Although it follows the greatest week of college football in recent memory, Week 7 plays host to a few big-time matchups with playoff implications on the line.
So mark your calendar’s once again, football fans, and prepare for yet another installment in what has already been a tumultuous season.
No. 2 Auburn at No. 3 Mississippi State
For the second consecutive week, Auburn (5-0, 2-0) is playing in my Game of the Week – and for good reason. The second-ranked Tigers are considered by some to be the best team in the nation, and a win in Starkville will vault them to the top of the rankings.
Auburn is fresh off a 41-7 massacre of LSU in which QB Nick Marshall outgained his opponent on offense 326-280. The Heisman candidate has taken a step backwards statistically from last season (on pace for 120 less rushing yards, 160 less passing yards), but still looks as explosive and comfortable in this offense as ever.
He’ll look to take advantage of a Bulldog defense that hasn’t faced a QB of his caliber all season.
Mississippi State (5-0, 2-0), counters with its own Heisman hopeful, QB Dak Prescott. The dual threat star burst onto the national scene against in Baton Rouge three weeks ago, and had his way with Texas A&M last week.
Now that he’s a household name, Prescott will look to continue his streak through the SEC West – this time against one of the conference’s elite defenses. The scrappy, well-coached Bulldogs are beaming with confidence after beating two top-10 opponents for the first time in school history.
They won’t back down from any team, especially one coming into Starkville looking to steal a win. The culture has changed at Mississippi State, and the crowd will play a factor in Saturday’s heavyweight bout.
Prediction: Both QBs had their breakout game in last year’s matchup, and once again steal the spotlight in 2014. While neither team has played a particularly easy schedule thus far, one has to wonder how the Bulldogs will handle playing their third top-10 opponent in as many games.
Prescott took the Tigers by surprise in 2013, passing for 213 yards and rushing for another 133. This time around, Auburn will be ready. Auburn wins, 35-24.
No. 12 Oregon at No. 18 UCLA
All eyes are on Pasadena this weekend as UCLA (4-1, 1-1) attempts to avenge last week’s upset to Utah. QB Brett Hundley may still be a little sore after he was sacked a career-high 10 times last weekend. His offensive line has to do a better job of buying Hundley some time to make plays for an otherwise un-intimidating Bruin offense.
Don’t get it twisted, however – when Hundley has time, this offense is as potent as they come, racking up 465 yards per game. It tends to be big play dependent, but it’s still not to be taken lightly. On the other side of the ball, UCLA is also yet to find its way, giving up 429 yards per game.
It will have to find a way to generate turnovers against an offense that has only coughed the ball up three times this season.
Oregon (4-1, 1-1) have redemption on their mind as well, after they were embarrassed by Arizona in Eugene last week. QB Marcus Mariota will have this Oregon offense humming against a lackluster UCLA defense. The Ducks are a threat to surpass their average offensive output of 533 yards per game.
They have no choice, as their defense will do them no favors in this one. It comes into this game allowing a whopping 450 yards per game, 309 of which coming through the air.
Prediction: I hope these fans are ready for a shootout, as this one will quickly turn into an offensive exhibition. So many question marks for both teams – Can UCLA give Brett Hundley enough time to throw? Will Oregon’s defense travel with it to California?
The answers – no, and no. That’s right, neither team’s glaring issue will magically be solved by game time, but the Bruins simply won’t get enough pressure on Mariota to slow this Oregon offense down. In a game where each squad’s season is on the line, Oregon wins, 42-35.
No. 9 TCU at No. 5 Baylor
It may be the third game on this list, but this Big-12 matchup is just as much of a marquee matchup as the previous two. The Horned Frogs (4-0, 1-0) are coming off of a huge 37-33 upset of Oklahoma last week, in which they went toe-to-toe with the heralded Sooner offense.
Gary Patterson’s team is one of the most balanced in the nation, piling up an average of 519 yards per game, while only allowing 279. Soft schedule aside, TCU proved it’s ready to contend. QB Trevone Boykin has been magnificent for the Horned Frogs this season, passing for 1012 yards and 10 touchdowns.
His completion percentage (61) is the highest of his career, and he moves the ball just as effectively with his legs (260 yards, 5 YPC). He’ll have to be on his game to take advantage of a Baylor defense that’s yet to be tested this season.
Baylor (5-0, 2-0) comes into this contest as the #1 offense in the nation, scoring an astonishing 51 points per game. TCU will have its hands full stopping one of the nation’s best in QB Bryce Petty. The Bears can pound the rock as well, averaging 247 yards per game.
Their offense will never be a question while Art Briles is in town. His defense is a different story.
While it only allows 267 yards per game, the stats are misleading. Baylor opened the season with SMU, Northwestern State, Buffalo, Iowa State, and Texas – not exactly the most powerful offenses in the nation.
The true test for Baylor will be how its defense steps up to its first worthy opponent of the year.
Prediction: Here’s something to keep in mind regarding Baylor – it’s offense scores 30 more points per game against unranked opponents. TCU is no unranked opponent. On the contrary, it may be the toughest defense Baylor faces all season.
Meanwhile, TCU is battle-tested, and wants to avenge a 41-38 loss to the Bears at home last year.
You can usually bet on Bryce Petty leading his team to victory at home, but not this time. The Horned Frogs take advantage of Baylor’s first game against a ranked opponent, TCU wins 38-35
No. 3 Ole Miss at No. 14 Texas A&M
No. 13 Georgia at No. 23 Missouri
LSU at Florida
USC at No. 10 Arizona
Texas vs. No. 11 Oklahoma
Louisville at Clemson
(bold teams indicate projected winner)
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