As good as Week 6 was on national television, Week 7 might be even better.
Things get kicked off with a solid matchup on Friday night between Washington State and Stanford—two teams from different football universes—and heat up on Saturday with the best early set of games thus far this season.
Once again the mid-afternoon time slot is overflowing with goodness, headlined with top ten matchups between Mississippi State-Auburn and TCU-Baylor. In the early evening check out Alabama-Arkansas and then hang on until a bit later for Ole Miss-Texas A&M.
While there were plenty of upsets to enjoy in Week 6, Week 7 will provide a proving ground for many of the new names listed in the shaken-up Top 10, as well for those programs who are trying desperately not to be the next team to drop out.
Thursday, Oct. 9
7:30PM ET, ESPN: BYU (4-1) at UCF (2-2): BYU’s 35-20 loss to Utah State last week—a defeat made worse by the loss of quarterback Taysom Hill to injury—makes this game less meaningful from a national standpoint. Hill was the leading rusher on a Cougar offense that ranks No. 31 in rushing yards, a unit that will be forced to retool against UCF’s No. 16-ranked rushing defense. Though the young Knights have struggled to launch offensively this season, look for sophomore quarterback Justin Holman to improve his numbers against BYU’s No. 112-ranked pass defense. These two have met once previously, in 2011, a game BYU won 24-17 in Provo.
Friday, Oct. 10
9:00PM ET, ESPN: WASHINGTON STATE (2-4) at No. 25 STANFORD (3-2): Tune in to this game to watch the clash between two totally different approaches to football: Its finesse vs. smash-mouth as Washington State’s No. 1-ranked pass attack squares off with Stanford No. 2-ranked pass defense. If nothing else, Cardinal quarterback Kevin Hogan ought to shine against Washington State’s No. 110-ranked pass D. The Cardinal have beaten the Cougars by 10-points or less during their last two visits to Stanford, Washington State hasn’t won since 2007.
9:30PM ET, ESPNU: SAN DIEGO STATE (2-3) at NEW MEXICO (2-3): San Diego State head coach Rocky Long is 2-0 vs. New Mexico and before that was 9-2 against SDSU as the Lobos’ head coach from 1998-2008. This game will come down to which rushing defense is up to the task: Either New Mexico’s No. 125-ranked rush D, which has given up more than 270-yards rushing in each of its three losses this season or the Aztecs, who have held opponents to an average of 127-ground yards per game but will face the Lobos’ No. 5-ranked rushing attack.
Saturday, Oct. 11
12:00PM, ESPN: No. 1 FLORIDA STATE (5-0) at SYRACUSE (2-3): After starting out the season 2-0 with wins over FCS Villanova and Central Michigan, Syracuse has dropped three straight to Maryland (34-20), Notre Dame (31-15) and Louisville (28-6). Though the Orange pose no real statistical threat to the ‘Noles, at some point FSU’s No. 95 rank in turnover margin will cost it a win. The Seminoles have lost the ball ten times in 2014 (three fumbles and seven interceptions) vs. only eight gains (six fumbles and two interceptions). The minus-two margin is a stark comparison to last season, when FSU finished No. 2 in turnover margin with plus-17. Syracuse is 1-6 all-time vs. Florida State, the only win coming in 1966.
12:00PM, ABC: TEXAS (2-3) at No. 11 OKLAHOMA (4-1) (Cotton Bowl Stadium, Dallas, Texas): The 99th all-time meeting between the two, last year unranked, 12-point underdog Texas knocked off No. 12 Oklahoma 36-20, marking the first time since 1996 that the unranked team beat the ranked squad in the Red River Rivalry. The Longhorns haven’t done anything on offense this season—they rank No. 117 in scoring—but have played effectively on defense, ranking No. 21 in scoring and No. 5 vs. the pass. This game could be the lowest-scoring contest between the two powerhouses since 2009 when No. 3 Texas edged No. 20 Oklahoma 16-13.
12:00PM ET, CBS: No. 13 GEORGIA (4-1) at No. 23 MISSOURI (4-1): A rare early game on CBS, the two teams have met twice all-time as SEC members, the home team losing on both occasions. Though these two both have 4-1 records, keep in mind that Missouri has only played one SEC game in 2014 (it edged South Carolina 21-20 in Week 5) while the Bulldogs have already squared off in three (also losing to the Gamecocks but beating Tennessee and Vandy). This game will come down to whether Missouri’s No. 56-ranked rushing defense can contain Georgia’s No. 13-ranked ground attack. The Tigers did give up 241-yards rushing to Indiana (the Hoosiers are ranked No. 9 in rushing yards) in their Week 4 loss, but other than that haven’t given up more than 154-ground yards to any opponent this season. The Bulldogs are averaging 288 yards rushing and haven’t posted fewer than 217 ground yards.
