Top storylines heading into college football Week 7

Based on what we’ve seen since the season began, college football Week 7 will feature a couple of upsets, and this weekend’s slate of games is ripe for it.

The Red River Showdown will take place Saturday afternoon at the Cotton Bowl, and there have already been some shots fired in this annual battle. We’ve highlighted a couple of top teams that have to be on their best behavior to avoid the fate of the Oklahoma Sooners this past weekend. And one of the best college football players in the nation is back in action after taking a week off.

These are the most interesting storylines heading into college football Week 7.

Will Kelly Bryant be able to play Friday night?

Clemson should not have any problems whatsoever this weekend, whether Kelly Bryant plays or is on the sidelines in street clothes. Last year the Tigers blanked the Orange 54-0, and nobody should be all that shocked to see a similar result Friday night. Head coach Dabo Swinney says he’s day-to-day and is a bit gimpy with the ankle injury that knocked him out of last weekend’s game. If he can practice and move around okay, then he’ll play.

If Bryant is able to play, it would be a huge positive for him. In his past three games the junior dual-threat passer has thrown two touchdowns and three interceptions. After this weekend, Clemson’s schedule gets a bit more competitive, so going into the final weeks with some positive momentum would be ideal.

Pac-12 after dark Friday features most underrated top-10 team in nation

Luke Falk of Washington State

If you’re not doing anything out of the house Friday night and want to see some entertaining football, tune into ESPN around 10:30 p.m. ET. Cal is hosting No. 8 Washington State, and it could get ugly for the home team if recent history has anything to do with the outcome. Cal has lost its last two games to Oregon and Washington by a combined score 83-31.

The Cougars, meanwhile, have already won their toughest game of the year and enter the game undefeated, having just beaten Oregon by 23 points. Luke Falk is completing nearly 72 percent of his passes this year for 2,000 yards with 19 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Washington State’s defense is quite formidable as well, ranking No. 5 nationally with 15 forced turnovers.

Washington State hasn’t gotten a ton of national love. But it should. Check the Cougars out. You won’t be disappointed.

Kansas State looking to upset TCU 

TCU is the best team in the Big 12 right now. The Horned Frogs have downed Oklahoma and West Virginia the past two weeks, thanks to a potent offense led by Kenny Hill. Is there any way the Wildcats can upend the Horned Frogs? We’ll go ahead and say yes. Kansas State has a 3-2 record, and the games it lost were tightly contested, including last week’s overtime loss to Texas.

The Wildcats will be at home, and quarterback Jesse Ertz has been rolling the past couple of weeks. If he’s healthy enough to play, then the offense could certainly keep up with the high-powered offense of the Horned Frogs. Of course, Kansas State’s defense has to be on point, too. TCU has lost two of its last three games in Manhattan in Big 12 play, so nobody should be shocked if an upset is in the works.

How will Michigan rebound on the road against Indiana?

The Wolverines took a monumental tumble down the standings, from No. 7 to No. 17, following their ugly loss at home to Michigan State. It was a tumble that they earned, to be sure.

Now, they’ll have to pick up the pieces and do it quickly, because up next is a road test against a potentially dangerous Indiana team that has the pieces in place to pull off the upset. Indiana can bring interior pressure and could wreak havoc on a Michigan offensive line that was terrible last weekend. The Hoosiers also run the ball well, and Michigan was bullied up front on the defensive side of the ball against the Spartans as well.

John O’Korn will be in the spotlight. He threw three interceptions last game and has completed just 56.5 percent of his passes this season. Michigan is ripe for another loss unless it figures out a way to fix a multitude of issues that have been lying under the surface all year and finally came up for air in Week 6.

Red Raiders vs. Mountaineers should be a barnburner

Texas Tech will be on the road playing against West Virginia Saturday early. Both teams feature offenses that can play with anyone. The Mountaineers rank No. 3 in the nation, while the Red Raiders are No. 7 in total offense. The two teams are remarkably similar in that they both average in the mid-40s for points scored and give up around four touchdowns per game defensively. We’re betting defense won’t be a big aspect of this game.

Will Grier has been phenomenal for West Virginia this year. He’ll no doubt be in a high-scoring shootout going up against Nic Shimonek. The two quarterbacks have already thrown 30 touchdowns compared to just seven interceptions between them. It’s going to be fun watching them duke it out through the air.

FSU on upset alert on road against Duke

Duke started out the season on fire, winning its first four games before getting humbled by Miami in Week 5. Then last weekend the Blue Devils stumbled again, on the road against Virginia. Now they’re back home and could pose a problem for Jimbo Fisher’s Seminoles, who have lost three out of their last four games. The one win coming in miraculous fashion against Wake Forest.

The key to winning this one for Florida State will be whether it can gain any traction in the running game. Duke features the No. 7 run defense in the nation and given up just five rushing scores all year. Given the struggles James Blackman has had through the air, this is a recipe for success for the Blue Devils.

