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December 2, 2011

Week 14: Keep an eye on/upset picks

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 14.

WEEK 14 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
Iowa State plus-11 at Kansas State: As Iowa and Oklahoma can attest, the Cyclones can be a pain in the neck. Their offense has played better since redshirt freshman Jared Barnett has taken over at quarterback, but the real reason to beware of the Cyclones is their defense, which has played extremely well at times. Kansas State's offense is limited and Iowa State has the linebackers who could potentially contain K-State QB Collin Klein.
David Fox
Connecticut plus-9 at Cincinnati: The Bearcats deserve a ton of credit for the turnaround this season. I'd guess if starting QB Zach Collaros stayed healthy, Cincinnati would have clinched the Big East two or three weeks ago. Last week, Cincinnati's rotation of Munchie Legaux and Jordan Luallen performed well against Syracuse, but the Orange are in shambles right now. Connecticut has a good-enough defense, especially in the front seven, to limit RB Isaiah Pead and force Cincinnati's young quarterbacks into mistakes.
Mike Huguenin
Michigan State plus-9.5 vs. Wisconsin: While I think Wisconsin gets revenge for its October loss in East Lansing, I think this will be close as long as Michigan State's ground game shows up. Spartans QB Kirk Cousins can be extremely effective when he can use play-action. I think Michigan State's defense will do its job; the key is for the Spartans' offensive line to play well and get some push.
Steve Megargee
Connecticut plus-9 at Cincinnati : After getting off to a dreadful start, Connecticut has come on strong lately, with three wins in its past five games. A victory Saturday would make the Huskies bowl-eligible. Although Cincinnati won at Syracuse last week, I'm still not sold on the Bearcats' ability to move the ball without injured QB Zach Collaros. If Lyle McCombs can approach the 100-yard mark against Cincinnati's 10th-ranked run defense, the Huskies have a legitimate chance to win this game outright.
Season Totals
For the season, 34 of 58 picks have covered the spread and 14 have won outright.

Baylor QB Robert Griffin. He is among the top three Heisman contenders on most lists and the only one who plays on Saturday (Andrew Luck and Trent Richardson are done until the bowls). Griffin is facing Texas, which has the best defense he will have seen this season. I'm interested to see if Griffin can lead the Bears to their ninth win and have a strong performance that could significantly boost his Heisman candidacy.

- OLIN BUCHANAN

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Clemson's offense. The last time Clemson faced Virginia Tech, on Oct. 1, the Tigers were 4-0 but still had something to prove: Could they win on the road against a good defense? In the rematch, in which Virginia Tech is favored by a touchdown, Clemson's offense needs a return to form to save the Tigers' season. The stakes are that high. An ACC title and 10-3 is a lot different than 9-4 with losses in four of the past five games. To beat Virginia Tech, QB Tajh Boyd and the offense need to return to early-season form. Since the slide started, Boyd has thrown seven interceptions and has been sacked 12 times. WR Sammy Watkins, TB Andre Ellington and LT Phillip Price have been hobbled and the line has not played well, but Boyd is the key here. If he plays Saturday like he has over the past month, Clemson is in trouble.

- DAVID FOX

Oklahoma QB Landry Jones. He was a Heisman candidate earlier this season, but now you wonder if he'll be anything more than an honorable mention selection on the All-Big 12 team. He has thrown three picks and zero TD passes in the past two games - not so coincidentally, the same two games that star WR Ryan Broyles missed because he was lost for the season with a knee injury. Oklahoma will be able to exploit Oklahoma State's secondary if Jones is hot. And if Jones is hot, Oklahoma can win the game and the Big 12 title.

- MIKE HUGUENIN

Georgia QB Aaron Murray. You could make a case that LSU's star-studded defense hasn't played against a quarterback as good as Murray. One of the best quarterbacks to face LSU so far is West Virginia's Geno Smith, who threw for 463 yards in a 47-21 loss to the Tigers that was a bit closer than the final score indicates. Murray comes into this game on a roll. He has thrown at least four touchdown passes in three of his past four games. Of course, those big performances came against the likes of New Mexico State, Auburn and Georgia Tech. LSU offers a much tougher challenge. If Murray doesn't play well Saturday, Georgia has absolutely no shot at pulling the upset.

- STEVE MEGARGEE

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