November 21, 2008

Keep an eye on: Week 13 story lines

CONFERENCE PREVIEWS: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC

Each Friday,'s college football experts give fans six things to keep an eye out for over the course of the weekend.

Terry Bowden: Penn State

Will the Nittany Lions beat Michigan State in Happy Valley and earn a trip to the Rose Bowl? Penn State never has lost to Michigan State at home and hasn't been to the Rose Bowl since going 12-0 in 1994. For the Nittany Lions to get the win, they must get back to their early season form, when they averaged 45.4 points and 482.1 yards in the first eight contests. In their past three games, they have averaged 23.3 points and 337.3 yards. There also is speculation that this could be Joe Paterno's last game as head coach.

Olin Buchanan: The ACC

I've become intrigued by ACC teams' failure to handle prosperity. Since Oct. 18, ACC teams ranked in the AP Top 25 are 3-10 and all against conference opponents. Last week, No. 16 North Carolina lost to Maryland, No. 19 Florida State lost to Boston College and No. 24 Wake Forest lost to N.C. State. That was the second time in four weeks three ranked ACC teams lost on the same day. It will be interesting to see if the ACC teams ranked in this week's poll No. 22 Maryland, No. 23 Miami and No. 25 North Carolina can get through the weekend unscathed or if the dubious trend continues.

Tom Dienhart: Arizona

Entering this season, it was widely believed Arizona coach Mike Stoops had to win seven games to save his job. Well, the Wildcats are sitting on six victories with two games to go. This weekend, Arizona plays host to an Oregon State team that has a trip to the Rose Bowl in its sights. Arizona finishes the season at home Dec. 6 against archrival Arizona State, which has been one of the most disappointing teams in the country. This is going to be an interesting two-game stretch for Stoops, who has yet to deliver a bowl and had a 17-31 four-year record entering the season.

David Fox: Boise State at Nevada

Boise State is quietly waiting to see what happens in the Mountain West. The Broncos can make their second trip to the BCS in three seasons if they win out and BYU beats Utah. Boise's trip to Nevada is the Broncos' toughest remaining game. A year ago in Boise, Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick gave the Broncos all they could handle in Boise State's 69-67, four-overtime win. Kaepernick (1,841 passing yards, 1,017 rushing yards) has been just as dangerous this season. He easily could spoil Boise State's BCS hopes.

Mike Huguenin: Texas Tech at Oklahoma

This is the game of the week and could end up being the game of the year. There already have been two highly hyped Big 12 South games that lived up to the hype (Oklahoma - Texas and Texas- Texas Tech); can this also live up to the hype? This should be an offensive orgy, and if a defense can force two or three punts, that may be enough for a victory. There are a lot of Heisman hopes at stake, too, as quarterbacks Sam Bradford and Graham Harrell will be looking to outduel each other.

Steve Megargee: Michigan

Michigan has lost eight games for the first time in the program's 129-year history. Former Ohio State linebacker Chris Spielman referred to the Wolverines as "dead men walking" this week. Desmond Howard, who won the 1991 Heisman Trophy with Michigan, recently told a Columbus, Ohio, radio show, "This isn't Michigan. This is like Michigan Tech." But there's one way Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez can silence those critics in a hurry. If the Wolverines stun 20.5-point favorite Ohio State and end the Buckeyes' four-game winning streak in this rivalry, Michigan suddenly would regain respect and help Rodriguez build plenty of momentum as he prepares for his second season in the Big Ten. Is the possibility likely? No. Ohio State owns the home-field advantage and boasts far more offensive firepower than Michigan. But the Wolverines could keep this game close if their talented defense plays up to its potential. And if this game remains up for grabs in the fourth quarter, all the pressure will be on Ohio State because Michigan has nothing to lose. That formula just might add up to the biggest upset in the history of this rivalry.

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