Week 5 game breakdowns

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Virginia Tech at Duke

KICKOFF: Saturday, noon ET
SERIES: Virginia Tech leads the series 9-7 (last meeting, 2008, Virginia Tech 14-3).
2009 RANKINGS: Blue Devils: offense 58th (6th ACC), pass 25 (3), run 98 (11), defense 52 (8), pass 57 (7), run 80 (8) Hokies: offense 79th (8th ACC), pass 115 (11), run 16 (2), defense 38 (6), pass 7 (1), run 91 (10)
POLLS: Virginia Tech (6 AP, coaches)
PREDICTION: Virginia Tech 24-13
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Blue Devils have to find the endzone. In five meetings since Virginia Tech joined the ACC, it has outscored Duke 179-34. But watch Tech's mental focus. Last week was an emotional high, a statement game of sorts, when the team had a mindset of crashing the media coronation of Miami. Will it be ready to play, meaning its lines are pushing Duke around on both sides, or will it make silly errors and allow the Blue Devils an early score to build some confidence? The Hokies will probably give Duke a heavy dose of freshman TB Ryan Williams, then mix in QB Tyrod Taylor with either some misdirection shotgun runs or play-action throws. If Tech can stop the run early and make the Blue Devils one-dimensional, it should get ugly quick.
FAST FACTS: Hokies: Tech is 3-2 against Duke at Durham, 5-0 at Blacksburg and 1-5 at neutral sites. ... The Hokies have won the last eight meetings in the series to take a 9-7 lead. ... Tech has won the last four contests in the series by a combined score of 138-17. ... Tailback Ryan Williams is sixth in the country in rushing yards per game and tied for second in touchdowns scored. Blue Devils: In the last meeting, Duke forced five first half turnovers, but only managed to score three points off the takeaways. Virginia Tech held the Blue Devils to 136 yards of total offense, including only 20 passing yards. ... Redshirt freshman quarterback Sean Renfree ranks fourth in the ACC with a quarterback efficiency rating of 149.4. The school single-season record for pass efficiency (min. 200 attempts) is 142.45 by Bennett in 1982. ... Duke ranks fourth in the ACC in scoring offense, averaging 29.0 points per game this season. The 49 points scored last week against N.C. Central were the most since the Blue Devils scored 51 against Wake Forest on Oct. 22, 1994.
  • ORT Blake DeChristopher — The sophomore overcame a left leg injury in the first half against Miami and finished with five knockdown blocks, good enough to share ACC Offensive Lineman of the Week honors. DeChristopher has been a stabilizing force up front since arriving on campus two years ago.
  • WR Jarrett Boykin — The sophomore, whose hands are so big that he requires XXXL gloves and often busts through them weekly, is becoming a go-to guy. Boykin scored on a 48-yard pass from Tyrod Taylor in the first quarter against Miami and has the size to outduel smaller corners for difficult catches.
  • LB Cody Grimm — There aren't many linebackers in the ACC outplaying Grimm at the moment. The senior had 11 tackles against Miami and also made a great play to strip a receiver of what would have been a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. Grimm seems to be able to do it all for the Hokies' defense. Blue Devils:
  • RB Patrick Kurunwune — He picked up a rather quiet 93 rushing yards because the collegiate debut of RB Desmond Scott commanded a lot of attention. But Kurunwune averaged a game-high 6.6 yards per carry against North Carolina Central, and Duke will be trying to establishing a rushing presence against Virginia Tech.
  • OG Bryan Morgan — He made his first start on offense against North Carolina Central, but he'll face a different caliber of player on the other side of the line of scrimmage against Virginia Tech. He's noticeably better suited in run blocking, as he has been erratic in locking down his assignments in various pass protections.
  • NG John Drew — He held his own against North Carolina Central, but his size alone might not be enough to plug holes against Virginia Tech. He's a true freshman who'll be facing a physical Virginia Tech line, and that could be a huge issue for the Blue Devils if Drew is forced to play too many snaps.
    INJURY WATCH: Hokies:
  • QB Tyrod Taylor (chipped tooth) played most of the fourth quarter against Miami with a bloody mouth, but he should be able to go at Duke. It goes without saying that Taylor is this team's most indispensible player.
  • DT John Graves (ankle) played just three special-teams snaps against Miami, with senior Demetrius Taylor earning his first career start. Graves should be able to play this week against Duke, which would give the defense a boost.
  • RT Blake DeChristopher (knee) sat out some second-quarter snaps against Miami after being helped off the field. But DeChristopher returned and played the game's remainder without incident, so he should be able to start at Duke. Blue Devils:
  • QB Thaddeus Lewis twisted his ankle and missed a few plays against North Carolina Central. It's a lingering injury, and it's hard to completely heal this time of the season. Lewis missed last year's game against Virginia Tech because of a foot injury.
  • RB Jay Hollingsworth is hobbled by an ankle injury, and he didn't have any rushing attempts against North Carolina Central. He was healthy enough to play on some third-down situations in the game, and the Blue Devils hope to at least make him available for those situations against Virginia Tech.

    Michigan at Michigan State

    KICKOFF: Saturday, noon ET
    SERIES: Michigan leads 67-29-5 (last meeting, 2006, 35-21 Michigan State).
    2009 RANKINGS: Wolverines: offense 30th (3rd Big Ten), pass 88th (10), run 8 (1), defense 89 (9), pass 52 (5), run 69 (8) Spartans: offense 21st (1st Big Ten), pass 8 (1), run 86 (10), defense 71 (7), pass 105 (11), run 44 (4)
    POLLS: Michigan (22 AP, 20 coaches)
    PREDICTION: Michigan State 24-23
    KEYS TO THE GAME: The stronger running game has been the dominant component in this rivalry over the years. The team that has won the rushing side of things has claimed victory in this game in 37 of the last 41 meetings. In one recent stretch, the team with the most rushing yards at the end of the day won this matchup for 26 straight years. The Spartans haven't scored a win over the Wolverines at home since 2001. The Wolverines earned close decisions in 2003, 2005 and 2007, the middle one an overtime thriller.
    FAST FACTS: Spartans: MSU won three straight from 1965-67, and on Saturday the Spartans would seem to have a decent chance to follow up last season's win in Ann Arbor with one in East Lansing. ... Trying to avoid a 1-4 start. ... Four of the last six games in the series have been decided by eight points or less, including back-to-back overtime games in 2004-05. Wolverines: This series started in 1898, and the two bitter rivals have met every year since 1945 — 63 straight seasons. ... Michigan and Michigan State compete for the Paul Bunyan Trophy, which dates back to the 1953 season when MSU entered the Big Ten. The wooden trophy stands nearly four feet tall and shows the legendary folk hero Paul Bunyan with his trusty ax and his feet planted over the state of Michigan. ... Michigan leads the Big Ten in scoring offense (37.5 avg.) and rushing offense (240.2 avg.) after scoring more than 30 points in four straight games for the first time since the 2006 season. ... This game marks the fourth time Rich Rodriguez will face off against Mark Dantonio. Rodriguez owns two wins during his days at West Virginia when Dantonio was coaching at Cincinnati, but Dantonio won their first Big Ten matchup last season at Michigan Stadium.
    PLAYERS TO WATCH: Wolverines:
  • DE Brandon Graham — The most disruptive force on the defensive side for the Wolverines, Graham was Michigan's MVP last year, and he is a nominee for the Bednarik Award, Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Ted Hendricks Trophy and Ronnie Lott Trophy this season.
  • QB Tate Forcier — After four games, the true freshman is second in the Big Ten and 21st nationally in pass efficiency (161.7 rating). Forcier is just the third true freshmen to start at quarterback in a season-opener for the Wolverines. The others were Rick Leach in 1975 and Chad Henne in 2004.
  • LB Stevie Brown — The senior who has moved from safety to a hybrid position that gets him closer to the line of scrimmage tied his career high with eight tackles against Eastern Michigan, and then recorded nine last week against Indiana. Spartans:
  • TE Brian Linthicum — Charlie Gantt is the starter and freshman Dion Sims is the guy who has fans excited, but Linthicum has been a nice addition to the offense. The Clemson transfer has seven catches for 87 yards and a touchdown.
  • FB Andrew Hawken — A blocker first, Hawken got involved in the passing game against the Badgers with three grabs. He has soft hands and decent speed, and it's possible Hawken will get more opportunities to keep linebackers honest.
  • DE Colin Neely — Neely is still recovering from his offsides penalty that essentially cost Michigan State the Central Michigan game, but he continues to play well in the run game. Neely is a smart and powerful player, but he needs to get to the quarterback more often.
  • CB Chris L. Rucker — Benched for the Wisconsin game, Rucker nevertheless played extensively and remains Michigan State's best cover corner.
    INJURY WATCH: Wolverines:
  • QB Tate Forcier, who injured his shoulder in Michigan's 36-33 win over Indiana, was kept out of contact in Monday's practice, but is expected to be ready to start at Michigan State.
  • C David Molk broke a bone in his foot in the win over Eastern Michigan and will be out from four to six weeks. He has been replaced at center by David Moosman.
  • OL Ricky Barnum made his Michigan debut two weeks ago against Eastern Michigan, playing as a backup at left guard. The Florida native redshirted last year as a true freshman. Spartans:
  • LG Joel Foreman is back atop the depth chart, which means there's a good chance Foreman will return for the Michigan game.
  • WR Mark Dell hurt his right shoulder twice at Wisconsin, after missing the first two games because of it, but he said after the game that he is OK.
  • CB Johnny Adams missed the Notre Dame game for his grandmother's funeral, then Adams didn't play at Wisconsin. The coaching staff was considering redshirting the sophomore because he hasn't earned much playing time, but Mark Dantonio said Adams likely will get a shot against Michigan to aid an ailing secondary.
  • S Trenton Robinson was hazy after hitting Wisconsin RB John Clay late in the game, but he is listed as a starter for Saturday's game.

