The college football season is heading for its most important week, and the competition off the field among fans is nearly as heated as the competition on the field on game day.
The Athlon Sports College Football Experts Club presented by Nexium & Advil gives you the chance to compete with your friends and our experts each week.
Here are this week’s top picks from Athlon Sports senior writer David Fox:
College Football Podcast: Week 6 Recap
Iowa at Northwestern
Iowa’s run game and defense carried the Hawkeyes in two Big Ten wins over Wisconsin and Illinois. Kirk Ferentz’s team likely will need more from quarterback C.J. Beathard, who has completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes in the last two games, against Northwestern’s defense. The Wildcats offense has a long way to go after last week’s shutout against Michigan, but Northwestern will face a defense without its best player, Drew Ott, who is out for the season.
Fox’s prediction: Northwestern 21–13
Missouri at Georgia
After back-to-back losses to Alabama and Tennessee, Georgia needs this game not just to keep its head above water in the SEC East race but to maintain respectability. This will be the third time Missouri has faced Georgia not long after an injury to the Bulldogs’ starting running back. Nick Chubb broke out last season in a 34–0 rout of the Tigers. Sony Michel and Keith Marshall will look to replicate that with Chubb out this season. Missouri’s offense, meanwhile, ranks last in the SEC in yards per play (4.6).
Fox’s prediction: Georgia 24–14
Oregon at Washington
The Ducks are reeling after their third loss of the season, this one at home to arguably the lesser of the Washington schools. Meanwhile, Washington is celebrating after a 17–12 win over USC, which, as it turns out, has as much to do with the Trojans’ turmoil as the Huskies’ turnaround. This will be a matchup between Washington’s young and punchless offense (4.8 yards per play vs. FBS teams) and Oregon’s porous defense (5.8 yards per play). Oregon has won 11 in a row in the rivalry, but that may be about to change.
Fox’s prediction: Washington 35–28
Ole Miss at Memphis
Memphis has lost six in a row in the series, but the Tigers haven’t faced Ole Miss in the Liberty Bowl since 2009 and rarely with a top 25-caliber team. Both teams rank in the top 11 nationally in total offense and better than 525 yards per game. Memphis, though, doesn’t have a defense to match. Ole Miss has had its defensive lapses, but the Rebels still have the talent edge.
Fox’s prediction: Ole Miss 41–31
Alabama at Texas A&M
Alabama is six weeks into the season, and we’re not totally sure if the Crimson Tide is the best team in the SEC or simply one of the pack of solid, if flawed, teams. The Alabama offense turned in another uneven performance for three quarters against Arkansas. The Crimson Tide run defense has held all but one opponent (Georgia) to fewer than 100 yards on the ground, but Texas A&M’s offense — like Ole Miss — is built to challenge Alabama in the secondary and in tempo. Don’t look now, but the Aggies may have the SEC’s best defensive player (Myles Garrett), quarterback (Kyle Allen) and freshman (Christian Kirk).
Fox’s prediction: Texas A&M 31–28
Boston College at Clemson
Expect Boston College’s defense to put up a fight against Deshaun Watson. The Eagles are allowing only 7.2 points per game. BC, though, is averaging just six points against FBS opponents, the worst average in the country. Clemson’s defense suffered little drop off despite losing a host of players from last year’s standout squad.
Fox’s prediction: Clemson 31–7
Louisville at Florida State
The Cardinals are probably better than you think. Louisville’s three losses have come by a combined 13 points (Granted, it’s only FBS win is by seven over NC State). Florida State probably isn’t as good as you think, but the Seminoles still have Dalvin Cook, who is as adept at saving the day for FSU as he was in the Louisville game last year.
Fox’s prediction: Florida State 35–28
Virginia Tech at Miami
The Hokies put together a competent game offensively against NC State just in time to face a Miami team that’s allowing 5.6 yards per play against FBS competition. Virginia Tech’s defense is holding its own with cornerback Kendall Fuller out, but Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya may be the best QB the Hokies have faced since the opener against Ohio State.
Fox’s prediction: Miami 31–24
Nebraska at Minnesota
Minnesota may not have the best defense in the Big Ten, but the Gophers aren’t too far off the pace of Michigan and Northwestern. When the Gophers get good field position (i.e., when they’re playing Purdue), the offense can be functional. Nebraska, though, remains an enigma. The Huskers are getting gashed on defense and are minus-five in turnover margin — and their late-game collapses have led to four losses this season.
