College football's Week 7 action is highlighted by a huge matchup in the SEC — what else in new? — Stanford's trip to Notre Dame (will the Irish give up a touchdown), and the Red River Shootout in Dallas.
Our picks for every game in Week 7
No. 91 Navy at No. 99 Central Michigan
Central Michigan ranks 114th in the nation in stopping the run. Not a good stat with Navy coming to town. This is not a vintage Navy team — it’s not even a good navy team — but the Midshipmen should be able to run the ball enough to win this game.
Central Michigan 33-31
No. 1 Alabama at No. 48 Missouri
Missouri picked up 395 yards in a loss at home to Vanderbilt last week, but the Tigers struggled to move the ball after James Franklin was sidelined by a knee injury. Mizzou averaged 9.5 yards per play in the two drives with Franklin in the game and 4.2 yards for the final three-plus quarters after Corbin Berkstresser took over. This week, the Tigers will face an Alabama defense loaded with future pros at every level. Good luck, Mizzou.
No. 3 South Carolina at No. 8 LSU
LSU has struggled to stop the run the last two weeks, giving up 188 yards on 40 carries to Towson and 176 on 58 carries to Florida. That brings us to South Carolina and its star tailback Marcus Lattimore. The junior leads the SEC in conference games in both rushing (106.0 ypg) and rushing touchdowns (seven). The Gamecocks will need Lattimore to be at his best to win in Baton Rouge — something that has happened only once (in 1994) in South Carolina’s 11 trips to Tiger Stadium.
South Carolina 17-13
No. 19 Stanford at No. 4 Notre Dame
It’s kind of strange to say, but this Notre Dame team isn’t getting enough credit. The Fighting Irish are 5–0, with four of the wins coming against AQ conference teams. The defense has been absolutely dominant. Consider the following: Michigan State, Michigan and Miami (Fla.) combined to scored 12 points against the Irish in successive games.
Notre Dame 24-13
No. 5 Florida at No. 57 Vanderbilt
Florida’s trip to Nashville is sandwiched between two of the Gators’ biggest games of the season — last week vs. LSU (a win) and next week’s home date with South Carolina. Will Muschamp’s task this week is simple: Keep his team focused on Vanderbilt. The Gators are clearly the more talented team, but Vanderbilt is good enough to make Florida sweat. Expect the Gators to lean on tailback Mike Gillislee. Vanderbilt ranks 33rd nationally in total defense but has struggled to stop the run against the better teams on its schedule.
No. 6 West Virginia at No. 41 Texas Tech
It’s no secret that Geno Smith is having a spectacular season, but have you taken a close look at his numbers? They are simply amazing. He’s completing 81.4 percent of his passes (No. 1 in the nation); he’s averaging 399.2 passing yards per game (No. 1 in the nation); he’s averaging 9.8 yards per attempt (No. 3 in the nation); he’s thrown 24 touchdowns (No. 1 in the nation and six more than anyone else); and he hasn’t thrown an interception (one of four quarterbacks nationally with over 100 attempts and no picks). Bottom line: He’s very good at playing quarterback.
West Virginia 44-24
No. 7 Kansas State at No. 42 Iowa State
It’s a battle of two coaches who have made a habit of doing more with less. Bill Snyder has Kansas State ranked in the top 10 after a 5–0 start that features wins over Miami (Fla.) and Oklahoma. Collin Klein has been sensational at quarterback for the Cats; he ranks ninth in the nation in passing efficiency and is averaging 81.0 yards rushing per game. Iowa State is 4–1 under fourth-year coach Paul Rhoads thanks to a defense that is giving up 15.8 points per game.
Kansas State 27-17
No. 9 Ohio State at No. 97 Indiana
Indiana hasn’t defeated Ohio State since 1988, and the Hoosiers haven’t lost by less than 10 points to Buckeyes since 1993 (23–17 in Columbus). This one won’t be close.
Ohio State 44-17
No. 11 USC at No. 26 Washington
USC’s last trip to Seattle didn’t go too well. Back in 2009, the Trojans were held to a season-low 13 points in a four-point loss in the first and only Pete Carroll vs. Steve Sarkisian matchup. Sarkisian is 1–1 vs. Carroll’s successor, Lane Kiffin, with a win in L.A. in 2010 and a loss in L.A. last fall.
No. 12 Texas vs. No. 14 Oklahoma (Dallas)
First the good news: Texas is averaging 46.8 points per game and has finally identified a quarterback in sophomore David Ash. Now, the bad news: A Longhorn defense that was expected to be among the best in the nation has given up 115 points in the last three weeks. The most troubling part has been Texas’ inability to stop the run. Last week, West Virginia’s Andrew Buie gashed the Horns for 207 yards on 31 carries. Oklahoma is hoping to be the next team to take advantage of Texas’ cooperative run defense.
