Bulldogs will cover vs. USC

It is an excellent time of year to be a college football fan, as the regular season approaches its climax with huge rivalry games. Saturday it will be Ohio State-Michigan, California-Stanford, Washington-Washington State and Oregon-Oregon State. Last year Clemson and South Carolina players preceded their game with a brawl, and Alabama-Auburn is always a matter of life and death.

Nevertheless, the most intriguing game on Saturday's schedule is not a rivalry at all. It is Fresno State at No. 1 USC. For years, underrated Fresno State has been begging for a challenge like this, and now finally the Bulldogs get it. It will be interesting to see how they respond to their opportunity.

University of Nevada fans should also be hoping Fresno puts on a good show since they both represent the WAC Conference. Nevada is eligible for its first bowl game since 1996, but this year the entire league has failed to deliver one quality victory over a BCS conference opponent. Playing Fresno State the week after its nationally-spotlighted contest with USC gives Nevada a chance to open some eyes and get invited.

Predictions: Fresno State +24; Stanford +4; South Carolina +1.

• The second year of NASCAR's Nextel Cup Chase for the Championship has entertained auto racing fans with road rage, tire controversies and big wrecks. Unfortunately, it most likely will not provide its fans with an exciting finish to the championship.

With Sunday's race being the final one, Tony Stewart is in the driver's seat, so to speak, with a commanding 52-point lead. All he needs to do is end up in ninth place or better to win the season title. Considering that Stewart has finished in the top 10 in 19 of his last 21 races, that should be no problem.

Those handicappers and fans who have bet on Stewart to win it all were fortunate to get him at odds as high as 9 to 1. The 2002 series champion was not one of the top favorites at the beginning of the year.

Those who wagered on the Over/Under season win propositions got paid if they took the Over on Stewart, Jeff Gordon and Kurt Busch. Drivers who went Under their projected win totals were Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman. Dale Jarrett needs a win to go Over 1 1/2, and Jimmie Johnson is currently on his projected number of four.

In the head-to-head season win match-ups, both Stewart and Gordon defeated Earnhardt Jr. With the one race to go, Gordon and Johnson are tied, as are Newman and Kahne. Jarrett leads Bobby Labonte 1-0.

Ford 400 - With no damage to the racing surface from Hurricane Wilma, Homestead-Miami Speedway is ready for Sunday's action. Don't expect Stewart to go for the win here, since a top nine finish is all that is needed. The prediction is for the victor to be Greg Biffle, last year's race winner. Any kind of suspense or close finish to the championship would be a great bonus.


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