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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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September closes with top teams facing tough tests

Ralph D. Russo Associated Press

The end of September has the potential to reshape the race to the Rose Bowl.

Three of the nation’s top four teams – all prime contenders to play for the national title in Pasadena on Jan. 4 – play ranked opponents, including No. 1 Southern California at No. 24 Oregon.

No. 3 LSU finally plays a home game Monday – and it’s a big one. The Tigers host No. 10 Tennessee, with the Volunteers looking to bounce back from a loss at Florida.

No. 4 Virginia Tech has won its last two games by a combined 90-0. The Hokies will have to work much harder today with No. 15 Georgia Tech coming to Blacksburg.

The Trojans haven’t played Oregon while winning national titles the past two seasons. The last time they visited Autzen Stadium, Carson Palmer was the quarterback, USC scored 30 straight points in the second half, and the Trojans won 44-33.

Expect a similarly high-scoring affair today with Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart making his first start in Eugene, and quarterback Kellen Clemens and the Ducks going against a USC defense missing two injured starters.

Oregon (3-0) is unbeaten, but the Ducks allowed 34 points to Fresno State and 24 to Houston. The Trojans, meanwhile, have scored 133 points in two games.

“I don’t know that we want to match touchdowns with USC,” Oregon coach Mike Bellotti said. “At this point I think the lower the score, the better that is for the Ducks – and I think that we have the ability to move the football and we can score points. I am just not sure we can do it quite as fast as USC has shown they have done it the past two games.”

USC’s winning streak is 24 games. One more ties the school record set in 1931-33.

Because of Hurricane Katrina, LSU has played only one game – a dramatic 35-31 victory over Arizona State that was supposed to be played in Tiger Stadium but ended up being moved to Tempe, Ariz.

The lineupTimeTV
(1) Southern Cal at (24) Oregon
Pick: UO 46-434ABC
Monday: (3) LSU vs. (10) Tenn.
Pick: LSU 24-164:45ESPN2
(4) Va. Tech vs. (15) Georgia Tech
Pick: VT 19-1512:30
(5) Florida at Kentucky
Pick: UF 30-1412:30CBS
(7) Georgia at Mississippi State
Pick: UG 35-104:45ESPN
(8) Ohio State vs. (21) Iowa
Pick: OSU 24-149
(9) Louisville at South Florida
Pick: UL 50-203:45
(11) Purdue at Minnesota
Pick: UM 24-239ESPN
(12) Miami vs. Colorado
Pick: UM 26-149
(14) Michigan at Wisconsin
Pick: UM 27-263ESPN2
(16) Notre Dame at Washington
Pick: UND 36-1312:30ABC
(17) Michigan State at Illinois
Pick: MSU 44-249
(18) Arizona State at Oregon State
Pick: ASU 41-217TBS
(19) Texas Tech vs. Indiana State
Pick: TTU 90-144
(20) Alabama vs. Arkansas
Pick: Bama 30-139:30
(23) Virginia vs. Duke
Pick: UV 37-712:30
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