No. 96 Boston College at No. 13 Florida State
Florida State’s national title received a crippling blow last week at NC State. Now, the Seminoles must regroup and focus on winning their first ACC title since 2005. Boston College figures to put up little resistance after losing last Saturday to an Army team that lost to Stony Brook the previous week.
Florida State 38-13
No. 16 Oregon State at No. 46 BYU
Oregon State received a dose of bad news early this week when starting quarterback Sean Mannion was ruled out indefinitely after hurting his knee in the Beavers’ win over Washington State last week. The next man up is junior Cody Vaz, who hasn’t thrown a pass since his redshirt freshman season in 2010. With the inexperienced Vaz taking snaps, expect to see the Beavers lean on tailbacks Storm Woods and Marcus Agnew.
Oregon State 24-14
No. 17 Louisville at No. 67 Pittsburgh
Louisville is only a field goal favorite over a Pittsburgh team that has lost to Youngstown State by 14 points, Cincinnati by 24 points and Syracuse by one point. That line seems a bit low, but the Cardinals struggled on the road against inferior opponents in their last two games, beating FIU by seven and Southern Miss (in a driving rainstorm) by four points.
No. 66 Syracuse at No. 18 Rutgers
Rutgers is undefeated and nationally ranked thanks to a defense that has given up an average of 10.8 points per game. Syracuse scored a total of 70 points in its first two games vs. FBS foes but has totaled 24 points in its last two. Points will be tough to come by for the Orange on Saturday.
No. 71 Illinois at No. 20 Michigan
Michigan is no doubt disappointed to “only” be 3–2 at this point of the season, but it’s important to note that the Wolverines’ two losses came to Alabama and Notre Dame, two top-five teams with a combined record of 10–0. This is still a solid Michigan team.
No. 21 Louisiana Tech at No. 24 Texas A&M
Louisiana Tech has made its first-ever appearance in the coaches poll thanks to a 5–0 start that features road wins over Houston, Illinois and Virginia. The Bulldogs are averaging 523.4 yards and 53.2 points per game running Sonny Dykes’ wide-open attack. Tech will need to score plenty of points on Saturday because its defense — which ranks 119th in the nation — will have a tough time slowing down Texas A&M.
Texas A&M 44–37
No. 34 Tennessee at No 22 Mississippi State
It’s not an overstatement to say this is the most important game in Derek Dooley’s tenure at Tennessee. With Alabama and South Carolina looming, the Vols, who have lost nine of their last 10 SEC games, simply cannot afford to lose in Starkville.
Fordham at No. 23 Cincinnati
We are in the seventh week of the season, and Cincinnati has only played three FBS opponents. The Bearcats have had two byes and are playing an FCS foe for the second time.
No. 60 Iowa at No. 27 Michigan State
Michigan State avoided disaster by rallying from deficits of 17–0 and 27–17 (in the fourth quarter) to beat Indiana 31–27. Iowa is back in action after enjoying a week off. The Hawkeyes have found a running game — Mark Weisman is fourth in the Big Ten in rushing with 103.0 yards per game — but quarterback James Vandenberg only has two touchdown passes in 159 attempts. He had 25 in 404 attempts last year.
Michigan State 13-10
No. 28 Nevada at No. 103 UNLV
Nevada has won seven straight in this in-state rivalry — and each of the last four have been by 18 points or more. The Wolf Pack struggled last week with Wyoming, winning by seven in overtime in Reno. That is not a good sign.
No. 55 Utah at No. 30 UCLA
The Bruins have lost two of three after opening the Jim Mora era with three straight wins. UCLA scored a total of 37 points in its losses — vs. Oregon State and at Cal — despite averaging a more-than-respectable 408 yards in those two games. Brett Hundley was picked off four times vs. California. That, obviously, cannot happen.
No. 32 Oklahoma State at No. 95 Kansas
Kansas lost to Rice, which lost to Memphis (yes, Memphis), which lost to Tennessee-Martin. Things aren’t going well in Year 1 of the Charlie Weis era.
Oklahoma State 41-10
No. 70 Fresno State at No 33 Boise State
Boise State might be 4–1 and nationally ranked — though not by Athlon Sports — but this is not a great Bronco team. They struggled with New Mexico two weeks ago before beating up on a Southern Miss team in shambles. Fresno State has the edge at the skill positions. I smell upset.
