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November 11, 2011
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 in Week 11.
Stanford's defense. For all the praise Andrew Luck receives and all the angst about the injuries to TE Zach Ertz and WR Chris Owusu, the real key for Stanford is whether its defense can slow LaMichael James and Oregon's offense. Stanford won't shut down the Ducks, but if they can get a few stops and prevent big plays, the Cardinal likely will win. Last season, James rushed for 257 yards and Oregon as a team had 388 rushing yards in a 52-31 win. Stanford's defense has to perform significantly better. Statistically, the Cardinal are excellent against the run. But they haven't faced any team with even remotely as strong a running game as Oregon's. The defense has to prove it's as good as its statistics suggest.
- OLIN BUCHANAN
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Michigan QB Denard Robinson. Robinson is the Big Ten's most dynamic playmaker ... until about the middle of October. In Robinson's past two road games, against Michigan State and Iowa, he struggled mightily. Was it because of good defensive game plans, or was it a case of Robinson's annual November swoon? We'll find out Saturday because he's facing a team in its own slump in Illinois. One of these slumps may end Saturday. If not, this is going to be a spectacularly ugly game.
- DAVID FOX
Georgia's run defense. Auburn isn't going to beat the Bulldogs with its passing attack, so if the Tigers want to pull the upset in Athens, they will need to run the ball effectively. Conversely, Georgia knows that if it stymies the Tigers on the ground, there will be a lot of "How 'bout them Dawgs!" statements flying around after the game. In essence, this is Georgia's chance to clinch the SEC East title; Georgia is not losing to a bad Kentucky team next week. Shut down Auburn's rushing attack and Georgia knows it will be in Atlanta for the SEC championship game.
- MIKE HUGUENIN
Penn State's focus. Has any team in college football dealt with the level of off-field turmoil Penn State's players have encountered this week? A week ago, they had just helped Joe Paterno become the winningest coach in major-college football history. Since then, their coach has been fired and their school has been caught up in one of the biggest scandals in college athletics history. Amid all that, Penn State somehow must prepare for Nebraska coming to town. It's the final home game for the seniors. How will the Nittany Lions respond? Nobody could blame them if they come out dazed after all the punches they've taken to their psyche over the past week. Then again, how many times have we seen a team overachieve immediately after losing its star performer because the emotions involved cause the rest of the players to rise above the adversity, at least in the short term? Maybe this situation will have the same dynamic. I have absolutely no idea what to expect from Penn State on Saturday, but it will be fascinating to watch it all unfold.
- STEVE MEGARGEE
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