25 Key Storylines to Watch Heading into Week 7
Week 7 in college football is sure to be one of the best yet this season.
You've got the Red River Rivalry game between the Texas Longhorns and Oklahoma Sooners, a game that is sure to be a defining moment for both teams.
There are also some marquee SEC matchups, including Florida vs. LSU and Georgia vs. Missouri.
Finally, following a bye week in Week 6, the USC Trojans finally take the field for the first time since Lane Kiffin's firing.
Checkout those and other top storylines heading into Week 7.
How Will Tyler Murphy Handle LSU?
Following Jeff Driskel's season-ending broken leg injury, quarterback Tyler Murphy has shined in his first two tests as the starter in Gainesville.
As the starter, Murphy has notched a 24-7 win over the Kentucky Wildcats and a 30-10 victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks. In those games, he's passed for 396 combined yards with four touchdowns and just one interception.
His ability to improvise with his legs has also sparked the Florida offense.
But now Murphy faces by far his toughest test of the season as the Gators travel to Death Valley to face the LSU Tigers, whose only loss has come to the Georgia Bulldogs two weeks ago.
LSU has the nation's 34th-ranked pass defense, giving up 207.5 yards through the air per game.
Some have criticized Murphy as simply a game manager against teams that are inferior to the Gators. But head coach Will Muschamp defended that reputation in a report by Jesse Simonton of the Miami Herald.
“I’ve been criticized a little bit for calling Tyler a ‘manager.’ That’s the greatest compliment you can give a quarterback,” Muschamp said. “Tom Brady is a great game manager. It’s about converting third downs. It’s about completing passes. It’s about getting your offense in and out of the right runs, the right protections, taking the ball to the right spot, taking care of the football, scoring points, moving your team, your team having confidence in you. That’s one of the greatest compliments you can have as a quarterback is a game manager. A guy that does what he’s supposed to do. I don’t know where that became a bad word in the coaching profession.”
Murphy has been a breath of fresh air for the Gators, who were reeling from their Week 2 loss to the Miami Hurricanes.
Saturday's game is sure to put Murphy's true worth into perspective, though. If he looks rattled and struggles to get into a rhythm, it could prove that Murphy simply shines against weaker SEC teams. But if he shines, it would be the start of a potentially legendary career at Florida.
Does LSU Have Enough to Gameplan for Florida?
As LSU heads into its matchup with the Florida Gators on Saturday, you have to wonder:
Does LSU have enough on new Gators quarterback Tyler Murphy to properly gameplan?
Not only has Murphy only started two games for the Gators, but they were against Kentucky and Arkansas, two weaker SEC teams.
So Les Miles and company don't have much to go off when it comes to stopping Murphy.
The last time the Tigers played the Gators in Baton Rouge, LSU won 41-11 in 2011.
According to a USA Today report by David Jones, that has Florida players fired up for a chance at revenge.
"It was definitely a low point in most of our careers here," Florida senior safety and leading tackler Jaylen Watkins said Monday. "It was definitely a bad taste in our mouth but that's the game of football. We get a chance to go back and try to redeem ourselves and we're looking forward to it."
LSU is certainly one of the most talented teams in the country. But with not much film to study of the Gators' new quarterback, this game is sure to be far more interesting than it was two years ago.
Oregon Finally Faces a Tough Opponent in Washington
The Oregon Ducks look like one of the nation's best teams this season.
According to ESPN, the Ducks under new head coach Mark Helfrich are third in the nation in rushing yards per game (335.8), second in points scored per game (59.2) and second in points allowed per game (11.8).
But Oregon has also coasted by with no games against ranked opponents this season.
Well, that changes this week as the Ducks hit the road to face the Washington Huskies, who are fresh off a tough 31-28 loss to the Stanford Cardinal.
Oregon hasn't squared off against a team anywhere near the caliber of the Huskies this season, so how the Ducks respond will be interesting to say the least.
Defensively, the Ducks will have to deal with an offense that is one of the best in the country. Washington averages 557 yards of total offense per game, which ranks fifth in the country.
If Oregon pass an extremely difficult road test against an angry Washington team, that will give the team some much needed momentum.
After its date with Washingrton, Oregon faces Washington State, UCLA and Stanford over the course of 19 days.
How Will Washington Respond After Losing to Stanford?
The Washington Huskies are coming off a heart-breaking 31-28 loss to the Stanford Cardinal last week.
But the loss doesn't end Washington's hopes of a Pac-12 title. In fact, a win at home over Oregon could put Washington in the driver's seat.
The Huskies are one of the nation's most prolific offenses, ranking in the top 25 in both passing and rushing according to ESPN. Defensively, the Huskies give up just 14.8 points per game, the 11th-fewest in the country.
The toughest thing for Washington this week will be putting the loss to Stanford behind them and focusing on stopping the high-octane offense of Oregon, according to an AP report.
