- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Last week, Arizona, Mississippi, Mississippi State and TCU gave the AP Top 25 an extreme makeover with huge victories. This week, the Wildcats, Rebels, Bulldogs and Horned Frogs try to validate all that attention and prove they are more than October shooting stars.

The Wildcats set a record for the largest leap into the Top 25, going from unranked to No. 10 after starting last week’s madness by upsetting Oregon. Coach Rich Rodriguez’s team comes home Saturday to face Pac-12 South rival Southern California, which is coming off a brutal last-second loss.

Having a couple of extra days off wasn’t a bad thing for the Wildcats.

“They had to come back down to earth mentally,” Rodriguez said.

The Mississippi schools share the No. 3 ranking and now face what in many ways are tougher tasks than last week. The Bulldogs get ESPN “College GameDay” in their town as No. 2 Auburn comes to Starkville.

“They will be the best team we play so far,” Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said.

The Bulldogs have also made a record rise in the rankings. Mississippi State became the third team (SMU in 1947 and Georgia Tech in 1959) to reach No. 3 after just three weeks in the poll.

Ole Miss hits the road after beating Alabama for a date with No. 14 Texas A&M;, which figures to be surly and hungry after taking a beating at Mississippi State last Saturday.

No. 9 TCU turned the Red River Rivalry between Oklahoma, which lost to the Horned Frogs last week, and Texas into the undercard in the Lone Star state this week. TCU visits No. 5 Baylor for the main event. It’ll be just the second time two top-10 teams will play in Waco, and first since 1956 - and that beats deep-fried sweet tea at the Texas State Fair.

Though if you want to indulge at the fair, and then head to Waco (about 95 miles from Dallas), that works, too.

The picks:


Washington State (plus 17 1/2) at No. 25 Stanford

Coach Mike Leach’s Cougar-coaster rolls through The Farm this week. Wazzu has played four games decided by seven points or less, including two-straight one-pointers … STANFORD 45-21.


No. 2 Auburn (minus 3) at No. 3 Mississippi State

No Katy Perry on “GameDay” at Mississippi State. Maybe Taylor Swift is available? No worries: Bulldogs QB Dak Prescott has a chance to become the biggest star ever in Starkville … MISSISSIPPI STATE 31-28.

No. 3 Mississippi (plus 3) at No. 14 Texas A&M;

Rebels might be only team left in the SEC with an SEC defense. … TEXAS A&M; 28-24.

No. 9 TCU (plus 10) at No. 5 Baylor

Bears have won 12 straight at home. Last loss? To TCU in 2012 … BAYLOR 35-24.

Southern California (minus 2 1/2) at No. 10 Arizona

Last five meetings have been decided by a total of 24 points, none by more than seven, and USC has won three … ARIZONA 28-27.

No. 12 Oregon (minus 3 1/2) at No. 18 UCLA

Ducks have won last five meetings and haven’t lost consecutive regular-season games since 2007. Winner gets back in the playoff race. Loser? Big problems … UCLA 38-28.


No. 13 Georgia (minus 3) at No. 23 Missouri

Tigers have a chance to take control of the SEC East race, which no one seems to have any interest in doing so far … MISSOURI 28-24.


North Carolina (plus 16 1/2) at No. 6 Notre Dame

Everett Golson’s Heisman Trophy campaign gets boost from Tar Heels’ porous defense … NOTRE DAME 41-21.

No. 7 Alabama (minus 9 1/2) at Arkansas

Tide is 104th in the country in turnover margin (minus-4) and 82nd in fewest penalties per game (7.0). Those are some very un-Saban-like numbers … ALABAMA 35-20.

No. 11 Oklahoma (minus 14) vs. Texas at Dallas

Sooners give Longhorns coach Charlie Strong rude welcome to Red River rivalry … OKLAHOMA 35-13.


Syracuse (plus 23) at No. 1 Florida State

Definition of poor timing: Orange changed offensive coordinators this week and starting QB Terrel Hunt is hurt … FLORIDA STATE 42-14.

No. 8 Michigan State (minus 22) at Purdue

Boilermakers snapped nine-game Big Ten losing streak against Illinois last week … MICHIGAN STATE 35-14.

No. 16 Oklahoma State (minus 20) at Kansas

Cowboys have won four straight and nine of 10 against Jayhawks … OKLAHOMA STATE 45-17.

No. 19 East Carolina (minus 15) at South Florida

Pirates are front-runners to be best of the Group of Five conferences and land in New Year’s Day game … EAST CAROLINA 28-17.

Duke (plus 5) at No. 22 Georgia Tech

Yellow Jackets are lowest-ranked unbeaten team from Big Five … DUKE 31-28.


LSU (minus 2) at Florida

Even after a victory, not much relief in Gainesville for coach Will Muschamp’s Gators … LSU 28-21.

Washington (plus 3) at California

It’s a Cal game, so anything can happen. Bears have allowed 115 points in last two and won both … WASHINGTON 43-42.

Penn State (plus 1) at Michigan

Quiet week in Ann Arbor as the losses have become routine for the Wolverines … MICHIGAN 17-16.


Last week: Record straight: 10-9; vs. points 9-10.

Season: Record straight: 82-27; vs. points 48-60-2.

Best bet: 2-4.

Upset special: 3-4.


Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP

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