The season is taking shape as we enter Week 7 of the college football season. Teams are either getting found out, or getting better at this stage, but which teams are the ones to watch this week?
This is a major historical rivalry, and the stakes this year for both teams couldn’t be higher. The Ducks defense is only allowing 153 yards per game through the air, that’s second-best in the Pac 12. But they’re facing a Washington offense that’s averaging 446 yards per game passing, the most in the nation. The Huskies get wide receiver Jalen McMillan back from injury which only adds more complications for the Oregon defense. Washington will now be sending a trio of elite passes in McMillan, Rome Odunze and Ja’Lynn Polk that have combined this year 1,378 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Auburn Tigers vs. LSU Tigers (22)
Saturday, 7:00 p.m. ET
QB Jayden Daniels
There’s a race in the SEC West and this week’s matchup at Baton Rouge is one to keep watch to for. Auburn has been terrible on offense through the air, but is facing an LSU defense that’s equally as bad at defending. Auburn rank 119th in the nation for passing yards, where LSU is giving up 282 yards through the air, which also ranks 119th in the nation. A key fact for this game though, LSU has won 18 of the last 23 meetings against Auburn when playing at home. Jayden Daniels is an electrifying dual-threat quarterback. He not only leads the SEC, he ranks second in the nation in total offense with 398 yards per game. Daniels has now scored four or more TDs in five consecutive games, a school record.
USC Trojans (10) vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (21)
Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET
QB Caleb Williams
The Trojans are looking for their first win at South Bend since 2011, and the odds for that are looking good. Last year, USC got the win over Notre Dame winning 38-27 at home, now they want to put it to the Fighting Irish on their turf. The best Notre Dame can do on defense is limit Caleb Williams, who’s on a trajectory to win the Heisman trophy for a second year in a row. Sam Hartman is showing he’s as tough as they come and will not give up the fight. He has a stout running back, Audric Estimé, to help carry some of the load. Estimé scored on the final game winning drive against Duke two weeks ago, but was left quiet last week against Louisville.
It’s a big ACC battle this week as the undefeated North Carolina Tar Heels host the 4-1 Miami Hurricanes. Miami are limping into this game after getting their hearts ripped out by Georgia Tech last week. As for the Tar Heels, they are looking to keep up the streak to stake a claim for the playoffs. North Carolina have their work cut out this week as Miami rank ninth in the FBS in total defense allowed, allowing just 268 yards per game. They are also allowing only 14 points per game, which ranks 12th best in the FBS. But North Carolina has quarterback Drake Maye, another player that is sneaking under the radar for the Heisman award. Maye ranks third nationally in total offense, with 360 yards. He also ranks in the top-ten in the nation by completing 72.% of his passes.
Both SEC teams are trying to erase the failures of last week. Kentucky lost to Georgia, allowing 51 points. Where Missouri lost to LSU allowing 14 points in the last three minutes of the game. Missouri’s leading receiver, Luther Burden, is leading the nation with 132 receiving yards per game. He made 11 catches for 149 yards in the LSU loss last week and has caught at least 10 passes for 140 yards or more in each of the past three contests. Burden also has five touchdowns on the year.
UCLA Bruins (18) vs. Oregon State Beavers (15)
Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET
RB Damien Martinez
Chip Kelly is known for being an innovator on offense, but this year it’s his defense that looks to be the recipient of his innovation. Last week, the Bruins held the Washington State Cougars to just 216 total yards. That marked the fourth straight game they have held an opponent to under 300 total yards this season. This year, UCLA is holding opponents to an average of 13 points a game, that’s seventh-fewest nationally, and they are ranked second in the nation for rush defense, allowing opponents an average of just 64 yards per game. But now they’re about to face Oregon State running back Damien Martinez. He has 1,568 rushing yards over two seasons and is averaging 6.2 yards a carry, a team record. Last week, he rushed for 89 yards and a touchdown against Cal.
Florida Gators vs. South Carolina Gamecocks
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
RB Trevor Etienne
Florida are hoping to get their first consecutive win against an SEC opponent since the last time when they beat South Carolina last November. South Carolina continue to struggle after losing to Tennessee last week pretty badly, while Florida are trying to build off last season’s eight wins and get into a bowl game. South Carolina’s quarterback, Spencer Rattler, will face Florida’s elite secondary. The Gators lead the SEC in fewest yards allowed through the air, with 144 passing yards per game. They’ve also allowed the fewest passing touchdowns this year. The Gamecocks will be on full alert this week for Florida running back Trevor Etienne. The younger brother to Travis Etienne had a breakout game last year against South Carolina with 100 yards rushing against them. In Week 3 against Tennessee, Trevor broke for 172 rush yards and a touchdown.
Louisville Cardinals (14) vs. Pittsburgh Panthers
Saturday, 6:30 p.m. ET
DT Ashton Gillotte
Louisville are undefeated and looking to go 7-0 for the first time since 2012. On the other side, Pittsburgh goes from one struggle to another with no end. Last week, Louisville caused a major upset by beating Notre Dame and shot up the AP poll as a result. Pitt has had trouble with its offensive line this year and injuries have been a major factor. Last week, Sam Hartman for Notre Dame had a bad game due to pressure from the Louisville defensive linemen. One instigator of that pressure was defensive tackle Ashton Gillotte. He recorded two sacks last week and looks to add more against a Pitt interior line that struggles to hold back the tide.
Kansas State Wildcats vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders
Saturday, 7:00 p.m. ET
LB Austin Moore
Kansas State are on a seven-game winning streak against Texas Tech, but the Red Raiders beat Baylor last week pretty impressively and only allowed 17 rush yards. Looking to shut down any run game for Texas Tech is Kansas State senior linebacker Austin Moore. He leads the team with 30 tackles and eight tackles for loss. He ranks third in the Big 12 and 12th in the nation in tackles for loss. Also looking to help put pressure on the Texas Tech offensive line is defensive end Khalid Duke. He’s moved from linebacker back to his natural position at defensive end. He has four sacks this year so far, which ranks third-most in the Big 12 and 21st in the nation.
Texas A&M is coming off a controversial loss to Alabama after a suspect catch to get the Crimson Tide the win. The Aggies rank third in the nation in sacks per game and are ranked first in tackles for loss, making them a team with a specialty of stopping the run. The Vols are ranked seventh in the country in rushing however, averaging 231 rushing yards per game. Their lead running back, Jaylen Wright, is one of the nation’s top backs. He rushed for an average of 7.7 yards per carry last week and scored his first touchdown of the year. His 435 rush yards is sixth-most in the SEC. Watch for the Aggies receiver/Swiss-army knife, Ainias Smith. Smith’s versatility is a huge problem for the Tennessee defense. Smith has now registered 2,000 career receiving yards after his game against Alabama. He’s now the only SEC player to record over 2,000 career receiving yards, while also tallying at least 250 rushing, punt return and kick return yards.