Jonathan Taylor should run wild at home against Purdue

We have to give Purdue its due. It’s been playing some very solid ball in 2017. However, the Boilermakers are susceptible to the one thing Wisconsin does extremely well, which is run the ball. Chris Evans had a big game for Michigan a few weeks back. Shannon Brooks had a big game for Minnesota last weekend. Those guys, no disrespect intended, can’t hold a candle to Jonathan Taylor, and Wisconsin’s offensive line was made for plowing running lanes.

Taylor’s worst game this year came against Northwestern. He had 80 yards and scored twice on the ground. Three times he’s gone well over 100 yards, two of which were well over 200 yards. Taylor has 767 yards and nine touchdowns in five games, and he’s set to wreak some more havoc on Saturday at home against the Boilermakers, who, sadly, don’t have a chance in this one.

Does LSU have enough offense to pull off another big win?

It was pretty awesome how an embattled Ed Orgeron got his team to perform at a crisp, clean, high level against a very scrappy Florida team last Saturday. The Tigers were coming off their worst loss in quite some time and needed a win in the worst way. They got it. But now the stakes are much, much higher as an imposing Auburn team comes to Baton Rouge this upcoming Saturday.

Auburn’s offense isn’t on the same level as the highest-scoring teams in the nation. But Jarrett Stidham has been very sharp of late. The team’s rushing attack averages 228 yards per game and has scored 18 rushing touchdowns.

Auburn features one of the nation’s top defenses. The Tigers rank No. 13 in total defense and No. 6 in scoring defense, allowing just 13 points per game. We anticipate LSU quarterback Danny Etling having a heck of a time doing anything positive through the air. This means the home team will have to have its best game of the season on the ground to win a second game in a row.

Miami must solve Georgia Tech’s triple option

The only team in the nation that boasts a more formidable rushing attack than Georgia Tech is Navy. The Yellow Jackets average almost 400 yards per game on the ground. And while Miami does come into the game undefeated, it’s not exactly shutting opponents’ running games down, averaging nearly 150 yards allowed per game, which is middle of the road in the FBS.

TaQuon Marshall is phenomenal. He runs Georgia Tech’s triple option to perfection and can make clutch throws when he needs them. He’s combined for 856 yards and 13 touchdowns this year and has a tremendous cast of running backs doing work behind him.

If the Hurricanes are going to move to 5-0 on the season, then it’s going to have to be their defense stepping up and shutting down this triple option. Otherwise, it’s hard to imagine Malik Rosier and Co. doing enough offensively to match the Yellow Jackets.

Red River Showdown extra salty this year

Baker Mayfield

Baker Mayfield and his Sooners were humiliated last weekend, losing to Iowa State, of all teams. Then, after the game, one of the Cyclones players stuck a flag on the 50-yard line as a reciprocating gesture to Mayfield doing the same after Oklahoma beat Ohio State. Mayfield made comments after the game that he realizes that comes with the territory. But in truth it’s clear he’s agitated. His pointed jab at Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger this week proves it.

Speaking of Texas, the Longhorns have bounced back nicely after losing in Week 1 in embarrassing fashion. Tom Herman’s club overcame a lot this past week against Kansas State to win in overtime and move to 3-2 on the season. And this team, despite it’s deficiencies the past few years, has won two of the last four. The two losses to Oklahoma were both hotly contested, both of them being five-point wins for the Sooners.

It matters not that Oklahoma is ranked. It matters not that, talent-wise, Texas is the inferior team. This game could go either way, and we can’t wait to see what happens.

Navy looking to justify ranking against explosive Memphis squad

The Midshipmen made the leap up in the top-25 heading into Week 7. The next month or so will prove whether the program deserves to stay, with upcoming games against UCF and Notre Dame. But before Navy can try to take those programs down it must first deal with a very formidable Memphis squad, which can pile up the points with the best of them.

The Tigers put a 70 burger up this past weekend and are averaging more than 42 points per game. Navy isn’t adverse to putting up big numbers, either, however. Three of their five wins have come while scoring at least 42 points. And as we mentioned talking about Georgia Tech, no team runs with more authority than this one. These two teams could very well put up 100 points between them. It’s going to come down to which one makes that critical mistake late in the game, we’re guessing, to determine the winner.

How much rat poison did Alabama manage to expel this week?

Nick Saban Alabama

So, if you paid any attention to Nick Saban after his Crimson Tide struggled to put away Texas A&M this past weekend, you heard him talk about the media being akin to rat poison that his team consumed. Apparently, everyone writing good stuff about Alabama contributed to puffing up the collective heads of his players, who bought the lie.

As I wrote following the one-score win, all this really means is Saban has more reason to put the fear of God into his players. Alabama was due for a so-so game and got one. Now the Crimson Tide are set for the home stretch, which should terrify the rest of the SEC. Arkansas is going to get curb stomped this weekend in Tuscaloosa.

Can Missouri somehow beat the massive spread against Georgia?

If Missouri beats Georgia this weekend in Athens, it would be a bigger upset than Iowa State taking down Oklahoma. It’s not happening. Kirby Smart has the Bulldogs on an absolute tear right now, and if Missouri isn’t the worst team in the SEC, then it’s not far behind Ole Miss for that “honor.”

