SIX GAMES TO WATCH
No. 19 IOWA (7-2) at MINNESOTA (6-4)
Kickoff: 9 a.m. Saturday.
The line: Minnesota by 3.
Iowa update: Iowa has won four in a row. Drew Tate, who passed for 270 yards and two touchdowns in a 23-21 victory over Purdue last week, has completed 174 of 280 passes for 1,980 yards and 13 touchdowns. The Hawkeye defense is ranked fourth nationally against the run (62.8 yards) and 10th overall (287.1 yards). The offense averages only 313 yards.
Minnesota update: The Golden Gophers seem to be burrowing further each week. Against Wisconsin last week they rushed for only 73 yards in a 38-14 loss. Still, the Gophers rank seventh nationally in rushing with a 246.9-yard average. Part of their recent woes stem from falling behind early and having to pass. Wisconsin scored touchdowns on its first four possessions.
Story line: Iowa remains in the thick of the Big Ten race and Minnesota is trying to reclaim its self respect in this battle for Floyd of Rosedale -- a bronze pig trophy.
The pick: Minnesota. The Gophers are 5-0 at home, where they’ve outscored opponents, 204-66.
No. 8 GEORGIA (8-1) at No. 3 AUBURN (9-0)
Kickoff: 12:30 p.m. Saturday.
TV: Channel 2.
The line: Auburn by 4.
Georgia update: Senior David Greene has an NCAA-record 40 victories by a quarterback and is moving closer toward setting a record for most consecutive pass attempts without an interception. The record is 271; Greene’s streak is at 206. He ranks 10th nationally in passing efficiency with a 156.0 rating.
Auburn update: The Tigers were idle last week to prepare for perhaps their toughest test. Jason Campbell, who has completed 114 of 173 passes for 1,724 yards and 14 touchdowns, leads the Southeastern Conference and is third nationally in passing efficiency with a 172.8 rating. The Tigers are averaging 39 points over their last six games.
Story line: The Tigers are third in the BCS standings and need to win out to have a chance at the national championship. The Bulldogs are intent on improving their bowl position. To many, this is the real SEC championship game.
The pick: Auburn in a close game, although it’s difficult to go against Greene and a team that is 15-1 in road games under Coach Mark Richt.
UCLA (5-4) at OREGON (5-4)
Kickoff: 12:30 p.m. Saturday.
TV: Channel 7.
The line: Oregon by 6 1/2 .
UCLA update: Against Washington State last week, UCLA reverted to the kind of sloppy defensive play -- 21 missed tackles by one count -- that plagued the Bruins early on. UCLA is second in the Pac-10 in total offense, gaining 430.2 yards a game, but last in total defense, giving up 441.8 yards.
Oregon update: The Ducks came within two points of upsetting California last week. Terrence Whitehead ranks second in the Pac-10 in rushing, averaging 101.1 yards. The Ducks average 165.8 yards rushing and figure to run often against the Bruins. The Ducks rank third in the Pac-10 and 24th nationally in total defense, giving up 314.6 yards.
Story line: Both teams need a victory to become bowl eligible and neither can afford to look past this game. The Bruins close with USC; the Ducks play at Oregon State.
The pick: UCLA, which has responded well after poor performances. The Bruins have lost their last four against the Ducks but have won 11 of 13 at Autzen Stadium.
No. 7 UTAH (9-0) at WYOMING (6-3)
Kickoff: 4 p.m. Saturday.
TV: Channel 7.
The line: Utah by 23.
Utah update: The Utes have an offense that’s averaging 500.4 yards a game, and it’s a balanced attack led by Alex Smith, the nation’s top-ranked passer. Smith has completed 152 of 229 passes for 2,196 yards and 24 touchdowns with only two interceptions. The Utes are weak against the run, giving up 161.3 yards a game.
Wyoming update: The Cowboys ensured their first winning season since 1999 with a 53-45 victory over Nevada Las Vegas last week. J.J. Raterinks’ 25-yard touchdown pass to Jovon Bouknight in the third overtime secured the win. On defense, the Cowboys give up an average of 229.9 passing yards and 164 rushing yards.
Story line: Utah, trying to become the first team from a non-BCS conference to secure a berth in a BCS bowl game, goes up against a Cowboy team that is 5-0 at hostile War Memorial Stadium -- at 7,220 feet the highest stadium in Division I football.
The pick: Utah. Once the Utes become acclimated they’ll be very difficult to stop.
ALABAMA (6-3) at No. 17 LOUISIANA STATE (6-2)
Kickoff: 4:45 p.m. Saturday.
The line: LSU by 7 1/2 .
Alabama update: The Crimson Tide has the nation’s top defense, which yields only 223.8 yards a game. Offensively, it’s a different story as the Tide ranks 74th and rolls to an average of only 353.8 yards a game. However, that’s because it is primarily a ground attack and Ken Darby has done very well behind one of the best offensive lines in the country, rushing for 933 yards and seven touchdowns.
LSU update: The Tigers are No. 4 in total defense (256.5 yards) and No. 36 in total offense (401.1 yards). They’re very stingy against the run, giving up an average of only 102 yards. They’ve scored 24 points in each of their last three games, but two of those games were against Troy and Vanderbilt.
Story line: It’s not as big as Auburn-Georgia, but it’s important as both teams try to position for quality bowl games.
The pick: LSU in a close game. The Tigers are stronger offensively, and their strength against the run should be the deciding factor against a team with a one-dimensional offense.
ARIZONA (2-7) at No. 1 USC (9-0)
Kickoff: 7:15 p.m. Saturday.
The line: USC by 35.
Arizona update: The Wildcats ended a seven-game losing streak last week with a 23-13 victory over Washington -- their go-ahead score coming on a fumble recovery for a touchdown by cornerback Wilrey Fontenot. The Wildcats rank fifth in the Pac-10 in total defense but are last in total offense, averaging only 280.6 yards.
USC update: The Trojans are happy to be home and out of the fog that provided such an eerie setting for last week’s 28-20 triumph at Oregon State. Reggie Bush ranks second nationally in all-purpose yards with 180.2 a game. He averages 9.8 yards a play. Bush jammed his wrist in practice this week but is expected to play.
Story line: A Trojan victory clinches a BCS bowl berth and at least a conference co-championship. The Wildcats will try to end the Trojans’ 18-game winning streak.
The pick: USC. Some teams are able to rise to the challenge and play top teams tough. Arizona isn’t one of them.