2.

Texas update: Quarterback Vince Young ran for 163 yards in a 31-7 victory over Nebraska last week. Running back Cedric Benson had 174 yards and three touchdowns.

Oklahoma State update: The Cowboys are trying to regroup after a 52-9 loss to No. 1 Oklahoma last week. Receiver Rashaun Woods is a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award. (Texas' Roy Williams is another.)

Story line: It's the team that lost to Oklahoma by 52 (Texas) versus the team that lost to Oklahoma by 43 (Oklahoma State).

The pick: Texas. The more Young plays, the more impressive his running is.

-- Robyn Norwood

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