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November 7, 2008

Keep an eye on: Week 11 story lines

CONFERENCE PREVIEWS: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC

Each Friday, Rivals.com's college football experts give fans six things to keep an eye out for over the course of the weekend.

Terry Bowden: West Virginia which Mountaineers team will show up?

The Mountaineers have won five in a row after starting the season 1-2 and are in sole possession of first place in the Big East. But they have been a tale-of-two-halves team in their past three games. In the first half, they have been outscored 36-24. They have rebounded in the second half to completely dominate the opposition to the tune of 62-0. With four consecutive Big East opponents coming up, if they can move the halftime pep talk by coach Bill Stewart up about 90 minutes, they should be able to cruise into a BCS bowl.

Olin Buchanan: How will Texas Tech fare in a role reversal?

Before last week's emotional victory over Texas, the Red Raiders had played the role of explosive overachievers intent on knocking off more-heralded opponents. Now, they are the target when they face Oklahoma State. Often a team coming off a big victory has an emotional slump and becomes vulnerable the next week. I'm intrigued to see if Texas Tech, coming off that classic 39-33 victory over Texas last week, can maintain the same level of intensity against Oklahoma State. That win put the Red Raiders in the top two of the BCS standings, which would allow them a shot at the national championship. But with that comes all the pressure, too. It will be interesting to see how the Red Raiders handle it.

Tom Dienhart: Will Penn State clear its last real hurdle to an unbeaten season?

Penn State's trip to Iowa is its last big obstacle between an unbeaten record and a likely trip to the BCS title game. It won't be easy for the Nittany Lions, who also may be pressed in their regular-season finale at home against Michigan State. Behind star RB Shonn Greene, Iowa has the offense to keep the ball away from Penn State's dynamic offense and grind down the Nittany Lions' tough defense. Speaking of defense, the Hawkeyes have a formidable unit led by standout coordinator Norm Parker. Penn State was idle last week, which could have muted some of the momentum the Nittany Lions had built during a fabulous 9-0 start. Conversely, Iowa is angry coming off a heartbreaking last-second loss at Illinois. The Hawkeyes still are a win shy of bowl eligibility. Finally, if you're a Penn State fan, this information has to scare you: Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz is 5-2 against Penn State. Until the Nittany Lions took a 27-7 decision last season, the Hawkeyes had won five in a row in the series.

David Fox: The Pac-10 race

Can anyone keep USC from winning a seventh consecutive Pac-10 title? We'll find out this week. California is tied in the loss column with USC in the conference standings and has a chance to take the lead when the Bears go to Los Angeles. The Trojans have lost two conference games in each of the past two seasons. Cal is the last real hope to make it a third consecutive two-loss season for USC. I'm also keeping a close eye on Oregon State, the team that already beat USC and can win the title if it wins its final four games. The Beavers finish against Cal, at Arizona and at home against Oregon, but the toughest hurdle might be this week at UCLA. Oregon State coach Mike Riley is 0-5 against UCLA, losing by an average margin of 20 points. If either Oregon State or Cal wins this weekend, we'll have a little more drama in the Pac-10.

Mike Huguenin: The ACC

The league lacks an elite team, but the title race sure doesn't lack for drama or entertainment. Five of the six teams in the Coastal Division have a legit shot at the title; it's three of six in the Atlantic Division. There was a big game Thursday night between Maryland and Virginia Tech, which set the stage for Saturday games matching Georgia Tech-North Carolina and Virginia-Wake Forest. Florida State also has an important league game against Clemson, which is reduced to a spoiler role. While this weekend's game could clear up the picture a little bit, the ACC race seems likely to go down to the final weekend of the regular season.

Steve Megargee: Alabama at LSU

This season hasn't gone quite the way LSU had hoped. The Tigers have searched for consistency at quarterback all season. Their highly touted defense hasn't lived up to expectations. They have allowed more than 50 points per game in losses to Florida and Georgia. They probably won't reach the SEC Championship Game even if they beat Alabama this week. The only way the Tigers can salvage their season is by ruining Alabama's. If former LSU coach Nick Saban goes back to his former school and tramples his old team on his way to leading Alabama to a national title, current Tigers coach Les Miles will hear about it throughout the offseason. But if the Tigers beat Alabama, Miles regains his status as one of the nation's premier coaches and LSU fans have reason to feel satisfied. Nobody can really complain if LSU goes 10-2 this year with a first-year starting quarterback and two new starting cornerbacks. But if the Tigers win less than 10 games and lose to their former coach at home, the griping around the bayou will last all summer.

CONFERENCE PREVIEWS: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC

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