    Arkansas State at Iowa

    KICKOFF: Saturday, noon ET
    SERIES: First meeting
    2009 RANKINGS: Hawkeyes: offense 81st (9th Big Ten), pass 71st (8th), run 60 (7), defense 33 (3), pass 6 (1), run 61 (1) Red Wolves: offense 72nd (6th Sun Belt), pass 100 (8), run 37 (1), defense 68 (1), pass 104 (6), run 25 (1)
    POLLS: Iowa (13 AP, 17 coaches)
    PREDICTION: Iowa 36-9
    KEYS TO THE GAME: A crowd of over 109,000 didn't bother Iowa. Can a 1-2 team (0-1 conference) from the Sun Belt cause any trouble? The oddsmakers don't think so: Iowa is a 20 1/2-point favorite to go to 5-0 on the season and perhaps even climb a little higher in the rankings. The Wolves have to come out biting and show they can be pesky visitors. Iowa was down, 10-0, before rallying at Penn State and could come out a bit flat, something Arkansas State must jump on to have a chance.
    FAST FACTS: Hawkeyes: Iowa's eight-game winning streak is currently tied for second-best in the nation with Texas. Florida holds the longest win streak at 14 games. ... Iowa has not started a season 5-0 since 1995. ... The 12 turnovers Iowa has forced ties with Wisconsin for the league lead. ... Iowa hasn't won a league title since 2002. Red Wolves: The Red Wolves gave up 504 yards of offense and didn't record a sack or an interception in the loss to Troy last week. ... Arkansas State gets a $900,000 guarantee for the Iowa game, according to the Jonesboro Sun. ... Arkansas State is 0-4 against the Big Ten, by a combined count of 172-31. The last game was in 2002. There were two losses each to Illinois and Minnesota.
    PLAYERS TO WATCH: Hawkeyes:
  • LB Pat Angerer — Has steadily improved throughout his career and is now one of the best linebackers in the nation. He was all over the field against Penn State, registering 14 tackles and causing two key turnovers.
  • RBs Brandon Wegher/Adam Robinson — The two are interchangeable to this point, which is good news since both are freshmen. Neither will be asked to shoulder too much of a load too soon with the other standing nearby. Both have proven to be explosive at times.
  • QB Ricky Stanzi — Threw two more interceptions against Penn State, giving him five touchdown passes and five interceptions for the season. That ratio must improve. Red Wolves:
  • QB Corey Leonard — He got off to a very slow start against Troy, rallied but didn't have a great game. You would think he needs one this week but it won't be easy against Iowa.
  • RB Reggie Arnold — He scored two touchdowns against Troy but netted just 32 yards on 12 carries. He has 247 yards and seven rushing touchdowns on the season as he seeks to become only the eighth 1-A running back with four straight 1,000-yard seasons.
  • WR/KR Brandon Thompkins — He caught a 58-yard touchdown pass from Leonard and had four catches for 82 yards and 122 yards of kick returns, including a 65-yarder, for 204 yards of offense in the loss to Troy. Having surpassed the 2,000-yard kick return mark, he needs 270 to become the Sun Belt Conference's all-time leader.
    INJURY WATCH: Hawkeyes:
  • LT Bryan Bulaga has been cleared to return after missing the last three games with a thyroid condition. Depending on his practice week, Bulaga could return to the starting lineup in time for the Oct. 3 game against Arkansas State.
  • WR Derrell Johnson-Koulianos is back on the depth chart this week after being left off last week with hamstring issues. He still caught three passes for 50 yards in the win over Penn State and appears healthy.
  • TE Tony Moeaki is absent from the depth chart for the second straight week. Moeaki, nursing an ankle injury, dressed but did not play against Penn State. Ferentz said he is being held out for precautionary reasons, but that Moeaki is "very close" to returning. Red Wolves:
  • LB Darius Glover, who suffered a wrist injury in the opening game against Mississippi Valley State and was trying to come back, is now out for the year.

    Alabama at Kentucky

    KICKOFF: Saturday, noon ET
    SERIES: Alabama leads 34-2-1 (last meeting, 2008, 17-14 Alabama).
    2009 RANKINGS: Crimson Tide: offense 18th (2nd Big Ten), pass 5th (1st), run 67th (7th), defense 18th (2nd), pass 57th (5th), run 5th (1st) Wildcats: offense 96th (6th Big East), pass 80th (5th), run 87th (6th), defense 73rd (6th), pass 39th (4th), run 60th (5th)
    POLLS: Alabama (3 AP, coaches)
    PREDICTION: Alabama 33-7
    KEYS TO THE GAME: How Alabama handles the loss of LB Dont'a Hightower will be interesting to watch. But the key to this game will likely be Tide QB Greg McElroy continuing to play smart, efficient football. The coaches put more in his hands than they ever did former QB John Parker Wilson, and so far McElroy has handled it in near-perfect fashion.
    FAST FACTS: Crimson Tide: Alabama has forced 53 turnovers in the first 31 games under head coach Nick Saban, an average of 1.71 per game. ... RB Mark Ingram has not lost a fumble in 204 career rushing attempts and 20 career receptions for a total of 224 career touches. ... The Tide is averaging 234.25 rushing yards and 256.25 yards passing per game, which gives UA the eighth-ranked total offense in the nation. ... Alabama is 4-2 against the Associated Press Top 25 over the 2008 and 2009 seasons. Wildcats: Allowed 362 rushing yards to Florida last week. ... The back-to-back games against No. 1 Florida and No. 3 Alabama represent the highest-ranked consecutive opponents the Wildcats have ever played. The previous highest-ranked combo was when Kentucky faced No. 1 Mississippi and No. 7 Auburn in consecutive games back in 1964. ... Kentucky has been splendid in the second quarter, outscoring opponents 35-0. But thanks to Florida's 31-point first quarter, the Wildcats have been outscored 38-10 in the opening quarter, and coach Rich Brooks was putting an emphasis on avoiding a repeat disaster against Alabama. ...
    PLAYERS TO WATCH: Crimson Tide:
  • WR Julio Jones — As productive as he's been, Jones had been kept out of the end zone since the Georgia game of last year until last Saturday against Arkansas — a streak of 11 games. But he's still one of the best receivers in the conference, if not the country.
  • RB Trent Richardson — The freshman is making his mark every week with one highlight-reel run after another. The two-time SEC Freshman of the Week is making a case to be the back who carries the load for the Tide, although sophomore Mark Ingram is matching him carry for carry.
  • DE Courtney Upshaw — If the moves to replace Dont'a Hightower go as expected, Upshaw could get his first start. All eyes will be on Upshaw to see if he can keep the intensity of the defense at the same level as it was with Hightower. Wildcats:
  • RB Derrick Locke — Was held in check by Florida with just 36 yards (all rushing) from scrimmage. Locke is averaging 163 all-purpose yards per game and his 34.1 average on kickoff returns is ninth best in the country. The Wildcats need him to break a long return or two against Alabama.
  • QB Mark Hartline — Can he rebound from a lethargic game against Florida? The offense couldn't get in sync early and he threw for just 85 yards and was intercepted twice. There's no chance of an upset if he plays just as poorly this Saturday.
  • MLB Micah Johnson — Though he leads the Wildcats with 25 tackles, he needs to step up his game a notch if the Wildcats area going to stop the run against Alabama.
    INJURY WATCH: Crimson Tide:
  • LB Dont'a Hightower is out for the season after suffering a knee injury that required surgery.
  • LB Jerrell Harris will be allowed to play after he serves a six-game suspension from the NCAA for allegedly accepting a laptop computer as a gift. Harris has two more before being cleared.
  • LB Damion Square is out after suffering a season-ending knee injury. Wildcats:
  • OT Justin Jeffries has a lingering Achilles' tendon injury, and coach Rick Brooks has termed the right tackle as "questionable" for Saturday's game against Alabama.
  • OG Christian Johnson's ribs are bruised, but indications are that he'll play against the Crimson Tide.
  • FB A.J. Nance has a hamstring injury that could affect the backup fullback on Saturday.
  • LB William Johnson, a key backup, is in danger of missing contest after spraining a knee against Florida.

