October 22, 2010

Keep an eye on: What our guys are watching

Each week, Rivals.com's college football experts give fans things to keep an eye on over the course of the weekend. Here are some key things to watch this weekend.

We're back with another season of trying to predict the big upsets -- or, at the least, pick teams that will cover the spread. The lone stipulation for our writers in choosing a game is that the spread has to be at least 7.5 points.
Olin Buchanan
Wyoming plus-10.5 at BYU. Even with 10.5 points, taking Wyoming over BYU usually is a reach. And that might seem the case again this season, considering Wyoming is 2-5. But three of the Cowboys' losses came against unbeaten teams (TCU, Utah and Boise State), and the others were at Texas and by a touchdown to Air Force. Meanwhile, BYU also is 2-5 and lucky to be doing that well. The Cougars probably would have lost to San Diego State had an obvious fumble on a BYU scoring drive been overturned upon review. A BYU employee was working on the replay crew, which was suspended.
Tom Dienhart
Minnesota plus-9.5 vs. Penn State. I wouldn't be surprised if Minnesota knocks off Penn State in Minneapolis. This will be the Golden Gophers' first game since Tim Brewster was canned following a disastrous three-season-plus tenure. I expect to see a loose and fired-up Minnesota squad that will play with abandon against a reeling Nittany Lions team that, like Minnesota, is winless in the Big Ten.
David Fox
Minnesota plus-9.5 vs. Penn State. Minnesota is dismal this season, but Penn State isn't that much better. This is going to be an ugly game, but I'm picking the Gophers to regroup now that the "Tim Brewster is on the hot seat" stuff no longer is hanging over them. Minnesota has shown at least a little bit of fight in a close call with one-loss Northwestern three weeks ago. And the Gophers can at least score two touchdowns, which is more you can say for Penn State.
Mike Huguenin
Indiana plus-14 at Illinois. I don't necessarily think Indiana is going to win, but the 14 points sure is tempting. The Hoosiers' passing attack is a potent one and is going to have success. Defensively, IU is horrible against the pass, but Illinois can't throw.
Steve Megargee
Kansas plus-13.5 vs. Texas A&M. Kansas has looked as bad as just about anyone in the country in its past two games, but A&M isn't exactly on a roll either. The Aggies have lost three in a row and now must play the Jayhawks on the road. After losing its past two by a combined 114-14, the Jayhawks certainly could get blown out again Saturday. But I also could see Kansas regrouping and winning outright at home by capitalizing on a few Jerrod Johnson turnovers.
Last Week/Season Totals
Two of our five picks (four games) won outright. For the season, 13 of 25 picks have covered the spread and five have won outright.

Auburn QB Cameron Newton. He clearly has emerged as the Heisman leader. He's almost an unstoppable force as a rushing and passing threat, but LSU's defense is by far the best he will have faced. I'll be at the game and will see if Newton can continue his run toward the Heisman and keep Auburn unbeaten. Will LSU's defense rise to the challenge and derail Newton's Heisman candidacy and Auburn's perfect record? - OLIN BUCHANAN

Can Missouri's defense continue to shine? Missouri has been one of the nation's biggest surprises, surging to a 6-0 start for just the fifth time in school history. A big reason for the tremendous start is defense, which rarely is a strong suit in Columbia. But the Tigers pace the Big 12 and rank No. 2 in the nation in scoring defense, yielding just 10.8 ppg. And Mizzou ranks No. 3 in the Big 12 and 29th in the country in total defense (328.7 ypg). What makes this impressive is that the defense has excelled despite not having arguably its best player in E Aldon Smith, who has missed the past three games with a broken leg. But he may be back for this weekend's visit from Oklahoma in what will be one of the biggest games in Columbia in more than 25 years. Missouri coach Gary Pinkel is 0-6 against the Sooners. But a win Saturday makes MU a national contender. And it could happen because of the defense.


How seriously should we take Kentucky or Georgia? Kentucky's Joker Phillips is either the only honest coach in the country or the only one who is actually "looking ahead." He said he is openly talking to his team about possibility of winning the SEC East. I love that confidence; whether it's misplaced or not, we'll find out. Kentucky's not a dominant team, and the Wildcats have rarely put together a full game this season. But when Kentucky's good, as in the second half against Auburn and South Carolina, Phillips' team can score with anyone. This week, Georgia visits Lexington. The Bulldogs, too, have new life after drubbing Tennessee and Vanderbilt by a combined 84-14 in Athens the past two weeks. The winner will at least make things interesting down the stretch in the SEC East.


Iowa's defensive line. Wisconsin upset Ohio State last week because the Badgers' offensive line ruled the line of scrimmage. I don't think that happens against Iowa. The Badgers have to run effectively to set up the pass, so Iowa DTs Karl Klug and Christian Ballard need to hold their ground in the middle against the Badgers' punishing ground attack. I think Iowa is the best team in the Big Ten, and I'll be looking for them to prove that Saturday.


Oklahoma State's offense vs. Nebraska's defense. This strikes me as one of the best unit matchups we'll see all season. Oklahoma State ranks second in the nation in total offense and scoring offense. The Cowboys have scored at least 34 points in each of their games and have cracked the 60-point mark twice. Nebraska is ninth in scoring defense and total defense, and the Huskers lead the nation in pass efficiency defense. This game also should feature an outstanding one-on-one confrontation between Biletnikoff Award candidate Justin Blackmon of Oklahoma State and Thorpe Award contender Prince Amukamara of Nebraska. Blackmon has 57 catches for 955 yards and 12 touchdowns to lead the nation in the latter two categories. Opponents rarely have bothered to throw in the direction of Amukamara, a probable first-round pick.



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