Fresno State 30, Boise State 23
No. 43 TCU at No. 36 Baylor
TCU lost at home to Iowa State 37–23 in its first game without Casey Pachall. Trevone Boykin stepped in and threw for 270 yards but was picked off three times. The Horned Frogs need to bounce back quickly, because the schedule in the second half of the season is not kind.
No. 110 Akron at No. 37 Ohio
Ohio is still undefeated, but the Bobcats haven’t exactly been playing great football. Here are their last three games vs. FBS opponents: Marshall (27–24), UMass (37–34) and Buffalo (38–31).
No. 39 Northwestern at No. 68 Minnesota
Both of these teams only have one loss on the season, but Northwestern is far more battle-tested. The Wildcats have wins over Syracuse (on the road), Vanderbilt, Indiana and Boston College, while Minnesota’s lone FBS win came against Syracuse. Last week, the Gophers were handled with ease in their Big Ten opener by Iowa, 31–13.
No. 40 Wisconsin at No. 45 Purdue
Purdue had a chance to make a statement last week but was surprisingly uncompetitive in a 44–13 loss at home to Michigan. Wisconsin is quietly playing much better in recent weeks. Joel Stave has been solid at quarterback.
No. 51 North Carolina at No. 44 Miami (Fla.)
Still not sure what to make of either one of these teams. They’ve both looked good at times — Miami scored a total of 86 points in wins over Georgia Tech and NC State; North Carolina pounded Virginia Tech last weekend. And they’ve both looked bad at times — Miami lost to Kansas State and Notre Dame by a combined score of 93–16; Virginia Tech lost to Wake Forest and trailed Louisville at the half 36–7.
Miami (Fla.) 37-33
No. 123 Florida Atlantic at No. 47 ULM
After opening up with three straight games against AQ conference opponents — and doing quite well (1–2 vs. Arkansas, Auburn and Baylor) — ULM beat Tulane and Middle Tennessee (both on the road) by a combined score of 94–27. The Warhawks shouldn’t have any trouble with FAU.
ULM 47, Florida Atlantic 13
No. 50 California at No. 102 Washington State
Cal was in a must-win mode last weekend, and the Golden Bears delivered with a 43–17 victory over UCLA in Berkeley. Zach Maynard was very sharp (25-of-30 for 295 yards), and C.J. Anderson rushed for 151 yards on 21 carries. This team has plenty of talent.
No. 52 Utah State at No. 79 San Jose State
It’s a big battle in the WAC between two of the nation’s most underrated coaches, Utah State’s Gary Andersen and San Jose State’s Mike MacIntyre. Utah State has lost two games, to Wisconsin and BYU by a combined five points; San Jose State has lost one game, to Stanford by three points. These are quality teams.
Utah State 27, San Jose State 24
No. 53 Duke at No 54 Virginia Tech
Duke is 5–1 and one win away from bowl-eligibility, but the Blue Devils still have plenty of doubters. The schedule has been very kind. Virginia Tech has lost three of its last four and has given up 27 points or more in all three defeats. This will be a tough test for the Hokies’ defense.
Virginia Tech 27-17
No. 62 Auburn at No. 58 Ole Miss
Ole Miss is much improved under first-year coach Hugh Freeze, but it’s still alarming that Auburn — a program that won the national title two years ago — is a six-point underdog to the Rebels. The Tigers’ faithful won’t be pleased with Gene Chizik if Auburn loses in Oxford.
Ole Miss 27-20
No. 105 Southern Miss at No. 59 UCF
Southern Miss continues to struggle under first-year coach Ellis Johnson, who is under fire from a program that expects to win. The Golden Eagles rank 114th in the nation in scoring offense and 105th in scoring defense.
No. 81 Kentucky at No. 61 Arkansas
The Hogs have a great opportunity to win their second straight game with a wounded (both physically and mentally) Kentucky team visiting Fayetteville. The Wildcats dropped to 1–5 with a 27–14 loss at home to Mississippi State last week. Kentucky’s best two quarterbacks, Maxwell Smith and Patrick Towles, are out with injuries, leaving true freshman Jalen Whitlow and senior Morgan Newton as the only two options for Joker Phillips.
No. 114 Buffalo at No. 63 Northern Illinois
Jordan Lynch is having a terrific first season as the Huskies’ starting quarterback. The junior is averaging 209.2 yards passing (with nine touchdowns and three INTs) and 131.5 yards rushing (with nine TDs). Denard Robinson is the only quarterback with better rushing numbers nationally.