    Cincinnati at Miami (Ohio)

    KICKOFF: Saturday, 1 ET
    SERIES: Miami leads 59-47-7 (last meeting, UC won 45-20 in 2008).
    2009 RANKINGS: Bearcats: offense 12th (2nd Big East), pass 5 (1st), run 70 (6), defense 36 (5), pass 27 (2), run 54 (7) RedHawks: offense 85th (7th MAC), pass 41 (5), run 108 (10), defense 92 (10), pass 113 (13), run 98 (7)
    POLLS: Cincinnati (10 AP, 11 coaches)
    PREDICTION: Cincinnati 49-10
    KEYS TO THE GAME: Miami is in rebuilding mode, and the Redhawks look like it. They're 120th — dead last — in the nation in scoring offense at 11.3 points per game. They're better in scoring defense — 119th — in that they're second-to-last. Turnover margin? Yep, No. 120. All that spells a shellacking. That's before you consider Cincinnati is 12th in the nation in total offense (476.8 yards per game) and fifth in scoring offense (43.3). And Cincy's defense might be even a bigger deal yet. Miami is 0-4 and has been outscored 167-45. Cincinnati is the clear favorite, but this is a rivalry game. And, the Redhawks historically have been tough on the Bearcats in Oxford. UC's offense needs to score early to squelch MU's hopes for an upset. UC's defense should play inspired after a statistically poor performance in last week's win over Fresno State.
    FAST FACTS: Bearcats: Cincinnati is ranked No. 10 in this week's Associated Press poll and No. 11 in the USA Today coaches poll, its highest ever weekly rankings. The Bearcats' previous best was No. 12 in both the AP and USA Today polls entering the 2009 FedEx Orange Bowl. UC also was ranked 12th in the AP poll on Nov. 8, 1954. ... The Bearcats are 25-0 when leading after three quarters during head coach Brian Kelly's tenure. ... The "Battle for the Victory Bell" is the nation's oldest non-conference college football rivalry. .. The Bearcats' offense had possession for just 16:18 against Fresno State, but it still racked up 357 yards. RedHawks: Have had five turnovers each of the last two weeks. ... Miami failed to score for more than six quarters to start the season but has 45 points in the six quarters since, 33 of them with Zac Dysert at quarterback. ... QB Zac Dysert was 31-for-53 for 337 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions at Kent State last week. He also ran for 107 yards on 17 carries, often turning failed pass attempts into gains. ... Miami gained 552 yards last week but turned the ball over five times for the second straight week. Six of the 10 flubs have been fumbles and holding onto the football was a priority in practice this week. ... No. 10 Cincinnati is the highest-ranked team ever to come to Oxford.
    PLAYERS TO WATCH: Bearcats:
  • Junior DB Marcus Barnett, who played his first two seasons at wide receiver, could make his second career start at cornerback against Miami. Barnett made his first career start last week against Fresno State and had two tackles and a key pass break-up.
  • Senior Mardy Gilyard now ranks third on the school's all-time list with 149 receptions and fourth with 2,254 receiving yards.
  • Senior RB Jacob Ramsey was off to the best start of his career, but he managed just 14 yards on four carries against Fresno State. He and sophomore Isaiah Pead should get more opportunities against a Redhawks defense that ranks 98th against the run.
  • Senior QB Tony Pike made his first career start against Miami last season, passing for 241 yards and three touchdowns. RedHawks:
  • QB Zac Dysert took over as the starter last week and put some life into a dead offense. The coaches like his ability to make something out of nothing and he should get plenty of practice at that this week.
  • WR Armand Robinson had his second straight career week, this time amassing a career-high with 115 yards receiving and matched the career best he set the previous week with nine catches.
  • RB Andre Bratton returned last week after missing two games and ran for 68 yards on 12 carries at Kent State.
    INJURY WATCH: Bearcats:
  • Sophomore DB Dominique Battle likely will not play in this week's game at Miami. He's expected to return for the Oct. 15 game at South Florida.
  • Junior DB Marcus Barnett, who also plays receiver, will remain on defense at least until Battle returns. Barnett made his first career start at cornerback in last week's win over Fresno State.
  • Junior RB John Goebel, who rushed for 607 yards and seven touchdowns last season, has not appeared in a game due to a hamstring injury.
  • Junior PK/P Jake Rogers, who competed with Patrick O'Donnell for punting duties early this season, is improving week to week. Rogers booted a career-long 54-yarder against Fresno State. He's averaging 35.9 yards per punt on eight attempts.
  • Senior LB Curtis Young will miss up to six weeks after undergoing successful surgery on his right knee the day before the Bearcats' game at Oregon State. Young suffered a torn medial collateral ligament in practice. He was UC's starting linebacker to begin the season, recording 13 tackles, including 3.5 for a loss, and a sack in two games. Redhawks:
  • DT D.J. Svabik, who returned last week, was out again with a lingering rib injury last week and will miss this week's game with an illness.
  • WR Chris Givens (shoulder), DE Morris Council (shoulder) and LB Ryan Kennedy (knee) are all out for the season.

    LSU at Georgia

    KICKOFF: Saturday, 3:30 ET
    SERIES: LSU leads Georgia 66-33-3 (last meeting, 2008, Georgia 52-38).
    2009 RANKINGS: Bulldogs: offense 74th (9th SEC), pass 42 (4), run 90 (11), defense 67 (11), pass 67 (11), run 42 (6) Tigers: offense 105th (12th SEC), pass 90 (7), run 74 (10), defense 49 (9), pass 10 (3), run 74 (10)
    POLLS: LSU (4 AP, coaches) Georgia (18 AP, 14 coaches)
    PREDICTION: Georgia 27, LSU 23
    KEYS TO THE GAME: The next two weeks — the Tigers have Florida, coming off of a bye week and likely with Tim Tebow under center, next week — likely will make or break LSU's season. The Tigers' offense has looked mostly broken to start the season. With Georgia's defense allowing 29.75 points per game, LSU might have found exactly what it needs to get healthy — at just the right time. Georgia has enough talent to stay with LSU at home, but the Bulldogs will need to avoid the careless turnovers (12) that have plagued them early this season. Georgia's defense has struggled against the pass, and might have a tough time with LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson, who is gaining confidence each week. The secondary will have a test in covering experienced LSU receivers Brandon LaFell, Terrance Tolliver and R.J. Jackson. Georgia's offensive line will need to keep pressure off quarterback Joe Cox and contain LSU defensive end Rahim Alem, who has 12 career sacks.
    FAST FACTS: Bulldogs: Have overcome 12 turnovers, three in each of its first four games. ... The Bulldogs have won their three games by an average of six points. ... Georgia opponents have scored 56 points off 12 turnovers. Meanwhile, Georgia has scored just six points off turnovers this season. ... Georgia has trailed in all four of its games this season. Tigers: WR Brandon LaFell has five touchdown catches in the first four games, the most for an LSU player in that short of a span since Carlos Carson started off 1977 with six TD catches in his first four games. Five of Carson's scoring catches came in one game. LaFell had two touchdown catches against Louisiana-Lafayette and two against Mississippi State. ... LSU ranks 10th in the league in total defense (333.5 yards per game). ... Georgia remains the only SEC team coach Les Miles has failed to beat in his tenure at LSU. Of course, Miles, who is in his fifth season at Baton Rouge, has had only two opportunities — last year and in the 2005 SEC championship game. But the combined score of those two Georgia wins is 86-52.
    PLAYERS TO WATCH: Bulldogs:
  • QB Joe Cox — Cox has had an up-and-down senior season. He is completing 60.6 percent of his passes, with nine touchdowns and five interceptions. But two of his interceptions have been returned for touchdowns. Cox will need to cut down on those costly mistakes Saturday.
  • WR A.J. Green — Green has emerged as the one of the top wide receivers in the country. The Bulldogs will need some big plays from the speedy sophomore to stay with LSU.
  • PK Blair Walsh — Walsh is 8-for-8 on field goals this season and showed he could come through in the clutch, kicking the game-winning 37-yard field goal against Arizona State.
  • DE Justin Houston — Houston recorded his first sack of the season against Arizona State and could provide the answer to Georgia's lackluster pass pressure off the edges. Tigers:
  • WR Brandon LaFell — LaFell is off to somewhat of a slow start in that he has only 230 yards for his team-high 20 receptions. Last year he averaged nearly 15 yards a catch. He has five touchdown catches, however.
  • FS Chad Jones — He was the man of the hour in the win over Mississippi State. His 93-yard punt return provided LSU with the decisive touchdown, and he preserved that lead by batting down a pass in the end zone on Mississippi's next-to-last possession.
  • TE Richard Dickson — With 77 career receptions, the senior stands third all-time in catches among LSU tight ends. He is 10 short of the record held by Mitch Andrews. His 10 touchdown receptions share the LSU record for a tight end (Brad Boyd).
    INJURY WATCH: Bulldogs:
  • DT Brandon Wood played against Arizona State, his first action since offseason shoulder and wrist injuries.
  • OL Clint Boling is wearing a brace on his right wrist, hand and thumb as a precaution.
  • DB Vance Cuff (knee) is probable for the LSU game.
  • LB Akeem Dent (hamstring) is doubtful for the LSU game. Tigers:
  • DL Josh Downs suffered an undisclosed injury against Louisiana-Lafayette and was out against Mississippi State. He remains questionable.
  • TB Richard Murphy (knee) likely will miss the rest of the season.