Fox’s prediction: Minnesota 24–17
West Virginia at Baylor
West Virginia’s promising season has gone sour with back-to-back losses to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State and that’s before a visit to Baylor in a revenge game. The Mountaineers’ passing game has gone cold, contributing to a minus-4 turnover margin (WVU was plus-9 in non-conference play)
Fox’s prediction: Baylor 41–21
Florida at LSU
The Gators’ season has been turned upside down by the season-ending suspension for quarterback Will Grier, who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs this week. Backup Treon Harris has starting experience, but he hasn’t thrown a pass since Week 2 and has completed just 53 percent of his career passes. This should be a defensive struggle, but Florida’s margin of error has diminished. That’s not ideal against a team with Leonard Fournette on the other side.
Fox’s prediction: LSU 20–14
Oklahoma at Kansas State
After a mystifying loss to Texas, Oklahoma faces a team that has matched up well with the Sooners. Kansas State has won two of the last three meetings, but oddly enough, Oklahoma hasn’t lost in Manhattan since 1996. The Sooners’ run game has gone dormant for some reason, and Kansas State is allowing a Big 12-low 105 rushing yards per game, a stat skewed in part by the Wildcats’ clock-chomping ball-control offense.
Fox’s prediction: Oklahoma 35–28
TCU at Iowa State
Pity the poor Iowa State defense, the Cyclones just lost 66–31 to Texas Tech and now get TCU and Baylor in back-to-back games. The Horned Frogs’ beleaguered defense should get a bit of a breather.
Fox’s prediction: TCU 63–21
Michigan State at Michigan
The rivalry has been lopsided in favor of Michigan State with the Spartans winning the last two matchups by 23 and 24 points and six of the last seven overall. Michigan is poised to change that trend. The Wolverines’ defense has been the most dominant unit in the country, albeit against offensively challenged teams like BYU, UNLV, Oregon State and Northwestern. Michigan State has the best offense the Wolverines have faced this year, but the Spartans are facing injuries all over the field, most critically on the offensive line.
Fox’s prediction: Michigan 28–10
Vanderbilt at South Carolina
South Carolina’s injury list remains worth monitoring. Running back Brandon Wilds was cleared to play against LSU but did not against the Tigers. Quarterback Connor Mitch returned to practice. Lorenzo Nunez (shoulder) did not play against LSU. Vanderbilt’s defense remains one of the more underrated units in the league.
Fox’s prediction: Vanderbilt 17–13
Pittsburgh at Georgia Tech
This is a matchup with arguably the most surprising team in the ACC against the most disappointing. The Yellow Jackets offense has been ineffective in four losses this season, averaging 3.4 yards per carry in the last four games. Pittsburgh is missing running back James Conner, but has made the offense work with efficient play from Nathan Peterman at quarterback. The Panthers are allowing just 2.9 yards per carry this season.
Fox’s prediction: Pittsburgh 28–20
Arizona State at Utah
Mike Bercovici rebounded from his lackluster start against USC with solid performances against UCLA and Colorado. The Sun Devils’ run defense also has clamped down for just 2.1 yards per carry and 62 yards per game in Pac-12 play. Utah’s Devontae Booker will have trouble finding running room, so the pressure will be on quarterback Travis Wilson, who threw two picks against Cal.
Fox’s prediction: Utah 31–27
Oregon State at Washington State
Statistically speaking, the Beavers’ pass defense is not bad. Oregon State leads the Pac-12 in fewest yards allowed per game and is fourth in pass efficiency defense. Facing Washington State — rather than Stanford, Arizona and San Jose State — is a different animal.
Fox’s prediction: Washington State 54–28
USC at Notre Dame
Notre Dame faces a USC team in crisis. The Trojans are coming of a listless performance in a loss to Washington, and coach Steve Sarkisian has taken a leave of absence stemming from concerns over his use of alcohol. The Trojans regrouped under an interim coach last season, and this is still the most talented team in the Pac-12. Notre Dame has kept itself afloat despite injuries, but most teams are beat up after a matchup with Navy or another physical team. Notre Dame will be no exception. The Irish are on upset alert.
Fox’s Prediction: USC 28–21
Penn State at Ohio State
Ohio State’s quarterbacks had a solid performance last week against Maryland even as Urban Meyer went with the unconventional plan of using backup J.T. Barrett as a red zone specialist. Ohio State’s defense has to find a way to prevent the lapses that enabled big plays the last two weeks. Penn State’s defensive front is salty, but we’re not yet believers in the offense, especially as the Nittany Lions’ running back depth has been tested.
Fox’s prediction: Ohio State 35–14
Last week: 17–3
Season to date: 92–28