Fight on or wake up the echoes?

Terry Bowden
Yahoo! Sports
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The much-anticipated showdown in South Bend at 3:30 p.m. ET will overshadow a lot of other good games in that time slot. It's a good day to keep a firm grip on the remote control.

(1) USC at (9) Notre Dame - 3:30 p.m. ET (NBC) Preview

USC
USC

Trojans
1st, Pac-10
Record: 5-0, 3-0

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Fighting Irish
Independent
Record: 4-1

Notre Dame
Notre Dame

I still think we have to start with the basic premise that if USC plays its best and doesn't turn the ball over, it will win this game. However, playing their best has not necessarily been the case for the Trojans in their last three games. So let's look at what could happen if they don't.

If USC has a slow start like it did in the last three games, Notre Dame can pull off the upset. The Irish offense is outstanding. It can mix the run with the pass and score enough points to hang with the Trojans. The biggest difference between Notre Dame's offense and the offenses of Oregon and Arizona State is that ND can not only move the ball but also can control the clock. The Irish are much more likely to produce 10- and 12-play drives, and that would keep USC's offense off the field. The Irish will need to do that and also score touchdowns instead of field goals.

If the Irish can take a close game into the second half, Charlie Weis is in good shape. I don't think the Irish offense will get worse in the second half as Oregon and Arizona State did. Weis has too much expertise and will make the appropriate adjustments as the game goes on.

I think that will happen and keep this game very close. Although Notre Dame's defense has given up a ton of yards, its rush defense has been pretty solid. I'm anxious to see how USC will do if someone makes the Trojans one-dimensional. But until somebody beat the Trojans, I still think they have one too many weapons to lose.

Pick: Trojans

Big 12: (24) Colorado at (2) Texas - 3:30 p.m. ET (ABC regional) Preview Colorado Texas

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Colorado
Colorado

Buffaloes
1st, Big 12 North
Record: 4-1, 2-0

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Longhorns
T-1st, Big 12 South
Record: 5-0, 2-0

Texas
Texas

• Colorado: Gary Barnett Show
• Texas: Longhorn Sportsline Mack Brown Press Conference

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After huge victories in nationally televised contests against Ohio State and Oklahoma, it's important that Texas take care of business the rest of the season. This game and next week's showdown with Texas Tech may be the biggest bumps in the road that leads back to the Rose Bowl, where this time the national title will be at stake.

Those wins have showed how this Longhorn team will handle pressure. But now that the 'Horns have beaten the Sooners and will be favored in every remaining game, I'm anxious to see how focused they can remain. The one guy who can answer all these questions remains Vince Young.

Colorado needs quarterback Joel Klatt to show his toughness and maturity to keep the Buffs in this game. But CU needs to hope Texas turns the ball over a lot to have a chance.

Pick: Longhorns

SEC: (11) Florida at (10) LSU - 3:30 p.m. ET (CBS) Preview Florida

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Florida
Florida

Gators
2nd, SEC East
Record: 5-1, 3-1

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Tigers
3rd, SEC West
Record: 3-1, 2-1

LSU
LSU

• Florida: Gator Hotline with Urban Meyer

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After poring over the stats of these two teams, it's obvious they've been pretty similar, but Florida beat a Tennessee team that beat LSU. The key to their showdown in Baton Rouge is the health of Chris Leak, Chad Jackson, Dallas Baker and DeShawn Wynn. All are banged up a bit, and the more that any of these guys can't play up to his potential, the more this game turns toward LSU.

The bottom line to me remains how well Chris Leak can fit in to Urban Meyer's offense. Meyer and the Gators learned a valuable lesson at Alabama (where they lost 31-3), and I see them sneaking out of Baton Rouge with a victory that keeps them very much in contention for the SEC championship.

Pick: Gators

Big Ten: (8) Penn State at Michigan - 3:30 p.m. ET (ABC regional) Preview

Penn State
Penn State

Nittany Lions
1st, Big Ten
Record: 6-0, 3-0

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Wolverines
9th, Big Ten
Record: 3-3, 1-2

Michigan
Michigan

Although this could wind up being a disastrous year for Michigan, the team still looks more like one that should be 6-0 rather than 3-3. After three close losses, this should be a team fighting for its life and opening up its offense to take advantage of incredible athletes at skill positions. Whether it be Michael Hart, Steve Breaston or Jason Avant, Michigan should step up its game.

Make no doubt it, Penn State is back. It has gone from a question of if PSU ever will win another Big Ten title to a matter of when. But I still question the Nittany Lions' ability to toss the football when their running game is shut down, and how I think Michigan can avoid its first losing record after seven games since 1967.

Pick: Wolverines

Big East: (19) Louisville at West Virginia - 3:30 p.m. ET (ABC regional) Preview

Louisville
Louisville

Cardinals
T-6th, Big East
Record: 4-1, 0-1

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Mountaineers
1st, Big East
Record: 5-1, 2-0

West Virginia
West Virginia

To me, these are the two top teams in the Big East, with one of the country's best offenses against one of the best defenses. The Cardinals' potent offense playing in Morgantown against the stingy Mountaineers should make for a classic confrontation.

West Virginia must have its best defensive performance of the season. The Mountaineers run the ball well enough that they'll have a chance to win.

Although I'll be heading back to my alma mater as it celebrates the 30th anniversary of its Peach Bowl champion team coached by Bobby Bowden and led by walk-on benchwarmer Terry Bowden, I'm afraid the Cardinals are going to sneak out of Motown with their first Big East win. The good news is I won't have to avoid any burning couches in the streets on my drive out.

Pick: Cardinals

ACC: (4) Florida State at Virginia - 7:45 p.m. ET (ESPN) Preview Florida State Virginia

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Florida State
Florida State

Seminoles
1st, ACC Atlantic
Record: 5-0, 3-0

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Cavaliers
T-4th, ACC Coastal
Record: 3-2, 1-2

Virginia
Virginia

• Florida State: Bobby Bowden Show
• Virginia: Cavalier Call-in Show Al Groh Press Conference

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For all you FSU fans who have been suffering the last four years, I believe FSU is starting to peak on offense. For the first time since 2000, the Seminoles look like the teams of the '90s that won two national championships. FSU has gone back to using three and four wideouts in the shotgun to get the ball to a talented receiving corps that can go deep at any time.

The big difference that became apparent in their win last week over Wake Forest was the decision to develop a running game out of the shotgun. That makes it much more difficult for opponents to stop a group with this kind of talent.

Virginia is coming off two disappointing showings against Maryland and Boston College. The Cavaliers' hopes ride on the shoulders of quarterback Marques Hagans, who won't fold under the pressure of such a high-stakes game.

While fans in Charlottesville might be reminiscing about the upcoming 10-year anniversary of Virginia handing Florida State its first ACC loss, the Seminoles are playing much too well right now to lose this time. But I still feel FSU's offense and its quarterback are so young that there will be a hiccup somewhere along the way.

Pick: Seminoles

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