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We interrupt this realignment talk to play games

- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Between board of regents meetings and applications for membership, there actually are a bunch of games to be played this college football season.

Conference realignment has dominated the news throughout September and "Who's going where?" has trumped "Who's going to win?" as the question of the day.

The future of the leagues has even diverted attention from all those pesky NCAA investigations. Oregon and South Carolina in the past week announced they had received notices of inquiry from the NCAA, which is the governing body's way of letting a university know it has some explaining to do. Neither caused much of a stir.

The games, however, do go on _ thank goodness _ and on Saturday the biggest one is in Morgantown, W.Va.

No. 2 LSU, having already faced two opponents who were ranked in the Top 25, visits No. 16 West Virginia for a night game at Milan Puskar Stadium that figures to be raucous and rowdy.

LSU coach Les Miles said West Virginia has an SEC atmosphere for game night _ and West Virginia just might end up being the Southeastern Conference's 14th ...

No, no, no. No realignment talk.

West Virginia hired coach Dana Holgorsen to goose the Mountaineers' offense and so far so good.

Behind quarterback Geno Smith, West Virginia is stepping up the pace and putting up some big numbers. The Mountaineers are averaging 434 yards and 42 points, and are still working the kinks out of Holgorsen's spread.

They'll need to be better than they have been all season against a Tigers defense that has already chewed up and spit out Oregon's spread offense and Mississippi State's.

Elsewhere, both of the teams that played in last week's marquee game have potentially tricky follow-ups on Saturday.

No. 1 Oklahoma, coming off a huge road victory at Florida State, returns home to play Missouri in the Big 12 opener _ and, apparently, its not last time the Sooners will start a Big 12 season after they were shut out of ...

NO! No conference realignment.

As for the 11th-ranked Seminoles, they have a much tougher task, trying to rebound with a road trip to No. 21 Clemson in an Atlantic Coast Conference game matching two teams that have been rumored to be targets of the ...

NO. CONFERENCE. REALIGNMENT.

No. 3 Alabama hosts No. 14 Arkansas in a key game in the SEC West, which could be getting a makeover if the conference adds ...

ENOUGH!

The picks:

SATURDAY

Missouri (plus 21 1/2) at No. 1 Oklahoma

Tigers have lost 17 straight in Norman, dating to 1966 ... OKLAHOMA 45-20.

No. 2 LSU (minus 5 1/2) at No. 16 West Virginia

Tigers defense has allowed three touchdowns and 3.16 yards per play ... LSU 24-14.

No. 14 Arkansas (plus 12) at No. 3 Alabama

Razorbacks nearly knocked off Tide last year ... ALABAMA 31-17.

Tulsa (plus 31 1/2) at No. 4 Boise State

Third top-10 opponent already for Golden Hurricane ... BOISE STATE 55-21.

South Dakota (no line) at No. 6 Wisconsin

Next up for Badgers, Big Red invasion of Madison ... WISCONSIN 60-10.

No. 7 Oklahoma State (plus 4) at No. 8 Texas A&M

Cowboys have won three straight against Aggies ... OKLAHOMA STATE 35-34.

No. 9 Nebraska (minus 23 1/2) at Wyoming

Population of Omaha, Neb.: 419,545. Population of Wyoming: 563,626 ... NEBRASKA 49-17.

No. 10 Oregon (minus 15 1/2) at Arizona

Coach Mike Stoops needs to get Wildcats righted quickly ... OREGON 42-28.

UPSET SPECIAL

No. 11 Florida State (plus 2) at No. 21 Clemson

Seminoles D will have to compensate for banged-up offense ... FLORIDA STATE 28-23.

Vanderbilt (plus 16) at No. 12 South Carolina

James Franklin is first Vandy coach to start 3-0 since World War II ... S.CAROLINA 38-17.

No. 13 Virginia Tech (minus 20 1/2) at Marshall

Hokies last played at Marshall in 1940 _ and lost ... VIRGINIA TECH 45-17.

BEST BET

No. 15 Florida (minus 19 1/2) at Kentucky

Gators winning streak against Wildcats is 24 in a row ... FLORIDA 45-10.

Rice (plus 20 1/2) at No. 17 Baylor

Bears' Robert Griffin III has as many incompletions as TD passes (eight) ... BAYLOR 55-20.

UTEP (plus 29) at No. 18 South Florida

Miners have lost 37 straight against current BCS AQ teams ... USF 54-20.

Portland State (no line) at No. 20 TCU

Frogs, who led nation in total defense last three seasons, rank 102nd ... TCU 58-13.

San Diego State (plus 10) at No. 22 Michigan

Wolverines fans get to see just how good coach Brady Hoke is ... MICHIGAN 35-27.

No. 23 Southern California (plus 2 1/2) at Arizona State

Trojans have won five straight at Tempe ... ARIZONA STATE 28-24.

Western Michigan (plus 13) at No. 24 Illinois

Illini rank 17th in nation in total defense ... ILLINOIS 36-17

North Carolina (plus 6 1/2) at No. 25 Georgia Tech

Jackets are highest scoring team in country at 59 points per game ... GEORGIA TECH 28-24.

___

Last week's record: 21-2 (straight); 14-6 (vs. spread).

Season record: 60-6 (straight); 35-19-1 (vs. spread).

Best bets: 2-1.

Upset specials: 1-2.

____

Follow Ralph D. Russo at http://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP

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