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SIX GAMES TO WATCH

No. 11 PURDUE (2-0)

at MINNESOTA (3-0)

Kickoff: Saturday, 9 a.m.

TV: ESPN.

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Line: Minnesota by 3 1/2 .

Purdue update: The Big Ten Conference’s most realistic national title hopes lie with the Boilermakers, who thus far have avoided an upset and didn’t schedule a nonconference power. Purdue has the nation’s top run defense (16 yards a game).

Minnesota update: The school might want to consider changing its nickname to the Groundhogs after averaging a nation-best 335 yards rushing in its first three games. Laurence Maroney has rushed for 203, 133 and 145 yards in victories over Tulsa, Colorado State and Florida Atlantic.

Story line: A Gopher team that gobbles up huge chunks of yardage on the ground faces a defense stacked against the run.

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The pick: Purdue. The Boilermakers keep alive the possibility of a traditional Rose Bowl matchup in the BCS national title game.

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No. 14 MICHIGAN (2-1)

at WISCONSIN (3-0)

Kickoff: Saturday, 3 p.m.

TV: ESPN2.

Line: Michigan by 3.

Michigan update: Quarterback Chad Henne has a big-play receiver at his disposal in Jason Avant, who is averaging 103 yards and has three touchdowns. The Wolverines also have three running backs averaging at least 41 yards and 4.2 yards a carry.

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Wisconsin update: The Badgers feature one of the nation’s top tailbacks in Brian Calhoun and one of the nation’s stingiest run defenses; opponents are averaging only 39 yards on the ground. Calhoun is the No. 3 rusher in the country, averaging 157 yards, and leads the nation in scoring with eight touchdowns.

Story line: Wisconsin Coach Barry Alvarez would like nothing more than to best longtime nemesis Lloyd Carr in Alvarez’s final season.

The pick: Wisconsin. The Badgers bull their way to their first victory over the Wolverines since 1994.

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No. 18 ARIZONA STATE (2-1)

at OREGON STATE (2-1)

Kickoff: Saturday, 7 p.m.

TV: TBS.

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Line: Arizona State by 7.

Arizona State update: The Sun Devils are putting up USC-like numbers, averaging 48 points and piling up a school-record 773 yards last week against Northwestern. One reason is an offensive line that has given up one sack in three games.

Oregon State update: Everything fell apart for the Beavers last week after they bolted to a 10-0 lead in a 63-27 loss to Louisville. The Cardinals caused a fumble and blocked a punt in a 15-minute span in which they scored 35 points.

Story line: The Oregon State defense will need a boost from the Reser Stadium crowd to help frazzle quarterback Sam Keller, who has thrown 12 touchdown passes.

The pick: Arizona State. Oregon State can’t keep pace with an offense that has scored a school-record 146 points in three games.

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No. 16 NOTRE DAME (2-1)

at WASHINGTON (1-2)

Kickoff: Saturday, 12:30 p.m.

TV: Channel 7.

Line: Notre Dame by 13 1/2 .

Notre Dame update: Charlie Weis has one fewer victory in his first three games as Fighting Irish coach than Tyrone Willingham did, but Notre Dame still has exceeded early season expectations. Quarterback Brady Quinn threw a school-record five touchdown passes last week in a 44-41 overtime loss to Michigan State.

Washington update: Will a 34-6 victory over Idaho be as good as it gets for the Huskies under Willingham? Consider Washington’s next five opponents: Notre Dame, UCLA, Oregon, USC and Arizona State. The highlight of Willingham’s first year might very well be his selection to coach the West in the Hula Bowl.

Story line: Willingham attempts to beat the team that he guided to a 21-15 record in three seasons.

The pick: Notre Dame. The Irish improve to 6-0 against the Huskies.

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No. 1 USC (2-0)

at No. 24 OREGON (3-0)

Kickoff: Saturday, 4 p.m.

TV: Channel 7.

Line: USC by 21.

USC update: An offense that produced 70 points and 736 yards against Arkansas has been even more prolific than expected. But injuries to key defenders such as cornerback Terrell Thomas and linebacker Dallas Sartz have produced some uncertainty.

Oregon update: Quarterback Kellen Clemens has thrown eight passes for touchdowns with no interceptions and is averaging 318 yards passing in the Ducks’ new spread offense. Far less impressive is a pass defense that has yielded 281 yards a game and ranks as the worst in the Pacific 10.

Story line: A raucous Autzen Stadium crowd and potent Oregon offense are the first true tests for USC in its bid to win a third consecutive national title.

The pick: USC. The Trojans typically struggle at Autzen Stadium, but this isn’t a typical Trojan team.

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No. 10 TENNESSEE (1-1)

at No. 3 LSU (1-0)

Kickoff: Monday, 4:30 p.m.

TV: ESPN2.

Line: LSU by 7.

Tennessee update: Volunteer Coach Phillip Fulmer was opposed to playing this game Saturday because of Hurricane Rita, and SEC officials agreed, pushing it back two days. Quarterback Eric Ainge, who played most of the game last week against Florida, is the starter over Rick Clausen.

LSU update: The Tigers had their home opener delayed for the third time after one game was postponed and another moved to Tempe, Ariz. LSU needed a 28-point fourth quarter to defeat Arizona State.

Story line: LSU wants to give long-suffering hurricane victims something to cheer about.

The pick: LSU. The Tigers have the edge in emotion -- and, more important, talent -- in the first meeting involving these teams since 2001.

-- Ben Bolch


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