    Penn State at Illinois

    KICKOFF: Saturday, 3:30 ET
    SERIES: Penn State leads 13-3 (last meeting, 2008, 38-24 Penn State).
    2009 RANKINGS: Nittany Lions: offense 56th (7th Big Ten), pass 40 (3), run 80 (9), defense 9 (1), pass 23 (3), run 11 (1) Fighting Illini: offense 82nd (10th Big Ten), pass 110 (11), run 35 (3), defense 90 (10), pass 102 (10), run 59 (6)
    POLLS: Penn State (15 AP, 13 coaches)
    PREDICTION: Penn State 38-20
    KEYS TO THE GAME: In 2005, Penn State responded from its first loss of the season with a 56-point half and a 63-10 defeat of Illinois in Memorial Stadium. Two years later, the Nittany Lions responded from their first loss of the season with a turnover-filled, 27-20 loss to the Fighting Illini. The 2009 Nittany Lions will once again head to Champaign trying to get the taste of defeat out of their mouths. You can break down the Xs and Os anyway you want in this one, but this game will be all about attitude. The Illini are dragging so low after their horrid games against Missouri and Ohio State, they need only a little discouragement to keep heading south. But if Illinois can produce a big play or two early (think Arrelious Benn's kickoff return for a TD in the 2007 game), then the hosts might awaken. From a strategy standpoint, the Illini must establish either the run or the pass. They've done neither in their first two games against FBS foes. Penn State must give quarterback Daryll Clark ample time to throw the ball and Clark must regain the rhythm that made him the league's top quarterback in 2008. The Nittany Lion defense needs to find a way to slow Illinois WR Arrelious Benn, who has caught 10 passes for 194 yards and three touchdowns and returned a kickoff for another score in two previous games against Penn State.
    FAST FACTS: Nittany Lions: PSU has not lost consecutive games since the fourth and fifth games of the 2007 — when the second loss came at Illinois. ... Penn State QB Daryll Clark has thrown six interceptions through four games and 129 pass attempts. He threw six interceptions in 13 games and 321 attempts in 2008. ... The Nittany Lions have achieved a near-equal balance of run and pass this season. They've run the ball 134 times and thrown 136 passes. Illini: QB Juice Williams' longest completion this season went for 24 yards. ... Against Ohio State and Missouri, the only FBS opponents U of I faced to date, the offense has one touchdown and one field goal. ...
    PLAYERS TO WATCH: Nittany Lions:
  • TE Andrew Quarless — The talented senior is playing a more prominent role in the offense this season. He already has 11 catches through four games after catching 11 passes in 12 games in 2008.
  • RT DeOn'tae Pannell — The true sophomore is again listed as the starter heading into Saturday but ceded first-team reps last week to senior Nerraw McCormack after a shaky start against Iowa. The two could share time again against Illinois.
  • LB Josh Hull — The Nittany Lions' only healthy starting linebacker has been consistent as the players around him change by the week. Hull leads the team with 41 tackles and has improved in pass coverage. Illini:
  • QB Juice Williams — The senior quarterback needs 76 yards to break Kurt Kittner's all-time total offense record at Illinois. Everyone expected him to break this record two or three weeks ago, but ineffectiveness and a thigh injury have set Williams back. He has yet to throw or run for a touchdown this year after accounting for 27 scores last season.
  • WR Arrelious Benn — The junior wideout has just five catches for 42 yards this year, though he missed virtually all of the Missouri opener and was rarely targeted against Illinois State. Benn owns four touchdowns in two games against Penn State, though, so maybe Joe Paterno's arrival in Champaign will stoke the Washington native. He has returned five kicks for 112 yards this year and fumbled once last week at Ohio State.
  • LB Ian Thomas — The hard-hitting sophomore, who owns three of the seven career starts for Illinois' linebacking corps, leads the squad with 24 tackles. He has one of the team's four sacks as well as two pass breakups. He'll need to be all over the field hounding Penn State QB Daryll Clark if the Illini are going to pull off an upset.
    INJURY WATCH: Nittany Lions:
  • LB Sean Lee will most likely miss his second consecutive game due to a sprained left knee. He did not practice Monday.
  • OT Nerraw McCormack could make his first career start at right tackle against Illinois. The senior replaced sophomore DeOn'tae Pannell in the second quarter against Iowa and played the rest of the game.
  • LB Nathan Stupar, who was relegated to the second team last week because of a sprained ankle, is close to full speed again and expected to start against Illinois. Illini:
  • MLB Martez Wilson (neck) and CB Miami Thomas (knee) are out for the rest of the year after undergoing surgery. Wilson had his surgery Monday to repair a herniated disk and coach Ron Zook termed the surgery a success.
  • Illinois continues to list four co-starters at running back: Senior Daniel Dufrene, redshirt sophomore Troy Pollard and true sophomores Jason Ford and Mikel Leshoure. Considering Ford started the opener against Missouri, Pollard started against Illinois State and Dufrene started last week at Ohio State, could this be Leshoure's week to start?

    Ohio State at Indiana

    KICKOFF: Saturday, 7 ET
    SERIES: HOME leads the series 1-0 (last meeting, XXXX, xx-xx HOME).
    2009 RANKINGS: Buckeyes: offense 18th (2nd Big Ten), pass 5th (1st), run 67th (7th), defense 18th (2nd), pass 57th (5th), run 5th (1st) Hoosiers: offense 96th (6th Big East), pass 80th (5th), run 87th (6th), defense 73rd (6th), pass 39th (4th), run 60th (5th)
    POLLS: Buckeyes (9 AP, coaches)
    PREDICTION: Buckeyes 42-10
    KEYS TO THE GAME: The Hoosiers have playmakers on both sides of the ball. Freshman tailback Darius Willis ran for a career high 155 yards last week against Michigan and Jammie Kirlew leads the league in tackles for loss with 8.5. Ohio State's ground game has really taken off the last two weeks, but Indiana ranks second in the league in run defense, allowing 2.7 yards per carry. The Hoosiers haven't beaten the Buckeyes since 1988, and OSU is playing awfully well right now, which means the losing streak isn't likely to be snapped. Indiana, however, believes it can stick with any team in the conference, and the Hoosiers have the opportunity to prove to everybody that it's for real this week. A loss by the Hoosiers won't be shocking, but the team needs to feed off the energy of a full house at Memorial Stadium to play above and beyond its talent level. Emotion on the sideline will be a huge issue for IU this week. Indiana has to convert in the red zone and can't allow points to be left on the field. Settling for field goals instead of scoring touchdowns haunted IU last week, and the Hoosiers can't continue to struggle in the red zone if they are going to win games in the Big Ten. IU must limit its turnovers and needs to get the Buckeyes off the field on third down. Indiana's offense must grind out the clock to limit OSU's explosive offense.
    FAST FACTS: Buckeyes: Ohio State has a 15-game road winning streak within the Big Ten. Michigan holds the record at 17. ... RB Dan Herron has scored at least one touchdown in eight consecutive games. ... Safety Kurt Coleman's loss (suspended for a helmet-to-helmet hit vs. Illinois) is a big blow to a defense working on consecutive shutouts. Hoosiers: Indiana's five starters on the offensive line have started three consecutive games together. That didn't happen once last season. ... Despite giving up 36 points to Michigan last week, the Hoosiers still rank fourth in the Big Ten in points allowed, giving up just 22.2 per game. ... Since the start of the 2007 season, Indiana has recorded 84 sacks, second most in the Big Ten behind Penn State in that span. ... Indiana hasn't played Ohio State since the 2006 season. ... WR Tandon Doss has recorded two 100-yard plus receiving games this season and is the second-leading receiver in the Big Ten in terms of yardage.
    PLAYERS TO WATCH: Buckeyes:
  • QB Terrelle Pryor — The Buckeyes have rushed for 481 yards over the last two weeks. Pryor's feet are a big reason why.
  • LT Mike Adams — Made his first career start last week and now faces an IU defense that boasts Greg Middleton and Jammie Kirlew, who between them have five sacks.
  • FS Jermale Hines — With Kurt Coleman out, Hines becomes even more important in the secondary. Had an interception against Illinois and is athletic enough to play all over the field. Hoosiers:
  • QB Ben Chappell — Chappell was solid last week vs. Michigan and must show leadership vs. OSU. Chappell has done a good job of limiting his mistakes, and he can't try to do too much, especially if IU gets down early.
  • RB Darius Willis — Willis played like a man vs. Michigan, but he will face a stiffer task vs. Ohio State. Willis can be a difference-maker, and if he can get rolling early, Indiana will have an opportunity to put the Buckeyes on their heels.
  • CB Ray Fisher — Fisher has been good in coverage this year, and opponents are shying away from throwing the ball his way. Fisher has made a quick transition from offense to defense after moving from wide receiver during the spring, and he will be asked to lock down this week. Fisher also must be more aggressive as a punt returner. His decisions to let punts hit the ground have cost the Hoosiers dozens of yards in the last couple of weeks.
    INJURY WATCH: Buckeyes:
  • SS Kurt Coleman, a team captain, has been suspended by the Big Ten for the Indiana game following a helmet-to-helmet hit against Illinois. Athletic director Gene Smith and coach Jim Tressel issued a joint statement disagreeing with the decision. The league office has now suspended a player each of the last three weeks. Anderson Russell, the former starter at FS and now the nickel back, will likely play in place of Coleman. Orhian Johnson will be the nickel back.
  • RT Jimmy Cordle is still out with a foot injury. J.B. Shugarts will continue working at tackle.
  • DB Zach Domicone, recently back from injury, moves into the No. 4 safety spot this week with Coleman's suspension.
  • RB Jaamal Berry, the top recruit in the freshman class, could get on the field this week, Jim Tressel said. Berry has yet to make an appearance for Ohio State. Hoosiers: None.

