Nothing Hokie about this test

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:06 AM ET

Okay, Virginia Tech, here's your chance. Let's see what you've really got.

Now, don't go taking that as a line of trash talk directed at the Hokies. Far from it. Rather, it's our way of suggesting that Virginia Tech -- the very good but oft-forgotten team in the national championship chase -- finally has the spotlight game it needs to change some voters' minds.

USC had Notre Dame and Arizona State. Texas had Ohio State and, to a lesser extent, Oklahoma.

Acid tests, they're called. The kind of wins that can make a nation stand up and truly take notice.

The unbeaten Hokies, a solid No. 3 in the rankings, get theirs on Saturday night. That's when the Miami Hurricanes, with their oh-so-nasty defence, come calling at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Va.

Boston College was supposed to be an imposing warmup test last Thursday, but the Hokies handled it with frightening ease. Miami, however, is a whole 'nother story.

Win this one, and maybe Virginia Tech can make up some ground in the all-important BCS standings. Win it big, and the Hokies will be awfully difficult to ignore.

That being said, USC -- which, no surprise, is back in the BCS lead this week -- and Texas have a wide, wide edge in the race. Meaning the Hokies have some serious work to do with a mere month to go.

Saturday night's a good place to start.

- Circle the date Dec. 3 on your calendar. The last Saturday of the regular season is shaping up as one of the all-time dandies, with perhaps four unbeaten teams lining up in major showdowns. The biggest of them all could be between Los Angeles rivals USC and UCLA, both unbeaten at the moment. You could also have a couple of stellar matchups in the SEC (Alabama-Georgia) and ACC (Virginia Tech-Florida State) championship games.

On with this week's picks:

GAME OF THE WEEK

No. 5 Miami (Fla.) (+61/2) at No. 3 Virginia Tech (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., The Score) -- The nation's top two defences collide in a game with huge BCS implications. Hokies have won four of last five vs. Miami in Blacksburg, an even tougher place to play under the lights. Both teams can run, so this one might come down to the two quarterbacks. QB Marcus Vick helps Hokies state their case for national attention.

Pick: VIRGINIA TECH.

NEXT BEST THING

No. 14 Wisconsin (+101/2) at No. 10 Penn State (Saturday, 3:30 p.m., ABC) -- Winner here has inside track to Big Ten crown, something Joe Paterno and Nittany Lions haven't worn since 1994. Workhorse RB Brian Calhoun has been a touchdown machine for Badgers, who have won two straight in Happy Valley. But soft defence could be easy pickings for a Penn State offence still rolling without injured WR Derrick Williams. Pick: PENN STATE.

UPSET SPECIAL

No. 23 California (+2) at No. 15 Oregon (Saturday, 3:30 p.m.) -- Ducks QB Kellen Clemens went down with a fractured left ankle against Arizona last week, and it's no minor loss. Dennis Dixon gets the call against Golden Bears, who get USC at home next week. No chance they'll be looking ahead -- Bears have lost six straight at Autzen Stadium. Pick: CALIFORNIA.

BLOWOUT OF THE WEEK

Appalachian State (NL) at No. 6 LSU (Saturday) -- The Bayou Bengals dropped 56 on North Texas last week. They won't break a sweat in this one, either. Next stop, Alabama. Pick: LSU.

QUICK PICKS

(Straight-up selections in bold)

Tonight

No. 24 Louisville (-201/2) over Pittsburgh

Saturday

No. 1 USC (-331/2) over Stanford

No. 2 Texas (-28) over Baylor

No. 4 Alabama (-161/2) over Mississippi State

Arizona (+91/2) over No. 7 UCLA

Tennessee (+8) over No. 8 Notre Dame

N.C. State (+14) over No. 9 Florida State

No. 12 Ohio State (-34) over Illinois

No. 13 Florida (-191/2) over Vanderbilt

No. 16 Texas Tech (-161/2) over Texas A&M

No. 17 Auburn (-221/2) over Kentucky

No. 19 Boston College (-41/2) over North Carolina

Colorado State (+7) over No. 20 TCU

No. 21 Fresno State (-33) over San Jose State

Missouri (+11) over No. 25 Colorado

(NOTE: No. 18 West Virginia played Connecticut last night).

Last week -- 16-2 straight up; 6-11-1 ATS.

Season record -- 126-38 straight up; 78-82-4 ATS.

Best bet -- Virginia Tech (3-6).

Upset special -- California (2-7).


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