Players, Coaches and Teams to Watch in Week 7
The first BCS standings come out in another week. The Heisman Trophy ballots aren't due until early December. And most coaches with warmer-than-they'd-like seats are probably safe until the season is over.
But that doesn't mean Week 7 of the 2013 college football season isn't full of players, coaches and teams with big spotlights on them. Pretty much every game scheduled between Thursday evening and late Saturday night has its own set of intrigue and storylines.
Here's just a few of those.
Coach: Ed Orgeron, USC (Interim)
Week 7 Matchup: vs. Arizona (3-1), Thursday, 10:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1
As of now there are three interim coaches running the show at FBS programs, though there could be more after this weekend.
Ed Orgeron was the first of these "OK, it's your show now" coaches when he assumed control of USC (3-2) following Lane Kiffin's dismissal on Sept. 28. By far the most high-profile of the current coaching vacancies, USC isn't likely to strongly consider Orgeron for the permanent spot—unless he shows significant improvement.
Orgeron's first chance to impress the USC hiring committee comes Thursday night with a game against Arizona, a team that eerily went through the same scenario two years ago when it fired Mike Stoops prior to a bye week...then blew out UCLA in a nationally televised Thursday night matchup.
Week 7 Matchup: vs. No. 25 Missouri (5-0), Saturday, noon ET, ESPN
There's no truth to the rumor (started right here, right now) that seventh-ranked Georgia (4-1) has taken to handing out jerseys and helmets to random students on campus to help with its injury-depleted roster.
It's easier to list who is available rather than who won't be able to play against a dangerous Missouri team that's just looking for a chance to prove its 5-0 start is legitimate. The Bulldogs have lost their top two running backs and three key wide receivers, a calamity of bumps and bruises that nearly resulted in a loss at Tennessee last week.
Mizzou is a trendy upset pick due to Georgia's injury issues, but don't count the Bulldogs out just yet. Not as long as senior quarterback Aaron Murray remains upright and in control of his right arm.
Player: Alex Collins, RB, Arkansas
Week 7 matchup: vs. No. 14 South Carolina (4-1), Saturday, 12:21 p.m. EST (no TV)
Alex Collins' recruitment to Arkansas was the stuff of pulp fiction and soap operas, complete with a mother that wouldn't sign his letter of intent. But once Collins got to Fayetteville and go on the field, all that was forgotten.
Collins became the first running back in SEC history to rush for 100 yards in each of his first three career games, and subsequently Arkansas rolled to three easy home wins. But since, the Razorbacks (3-3) have lost three straight, and Collins has averaged under 78 yards per game with just one touchdown in those losses.
First-year coach Bret Bielema has tried to instill a Big Ten-like smashmouth run game at Arkansas, and Collins is integral to that plan. This could be his chance to break out.
Coach: Mack Brown, Texas
Week 7 Matchup: vs. No. 12 Oklahoma (5-0) at Dallas, Saturday, noon ET, ABC
Nothing like the arrival of a high profile rivalry game against a team that's held over on you of late to add extra kindling to that hot seat, huh?
Mack Brown has more than 150 wins in his long tenure with Texas, he's made the BCS title game twice and won the 2005 national championship over USC. But in this world of what-have-you-done-for-me-lately, all anyone notices is that the Longhorns have been subpar the last few seasons.
Oh, and that they've been whooped big-time by Oklahoma the last two years.
The pitchfork-wielding fanbase is intently focused on how Texas (3-2) does this weekend against the Sooners, the team that won the Red River Rivalry 63-21 last year and 55-17 in 2011. Could another bad loss for the Longhorns spell the end to Brown's 16-year stay in Austin?
Week 7 Matchup: vs. Virginia (2-3), Saturday, 3:30 p.m. EST, ESPNU
Of all the unbeatens that suffered their first loss last week, none fell so hard and so far as Maryland. The Terrapins (4-1) were demolished in all ways, shapes and forms at Florida State, losing 63-0 and seeing dual threat quarterback C.J. Brown go down with a concussion.
Brown's status for this game is still uncertain, but whether he can go or not the real question is where a Maryland team that was among the country's brightest surprises in September can right the ship in mid-October. Beating a Virginia team it has lost to at home the last three meetings in College Park will be a good barometer.
Player: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
Week 7 matchup: at No. 16 Washington (4-1), Saturday, 4 p.m. EST, Fox Sports 1
Here are the facts about Washington: The Huskies have caused each FBS quarterback they've faced this season to have their worst game, by far. That list includes Boise State's Joe Southwick, Illinois' Nathan Scheelhaase and, most recently, Kevin Hogan of Stanford.
Here are the facts about Marcus Mariota: he might just be the exception to every rule in the book.
Mariota might not be the most accurate of passers this season, but the one thing he doesn't do is throw interceptions. There have been none of those (but 14 touchdown passes) in 134 throws this season, and he's averaging a stout 10.18 yards per attempt.
The clashing of Mariota's studly play and Washington's propensity for stifling talented quarterbacks is must-see television.
Coach: Norm Chow, Hawaii
Week 7 Matchup: at UNLV (3-2), Saturday, 8 p.m. EST (no TV)
Norm Chow has been a college football coach of some sorts for 40 years, but it took until he was in his mid-60s before he finally got a chance to be a head coach.
Can't imagine what he's done at Hawaii was worth the wait.
Chow is 3-14 since taking over the Rainbow Warriors program following the 2011 season. Hawaii is 0-5 this year, heading into maybe it's most winnable remaining game of the year: a visit to UNLV on Saturday.
The Warriors have looked a little better their past two games, relatively close home losses to Fresno State and San Jose State, but they're still a far cry from the high-scoring and oft-winning teams June Jones had there before he went to SMU.
Team: Boise State
Week 7 matchup: at Utah State (3-3), Saturday, 8 p.m. EST, CBS Sports Network
Unless Boise State (3-2) runs the table from here through whatever bowl game it plays, this is already the "worst" season for the Broncos in quite some time. So great have things been for the team with the blue turf over the last decade.
Boise hasn't lose three regular season games since 2006, but the Broncos are 0-2 on the road and face a Utah State team that still must be considered dangerous even without quarterback Chuckie Keeton, who is out for the year after tearing ligaments last week in a loss to BYU.
The Broncos may win this game, but with the annual "where is Chris Petersen going to go?" media circus already in high gear thanks to the USC job opening, a lack of focus from this perennial FBS power is possible throughout the season.
Week 7 Matchup: at UNLV (3-2), Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET
Player: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Week 7 matchup: at Washington State (4-2), Saturday, 10:30 p.m. EST, ESPNU
Hey, East Coasters: If you find yourself saying there's nothing good on TV late at night, that means you haven't stumbled upon Brandin Cooks.
Cooks, considered one of the best players in the country you've probably never heard of, leads the country in receptions (52), receiving yards (809) and touchdowns (nine) and is a big reason Oregon State (4-1) is riding a four-game winning streak that includes comeback wins at Utah and San Diego State.
This game at Washington State is likely to once again spotlight Cooks' talents, since OSU can't run the ball well and will probably need to match the Cougars' prolific scoring as quickly as possible.
You're welcome, East Coast insomniacs.