Top 10 storylines for college football Week 7

Joe Burrow

A veritable cornucopia of heated rivalries headline a loaded college football Week 7 slate of games taking place this weekend.

Among them, four ranked-versus-ranked matchups headline the action. It’s going to be a tremendous, and meaningful weekend for many of the nation’s top programs.

Looking ahead to the games, these are the storylines we’re keeping an eye on.

Can the Canes finally win a big game?

The Miami Hurricanes will host No. 20 Virginia Friday night at Hard Rock Stadium. Manny Diaz has just two wins under his belt this year and neither of them came against a top team. Now, he’ll get a chance to hurt a rival and boost his own program if the Canes can bring the heat.

A big question mark for Miami is who’s going to start under center. Starter Jarren Williams isn’t throwing at practice as of Tuesday morning, and he’s day-to-day with an “upper extremity injury.” Williams also threw interceptions on three consecutive drives to open the game last weekend. In his stead, N’Kosi Perry nearly came back to beat Virginia Tech but fell just short. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Perry back in the lineup this week. And if he sparks a win, he may get the ball the rest of the way.

Red River Showdown

One of the biggest games every year, the Red River Showdown between No. 6 Oklahoma and No. 11 Texas gets Saturday kicked off in style. A noon ET start from the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, this rivalry game will be broadcast nationally on Fox and has already generated a ton of buzz.

Even casual fans should tune in to see the Sooners and Longhorns battle it out. These two offenses can light up the scoreboard, and both quarterbacks — Jalen Hurts and Sam Ehlinger — are in the Heisman conversation.

The big question is which team will make an impact defensively. So far, Oklahoma appears to be better equipped on that end, which is likely why the Sooners are favored to win by double digits.

Can the Aggies pull off an epic upset over ‘Bama?

Alabama will be in College Station this Saturday for an SEC clash with Texas A&M, and not surprisingly the Crimson Tide are heavily favored to win (-19). Winning their five games so far by an average score of 52-15, they are rolling as usual. Tua Tagovailoa and his unbelievable trio of receivers have an incredible knack of ending games before the opposition can even blink, which has covered up a defense that isn’t as dominant as we’ve seen in the past from Nick Saban’s club.

So, can the Aggies pull off an upset? They’ve had two chances to knock off top teams already this year and fell short against Clemson and Auburn. Kellen Mond is a really good quarterback but he isn’t elite and the Texas A&M offense isn’t explosive enough to come back from a large deficit. So this game rests on whether the Aggies’ defense can slow down the Tide. Good luck with that.

Which Clemson team will we see against FSU?

The last time we saw the Clemson Tigers play, they were No. 1 in the nation. Then, they nearly lost to North Carolina, which came within a failed two-point conversion at the end of the game of beating their rival.

The team’s high-powered offense was slowed down that day, and Clemson’s dominant defense got pushed around. After a bye week, one would expect that Dabo Swinney will have his guys ready to put their best foot forward. They’ll need to, because while the Seminoles started the year with some bad performances, they’ve rebounded and are a more formidable foe.

Chance for Jonathan Taylor to make a statement

Last weekend, Heisman candidate Jonathan Taylor racked up well over 200 yards and five touchdowns in just under 31 minutes of work. He did that against Kent State, however, which was a fairly predictable outcome. He and the No. 8 Wisconsin Badgers are hosting Michigan State, which features one of the best defensive fronts in college football.

The Spartans are coming off a hard loss to Ohio State last weekend, and the dynamic Buckeyes offense was too much for them to handle. Wisconsin doesn’t have the same kind of passing threat, however, so this game will play out much differently. It’s going to be a battle in the trenches, and Taylor will need to have his best game to propel the Badgers to victory.

Can Baylor stay undefeated?

One of the biggest stories of this college football season so far has been the rise of Matt Rhule’s No. 22-ranked Baylor Bears. Heading into Week 7, they’re undefeated with a 5-0 record that includes wins over Iowa State and Kanssas State.

Baylor is hosting Texas Tech on Saturday, and it’s going to take an excellent game to stay undefeated. Red Raiders backup quarterback Jett Duffey is coming off a phenomenal game leading an upset win over Oklahoma State. He and Baylor quarterback Charlie Brewer are both capable of scoring in a hurry. Though underrated in a week that features so many gigantic battles, this one is going to be good.

Time for the Nittany Lions to roar

Penn State comes into college football Week 7 with top-five rankings in scoring offense and scoring defense, winning its five games so far by an average score of 47-7. Yet the Nittany Lions are still seen as a pseudo-contender, ranked No. 10 nationally. A road game against No. 17 Iowa gives them a chance to make a major statement.

Hawkeyes quarterback Nate Stanley is coming off his worst game at the collegiate level against Michigan. Had he not been so awful last weekend, Iowa would have beaten the Wolverines in their own house. Things don’t get much easier for him against Penn State, however, which features one of the most dangerous defensive lines in college football.

On the other side, Sean Clifford leads a potent dual-threat Nittany Lions offense that’s capable of scoring on every single play. This game should be very interesting, as Iowa’s defense is no slouch, either.

Classic rivalry in South Bend

USC is in South Bend this weekend for a date with No. 9 Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish have rebounded nicely from their loss to Georgia, rattling off two impressive wins by the combined score of 87-20. The Trojans, meanwhile, have sputtered with two losses in their last three games.

Freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis is expected to play after missing two games due to a concussion. That’s good news for the Trojans, who’ll need to score plenty to keep pace with Ian Book and Co. on their home turf. If USC is going to pull off an upset, then it’s likely going to need the defense to step up in a big way.

High-scoring affair in Boise

A couple of dynamic offenses are squaring off in Boise Saturday night as the No. 14 Boise State Broncos host Hawaii. Boise State is undefeated so far, while Hawaii has lost just one game.

Rainbow Warriors gunslinger Cole McDonald has passed for 1,629 yards and 17 touchdowns, which both rank third nationally. Boise State freshman Hank Bachmeier is one of the toughest players out there. He takes hits in the pocket and keeps delivering strikes. Stay up late to watch these two duel it out, and don’t be surprised if Hawaii gives the Broncos all they can handle.

Game of the week in Death Valley

The No. 7 Florida Gators will be in Baton Rouge Saturday night for an SEC slugfest with No. 5 LSU, and these two undefeated teams are both incredible to watch. A contrast in styles, Florida’s brawny defense will attempt to slow down LSU’s electric offense, which has taken flight under the guidance of offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger.

Joe Burrow is in the thick of the Heisman race, having thrown for 1,864 yards and 22 touchdowns in just five games. He’ll have to stay sharp against a Florida defense that has forced 13 turnovers — ranking second nationally.

On the other side, Kyle Trask continues to play well for the Gators, though this game on the road against an extremely talented LSU defense will be his greatest test yet.

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