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October 28, 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 9.
Wisconsin. How will the Badgers' respond to last week's heartbreaking loss to Michigan State? A loss like that - a final-play Hail Mary pass for a touchdown after a replay review - could have a lingering effect. The Badgers now must go on the road to face improving Ohio State, which has had an extra week to prepare. I'm interested in seeing if the Badgers will be as focused and intense as usual. Wisconsin can get back into the national championship picture if it can win the rest of its games and the Big Ten championship. But putting last week's loss behind them may be the toughest challenge the Badgers face from here.
- OLIN BUCHANAN
USC's rush offense. Matt Barkley had an excellent game against Notre Dame's defense last week, but one of the keys to USC's win was the Trojans' rush offense. USC ran for 219 yards on 44 carries against Notre Dame, both season-highs. If USC is going to have a chance against Stanford, its running game must be effective. Washington's Chris Polk was able to break off touchdown runs of 46 and 61 yards against Stanford, which were the Huskies' only bright spots. USC must duplicate that to give itself a chance to win.
- DAVID FOX
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Nebraska. Hopes were high for the Huskers entering the season, but if they fall at home to Michigan State, any chance at a Big Ten division title is gone, which would mean the latest in a long line of at least mildly disappointing seasons for Nebraska, which has lost at least four games every season since 2003. The flipside: A win would mean a revitalized Huskers team would be squarely in the division title hunt - and would have a shot at wearing the league crown. It's vital that QB Taylor Martinez and TB Rex Burkhead have room to run; the Huskers aren't going to beat the Spartans if they are forced to throw the ball.
- MIKE HUGUENIN
Kansas State. Although the Wildcats certainly rank alongside Clemson as the nation's biggest surprises thus far, I'm still not sure quite what to make of these guys. Are they an 8-4 or 9-3 type of team that will get exposed now that they're about to face their toughest conference opponents? Or are they a legitimate threat to win the Big 12? Kansas State already showed its moxie by winning on the road against Miami and Texas Tech and by rallying past Baylor at home, but Oklahoma provides a much tougher test Saturday. The Sooners should come in particularly angry after their stunning loss to Texas Tech last week. K-State has a solid defense and a great running game, but junior QB Collin Klein hasn't thrown for 200 yards in a game in his career. I don't think K-State can beat Oklahoma or Oklahoma State with such a one-dimensional offense. I'm interested in seeing if the Wildcats can prove me wrong.
- STEVE MEGARGEE
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