The unbeaten try to stay that way

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 20, 2005

USC/ND was everything the hype said it would be.

USC was lucky to escape; the fourth down try on their own 19, if Matt Leinart’s fumble on the goal line stays in bounds, if Leinart’s second effort on the QB sneak wasn’t quite enough, but &uot;lucky&uot; and &uot;#1 in the nation&uot; are not necessarily two exclusive descriptions.

Moving on now, this week is about if undefeated teams behind USC can dodge challenges. Virginia Tech on the road, Texas in their biggest regular season hurdle, ‘Bama’s third week in October, and UCLA trying to stake their claim as serious Pac-10 challenger to USC, are what to watch this week.

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Thursday – #3 Virginia Tech (6-0) at Maryland (4-2) (7:30 – ESPN)

Maryland still has, thanks largely to UVA, an outside shot at their division, but with upcoming dates versus BC and FSU, the Terps’ shot is from the extreme outside.

For this one though, with the Thursday night national stage, having won three in a row, and remembering last season’s 55-6 pummeling in Blacksburg, this is probably Maryland’s Super Bowl.

VT can’t look ahead to the two home games (BC and Miami) that every Hokie fan has been waiting for all year. They are the two home games that could inch them over Texas into BCS spot #2, even without a Longhorn loss.

Talent-wise, this game should be all Hokies. Good running offenses, none of which are nearly as good as Tech, (Navy and Clemson) gave Maryland trouble back in September. The Hokies’ defense and running game will have an advantage in a close game, and they might just need it.

My pick – VT 34, Maryland 23


First course – Georgia Tech (4-2) at #6 Miami (5-1) (Noon – ABC)

Miami hasn’t given up more than one score in a game since Sept. 17, and sure the last two games (Duke and Temple) would’ve been more challenging against, let’s see, William and Mary and Hampton, but the ‘Canes seem to be getting better as Kyle Wright gains the experience he had none of back versus FSU.

The Jacket QB, Reggie Ball, who might or might not be hurt again after he left last week’s GT/Duke game (albeit a comfortable GT win) with an injured hand.

If he can go, and find Calvin Johnson as much as usual, this will be a much bigger test for Miami.

My pick – Miami 27, GT 21

During commercials – #14 Ohio State (4-2) at Indiana (4-2) (Noon – ESPN)

Indiana equals Vanderbilt, and that’s not a complimentary statement.

Starting 3-0, bowl visions were seemingly in reach.

Since then IU has remembered Big Ten competition is a little tougher than Central Michigan and Nicholls State.

Two upset wins through five remaining games and Coach Terry Hoeppner’s first year would be a big success.

Last week’s big conference win should be a plus for OSU, and they are still in good shape for a championship; but in this year’s Big Ten, those two factors mean the Bucks will probably look terrible here.

Ohio State holds a 12 game winning streak in this series.

IU has a chance or two late, but OSU experience versus IU inexperience lets the Buckeyes escape.

My pick – OSU 38, IU 31

Second course – #10 Texas Tech (6-0) at #2 Texas (6-0) (3:30 – ABC)

Texas Tech’s record is artificially 6-0 (3-0 with three glorified scrimmages), true.

Texas Tech has historically collapsed when visiting Austin, true.

Texas Tech’s offense is explosive enough to potentially make those first two statements irrelevant, true.

This is the now-outdated George Mason/Loyola Marymount basketball theory.

Can’t out-play, out-strategize, or out-talent an opponent?

See if you can outscore them, after all, as current Red Raider Bob Knight sneeringly said once upon a pre-game interview, &uot;the key to tonight’s game is to score more points than the other team.&uot;

The Longhorns were supposed to be tested each of the last three weeks, and haven’t really been tested at all.

Vince Young is Heisman-quality good, and RB Jamaal Charles would have nearly 1,000 rushing yards in six games if Young didn’t have over 400 for himself.

Texas can stop the Red Raiders at least a few times; can Tech stop Texas at all?

My pick – Texas 52, Texas Tech 37

During commercials – #17 Tennessee (3-2) at #5 Alabama (6-0) (3:30 – CBS)

Just when Tennessee’s brutal schedule was supposed to have a light at the end of it, now top 10 Notre Dame sits just a couple weeks ahead.

Alabama’s the real story to watch here though, if the Tide wins here, they should go into a Nov. 12 LSU match-up with a 9-0 record.

With main receiver Tyrone Prothro out, Alabama had trouble moving the ball last week at Ole Miss.

UT’s had trouble moving the ball all year with the exception of one half against LSU.

An old-school, third week of October, one late touchdown, SEC battle is the most likely outcome.

My pick – Tennessee 20, Alabama 17

Final course – #16 Auburn (5-1) at #7 LSU (4-1) (7:45 – ESPN)

LSU’s had one poor half all season.

If enough undefeated teams stumble in the second half of the season, LSU’s early season loss could mean they are the first one-loss team in line for BCS spot #2.

Auburn lost to Georgia Tech in their opening week, and has rolled up five wins over lesser competition than the Jackets (and definitely LSU) since.

This Auburn team is not nearly the Auburn of the last two seasons; LSU on a roll, playing ever-stronger defense, and at night in Death Valley should expose that clearly.

QB Jamarcus Russell took a lot of heat after the Tennessee loss, but he and WR Early Doucet (both sophomores) presumably have two more seasons together after this year; so even if the Tigers fall just short in the SEC and/or BCS this year, big things are ahead.

My pick – LSU 34, Auburn 16

During commercials – Oregon State (4-2) at #8 UCLA (6-0) (7:00 – TBS)

UCLA will be the final team to get a crack at the Trojans on Dec. 3 which could effectively be, along with the other official conference title games that day, the PAC-10 championship game.

The Bruins got a huge road win against Cal two weeks ago, but then gave doubters fodder by giving up 41 in a narrow win (44-41) against Washington State last week.

Lots of folks are beginning to, and if 10-0 USC vs. 10-0 UCLA draws closer will be, talking up RB Maurice Drew.

Drew has NFL ability, but has yet to fully show it against a big-time opponent.

QB Drew Olson has put up numbers that are good even by the high-scoring standards of the PAC-10 (67.2 passing percentage, 1612 yards, 15 TD, 3 INT).

The Beavers also played, and beat by similar margins, WSU and Cal in their last two times out.

My pick – UCLA 42, OSU 36

Last week’s record: 4-2

For the season: 20-13