12:00PM, ESPNU: INDIANA (3-2) at IOWA (4-1): Hiding over on ESPN U is one of the best strength vs. strength matchups in Week 7: Indiana’s No. 9-ranked rushing offense taking on Iowa’s No. 7-ranked rushing D. The only team to hang up more than 100-yards on the Hawkeye defense this season is Pitt, the No. 20 ranked rushing attack in the FBS. Keep an eye on Indiana running back Tevin Coleman, averaging 168 yards per game in 2014, No. 2 in the nation. These two haven’t met since 2012, a game Indiana won 24-21 in Bloomington. Iowa is 4-1 in the last five, the Hoosiers haven’t won in Iowa City since 2007.
3:30PM ET, CBS: No. 2 AUBURN (5-0) at No. 3 MISSISSIPPI STATE (5-0): One of two blockbuster games in the mid-afternoon, these two haven’t met as ranked teams since 2000 when No. 20 MSU edged No. 15 Auburn 17-10 in Starkville. The Tigers and Bulldogs are mirror images of one another statistically: Rush-dominated offenses that score over 40-points a game paired with defenses which hold opponents to under 20-points per game. The biggest statistical weakness belongs to Mississippi State, ranking No. 126 vs. the pass, giving up 435 yards through the air to UAB, 341 to LSU and 365 vs. Texas A&M. The visiting team hasn’t won a game in this series since 2010 when Auburn topped Mississippi State 17-14 in Starkville, the Bulldogs are 2-11 vs. Auburn since 2001, the only wins coming 2007 and 2012.
3:30PM, ABC/ESPN2: No. 9 TCU (4-0) at No. 5 BAYLOR (5-0): In what sounds like something out of an alternate universe, TCU-Baylor is the biggest game of the season in the Big 12, not Texas-Oklahoma. Like Auburn-Mississippi State, these two teams are eerily similar on paper: High-flying offenses—both which pass more than run—paired with top ten ranked scoring defenses. What separates the two is the level of competition they’ve faced—TCU has played four teams that combine for an 11-9 record in 2014, while Baylor has faced five with an 8-18 record. Remember that the young Bears averaged 641 yards of offense in their first four games and skidded to 389 in their 28-7 win at Texas last week. TCU beat Baylor 49-21 in 2012 and came three-points shy of knocking off the No. 9 Bears last season. These two former Southwest Conference members have met 101 times since the series started in 1903, TCU holds a 50-46-5 all-time advantage.
3:30PM, ABC/ESPN2: No. 8 MICHIGAN STATE (4-1) at PURDUE (3-3): Michigan State hasn’t lost to Purdue since 2006, but the Spartans haven’t beaten the Boilermakers by more than 20 points since winning 52-28 in 1999. MSU should have no problem with Purdue, but if they’re going to lose a game it will be through the air: MSU gave up 318 yards passing in its loss to Oregon and then coughed up 282 yards through the air (vs. only 47 on the ground) in last week’s near-miss vs. Nebraska. The unlikely hero for Purdue is quarterback Austin Appleby, set for his second-ever start after going 15-of-20 for 202 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions in last week’s 38-27 win at Illinois.
3:30PM, NBC: NORTH CAROLINA (2-3) at No. 6 NOTRE DAME (5-0): These two haven’t met since 2008, when North Carolina won 29-24 in Chapel Hill, one of only two all-time wins vs. the Irish (2-16 overall). The Tar Heels have never won in South Bend, falling short in each of their 11 previous trips. Look for the Irish offense to look scary against North Carolina’s No. 124-ranked scoring defense, giving up a generous 42-points per game. Though this game has mismatch written all over it, you can’t help but wonder if the young Irish will look past two-win North Carolina for its epic road trip to Florida State next week.
3:30PM, FOX: No. 12 OREGON (4-1) at No. 18 UCLA (4-1): If not for both teams being upset last week, this would be yet another Week 7 Top Ten matchup. Regardless, this is still an important game in a crazy Pac-12 race. It’s the story of two strong offenses paired with poor pass defenses: Oregon is ranked No. 122 in pass defense, while UCLA is No. 107. The visitor in this series has only won once in six tries since 2006, in 2009 when the Ducks beat UCLA 24-10 in Los Angeles. The Bruins haven’t beaten Oregon since winning 16-0 in 2007.
3:30PM, ESPNU: LOUISVILLE (5-1) at CLEMSON (3-2): Hiding out over on ESPN U is the first-ever meeting between Louisville and Clemson. What’s compelling about this game is the Cardinal’s No. 6 -ranked scoring defense squaring off with a Tiger offense that ranks No. 19 in scoring. Tune in to see Clemson freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson and sophomore wide receiver Mike Williams do their thing against a Louisville D headlined by sophomore defensive back Gerod Holliman, leading the nation with seven interceptions. Clemson has only lost two ACC games at home since 2009 (to No. 16 Miami (Fla.) in 2010 and to No. 5 Florida State in 2013).
