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Colleges kick with intriguing matchups

Aug 20, 2002 4:56 AM

Although the slate is limited, college football kicks off with some interesting match-ups to begin the season.

Colorado St. at Virginia —2½: The Rams should be able to run the ball on the Cavaliers soft middle, which allowed 206 yards/game (ranked 94th in the nation) on the ground last season. Quarterback Bradlee Van Pelt, who can run and pass, will be an elusive target for the Cavaliers. Virginia hopes to shore up a running attack that failed to produce a 400-yard rusher for the first time in 24 years, and was ranked 101st out of 115 Division 1A teams. Colorado State is a solid team (special teams are excellent) with a chance to eke out a narrow victory.

Fresno St. at Wisconsin —7: The Bulldogs must replace QB David Carr, who last year rang up 4,800 yards and 46 touchdowns, and its offensive coordinator. Wisconsin looks to avenge last season’s home loss to the Bulldogs (32-20), and they’ll need a tougher defense to do so. The Badgers gave up a surprising 28 points/game last season, but have some holes to fill in the linebacking and secondary corps. Nevertheless, the Big 10’s top running back, Anthony Davis, should help control the ball against a smaller Fresno squad. That should result in a slight edge toward Wisconsin laying a touchdown.

Texas Tech at Ohio St. —7: The Red Raiders feature a prolific passing attack led by Kliff Kingsbury (3,500 yards, 25 touchdowns), but could only muster 81 yards/game on the ground last season (113th in the country). A one-dimensional assault doesn’t bode well against an Ohio State team whose strength is a defense led by two of the nation’s top safeties. Yet, the Buckeyes have offensive questions of their own, including who will take over at quarterback (highly touted freshman Justin Zwick is in the mix). The lean is toward Texas Tech getting 7 points.

New Mexico at N. C. State —12½: The Lobos come off one of their best seasons in years, but they lost a lot of starters. Yet, Coach Rocky Long finally has his defense functioning effectively, finishing among the Top 20 in the country. The Wolfpack lost a versatile running back who caught a lot of passes out of the backfield, and its offensive line needs to replace its entire middle. Those factors should keep the Lobos within the number.

Arizona St. at Nebraska —22: The Sun Devils defense was a sieve last year, allowing 32 points/game (94th in the nation) and giving up real estate in townships. Nebraska must replace Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch, but returns the Big 12’s leading rusher, Dahrran Diedrick (1,299 yards, 15 TDs). Even though Nebraska has been a poor home favorite (6-8 ATS the last two years), they should shut down Arizona State and make the cover.

Iowa State at Florida State —22: The Cyclones come off their second straight bowl appearance, and quarterback Seneca Wallace (2,044 yards, 11 TDs) is poised to get them into the post season again. The Seminoles return from a "down" year in which they lost as many games (4) in the regular season as the previous four combined. With experience QB Chris Dix and a solid 1-2 punch at running back should have the Seminoles clicking, enough to put the Seminoles over the number.