By the time Saturday’s college football action is completed, half the season will officially be in the books. The Week 7 schedule features four matchups of Top 25 teams, as well as a fifth one that perhaps should be. Most of the top contests involve programs from the western half of the country, but naturally the southeastern quadrant will see its share of action as well.
Sharp-eyed readers will note the lack of entries on this list from the day’s lackluster noon ET window. We therefore recommend if the weather is nice where you are this might be a good week to go apple picking or engage in some other form of outdoor fun before the mid-afternoon kickoffs.
No. 8 Oregon at No. 6 Washington
Time/TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC.
Why watch: The game of the week goes down in the future Big Ten hotbed that is the Pacific Northwest. But never mind all that now – let’s just enjoy this last ride through the Pac-12 as its two most complete playoff contenders square off. The contest features two of the nation’s three most productive scoring offenses, but both programs know how to play some defense as well. Huskies QB Michael Penix Jr. is averaging a ridiculous 11.2 yards per pass attempt, with WRs Rome Odunze and Ja’Lynn Polk stretching the field. Ducks QB Bo Nix and WR Troy Franklin are equally capable of connecting for explosive plays at any time, but RBs Bucky Irving and Jordan James are just as dangerous when ball control is needed. Names you’re likely to hear a lot on the defensive side include Oregon DE Jordan Birch and Washington DB Dominique Hampton.
Why it could disappoint: It’s hard to imagine it could. Both teams have sufficient fire power to mount a rally and neither offense is prone to giving the ball away. We’ll be surprised if this one doesn’t come down to the wire.
No. 22 UCLA at No. 14 Oregon State
Time/TV: 8 p.m. ET, Fox.
Why watch: It might be considered the undercard in the Pac-12 this week, but it’s every bit as important as the big showdown in Seattle as these potential challengers attempt to avert a second league loss and stay in the championship mix. Amid all the storylines around the league over the first month, the vast improvement of the UCLA defense has been somewhat overshadowed. LB Darius Muasau and his fellow Bruins now turn their attention to keeping Beavers QB D.J. Uiagalelei and RB Damien Martinez contained. The Oregon State stoppers, anchored by LB Easton Mascarenas-Arnold, will look to stifle the ongoing development of UCLA freshman QB Dante Moore.
Why it could disappoint: The offenses here aren’t quite as flashy as those on display in Seattle, so it might not be quite as entertaining. It should, however, feature its share of pivotal moments. It’s possible one team could pull away with a major momentum swing, but it’s more likely it will be competitive in the fourth quarter.
No. 9 Southern California at No. 21 Notre Dame
Time/TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, NBC.
Why watch: This game that loomed as a top-10 clash a few weeks ago lost some luster with both teams slipping in the polls, but it’s still a key date that followers of each program have circled on the calendar annually. The Fighting Irish likely have no path back to the College Football Playoff themselves but would be more than happy to derail USC’s title pursuit. While the defense has borne the brunt of criticism from Trojans’ fans, it was the offense that was uncharacteristically inefficient last week in the narrow escape against Arizona. QB Caleb Williams isn’t likely to have a second consecutive off day throwing the ball, but he might get more resistance from Notre Dame LB J.D. Bertrand if he is again forced to scramble. Irish QB Sam Hartman will be happy to have the city of Louisville in his rearview mirror, but he must still beware of takeaway threats like USC DBs Jacobe Covington and Calen Bullock.
Why it could disappoint: There are a couple of possibilities. The Trojans’ aerial attack could break out of its mini slump and explode, or the Irish offensive line that got pushed around last week at Louisville could find the matchup with the USC front much more to its liking. The first few series should tell us which scenario is more likely.
No. 25 Missouri at No. 23 Kentucky
Time/TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, SECN.
Why watch: Life in the SEC is never easy. Both these programs trying to break through with signature wins found that out the hard way last week and now look to bounce back. The Wildcats had any notions of an upset squelched early at Georgia, while the Tigers might have a harder time putting the missed opportunity at home against LSU behind them. Kentucky’s first order of business will be reestablishing the line of scrimmage for standout RB Ray Davis, who was largely stymied by the Bulldogs with little aerial support from QB Devin Leary. QB Brady Cook will once again look for WR Luther Burden III early and often.
Why it could disappoint: Theoretically Missouri has the big-play capability to stage a comeback if needed, but the Wildcats are better equipped for a ball-control approach that could help them protect a lead. Kentucky might be less suited to putting up quick points should the Tigers manage a multi-score advantage.
Wyoming at Air Force
Time/TV: 7 p.m. ET, CBSSN.
Why watch: This huge showdown in the Mountain West should probably be a Top 25 showdown. The winner here will in all likelihood crack the rankings and will definitely gain the inside track to a major bowl berth. The Cowboys had to work a lot harder last week, surviving a late charge to hold off Fresno State, while the Falcons had a week off to enjoy their 49-10 thrashing of San Diego State. Wyoming QB Andrew Peasley was ultra-efficient a week ago and will have to be again to keep the powerful Air Force offense off the field. QB Zac Larrier directs the Air Force option attack, with FB Emmanuel Michel doing much of the heavy lifting.
Why it could disappoint: Wyoming appeared to get a bit banged up toward the end of the hard-fought victory against Fresno State. Overcoming the rested Falcons on the road is a tall order even with a healthy bunch, but if the Cowboys avoid falling behind early things should remain competitive.
Miami (Fla.) at No. 12 North Carolina
Time/TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC.
Why watch: An anticipated battle of ACC unbeatens didn’t materialize, and now the Hurricanes must rebound quickly from last week’s disastrous ending against Georgia Tech to have any hope of staying in the conference title hunt. The Tar Heels survived a couple of early scares and are now looking like a top-10 squad thanks to last week’s near whitewash of Syracuse. Moving the chains was not the issue for Miami against Georgia Tech, but the recurrence of QB Tyler Van Dyke’s bad habit of putting the ball in harm’s way is a major concern. Disruptors like UNC LB Cedric Gray will do their best to induce more miscues. Tar Heels QB Drake Maye, meanwhile, has the ground game in high gear with help from RBs Omarion Hampton and British Brooks. Miami LB Francisco Mauigoa will lead the effort to keep them bottled up.
Why it could disappoint: It largely hinges on which Miami team shows up. If the ‘Canes duplicate last week’s performance they’ll get run out of Chapel Hill. If they clean up the mistakes and use the disappointment as motivation, this will be a game.
Texas A&M at No. 17 Tennessee
Time/TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS.
Why watch: Calling a game in mid-October a must win for any team with conference championship aspirations might seem a little premature. It’s hard to see this as anything but, however, as both these SEC hopefuls are already behind the proverbial 8-ball as they look to avoid a second league loss. Tennessee has a rest advantage, having dominated South Carolina in its most recent action two weeks ago. QB Joe Milton and RB Jaylen Wright might not find the going quite as easy against LB Edgerrin Cooper and the Aggies’ front, but A&M must reenergize quickly after last week’s battle with Alabama. Aggies QB Max Johnson can expect a lot of heat from Tennessee DL James Pearce Jr.
Why it could disappoint: In truth, we don’t yet know a whole lot about just how good either team is. The Aggies have yet to beat a ranked team, while the Vols flunked their lone road test to date. A one-sided outcome either way seems unlikely, but an exposure is also a possibility.
Source: USA Today