    Mississippi at Vanderbilt

    KICKOFF: Saturday, 7 ET
    SERIES: Ole Miss leads, 46-35-2 (Last meeting, 2008, Vanderbilt 23-17)
    2009 RANKINGS: Rebels: offense 65th (8th SEC), pass 93 (8), run 37 (7), defense 27 (6), pass 13 (4), run 27 (5) Commodores: offense 61st (7th SEC), pass 102 (11), run 29 (5), defense 19 (5), pass 3 (2), run 87 (11)
    POLLS: Mississippi (21 AP, 18 coaches)
    PREDICTION: Mississippi 27-22
    KEYS TO THE GAME: Vandy upsetting a Top 20 team would not only make a statement to the rest of the SEC, but it would prove to Vandy that it can live up to last year's standard. Vandy will catch an opponent with something to prove after its first loss last week, but the Commodores have the athletes and discipline to earn a win. Recreating last week's offensive balance would help, although it's hard to see the Commodores going over 200 yards rushing and passing against an SEC opponent like they did at Rice. Vandy's defense needs to put some pressure on Rebels QB Jevan Snead, so look for defensive coordinator Bruce Fowler to dial up blitzes from everywhere.
    FAST FACTS: Rebels: A streak of 45-point games was snapped at South Carolina, but UM is still averageing 41.3 points over its last seven games. ... QB Jevan Snead has completed a touchdown pass in each of his last 12 games. ... For the third time in its first four games, Ole Miss plays on the road. ... A win would give UM a 3-1 start for the first time since 2002, when it started 5-1 before losing five straight. The Rebels are trying to start 1-1 in the Southeastern Conference for the second straight season. Commodores: The defense notched four sacks at Rice, including two from DE Theron Kadri. The Commodores rank third in the SEC in sacks and are tied for 12th nationally, continuing a three-year trend of getting to the quarterback. ... PK Ryan Fowler converted field goals of 23, 33 and 37 yards in the win at Rice. ... Forced five turnovers and sacked the quarterback four times last week.
  • QB Jevan Snead — Now that the Heisman talk has turned quiet, can he lead Ole Miss to a season that still challenges for a league title? On the road and against a decent Vanderbilt secondary, the Ole Miss quarterback has much to prove in this bounce-back game.
  • RB/WR Dexter McCluster — He was used often as a running back against South Carolina. But will this continue to be his role, or will it continue to change? Commodores:
  • RB Jared Hawkins — Now that he's back in the lineup after missing the first three weeks, the senior can give this offense what it needs — a dependable back who can make tough yardage, move the chains and give the defense some rest. Hawkins rushed for 61 yards in his return last week at Rice.
  • CB Eddie Foster — Getting an opportunity to play more because of injuries in the secondary, the freshman produced a key third-quarter interception at Rice. Foster was one of the program's highest-rated recruits in February's class and is showing why.
  • DE Broderick Stewart — If the Commodores are to create the kind of pass rush they'll need to pull off the upset, it's a good bet Stewart will be in the middle of it. The senior has the ability to make game-changing plays with his speed coming off the edge.
    INJURY WATCH: Rebels:
  • TE Gerald Harris (hamstring) might return this week. Commodores:
  • WR John Cole (broken hand) finished out last week's win at Rice despite the injury, but is considered doubtful for Saturday night's game with Ole Miss. Cole had seven catches for 67 yards and a 31-yard TD run last week.
  • S Sean Richardson (thumb) tore a tendon in Saturday night's victory at Rice and had surgery on Sunday. The coaching staff is hopeful that Richardson will be able to pad up the thumb and play against Ole Miss, but isn't sure he'll be able to go.
  • DT T.J. Greenstone (knee) was banged up in the win at Rice and his status for this week's game with Ole Miss wasn't known. Greenstone has been a playmaker up front throughout September, so his presence would certainly be missed if he's not able to play.

    Georgia Tech at Mississippi State

    KICKOFF: Saturday, 7:30 ET
    SERIES: Georgia Tech leads, 3-0 (last meeting, 2008, 38-7 Georgia Tech)
    2009 RANKINGS: Yellow Jackets: offense 50th (4th ACC), pass 116 (12), run 4 (1), defense 37 (5), pass 81 (8), run 30 (2) Bulldogs: offense 76th (10th SEC), pass 112 (12), run 26 (4), defense 31 (7), pass 31 (8), run 56 (8)
    POLLS: Georgia Tech (25 AP, NR coaches)
    PREDICTION: Georgia Tech 33-24
    KEYS TO THE GAME: Neither team has a proficient passing attack, but Tech improved last week with Josh Nesbitt hitting 7-of-11 throws. The Yellow Jackets want to build on that in this non-conference matchup. After limiting the Tar Heels to a paltry 17 rushing yards, the energized Jackets defense will be challenged by MSU's Anthony Dixon, who went over 100 yards with two scores last week. How LBs Brad Jefferson and Sedric Griffin hold up could determine the outcome. A disciplined effort on defense is key for the Bulldogs. Georgia Tech will get its yards in the triple-option. The key is not get too worried about that and make the Yellow Jackets have to string together lots of first downs to score. State can't allow big plays, so look for the coaches to put an added emphasis on the secondary to contain the inevitable mistakes up front that the triple option will provoke.
    FAST FACTS: Yellow Jackets: Tech rushed for more than 400 yards in last year's meeting. ... Josh Nesbitt took quite a pounding in last week's 24-7 win over the Tar Heels. He ran a career-high 32 times for 97 yards. ... --Tech is averaging 32:21 in time of possession, compared to their opponents' 27:39. ... Tech ranks fourth in the ACC in total offense (387.2 yards) and fifth in total defense (321.2 yards). ... B-back Jonathan Dwyer (81.5 yards per game) and QB Josh Nesbitt (77.5 yards per game) rank No. 2 and No. 3 in rushing in the ACC. ... DE Derrick Morgan leads the ACC with 5.5 sacks. ... Tech has outscored its opponents 48-7 in the first quarter. Bulldogs: State takes on its second consecutive ranked foe when No. 25 Georgia Tech comes to town. State lost to then-No. 7 LSU 30-26 last weekend. No. 12 Houston visits Scott Field next weekend. ... RB Anthony Dixon's average of 107 yards per game is 16th-best in the nation and second-best in the Southeastern Conference. The Bulldog rushing attack is 26th-best in the nation and fourth-best in the SEC. ... State will play host to Georgia Tech for the first time ever Saturday. In fact, it is Georgia Tech's first-ever trip to the state of Mississippi — and that's despite Tech being an SEC member for the first three decades of the league's existence.
    PLAYERS TO WATCH: Yellow Jackets:
  • LB Brad Jefferson — Tech's starting middle linebacker, plagued by injury last season, is fulfilling the promise he carried as a highly-touted recruit. He has 19 tackles, third-most on the team, along with 1.5 tackles for loss and two pass breakups. Against the run-first Bulldogs, Jefferson should have a big day.
  • A-back Anthony Allen — With MSU sure to focus on stopping Jonathan Dwyer, Allen should continue to thrive. He's averaging 11.4 yards a carry and has caught three balls for 61 yards. The Louisville transfer has scored three touchdowns in four games.
  • DE Derrick Morgan — With 5.5 sacks and seven tackles for loss, Morgan is a force who can't be blocked one on one. He plays the run and pass equally well. If the Bulldogs run away from him, Morgan has the speed to chase down ball carriers from behind. Bulldogs:
  • QB Tyson Lee — A week after his decision on fourth down might have cost State the game, how will this upstanding senior recover? He's still expected to get the start.
  • DB Maurice Langston — After being cleared to play after an offseason arrest and working on special teams, is he an answer for an ailing secondary?
  • DE Pernell McPhee — Can the junior college transfer and budding phenom not just shut down the triple option, can he make enough big plays (i.e. sacks) that can lead his team to a win?
    INJURY WATCH: Yellow Jackets:
  • Backup QB Jaybo Shaw (collarbone) and WR Tyler Melton (knee) resumed practicing this week. But DE Robert Hall (knee) will be out several weeks, and S Cooper Taylor (undisclosed injury) likely will miss Saturday's game, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
  • Coach Paul Johnson remains unhappy with PK Scott Blair following his debacle against the Tar Heels. Blair missed two field goals and sent two kickoffs out of bounds. He was replaced on Tech's last extra point and kickoff by Chris Tanner. Now the kicking job will be open in practice this week. The missed field goals are "going to come back to bite us," Johnson told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Bulldogs:
  • WR Brandon Heavens (toe) is probable for Saturday's game.
  • RG Tobias Smith (ankle) might work his way back into the rotation this week on the offensive line, coaches said. But they're going to be cautious.

    Cal Davis at Boise State

    KICKOFF: Saturday, 8 ET
    SERIES: Boise State leads 3-0
    POLLS: Boise State (5 AP, coaches)
    PREDICTION: Boise State 52, Cal-Davis 10
    KEYS TO THE GAME: The Broncos get a break in the middle of four road games. It's their only home game in a 48-day stretch, so they should be excited. Whether the Broncos can maintain that excitement level against the overmatched Aggies will determine whether this is a game for a while.
    FAST FACTS: Broncos: Boise State has won 58 straight games when rushing for at least 200 yards, dating to the 1998 season finale. The Broncos have topped 200 yards in each of their past two games. ... Boise State leads the nation in sacks allowed, with two. ... The Broncos' No. 5 ranking this week matches their best ever. They were No. 5 in the AP poll at the end of the 2006 season. The Broncos need to clean up some recurring problems and those will be the focus in this game — missed tackles, botched scoring kicks and poor offensive starts.
    PLAYERS TO WATCH: Broncos:
  • RB Doug Martin — In his first significant action at tailback, he carried 13 times for 116 yards and a touchdown last week. He replaced the injured D.J. Harper.
  • QB Kellen Moore's name might enter the Heisman Trophy conversation soon. He has completed 69.3 percent of his passes with 10 touchdowns and one interception. Last week, he was a career-best 17-of-21.
  • K Kyle Brotzman is 3-of-6 on field goals with all of the misses coming from the left hash. He apparently has been rattled by the inconsistency of the snap-hold duo.
    INJURY WATCH: Broncos:
  • Backup DT Chuck Hayes will miss the rest of the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
  • DT Michael Atkinson is eligible to make his college debut after serving a three-game suspension. However, an ankle injury may limit his playing time.
  • CB Jamar Taylor and running back Matt Kaiserman haven't been available yet this season. Taylor is getting close. Kaiserman, though, could be out for a while longer.
  • Fourth-string quarterback Mike Tamburo, a true freshman, is out for the year with a torn ACL.