6:00PM ET, ESPN: No. 7 ALABAMA (4-1) at ARKANSAS (3-2): Despite losing to Ole Miss for the first time since 2003, it’s key to remember that this is still a good Alabama team vying for a College Football Playoff slot. The challenge this week will be containing Arkansas’ No. 7-ranked rushing offense, headlined by backs Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams. Alabama is ranked No. 3 in rush defense and has allowed more than 100-yards rushing on only one occasion this season, when it coughed up 107 in the win vs. Florida. Though the Tide’s passing attack ought to gain momentum against the Hogs No. 97-ranked pass D, what’s killing Alabama is turnovers—the Crimson Tide rank No. 106 in turnover margin, with only five gains vs. nine losses. Arkansas hasn’t beaten Alabama since 2006 and hasn’t scored a touchdown against the Crimson Tide since 2011.
6:00PM ET, Pac-12 NETWORK: WASHINGTON (4-1) at CAL (4-1): Though this game may not sound worthy a desperate search for a Pac-12 network feed, Cal is 4-1 overall and 2-1 in Pac-12 play, putting it in first place in the North division standings. Washington, on the other hand, is 0-1 in conference action and needs to win this “can win” game to stay alive in what is a crazy divisional race. What’s worth tuning it to see is Washington’s No. 105-ranked pass D trying to deal with Cal’s No. 3 ranked pass offense, a mismatch that may or may not be enough to cover for the Bears’ No. 122 ranked scoring defense, giving up more than 40-points per game. Cal hasn’t upended Washington since blowing out the Huskies 48-7 in 2008.
7:00PM, ESPN2: PENN STATE (4-1) at MICHIGAN (2-4): A rematch of last season’s epic four-overtime thriller when the two team’s kickers combined to go 7-of-12 on field goal attempts. Neither team has scored many points this season but Penn State has managed to move the ball through the air. The Nittany Lions rank No. 10 in the nation in scoring defense and are No. 2 vs. the run. This should be a low-scoring affair which Michigan has a realistic shot of winning if it can begin to turn the tide in turnovers. The Wolverines rank No. 127 in the FBS in turnover margin, with only two gains vs. a whopping 15 balls lost, for a margin of minus-13. Penn State has won four straight vs. Michigan but hasn’t visited Ann Arbor since 2009, when it won 35-10. Michigan hasn’t knocked off the Nittany Lions since 2007, a win that capped off a 9-0 run against Penn State.
7:30PM ET, SEC NETWORK: LSU (4-2) at FLORIDA (3-1): The first game LSU has played as an unranked team since facing Arkansas in the final game of the 2008 regular season and the first time the Gators and Tigers have met as unranked foes since 1989 when LSU won 16-13 in Baton Rouge. Though both defenses rank in the top 30 in scoring this season, both have a statistical flaw that could cost it this game: LSU’s D ranks No. 90 vs. the run and Florida is No. 102 vs. the pass. Possible heroes in this match are Tiger receiver Travin Dural or Gator running back Matt Jones. LSU has only won once in its last four visits to Gainesville, in 2010 when the No. 12 Tigers edged No. 14 Florida 33-29.
9:00PM ET, ESPN: No. 3 OLE MISS (5-0) at No. 14 TEXAS A&M (5-1): The best Week 7 primetime game, don’t forget to tune into this blockbuster, scheduled an hour later than usual. After its thrilling upset of Alabama in Week 6, no team is at bigger risk than a hangover game than Ole Miss. The Rebels have never beaten Texas A&M (0-6 all-time) and have never scored a point in College Station, visiting twice previously in 1911 (a 17-0 loss) and 1975 (a 7-0 loss). The most effective passing attack will likely win the day: Either Ole Miss’ No. 22 ranked attack, led by Bo Wallace or Texas A&M’s No. 5 ranked unit, led by Kenny Hill. The big difference is the Rebels have the better defense, ranked No. 2 in scoring and No. 9 vs. the pass. The key to this game may be Wallace, who has already thrown multiple interceptions in two games this season, three in the opener vs. Boise State and two in the Week 5 win over Memphis. The last two games between the Aggies and Bulldogs—the only two as SEC members—were decided by a total of six points.
10:30PM, ESPN2: USC (3-2) at No. 10 ARIZONA (5-0): Coming into last week, it looked as if ranked 4-1 USC would be travelling to unranked 4-1 Arizona in Week 7, but instead—after the Trojans loss to the Sun Devils and the Wildcats win over Oregon in Week 6—it’s Arizona, enjoying its highest ranking since being No. 9 in 2010, hosting the struggling, unranked Trojans. In order to win this game and keep their streak alive, the Wildcats need to find a way to shore up their No. 119 ranked pass defense, a unit which has given up 300-plus yards in its last three games. On the flip side, how will USC’s secondary respond to the Wildcat’s No. 7-ranked pass attack after coughing up 510 yards through the air in last week’s upset loss to Arizona State? Arizona has only won once in the last 10 meetings, in 2012 when the unranked Wildcats upset No. 10 USC 39-36.