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 12.
WEEK 12 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.
California plus-18.5 at Stanford. Cal is an 18.5-point underdog in the "Big Game," but for Stanford, the truly big game was last week's loss to Oregon. I'm a believer that emotion and focus are as important as talent in determining the outcome of a game. Frankly, I'd anticipate Stanford would come out flat, while Cal will be psyched for a season-making game. Stanford's run defense has shown some holes of late, and Cal RB Isi Sofele is productive. But Stanford definitely has a decided advantage at quarterback. Maybe Andrew Luck will be enough for the Cardinal, but I'm thinking it's a close, hard-fought game.
Kansas State plus-9 at Texas. Kansas State is a 9-point underdog. Shouldn't we know better by now? The Wildcats are 5-2 as an underdog this season, and one of those losses was a back-and-forth 52-45 setback to undefeated Oklahoma State on the road. Texas is better than it was a year ago, but as we learned last week in the 17-5 loss to Missouri, the Longhorns can't afford injuries on offense. Fozzy Whittaker is out for the season, and there's been no definitive word on the returns of TBs Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron and WR Jaxon Shipley. Kansas State could defeat a healthy Texas this season. The Wildcats certainly can beat the hobbled Longhorns.
Kansas State plus-9 at Texas. Texas' offense has been hit with all kinds of injury issues, and the Longhorns managed just five points in last week's loss to Missouri. They'll do a better job this week, but the Texas defense will be going against a K-State offense that has hit its stride. The nine-point spread seems awfully big.
Kansas State plus-9 at Texas. Kansas State still is struggling to earn respect from the oddsmakers. The Wildcats were 4.5 point-underdogs at home to Texas A&M last week and ended up winning in four overtimes. Now they're a nine-point underdog at Texas, even though the Wildcats are 8-2 and Texas is 6-3. While Kansas State was beating Texas A&M in a thriller last week, Texas was losing 17-5 to Missouri. Texas' offense should fare much better against Kansas State this week, but I'm not convinced the Longhorns can slow Wildcats QB Collin Klein.
For the season, 28 of 52 picks have covered the spread and 10 have won outright.
Pac-12 South. I've become intrigued with the division race - kind of like how you can't look away from a crash. I'll be watching to see if Arizona State (vs. Arizona) and UCLA (vs. Colorado) can win games they should win, or if they will continue to underperform against inferior opponents. I also wonder if Utah, which once was 0-4 in the division, can continue its hot streak and somehow back into the league's championship game.
Oklahoma's receivers without Ryan Broyles. Oklahoma's rushing attack has been stable without starting TB Dominique Whaley the past three games. The Sooners have a bigger obstacle now without record-breaking WR Ryan Broyles. He has twice as many catches as anyone on the team and nearly twice as many yards. Without Broyles, Kenny Stills and Jaz Reynolds need to take on bigger roles, and Saturday's game with Baylor might be a key time to prove it. Baylor's defense isn't any good, but the Bears' offense should challenge Oklahoma. I want to see how Stills and Reynolds handle being Nos. 1 and 2 rather than Nos. 2 and 3 heading into the finale against Oklahoma State.
- DAVID FOX
The Big Ten. While I don't think the league has any team that belongs in the top 10, the first season of divisional play has led to a lot of late-season intrigue. Michigan State's win last week over Iowa gives the Spartans a huge advantage in the Legends Division, but the Michigan-Nebraska game at The Big House still deserves notice. If either the Huskers or Wolverines can finish 10-2, they will get heavy BCS at-large consideration. Wisconsin has to win at Illinois to keep its hopes for the Leaders Division title alive; can the Illini get off the mat and end their four-game winning streak? Penn State's game with Wisconsin next week will determine the division title (assuming the Badgers don't lose to Illinois), but the Nittany Lions' visit to Ohio State on Saturday bears watching. While it might sound mundane in light of the off-field goings-on at Penn State, Ohio State needs to win to improve its bowl positioning.
- MIKE HUGUENIN
How well does Houston adjust to the spotlight? While everyone was penciling in Boise State as the likely BCS team from outside the six major conferences, Houston's perfect season slipped under the radar. That won't be the case anymore. Now that Boise State has lost, Houston should earn a BCS bid as long as it remains unbeaten. Houston now finds itself getting plenty of attention just as it enters the toughest portion of its schedule. The ESPN "GameDay" crew will be in town Saturday as the Cougars play host to SMU and June Jones, a guy who knows a thing or two about taking an upstart program to a BCS game. Houston has won each of its past five games by at least 35 points, but the Cougars should face much more of a test this week. How will they perform now that more people are watching?