Heated rivalries, high stakes mark college football slate

Posted: Thursday, November 18, 2004

There's no better way to salvage a disappointing season than ruining your archrivals' grand plans.

Alabama, Ohio State, BYU and Stanford have that opportunity Saturday.

Auburn (10-0), tied for second in the AP rankings, brings national title hopes into the Iron Bowl against Alabama.

''It's good that we're playing this game, because it's so important to everybody,'' Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said. ''You can forget all about the records.

''This game means so much to so many people families, brothers, sisters we'll get their full attention.''

Alabama (6-4) has the No. 2 total defense in the nation and the top rushing offense in the Southeastern Conference. But the Crimson Tide has been limited by season-ending injuries to quarterback Brodie Croyle and tailback Ray Hudson. Croyle's injury has basically left Alabama with a one-dimensional offense, a major problem against an Auburn defense that ranks No. 1 in the country in points allowed (9.3 per game).

In the Big Ten's most heated rivalry, No. 7 Michigan (9-1) will be trying to lock up a second straight conference title and trip to the Rose Bowl against an Ohio State team that has tumbled after two straight double-digit-win seasons and a national title in 2002.

''It's going to be a tough physical battle,'' Michigan offensive lineman David Baas said. ''It is every single year, no matter the record, or problems schools are having. It is Ohio State vs. Michigan, it is 'the game.'''

On the field, the Buckeyes (6-4, 3-4) are in danger of their first losing Big Ten record since 1999. Off the field, coach Jim Tressel and athletic director Andy Geiger have been defending the program against former Buckeyes star Maurice Clarett's accusations of cheating.

Fifth-ranked Utah (10-0) is trying to become the first team from a non-BCS conference to earn a BCS bowl bid. A win over in-state rival BYU (5-5) would all but seal a trip to one of the $14 million games; a loss sends Utah to the Liberty Bowl as Mountain West champs, where they'd get a check for $1.35 million.

The Cougars, meanwhile, are just trying to become eligible for any bowl.

Then there's the Big Game between California (8-1) and Stanford (4-6). The fourth-ranked Golden Bears are trying to reach the Rose Bowl for the first time in 46 years, while their Bay Area rivals are trying to break a four-game losing streak.

The picks:

Thursday

Maryland (plus 10) at No. 15 Virginia Tech

Hokies control their destiny in cluttered ACC ... VIRGINIA TECH 24-10.

Saturday

No. 2 Auburn (minus 10) at Alabama

Tigers have won two straight in Tuscaloosa ... AUBURN 27-6.

No. 2 Oklahoma (minus 34 1/2) at Baylor

Sooners can't afford even slight slip ... OKLAHOMA 52-14.

Stanford (plus 24) at No. 4 California

Cal has won two straight in Big Game ... CAL 44-17.

BYU (plus 21 1/2) at No. 5 Utah

Fiesta time in Salt Lake City as in Fiesta Bowl for Utes ... UTAH 38-24.

No. 7 Michigan (minus 5 1/2) at Ohio State

Buckeyes muddle Big Ten race ... OHIO STATE 22-20.

No. 8 Louisville (minus 21) at Houston

Cardinals won 66-45 last season ... LOUISVILLE 55-28.

No. 9 Wisconsin (plus 3) at No. 17 Iowa

Hawkeyes send Michigan to Rose Bowl ... IOWA 17-16.

Florida (plus 7) at No. 10 Florida State

Gators haven't won in Tallahassee since 1986 ... FLORIDA STATE 27-23.

Wake Forest (plus 18 1/2) at No. 12 Miami

ACC title still possible for Hurricanes ... MIAMI 38-17.

Louisiana Tech (plus 24) at No. 13 Boise State

Broncos' defense plays better on Smurf Turf ... BOISE STATE 48-20.

Mississippi (plus 20 1/2) at No. 14 LSU

Tigers eyeing Cotton Bowl bid ... LSU 28-13.

No. 15 Tennessee (minus 13) at Vanderbilt

Vols have won 21 straight against Commodores ... TENNESSEE 24-14.

No. 18 Virginia (minus 6) at Georgia Tech

Cavs 7-0 against teams not from Florida ... VIRGINIA 26-14 No. 19 Boston College (minus 14) at Temple

Eagles two wins away from BCS bid ... BOSTON COLLEGE 38-20.

SMU (plus 21) at No. 24 UTEP

Defense has led Miners' turnaround ... UTEP 34-10.

Last week: 16-3 (straight); 10-8-1 (vs. points)

Season: 165-44 (straight); 104-92-5 (vs. points)



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