    Southern Cal at California

    KICKOFF: Saturday, 8 ET
    SERIES: USC leads 61-30-5 (last meeting 2008, 17-3 USC)
    2009 RANKINGS: Bears: offense 35th (3rd Pac-10), pass 64 (4), run 24 (4), defense 53 (7), pass 93 (9), run 32 (6) Trojans: offense 29th (1st Pac-10), pass 67 (5), run 16 (3), defense 6 (2), pass 16 (3), run 5 (1)
    POLLS: Southern Cal (7 AP, coaches) Cal (24 AP, 19 coaches)
    PREDICTION: Southern Cal 30-17
    KEYS TO THE GAME: USC has won five in a row against Cal, but the Bears have won nine straight overall at home. The winner of this game puts itself in the middle of the Pac-10 race, and the loser will feel like it has been eliminated, although that is not necessarily true. Jeff Tedford is 1-7 against USC, but most of the games have been close, and the Bears upset then-No. 3 USC in three overtimes in 2003. The Trojans went on to a share of the national championship that year. This could be a low-scoring game because neither offense has shown high-scoring capabilities. Cal's defense has two goals: prevent Joe McKnight, or any of the USC running backs, from breaking away for a long run, and creating some turnovers. Jeff Tedford said it is nearly impossible to beat the Trojans without getting some takeaways. The Bears must put the outcome in Matt Barkley's hands, and it will be up to Cal's secondary to adequately cover USC's receivers because getting a pass rush against USC's top-flight offensive line will be difficult. Cal's offensive success will live or die with the performance of QB Kevin Riley, who needs to get off to a good start to gain confidence. When he does not start well, he tends to struggle. Riley will need to pick out receivers in a hurry, because USC's pass rush will not give him much time.
    FAST FACTS: Bears: QB Kevin Riley has thrown 115 consecutive passes without an interception as of Oct. 1. That dates back to last season. ... Cal's game against USC will be the Bears' first home sellout of the season, and the game has been sold out for more than two months. ... Although Cal has lost five in row to USC, the Bears have played the Trojans fairly well since Jeff Tedford became head coach. Last year, Cal trailed just 10-3 before USC scored with less than three minutes left, and both the 2007 and 2006 games were tied after three quarters. Cal was inside the USC 10-yard line in the closing seconds of a six-point loss in 2004, Cal upset USC in three overtimes 2003, and Cal led the Trojan 21-3 in 2002 before losing by two. The only lopsided game was USC's 35-10 victory in 2005. ... A second loss will not eliminate the loser of the Cal-USC game from Pac-10 title contention. Teams with two conference losses shared the Pac-10 title in two of the past three seasons, with Cal and USC both going 7-2 in 2006 and USC and Arizona State finishing with 7-2 conference marks in 2007. Only four times in the past 17 seasons has a team gone unbeaten in Pac-10 play, and on three of those occasions it was USC, which already has a conference loss this year. Trojans: Lead the nation in sacks with 18. ... USC beat Cal 17-3 last season — it marked the first time a Jeff Tedford-coached team had failed to score a touchdown. ...
  • LB Mychal Kendricks — The Bears must prevent Joe McKnight from running wild, and Kendricks has the speed and tackling skills to do so. Kendricks leads the Pac-10 in tackles (the NCAA lists him as having 40 tackles, Cal has him at 39), and he has a knack for causing and recovering fumbles. McKnight has a history of fumbling, and Kendricks could be the man to coax another.
  • TB Jahvid Best — Best had just 55 yards against Oregon and no run longer than 11 yards. If he can break one or two long runs — which he is capable of doing, even against the Trojans' speedy defense — it could be the difference in the game. However, USC stopped Best cold last season, limiting him to 30 yards on 13 carries. If that happens again, Cal has little chance. Best is currently ninth nationally in rushing at 116.8 yards a game and 6.8 yards a carry.
  • QB Kevin Riley — He is the key to Cal's success every week, but especially so this week because USC has such a good run defense. When Riley gets into a rhythm, he's pretty good. When he gets knocked out of his rhythm, which is very possible against USC's effective pass rush, he can struggle. Sometimes against Oregon he held the ball too long, and sometimes he didn't wait long enough. He needs to get a good feel for the game early. Trojans:
  • RB Joe McKnight — More pressure falls on him after the loss of RB Stafon Johnson. He has team-highs with 47 carries for 354 yards — a healthy 7.5-yard average. If he just holds on to the ball, he'll be fine.
  • CB Josh Pinkard — The sixth-year senior, who has one interception this season, will be trying to shut down an improving Cal receiving corps that includes Verran Tucker and Marvin Jones. Cal quarterback Kevin Riley, who struggled in a big way at Oregon last week, has kept the ball out of the other guys' hands so far this season, no throwing an INT in 102 pass attempts.
  • DE Nick Perry — The redshirt freshman has been superb, coming up with six sacks in four games. His six sacks are more than any USC player had all of last season.
    INJURY WATCH: Bears: None. Trojans:
  • LB Jordan Campbell, making his first career start in place of injured Malcolm Smith last week, had eight tackles before leaving the game in the third quarter because of a sprained ankle. He is not expected to play this week at Cal.
  • DE Armond Armstead (broken foot) hopes to be back for the Notre Dame game on Oct. 17. A projected starter, he has yet to play this season.
  • Starting LB Malcolm Smith (high ankle sprain) did not play against Washington State. He might be able to return this week at Cal. If not, look for Shane Horton to start in his place.
  • Backup DT Hebron Fangupo suffered a broken fibula against Washington State and is out for the season.
  • Backup CB Marshall Jones suffered a fractured vertebra in his neck against Washington State and is out for the season.
  • RB Marc Tyler (sprained right toe) has missed the past three games.
  • WR Ronald Johnson, a speedy big-play threat who suffered a broken collarbone late in fall camp, might be able to return at Notre Dame on Oct. 17.

    Southern Methodist at TCU

    KICKOFF: Saturday, 8 ET
    SERIES: TCU leads 42-39-7
    2009 RANKINGS: Horned Frogs: offense 28th (3rd MWC), pass 66 (6), run 15 (2), defense 12 (1), pass 29 (2), run 7 (1) Mustangs: offense 26th (3rd CUSA), pass 7 (2), run 97 (8), defense 98 (7), pass 26 (1), run 36 (4)
    POLLS: TCU (11 AP, 10 coaches)
    KEYS TO THE GAME: It's the Dallas-Ft. Worth Duel, the battle for the Iron Skillet. And the pressure is all on TCU, which arrives with a top 11 national ranking in both polls. Coach Gary Patterson knows that ranking could be fleeting. "In 2005, we went from being ranked 65th to going into the top 25 and back out of it within a week," Patterson said. To avoid a similar dive, the Frogs need to control the clock and avoid giving up big plays, meaning taking care of the ball. SMU is no juggernaut — sorry, 'Stangs, that's the kind of label you earn losing to Washington State — while TCU has already won a big game (at Clemson) on the road. Patterson effectively schemed to take Jacoby Ford and C.J. Spiller out to of the Tigers' gameplan last week and tightened kick coverage. If SMU earns the upset, it clearly won't come easily. TCU is 51-6 in its last 57 home games at Amon G. Carter stadium. TCU's defense is as good as it gets, but much of its success has come from its ability to get to the opposing team's quarterback. In June Jones' pass-happy offense at SMU, the quarterback usually gets rid of the ball before opposing defenders can cause any disruption. The Horned Frogs secondary will be tested.
    FAST FACTS: Horned Frogs: Fresh off its second road win at an ACC opponent in the opening three weeks. ... The Horned Frogs are playing at home as a top-10 team for the first time since Nov. 15, 2003 when they were 10th-ranked and posted a 43-10 victory over Cincinnati. ... During the post-World War II college football boom, TCU and SMU students created a traveling trophy called the Iron Skillet that was presented to the winner of the annual football game between the rivals. The tradition eventually died and the skillet was lost. In 1993, the tradition was revived. ... Gary Patterson is 6-1 as a head coach versus SMU. As an assistant coach, Patterson was 2-1 against the Mustangs. Patterson was on the 1995 Navy staff when the Midshipmen won 33-2 in Dallas. As defensive coordinator at New Mexico during the 1996-97 campaigns, Patterson split a pair of meetings with SMU. ... While defensive coordinator at TCU (1998-00), Patterson game planned twice against June Jones when the current SMU head coach was at Hawaii. Mustangs: Have forced 14 turnovers and lead the nation with 11 interceptions. ... The game is last of three straight road games for SMU, which is in a stretch of 35 days away from Gerald J. Ford Stadium. ... SMU wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders leads the nation in receptions per game (11.7), ranks fourth in receiving yards per game (130.67) and rates second in punt return average (29.4). With 28 career TD grabs, Sanders is second among active players in touchdown catches - one behind Dez Bryant of Oklahoma State. He's also fi fth in catches (222) and yards (2,844) among current FBS student-athletes. ... SMU started 10 underclassmen at Washington State.
    PLAYERS TO WATCH: Horned Frogs:
  • QB Andy Dalton — Dalton has become the straw the stirs the drink for the TCU offense, but he's done so by being safe with the football. If he doesn't get caught up trying to be a gunslinger in a shootout with June Jones run-and-shoot offense, he should again be the Frogs biggest weapon on offense.
  • DE Jerry Hughes — Averaging 1.5 sacks per game, Hughes is still at his usual spot around the top of the national rankings in that category. But after being shut out last week at Clemson and facing a quick-release run-and-shoot offense, Hughes has his work cut out for him to keep piling on the sacks. Of course, a year ago against SMU, he found other ways to contribute, including a 24-yard interception return for a touchdown.
  • S Tejay Johnson — Johnson and the entire TCU secondary will be challenged this week in the passing game. Head coach Gary Patterson said his defense, including players like Johnson who has one interception this season, needs to start forcing turnovers. "To stop an offense like SMU's," Patterson said, "You've got to go catch the ball yourself." Mustangs:
  • QB Bo Levi Mitchell — He knew what cost his team the game at Washington State. "We can't let the defense score two touchdowns," he said after four picks, two of them returned for touchdowns and the final one in the end zone on the first play of overtime — all four coming after halftime. "We could be 3-0 and halfway to our goal (of a bowl). That's fine. We have to fight back. We all have to step up and take ownership for what happened and get ready for the next one."
  • WR Emmanuel Sanders — He posted school and conference records with 18 catches for 178 yards in the loss at Washington State, both career highs. He was named Conference USA Offensive Player of the Week for his performance. Sanders has an SMU-high 2,844 career yards, 10th all-time in Conference USA, and this was his 12th career game of 10 or more catches and his second in a row as he extended his school record. His 222 career grabs leave him 14 shy of setting the SMU record, held by Jason Wolf (1989-92).
    INJURY WATCH: Horned Frogs:
  • TCU coach Gary Patterson is knocking on wood. The Frogs have gone through three games, including a pair of road games at ACC schools, and haven't lost a player to injury yet. "The biggest thing is we feel like we've stayed fairly healthy to this point."
  • Junior WR and return man Jeremy Kerley may finally be breaking through in the offense. At Clemson, Kerley had career highs in receptions (five) and receiving yards (63).
  • Two wide receivers who had career firsts last week at Clemson hope to play bigger roles in the passing game this week. Sophomore WR Jonathan Jones made his first career start last week, but didn't catch a pass. Junior WR Curtis Clay caught his first touchdown, but has just six grabs for 57 yards on the season. Mustangs:
  • LB Youri Yenga missed the Washington State game with an ankle injury.