"It's such a drastic change in philosophy when you go from a Stanford to an Oregon, we don't have too long to dwell on Stanford and that ball game," Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian said. "We have to learn from it, but we have to get ready for a completely different style in Oregon this week."
This is sure to be one of the most highly-anticipated games in the Pac-12 this season. If Washington can respond from the tough loss with one of the biggest upsets of the college football season, it would provide a huge shakeup across the national landscape.
Can Oklahoma Prove Itself as a National Title Contender?
The Oklahoma Sooners are quietly putting themselves in the national title discussion. They are just one of just three teams in the Big 12 that are still undefeated, along with Baylor and Texas Tech, and are the highest-ranked of those teams at No. 11.
This week, the Sooners renew one of the most storied rivalries in all of college football as they play the Texas Longhorns at the Cotton Bowl.
Quarterback Blake Bell, who took over for Trevor Knight as the starter earlier this season, is proving to be one of the best offensive threats in the Big 12. Although he's started just three games, Bell has 835 yards through the air along with six scores.
The Sooners victories haven't been against cupcakes either. They blasted Notre Dame on the road 35-21, beat a West Virginia team that's beaten Oklahoma State 16-7, and bested a tough TCU squad 20-17 just last week.
Oklahoma has also taken control of the Red River Rivalry, winning the last three in a row including a 63-21 drubbing in 2012.
If the Sooners can dominate this game yet again, it would solidify the Sooners as a title contender.
What About Baylor?
Don't look away, because you might miss another Baylor touchdown.
The Baylor Bears are arguably the nation's best offense, and that's carried the Bears to a perfect 4-0 start. They're averaging 70.5 points per game according to ESPN, which ranks first in the country.
The Bears run one of the fastest offenses in all of college football. According to TeamRankings.com, the Bears rank 11th in the FBS with 85 offensive plays per game. The only Big 12 team that averages more plays is Texas Tech, another undefeated Big 12 team.
Much of Baylor's success is due to the two-headed monster of quarterback Bryce Petty and running back Lache Seastrunk. Petty has 1,348 yards passing with 10 touchdowns, while Seastrunk has 589 yards on the ground with eight scores. Seastrunk is also averaging 11.1 yards per carry.
This week, Baylor travels to Manhattan, Kan. to face the Kansas State Wildcats, who have sputtered to a 2-3 start just one year removed from a Big 12 title.
Last year, the Bears spoiled the Wildcats perfect season with a 52-24 beatdown in Waco, Texas that dashed K-State's title hopes.
So with most of that team back and with Kansas State in a rebuilding season, Baylor will be looking to really establish itself as a national power this week.
And Can Mack Brown Save His Job Once and for All Against Oklahoma?
Mack Brown has been squarely on the hot seat in Austin, Texas this season after his team started 1-2.
But after wins against Kansas State and Iowa State, the Longhorns are 3-2. And a win against the Oklahoma Sooners could finally get Brown off the hot seat.
But the Sooners have dominated the Red River Rivalry series as of late, which is something that has Texas fans particularly miffed.
Bob Stoops has dominated Mack Brown in particular in this series, leading 9-4 overall.
If Texas can deliver its archrival's first loss of the year, it could salvage Texas' season and would actually put them in control of winning a Big 12 title.
But a loss would all but confirm that it's time for Brown to go.
Derek Carr Looks to Prove Himself as a True Heisman Trophy Candidate
Derek Carr is quietly having one of the best individual seasons across the country. And he's led the Fresno State Bulldogs to a perfect 5-0 record and a No. 23 ranking.
Over the course of the season, Carr has been one of the nation's best passers. He ranks fourth in the country in passing yards (1,864), second in passing touchdowns (19) and second in completions (183).
Carr's Heisman moment this season came in his team's 41-40 win over the Boise State Broncos. In that game, he threw for 460 yards and four scores while not throwing an interception.
The Bulldogs have this week off, but face the UNLV Rebels on Oct. 19. Regardless, it's time to seriously consider Carr a Heisman Trophy candidate as he is putting Fresno State in a position to make a run at a BCS bowl.
Can the Missouri Tigers Knock off Georgia?
Who would've thought the Missouri Tigers, fresh off a 5-7 season just one year ago, would start the 2013 season 5-0?
Well they have, and now the Tigers, who are ranked No. 25 in the country, have a chance to knock off the Georgia Bulldogs.
Missouri has been led by quarterback James Franklin, who has 1,407 passing yards and 13 scores. As a team, the Tigers rank eighth in points per game with 46.6, per ESPN.
The Tigers have to travel to Georgia, which makes the game that much harder for Missouri. But nevertheless, the Tigers have a chance to prove themselves worthy of the SEC with an upset over the Bulldogs.
Will the Georgia Bulldogs Avoid a Loss in a Trap Game?
