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October 8, 2010Each 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.
Michigan State's defense. Can LB Greg Jones and the rest of Michigan State's defense slow Michigan QB Denard Robinson? Nobody has been able to do that, but Michigan hasn't faced a team with a defense as good as Michigan State's. The Spartans rank 20th in the nation in run defense and have held three opponents to fewer than 20 points. No Wolverines opponent thus far ranks higher than 68th in total defense. Obviously, the key to beating Michigan is containing Robinson -- but he hasn't been contained yet. - OLIN BUCHANAN
Miami QB Jacory Harris. I think Florida State's visit is a must-win game for a Miami program that's looking to show it's the top ACC team. That means the pressure is on Harris to have a big game. In a 36-24 loss at Ohio State earlier this season, he tossed four picks; he already has eight this season. And he didn't look great in last week's win at Clemson, hitting just 13-of-33 passes for 205 yards with two picks, although he did throw four TD passes. The penchant for tossing interceptions began last season, when he threw 17. In the Hurricanes' three regular-season losses in 2009, Harris was intercepted eight times. He must protect the ball if Miami wants to beat a surging FSU team that has won three in a row.
- TOM DIENHART
Baylor's performance in the Big 12 opener. At 4-1, Baylor appears headed for its first bowl since 1994, but nothing is guaranteed as the Bears enter conference play. Baylor lucks out by not playing Texas Tech in Lubbock this season -- the game is at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. Still, the Bears haven't defeated Texas Tech since 1995. That's a longer losing streak than Baylor's stretch of futility against Texas. QB Robert Griffin, who accounted for 444 total yards and four touchdowns against Kansas last week, has been outstanding after his return from knee surgery. Throw out the 45-10 loss to TCU, and Baylor's defense has allowed only 29 points in the other four games. The loss to the Horned Frogs sticks out, but Baylor won't face many teams that good in the Big 12 schedule. If Baylor is going to go to a bowl, the Bears need to beat opponents such as the struggling Red Raiders.
- DAVID FOX
The Pac-10. There are four important conference games this weekend. The biggest is Stanford-USC, with both trying to bounce back from losses last week. How motivated will USC be? Yes, Stanford crushed the Trojans last season, but USC is playing for nothing but pride now. Stanford, meanwhile, still looks good for a 10-win season, assuming it can get past USC. Arizona-Oregon State, California-UCLA and Arizona State-Washington also bear watching. Arizona is looking to remain unbeaten, while Oregon State is entering a stretch in which it plays three of four on the road. Is either Cal or UCLA good enough for a top-five league finish? It will be hard to finish that high with a loss in this one. Washington, meanwhile, will be looking to build on its win over USC last week. But Arizona State has won six in a row in the series, including a last-minute victory last season.
- MIKE HUGUENIN
Will Marcus Lattimore run effectively against Alabama? South Carolina's chances of knocking off the top-ranked team in the country depend on whether Lattimore can find running room. South Carolina won its first three games largely because of Lattimore, who ran for 333 yards and five touchdowns during that stretch. When Auburn limited Lattimore to 33 yards on 14 carries two weeks ago, the Gamecocks needed to rely on their quarterbacks to win the game for them. Stephen Garcia and Connor Shaw instead each committed two turnovers in the fourth quarter in a 35-27 loss. South Carolina's defense might be good enough to keep the game close, but the Gamecocks won't win unless Lattimore has a big game.
- STEVE MEGARGEE