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October 15, 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 7 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
Texas plus-9.5 at Nebraska. Based on what has happened so far, it makes perfect sense to have Nebraska as nearly a 10-point favorite. But the Longhorns played solid defense in the second half of their loss to Oklahoma and may be turning the corner. They also have had two weeks to prepare. Historically, they've been dangerous when doubted. The Horns also seem to play well whenever they face Nebraska. Finally, as good as Nebraska is, the Huskers haven't faced an elite opponent. Texas may not fit the description, either, but the Longhorns still will be the most talented team the Huskers will have faced.
Tom Dienhart
Miami of Ohio plus-13 at Central Michigan. Look for the RedHawks to keep it close, as coach Mike Haywood has made great strides in his second season in Oxford after debuting with a 1-11 record in 2009. In fact, the 3-3 RedHawks may beat the Chippewas. The RedHawks have been an opportunistic team, pacing the MAC in turnover margin. Miami also has an aggressive defense, ranking third in the MAC in tackles for loss. And QB Zac Dysert is an emerging playmaker.
David Fox
Arkansas State plus-12 at Indiana Whoa, not many attractive possibilities this week. This one at least looks a little plausible. Arkansas State has a productive quarterback in Ryan Aplin and Indiana has a porous defense. Maybe the Red Wolves can take advantage of a break in Big Ten action for the Hoosiers and catch Indiana napping before its road trip next week against Illinois.
Mike Huguenin
Texas plus-9.5 at Nebraska. Texas has had a week off to stew about losing two in a row; the Longhorns haven't lost three in a row since 1997, John Mackovic's last season. Expect some tweaks to have been made by defensive coordinator Will Muschamp in an attempt to stymie Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez. Texas' offense isn't going to be able to consistently move the ball, so any upset hopes rest with Texas' defense.
Steve Megargee
Maryland plus-15 at Clemson. Maryland has won four of its first five games, while Clemson has lost three in a row. Maryland has beaten Clemson two consecutive times. So why are the Tigers favored by more than two touchdowns? Clemson very well could win this game, but the point spread is much too large.
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.

Texas' defense. The Longhorns must find a way to slow QB Taylor Martinez and the Nebraska offense. Before the season, Texas coach Mack Brown said this could be the best defense he had had at Texas, but the group certainly didn't look the part in allowing 264 rushing yards in a loss to UCLA. The defense played better but made costly penalties in a loss to Oklahoma. Can the defense come up with a performance that would warrant Brown's preseason praise? It needs to if the Longhorns are going to have any chance of beating the Huskers. - OLIN BUCHANAN

Missouri. The Tigers are off to a 5-0 start, but who have they beaten? Illinois, McNeese State, San Diego State, Miami (Ohio) and Colorado -- not impressive. That's why it's difficult to get too excited about some of Missouri's stats, including a defense that ranks No. 4 in the Big 12 (318.6 ypg). And the offense has struggled despite playing weak competition, ranking seventh in the conference (414.2 ypg). The running game looks anemic without Derrick Washington; leading rusher Henry Josey has only 226 yards. More reason to worry: QB Blaine Gabbert has a gimpy hip. How will Missouri do when the competition stiffens? We will find out beginning with a trip to Texas A&M this Saturday. A visit from Oklahoma is next, followed by trips to Nebraska and Texas Tech.

- TOM DIENHART

California's defense on the road. This is how far the defense at USC has fallen: I'm far more interested in watching Cal's defense against the Trojans. I want to see if Cal can slow Matt Barkley and his new favorite target, Robert Woods, who had 12 catches for 224 yards and three touchdowns against Stanford last week. The Bears' defense had a disastrous day at run-oriented Nevada, and maybe there's a good reason for that: Cal is far better against the pass and at rushing the quarterback. Cal is in the top 10 nationally in sacks, passing efficiency defense and total defense behind guys such as Mychal Kendricks, Darian Hagan and Mike Mohamed. The game could be a turning point for both teams. Cal is seeking its first road win of the season after losing in the rout to the Wolf Pack and 10-9 to Arizona. Meanwhile, USC will try to recover from back-to-back losses on last-second field goals.

- DAVID FOX

Ryan Mallett and Cameron Newton. The quarterbacks at Arkansas and Auburn, respectively, will be in the spotlight in the SEC West showdown. Newton leads the SEC in rushing and has been effective as a passer, too. Mallett is having a big season and he'll be going against an Auburn secondary that has been shaky against the pass. Both these guys know that they must play well for their team to win. In addition, the winning quarterback becomes the SEC's "leader" in the Heisman race.

- MIKE HUGUENIN

Wisconsin RB John Clay. Clay gained just 59 yards on 20 carries last season in a 31-13 loss to Ohio State. Clay, the Big Ten's second-leading rusher, will have to do much better Saturday. Wisconsin QB Scott Tolzien is 16th in the nation in passing efficiency, but this remains a run-oriented offense. Clay needs to gain at least 80 yards for Wisconsin to win this game. Frankly, he probably needs more than that.

- STEVE MEGARGEE



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