    Oklahoma at Miami

    KICKOFF: Saturday, 8 ET
    SERIES: The Oklahoma-Miami series is tied 3-3 and has featured huge games. In 1973, OU went 10-0-1, but only clipped Miami 24-20. In 1975, OU won 20-17 at Miami on the way to the national championship. In 1985, OU lost 24-17 to Miami but won the national championship anyway. In 1986, a 28-16 loss at Miami was OU's only blemish. In 1987, Miami beat OU (11-0 at the time) 20-14 at the Orange Bowl. From there, the rivalry lay dormant until 2007, when the Sooners rolled 51-13.
    2009 RANKINGS: Sooners: offense 18th (6th Big 12), pass 32 (6), run 33 (8), defense 5 (1), pass 21 (3), run 1 (1) Hurricanes: offense 52nd (5th ACC), pass 24 (2), run 93 (10), defense 50 (7), pass 89 (10), run 86 (9)
    POLLS: Oklahoma (8 AP, coaches) Miami (17 AP, 21 coaches)
    PREDICTION: Oklahoma 21-15
    KEYS TO THE GAME: Sam Bradford might make a difference. If he plays and plays well, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner clearly gives OU a trump card. If he plays and is ineffective because of lingering shoulder soreness or rust from a layoff that began during the season-opening loss to BYU, it might just boost Miami. Well, it's not the game it might have been had Miami been able to knock off Virginia Tech last Saturday, but it's still one of the most intriguing games of the week as the No. 8 Sooners travel to the No. 17 Hurricanes. Oklahoma has the experience edge, and needs to play like it. Defensively, OU can't let Miami's best player, QB Jacory Harris, beat the Sooners. Harris has thrown for 806 yards and five touchdowns through three games, most of it in two victories over Florida State and Georgia Tech. Offensively, the onus is back on the offensive line, which played its best game against Tulsa, but will be tested anew by Miami, which will have the best athletes the Sooners have faced.
    FAST FACTS: Sooners: OU is starting a tough stretch with Miami, Baylor (without Robert Griffin) on Oct. 10, then No. 2 Texas, then No. 18 Kansas. ... Have lost three of last four vs. Miami. ... Under Stoops, OU produced its career leader in passing and receiving, its No. 3 and No. 5 career rushers and school record holders for season rushing, passing and receiving yards. ... Of 82 off ensive records at OU, 54 were set under Stoops. ... OU scored a TD in every game since Nov. 7, 1998. ... OU has rushed for 200 yards 42 times under Stoops, 36 in the last six years. Hurricanes: Miami plays its first nonconference game of the season when the Hurricanes take on their fourth straight Top 20 team Saturday night as they welcome No. 8 Oklahoma to Land Shark Stadium. ... Miami has wins at No. 18 Florida State and vs. No. 14 Georgia Tech, which propelled the Hurricanes into the AP Top 10 at No. 9 last week for the first time since the final regular season poll of the 2005 season. ... QB Jacory Harris ranks 24th nationally in passing efficiency (152.62), has 806 passing yards in three games and has already accounted for six touchdowns (5 passing, 1 rushing).
    PLAYERS TO WATCH: Sooners:
  • RB DeMarco Murray — He leads OU with 225 yards rushing on 32 carries. If he can get things going early, it will put offensive line worries to rest, while taking the pressure off the Sooner passing game.
  • DE Jeremy Beal — He accumulated three sacks against Tulsa and he's a difference-maker who will put Oklahoma in good shape if he can get to (and contain) Miami QB Jacory Harris.
  • FS Quinton Carter and SS Sam Proctor — The last line of the Sooner defense, their strong play will be at a premium against an explosive offense like Miami's. Hurricanes:
  • RB Graig Cooper — Cooper is Miami's leading rusher (179 yards) despite the fact he isn't starting. But he often is the man in the fourth quarter. He can catch the ball out of the backfield (five catches for 56 yards) and is averaging better than 31 yards an attempt on kickoff returns.
  • WR Leonard Hankerson — The junior is the old man among all of Miami's wide receivers but is having a breakout season. With 186 yards on eight catches, he already has more receiving yards than he did in all of 2008 (140).
  • LB Sean Spence — After an impressive freshman season, Spence has become a missing man as a sophomore. He has 13 tackles in three games, including 2.5 for losses, but that is far from what was expected. He needs to step up against the Sooners.
    INJURY WATCH: Sooners:
  • QB Sam Bradford appears to get more promising news by the day. On Tuesday, coach Bob Stoops reiterated he's not in a position to make a decision on Bradford until Thursday, Friday or even Saturday. Yet he said QB Landry Jones and Bradford will have received enough reps in practice to start Saturday against Miami, whatever the decision is.
  • MLB Austin Box did not play against Tulsa, but is practicing in full, leaving OU as healthy as it has been all season (Sam Bradford aside). Box may be the Sooners' most important reserve as their only experienced backup among linebackers.
  • TE Jermaine Gresham, a preseason All-American, who lost his senior season to cartilage damage in his right knee will not be taking a medical redshirt, according to coach Bob Stoops. Stoops sort of tripped into telling the assembled media at Tuesday's press conference that Gresham will be entering the draft following the season, despite having the redshirt year available. Hurricanes:
  • WR Aldarius Johnson (groin), DT Marcus Forston (leg) and DE Andrew Smith (upper extremity) were back at practice as the Hurricanes began preparing for the Sooners. Johnson, last year's leading receiver, has missed the last two games. Forston and Smith missed the Virginia Tech game.
  • S Randy Phillips (arm) will have his status determined closer to game time. Phillips was injured in the second quarter at Virginia Tech.

