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November 12, 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.

WEEK 11 UPSET PICKS
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
Georgia plus-8.5 at Auburn. Georgia doesn't need much help scoring, so getting 8.5 points against Auburn is difficult to turn down. The Bulldogs have scored at least 31 points in each of their past five games as redshirt freshman QB Aaron Murray has developed and the passing game has improved. Auburn's defense has been vulnerable at times, too. Five of Auburn's victories have been by eight or fewer points, and I think this one will be close, too. I wouldn't even be surprised if Georgia pulls the upset.
Tom Dienhart
Kansas State plus-12.5 at Missouri. Missouri needs to be wary of Kansas State. The Wildcats will arrive in Columbia with momentum, coming off a 39-14 whipping of Texas. Now bowl-eligible, K-State is focused on improving its bowl hopes. Conversely, Missouri is slumping. Following a 7-0 start that was highlighted by a 36-27 victory over Oklahoma, the Tigers now have lost two in a row, at Nebraska and at Texas Tech. Mizzou's offense has sputtered, with QB Blaine Gabbert completing only 41.6 percent of his passes, for 295 yards with one TD and one interception, in the back-to-back defeats. Gabbert has been hurt by numerous dropped passes. What looked like a dream season already has lost a lot of luster and could be further tarnished with another loss. This is a game Mizzou must win.
David Fox
Fresno State plus-8.5 vs. Nevada. Nevada has defeated Fresno State soundly in each of the past two seasons, but this game could have a different result. RB Robbie Rouse and QB Ryan Colburn have led a potent Fresno offense in the past three games, albeit against weak competition. DE Chris Carter and DT Logan Harrell, who have nine sacks apiece, will be the key to shutting down Nevada's running game.
Mike Huguenin
Northwestern plus-10 vs. Iowa. Iowa played poorly last week at Indiana and, frankly, was lucky to win. The Hawkeyes also have a huge home game next week against Ohio State with a share of the Big Ten lead on the line. I'm betting (well, I would if I could) that while Iowa wins this, Northwestern will keep it close.
Steve Megargee
Kansas State plus-12.5 at Missouri. Kansas State is riding a wave of momentum after its blowout of Texas, while Missouri has lost two in a row. TB Daniel Thomas will play well enough to keep this game close and may even lead the Wildcats to an outright victory.
Last Week/Season Totals
One of our five picks (four games) won outright, and three other picks covered the spread. For the season, 26 of 50 picks have covered the spread and 12 have won outright.

TCU. Will TCU avoid an emotional letdown after its big win over Utah? The Horned Frogs appear to be cruising to an unbeaten season, a BCS bowl and perhaps even a shot at the national championship after last week's overwhelming victory over Utah. But the Frogs must be careful to avoid an emotional letdown against San Diego State on Saturday. The Aztecs are dangerous. They're 7-2, with the losses coming on a last-minute pass against Missouri and hometown officiating against BYU. San Diego State has a productive offense and is capable of pulling an upset if the Frogs aren't on their game. - OLIN BUCHANAN

Cameron Newton. Will he be distracted by the various allegations swirling about him? Newton must be dialed in against a Georgia defense that ranks No. 3 overall in the SEC (305.5 ypg), No. 2 vs. the run (106.4 ypg) and No. 4 in scoring (19.4 ppg). That defense continues to play better and better under new coordinator Todd Grantham and his 3-4 scheme. Auburn will need to score some points to win, as the Bulldogs figure to have success against a middling Tiger defense. That means Newton must be his usual stellar self if Auburn is to remain perfect and headed toward the BCS title game.

- TOM DIENHART

The quarterback situation at Miami. Randy Shannon really wants to avoid any kind of quarterback controversy at Miami and says Jacory Harris will remain the starter when he's cleared to play. But what if true freshman Stephen Morris gives him reason to rethink that statement? Morris started slow against Maryland last week but led the game-winning drive in the final minute. Now, Morris makes his second start -- and first on the road -- against Georgia Tech. If Miami wins, the Hurricanes remain in the hunt for the ACC championship game and have a home game next week against Virginia Tech. And if Morris plays well in Atlanta, Shannon will have a major decision on his hands.

- DAVID FOX

Oklahoma State. The Cowboys, through a number of surprising outcomes, now is the front-runner in the Big 12 South. They play at reeling Texas on Saturday. Oklahoma State's defense has some issues, but Texas' offense is so bad right now that it might not matter. And while Texas has good defensive stats, it has lost five times and Oklahoma State has the best offense the Longhorns will have seen. The Cowboys have everything to play for and Texas has nothing to lose. Can the Cowboys do what they're supposed to do -- i.e., win in Austin -- and stay atop the division?

- MIKE HUGUENIN

Can South Carolina finally win the SEC East? About a month ago, South Carolina looked like the clear front-runner in its bid for its first SEC East title. South Carolina had just knocked off defending national champion Alabama, and Florida was in the process of losing three consecutive games. Quite a bit has changed since. The Gamecocks have split their last four games and got trounced by Arkansas at home last week. Florida has won two in a row and its offense is finally showing signs of life. South Carolina still probably has the most talented team in the division, but Florida has the momentum heading into Saturday's showdown for the division title in Gainesville. It's reasonable to wonder whether the Gamecocks are amid their traditional late-season fade.

- STEVE MEGARGEE



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