Georgia is favored to win by 31 points, per Bovada. So the real question here is, can the Tigers possibly score enough points to beat that spread? Given how dominant Georgia has been, especially defensively, we’ll say no. No chance. The Tigers have an awful defense and are going to have a very tough time scoring any points at all.

Ohio State looking to keep hot play going in Lincoln

Since being upset at home by Oklahoma, Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes have absolutely annihilated every opponent in their way. They’ve won their last four games by an average score of 52-10. Senior quarterback J.T. Barrett seems to have discovered his inner playmaker once again for the first time in three years. He’s thrown 13 touchdowns and no picks since being stymied by the Sooners.

Nebraska isn’t going to slow the Buckeyes down. Especially if quarterback Tanner Lee continues to chuck the ball to the other team. We’re looking for Ohio State to win another blowout en route to a Week 9 showdown against Penn State.

USC on upset alert at home against Utah

USC Trojans quarterback Sam Darnold college football

The big prime time game on ABC Saturday night features the Trojans at home hosting Utah. The Utes are coming off a tough loss at home against Stanford, thanks to a couple of killer turnovers. However, they have the ingredients to pull off an upset against a vulnerable USC team that struggles with turnovers of its own, having given up 13 on the season.

Quarterback Sam Darnold, one of the best at taking care of the ball last year, is not having good luck this year. He’s already thrown nine interceptions this year, and at least one per game.

USC’s defense has also struggled at times to defend the pass. Look for Utah receiver Darren Carrington to get loose more than a few times. He could be the difference in the game.

Sparty rising

Michigan wasn’t sharp at home against Michigan State, but we have to give credit where credit is due. The Spartans have been surprisingly good all year and enter Week 7 with a record of 4-1, their one loss coming to a very good Notre Dame team. Sophomore quarterback Brian Lewerke is the centerpiece offensively, and he will have to have another big game Saturday evening against Minnesota to keep the team on the right track.

The Golden Gophers will be without four starters in this one and have lost their last two games. However, head coach P.J. Fleck is very good at motivating his team and will have it ready to defend its home turf. Still, after seeing the determination the Spartans displayed this past weekend, and what it has accomplished this year, it’s hard to bet against Mark Dantonio’s crew in this Big Ten clash.

Josh Rosen back in action 

UCLA doesn’t feature a good football team this year. In fact, the Bruins are just awful in many respects. But there is one player who makes every game worth watching — Josh Rosen. The junior signal caller is the only reason UCLA has a winning record right now. His ability to make NFL-caliber throws on a regular basis (like this) makes him the most entertaining quarterback in college football not named Lamar Jackson.

He and the Bruins will be on the road against an Arizona squad that is highly open to being exploited through the air. It should be a fun game if you’re into big-time passes from future NFL quarterbacks.

Aztecs have their hands full at home against Boise State

Rashaad Penny

This game should be very competitive. San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny (one of the best offensive players in the nation) summed up how his team views the upcoming battle against Boise State.

“We’re taking this game like it’s a championship game,” Penny said, per Stats LLC. “It’s a big week. Emotions are pumped up. … I feel the energy already, and it’s only Monday.”

Boise State gave the No. 8-ranked Cougars a run for their money a few weeks back, losing by just three points in triple-overtime. That’s the kind of competition that faces the first-place team in the Mountain West. The Broncos are pretty solid against the run, so it’s going to be interesting to see if they can bottle up Penny, who nearly has 1,000 yards on the ground already.

Another late, late start for No. 5 Washington

The Huskies didn’t particularly like being told they should be grateful ESPN broadcasts their games at all. Kirk Herbsteit tried to explain his ill-conceived comment away, but the damage is done. The Huskies dismantled Cal this past weekend very late at night, which is their lot in life this year as the preferred late-game team of the Worldwide Leader. They’ll be on late again this Saturday against Arizona State, which will be lucky to stay within two touchdowns.

Washington is a powerhouse on both sides of the ball, with defense actually being the stronger of the two. The Huskies are giving up just 10.2 points per game this year, good for No. 3 in the nation. The Sun Devils are doomed.

Bryce Love looks to continue historic push against Oregon

If you haven’t watched Bryce Love in action this year, then you’re missing out on one of the best players in college football today. Through six games this junior has rushed for 1,240 yards and nine touchdowns. That’s over 206 yards per game. Even more impressive is the fact he’s averaging 10.5 yards per run, and opposing defenses are gearing up to stop him in a big way because Stanford doesn’t feature much of a passing game to speak of.

At his current pace, Love is set to rush for 2,686 yards this season, assuming Stanford gets into a bowl game and plays 13 games. As a point of reference, Barry Sanders holds the FBS single-season rushing record, which is 2,628 yards. Needless to say, if you do have a chance to watch this young man play this year, do it before it’s too late. Love and the Cardinal host the Oregon Ducks late Saturday night. Sadly, this game is not nationally televised.