Northern Illinois 47-17
No. 65 Toledo at No. 117 Eastern Michigan
It’s been a struggle in 2012 for Ron English and Eastern Michigan. After breaking through with six wins in 2011, hopes were high for the Eagles this fall. It hasn’t quite worked out. EMU is 0–5 (with a loss to FCS foe Illinois State) and is ranked near the bottom of the nation in total offense and total defense.
No. 72 Western Michigan at No. 83 Ball State
Ball State has split its last four games, beating two AQ conference opponents (Indiana and South Florida) and losing to two MAC teams (Kent State and Northern Illinois). Western Michigan, which lost to Toledo at home a few weeks ago, cannot afford another loss in league play.
Western Michigan 30-27
No. 75 Temple at No. 73 Connecticut
Connecticut has been one of the most “lopsided” teams in the nation. The Huskies rank sixth in the nation in total defense (248.8 ypg) and 110th in total offense (310.5 ypg). This figures to be a low-scoring affair.
No. 74 Maryland at No. 78 Virginia
We thought Virginia might take a step back in 2012 after suffering some key personnel losses. But we didn’t expect this: a 2–4 record with a 36-point loss to Georgia Tech and a 25-point loss to Duke. Maryland, on the other hand, is showing signs of being a competitive football program — a positive step after last year’s debacle.
No. 116 Memphis at No. 80 East Carolina
Last week, Memphis won its first C-USA home game since October 2009. The Tigers rallied to beat Rice 14¬-10 in a game that featured only 466 yards of total offense. Memphis’ winning streak will be snapped at one.
East Carolina 37-10
No. 82 Kent State at No. 113 Army
It’s been a strange three-game stretch for Army. The Black Knights scored a total of 71 points in two games vs. AQ conference opponents (37 in a loss to Wake Forest and 34 in a win over Boston College) and three points in loss at home to FCS foe Stony Brook. That doesn’t make much sense.
Kent State 31-17
No. 85 SMU at No. 124 Tulane
In very un-June Jones-like fashion, SMU beat UTEP 17–0 on the road last week. In the last two games, the Mustangs have allowed a total of 431 yards. They gave up 452 yards or more in each of their first three games.
No. 98 UAB at No. 86 Houston
This is a bit of a statistical oddity: Houston is ranked ninth in the nation in total offense despite scoring 13 points in two of its five games. The Cougars are piling up the yards but have struggled to score at times due a turnover differential of minus-0.8 per game.
No. 87 Middle Tennessee at No. 100 FIU
FIU might be the most disappointing team in the nation. The Golden Panthers, expected to compete for the Sun Belt title, are 1–5 overall (with the one win coming at home in overtime to Akron) and 0–2 in league play.
Middle Tennessee 21-20
No. 121 South Alabama at No. 89 Arkansas State
Maybe my expectations were too high for the Gus Malzahan-Ryan Aplin combo, but it’s a bit of a surprise that Arkansas State hasn’t scored more than 34 points vs. an FBS opponent this year.
Arkansas State 34-13
No. 119 Colorado State at No. 90 San Diego State
Jim McElwain is discovering that it’s far more difficult calling plays with Colorado State’s players than it was at Alabama. The Rams rank 115th in the nation in scoring offense and 106th in total offense.
San Diego State 37-17
No. 92 New Mexico at No. 118 Hawaii
Bob Davie is doing a fine job in his first season at New Mexico. The Lobos, who are running an option attack, have three wins through six games in 2012; they had a total of three wins from 2009-11.
New Mexico 31-23
No. 109 Miami (Ohio) at No. 93 Bowling Green
Ohio is clearly the team to beat, but Bowling Green is good enough to be a factor in the MAC East. Miami is 2–0 in the league, but that record is a product of a soft early slate. Bowling Green is the better team.
Bowing Green 31-20
No. 115 Idaho at No. 104 Texas State
Texas State has struggled a bit since its shocking season-opening win at Houston. The Bobcats are 1–3 since that win, with a four-point victory over Stephen F. Austin and losses to Texas Tech, Nevada and New Mexico.
Texas State 30-27
No. 111 Texas-San Antonio at No. 106 Rice
David Bailiff’s job security took a huge hit last week when Rice lost at Memphis. The Owls have one win on the season — at Kansas.
Texas-San Antonio 28-24
No. 107 Air Force at No. 122 Wyoming
Air Force is one of only two teams nationally (Texas-San Antonio is the other) that has not allowed a sack. It’s worth noting, however, that the Falcons have only attempted 57 passes in five games.
Last week: 33-19
Season to date: 287-79