College's big games happen in small places

Posted: Thursday, October 23, 2003

Don't look to college football's traditional cathedrals for this weekend's biggest games.

Notre Dame Stadium, the Horseshoe, the Orange Bowl and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum will be empty Saturday. The Big House hosts a big game in the Big Ten between Michigan and Purdue, but even that's not the most important game of the weekend.

For the big showdown, you need to travel to 28,599-seat Doyt Perry Stadium on the campus of Bowling Green, where the 23rd-ranked Falcons (6-1) will host No. 12 Northern Illinois (7-0) for the toughest test remaining in the Huskies' bid for an undefeated season.

This big game in the little Mid-American Conference has caught the country's attention. In a sign of how hyped the game will be, ESPN's ''College GameDay'' will bring its traveling roadshow to Bowling Green.

''I think, once the game starts, players and coaches get in game mode, and concentration takes over,'' Bowling Green coach Gregg Brandon said. ''That enthusiasm lasts for maybe a quarter. Then, you've got to block and tackle. Your skills, techniques and fundamentals take over.''

The picks:

No. 1 Oklahoma (minus 25) at Colorado

Buffs host No. 1 team for first time in 25 years ... OKLAHOMA 41-10.

UAB (plus 29 1/2) at No. 4 Georgia

Bulldogs get easy nonconference tuneup for Florida ... GEORGIA 37-3.

No. 5 Southern California (minus 10) at Washington

Trojans winless in Seattle since '93 ... USC 27-21.

Wake Forest (plus 18 1/2) at No. 6 Florida State

Bobby Bowden can pass Joe Paterno for most wins ... FLORIDA STATE 31-17.

Oregon State (plus 8) at No. 6 Washington State

Cougars can't look ahead to showdown vs. USC ... WASHINGTON STATE 24-20.

No. 8 Ohio State (minus 20 1/2) at Indiana

Buckeyes looking for first road win ... OHIO STATE 31-13.

No. 17 Auburn (plus 3 1/2) at No. 9 LSU

Auburn plays seventh game against Top 10 team in last 11 ... AUBURN 21-20.

No. 10 Purdue (plus 5) at No. 13 Michigan

Another tough road test for the Boilermakers ... MICHIGAN 28-24.

No. 12 Northern Illinois (plus 3 1/2) at No. 23 Bowling Green

Huskies' undefeated run ends ... BOWLING GREEN 27-24.

Iowa State (plus 23 1/2) at No. 14 Nebraska

Huskers 23-2 in last 25 meetings with Cyclones ... NEBRASKA 31-14.

No. 15 TCU (minus 6) at Houston

Horned Frogs have won 17 of 18 overall ... TCU 24-21.

Penn State (plus 10 1/2) at No. 16 Iowa

JoePa looking for first conference win ... IOWA 27-20.

No. 18 Oklahoma State (minus 6) at Texas A&M

High-flying Cowboys can't look ahead to Oklahoma ... OKLAHOMA STATE 34-24.

No. 19 Texas (minus 33) at Baylor

Bears last team to shut out Longhorns in 1980 ... TEXAS 42-13.

No. 20 Wisconsin (minus 10 1/2) at Northwestern

Badgers try to bounce back from loss to Purdue ... WISCONSIN 27-10.

No. 21 Arkansas (plus 1) at Mississippi

Eli Manning and Rebels try to stay undefeated in conference ... MISSISSIPPI 27-24.

No. 22 Tennessee (minus 3 1/2) at Alabama

Tide winless at home vs. Vols since '91 ... TENNESSEE 24-17.

New Mexico (plus 9) at No. 24 Utah

Utes ranked for first time since '96 ... UTAH 28-14.

Last week: 18-1 (straight); 10-7-1 (vs. points)

Season: 120-32 (straight); 73-68-1 (vs. points)

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