    Houston at Texas-El Paso

    KICKOFF: Saturday, 9:05 ET
    SERIES: Tied 3-3 (UTEP leads 3-1 in El Paso)
    2009 RANKINGS: Cougars: offense 2nd (1st CUSA), pass 2 (1), run 81 (5), defense 97 (6), pass 51 (2), run 96 (8) Miners: offense 120 (12), pass 105 (11), run 115 (12), defense (109), pass 87 (8), run 115 (12)
    POLLS: Houston (12 AP, 15 coaches)
    PREDICTION: Houston 44-13
    KEYS TO THE GAME: Houston isn't overlooking UTEP, coach Kevin Sumlin insists. The Cougars could be a top-10 worthy team is upsets continue to rattle the college football landscape. If that's the goal, the Cougars have to find their killer instinct. And that's not all about scoring points. Although the Cougars gave up 28 points to Texas Tech, they made a huge goal-line stand in the fourth quarter to help keep the team in the game. Houston does need to tighten up its pass defense after giving up 321 yards to the Red Raiders, especially with a dangerous quarterback like UTEP's Trevor Vittatoe coming up. Vittatoe has struggled this year, so if the defense can hold firm early, he may crack and try to force things too much to get things going. If UTEP can't sustain some drives, whether by passing or running, Houston will be able to wear out the UTEP defense with its short passing game. The Cougars like to go to RB Charles Sims out of the backfield and let him make some yardage, so UTEP linebackers must be aware of where he is when he goes out for a pass. The Miners need Trevor Vittatoe to step forward and resemble the quarterback who threw four touchdowns against Houston last year.
    FAST FACTS: Cougars: QB Case Keenum is averaging 386.7 passing yards per game. ... Keenum now has 16 300-yard passing performances during his career. That total tied with David Klingler for the second-most all-time. Keenum trails his former teammate Kevin Kolb, who threw for 17 300-yard games from 2003 to 2006. ... Houston has won the last three games vs. UTEP. ... It is the longest Cougar winning streak in the series... With a win against the Miners on Saturday, it will be the longest winning streak by either team in the series. ... Houston has not lost to UTEP since a 44-41 setback in double overtime in El Paso on Sept. 16, 2005. ... Last two games have been decided by a combined eight points (34-31 in 2007; 42-37 in 2008). ... UTEP has posted a 3-1 in El Paso in the all-time series. ... UTEP won the first three games in the series, beginning in 1946 through 2005. ... Miners: The Miners have averaged 43.5 points per game in Conference USA openers under Mike Price. ... Houston rallied from a 28-9 third quarter deficit to beat UTEP, 42-37, on Nov. 22, 2008. ... UTEP and Houston have combined to average 70 points per game in their four meetings since 1950. ... This is the Miners' second straight game against a Top 25 team (lost 64-7 to Texas). ... UTEP is 4-0 in Conference USA openers, beating Houston at home in 2005 (44-41 in double overtime), SMU at home in 2006 (24-21), SMU on the road in 2007 (48-45 in overtime) and UCF at home in 2008 (58-13). The Miners are also 4-0 in C-USA home openers, including a 48-47 triumph over Tulsa in 2007.
    PLAYERS TO WATCH: Cougars:
  • QB Case Keenum — The junior is having himself a Heisman-type season, with game-winning drives and an out-of-nowhere team on the rise. Keenum will certainly get some pressure from the UTEP defense, but as long as he's patient, he should be able to move the Cougars against the Miners.
  • DT David Hunter — Coming off a Conference USA Defensive Player of the Week performance against Texas Tech, the sophomore can help the Houston defense keep their momentum from the big win over the Red Raiders. Hunter forced two fumbles in that game, helping keep the pressure on Tech's Taylor Potts, something the Cougars need to do against UTEP's Trevor Vittatoe as well.
  • RB Charles Sims — The Cougars are really using Sims as another receiver when he's in the backfield, as shown by his game-high 10 catches for 122 yards against Texas Tech. Sims has been able to find holes in the defense for outlet passes from Keenum or short passes that he's turned into solid gains, and Keenum has shown that he looks for the freshman. Miners:
  • QB Trevor Vittatoe — Coming home might be an answer for Vittatoe, who has really struggled in the last couple games. If UTEP is going to become the potent offense that it has the potential to be, Vittatoe is going to have to be the driving force.
  • RB Donald Buckram — If the Miners can get Buckram a few good carries, it could open up a lot of options. Buckram has two 100-yard games this season, but he comes off a disappointing 46-yard effort against Texas. Look for him to bounce back in a big way.
  • DB Da'Mon Cromartie-Smith — The senior is tied for sixth nationally in tackles per game, and he'll need to be very active in this game. Houston receivers can gain good yardage after the catch, so the secondary needs to be able to wrap them up on the first hit and not allow yardage after the first defender. Cromartie-Smith can wrap up with the best of them, so he should have a big game.
    INJURY WATCH: Cougars:
  • LB Matt Nicholson is scheduled to have season-ending surgery on his right knee on Oct. 2 after suffering a torn medial collateral ligament and a partial tear of the anterior cruciate ligament in the win over Texas Tech. Because the injury occurred only three games into the season, Nicholson can apply for a medical hardship waiver.
  • With Nicholson's injury, coach Kevin Sumlin plans on plugging redshirt freshman Kris Johnston and true freshman Phillip Steward into Nicholson's strong-side linebacker spot. Sophomore John McIntyre will move into Steward's spot as the backup to C.J. Cavness on the weak side.
  • MLB Marcus McGraw has emerged as the leader of the Houston defense in just his sophomore campaign, leading the team with 13 tackles per game. Miners: None.

    Washington State at Oregon

    KICKOFF: Saturday, 9:15 ET
    SERIES: Oregon leads 41-38-7, and have won the past two meetings by a combined score of 116-21.
    2009 RANKINGS: Ducks: offense 88th (7th Pac-10), pass 102nd (10th), run 47 (5), defense 43 (5), pass 25 (4), run 60 (8) Cougars: offense 101st (8th Pac-10), pass 62 (3), run 101 (10), defense 120 (10), pass 115 (10), run 92 (9)
    POLLS: Oregon (16 AP, 25 coaches)
    PREDICTION: Oregon 44-12
    KEYS TO THE GAME: Since Chip Kelly's arrival in 2007, the Ducks are 13-3 at Autzen, averaging 40.0 points per game at home. The Cougars have to be prepared to get off the bus running. Oregon hopes for a steady hand from QB Jeremiah Masoli. He is 50-of-89 for 632 yards, with three touchdowns and two interceptions, on the season. Masoli was 21 of 25 for 253 yards, with three touchdowns and no interceptions against Cal. Oregon ran all over Washington State in last season's meeting, and has re-discovered its running game this season following the season-long suspension of LeGarrette Blount because of his punch after the Boise State game. Redshirt freshman LaMichael James has emerged as the new go-to guy, rushing for more than 100 yards in each of the past two games, and the Ducks have ample depth with Andre Crenshaw, Kenjon Barner and Remene Alston. Oregon got talented TE Ed Dickson more involved in the offense last week, and that trend should continue. For Washington State, The Jeff Tuel Era begins in a rather inhospitable environment. WSU hasn't won a road game since the 2007 Apple Cup against Washington.
    FAST FACTS: Ducks: The Ducks have the longest current Pac-10 winning streak, in terms of conference games, having won four straight dating to last season. UO has won five consecutive Pac-10 games at Autzen Stadium. ... FR RB LaMichael James became the 29th player in UO history to record multiple 100-yard rushing efforts with his 118-yard day vs. Cal, his second straight game eclipsing the century mark. ... Oregon is ranked for the first time since the preseason polls, coming in at No. 16 in the AP top 25, No. 25 in the USA Today (coaches) poll, and No. 23 in the Harris Poll. The latter two polls are utilized when factoring BCS rankings. ... Chip Kelly is the first UO rookie coach since Prink Callison in 1932 to win his first three games in Eugene. ... The Ducks are 10-0 in games when SR PK Morgan Flint scores at least one point. Cougars: WSU leads the Pac-10 in one defensive category — red zone defense — holding foes to just 10 scores in 17 tries, and just seven TDs. That includes four turnovers. ... Punter Reid Forrest continues to be a bright spot, leading the Pac-10 at 45.3 per attempt. ... Washington State is allowing 503 yards per game and 32.8 points per game.
  • RB LaMichael James — What will he do next? He had 152 yards against Utah and 118 vs. Cal. He will look to further establish his Pac-10 credentials against Washington State, which is ninth in the conference in rushing defense.
  • CB Willie Glasper — He drew positive reviews last week when he stepped in for injured star CB Walter Thurmond III (knee). He'll now have to do that all season, because Thurmond won't return.
  • DE Kenny Rowe — The junior has a team-high 4.5 sacks through four games, and he will have his sights set on Washington State true freshman QB Jeff Tuel, who will making his first career start this Saturday. Cougars:
  • QB Jeff Tuel — He also showed some nice mobility, gaining 51 yards on rushes that were either planned or impromptu scrambles.
  • WR Gino Simone — The true freshman receiver had eight catches against USC and seemed to have a good connection with Tuel. He appears to be forging a role as a possession receiver.
  • DE Travis Long — The true freshman has been a revelation for the Cougars and leads the team in tackles for a loss with three. But he will be sorely tested by a tricky Oregon offense based on deception. He will have to play disciplined.
  • PK Nico Grasu — He missed another short field goal and a PAT last week against USC. The Cougars can't kick away easy points against a team like Oregon.
    INJURY WATCH: Ducks:
  • Senior CB Walter Thurmond III, a preseason all-conference player, is out for the rest of the season after suffering a knee injury against Cal that will require surgery. He had a punt return and an interception return for a touchdown this season.
  • FS T.J. Ward (ankle) has missed the past three games. His replacement, John Boyett, had two tackles and a pass break-up against Cal, but Ward is close to a return.
  • RB Remene Alston, who wasn't academically cleared until the third game, made his season debut against Cal last Saturday. He rushed six times for 42 yards and a touchdown.
  • WR Rory Cavaille (shoulder) did not play against Cal. Cougars:
  • The Cougars' O-line could be really thin come Saturday as starting guards B.J. Guerra (knee) and Zack Williams (ankle) are likely again out. And now tackle/guard Steven Ayers is listed as "highly questionable" after with a high ankle sprain.
  • WSU could also be a little thinner on the defensive front as DT Josh Lupao is out with an ACL injury and likely to miss the season.
  • Tagged: Michigan State, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, North Carolina Central, Florida, Clemson, Duke, Notre Dame, Wake Forest, Virginia, West Virginia, Virginia Tech, Michigan, Wisconsin, Memphis

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