With the Georgia Bulldogs just one week removed from an overtime win against Tennessee and with a matchup against Florida less than a month away, it would be easy for the Bulldogs to overlook this week's game against the Missouri Tigers.
But they can't as the Tigers are 5-0 and proving themselves to be one of college football's most surprising teams.
Missouri puts up nearly 47 points per game, so it will be imperative that quarterback Aaron Murray doesn't get complacent and shows up in a big way against the Tigers.
Murray is certainly capable of performing at a high level as he's one of the nation's best quarterbacks. He's already tossed for over 1,500 yards and 14 touchdowns.
One thing that could hurt the Bulldogs big-time is the loss of running back Keith Marshall and wide receiver Justin Scott-Wesley, both of whom tore their ACLs against Tennessee, according to the Associated Press.
“It’s sad for our players,” Richt said. “You see them work so hard to get in position to play for Georgia, realize their dreams to play in big games like that, try to win championships and all that. (You see) how much work they put in and how hard they play for you and work and practice for you in the offseason and all that, and one play like that and it’s taken away from them. It’s heartbreaking.”
The Bulldogs are trying to keep their dreams of a national title alive, and are currently in the driver's seat along with a few other schools for an SEC title.
But letting one slip against a pesky Missouri team could spoil the Bulldogs season.
Ole Miss Faces a Third Straight Tough Opponent
Hugh Freeze's Ole Miss Rebels have been beaten up the last two weeks.
After losing to No. 1 Alabama 25-0 on Sept. 28, the Rebels lost again to a hot Auburn Tigers team 30-22 last week.
Now the Rebels get to face Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and the Texas A&M Aggies this week.
Ole Miss looked great after its Week 3 44-23 win over the Texas Longhorns.
But now the Rebels are 3-2 and facing a 1-3 start to SEC play.
The future is bright for Ole Miss as they had the fifth-ranked recruiting class in the country last season, according to ESPN. But a loss to Texas A&M could bury the 2013 season for the Rebels.
Is This the Last Week the Louisville Cardinals Faces a Team That Can Beat Them?
Sitting at a perfect 5-0, the Louisville Cardinals have been breezing through an easy schedule so far this season.
This week may be the last time the Cardinals face a team that could legitimately beat them as they face the 4-1 Rutgers Scarlet Knights. The only loss Rutgers has suffered this season is to undefeated Fresno State, a 52-51 heartbreaker in overtime.
The Rutgers offense is secretly one of the best in the country. According to ESPN, the Scarlet Knights are 23rd in the country in points per game at 40.0.
The Cardinals however certainly have the defense to stop the Scarlet Knights as they allow just 6.8 points per game, the fewest in the nation.
The showdown between Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who's a Heisman candidate, and Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova, who has 1,171 passing yards and 13 touchdowns, could be more intense than advertised.
Rutgers could be poised to pull off the upset, but this game certainly favors the Cardinals.
Ohio State Gets Its First Week off
The Ohio State Buckeyes started the 2013 season with six straight games, no bye weeks.
And they're undefeated at 6-0 and coming off a marquee win at Northwestern.
Now, after a long start to the season that saw starting quarterback Braxton Miller miss two games due to injury, the Buckeyes finally get a week off.
"Anytime you go a 15-round fight with someone and you come out the other end, it just builds toughness," head coach Urban Meyer said in a USA Today report by Greg Schroeder. "We're a tough team. We toughed out a win."
A week off for Ohio State will be good. Despite not losing a game, they've fallen from No. 2 to No. 4 in the AP poll.
The Buckeyes face the Iowa Hawkeyes at home on Oct. 19.
USC Hits the Field for the First Time Post-Lane Kiffin
Fans will finally get their first look at the USC Trojans in the post-Lane Kiffin era, as they face the Arizona Wildcats on Thursday.
The Trojans are now headed by interim coach Ed Orgeron.
However, Orgeron's debut as the Trojans head coach could be without star Marqise Lee, as the Los Angeles Times is reporting that Lee is questionable for the game.
Lee has not practiced since suffering a sprained left knee in the Trojans' 62-41 loss to Arizona State on Sept. 28.
"It's day by day," Orgeron said.
"You don't want to get a guy out there with that kind of talent that's not 100%," receivers coach Tee Martin said.
If the Trojans have to face the Wildcats without Lee, that could spell trouble in Los Angeles.
The USC Impostors
In an almost fascinating twist to the coaching saga at USC, it was reported by the Associated Press that impostors contacted representatives of Jack Del Rio and Tony Dungy about the Trojans' coaching vacancy.
“Tony’s discussion on the radio today of being contacted by USC was a complete surprise to us,” USC athletic director Pat Haden said. “So were the calls made to the Broncos. I can assure you no authorized representative of USC or our athletic department made these calls.”
In the report, Haden said that the posers were identified and that "appropriate action" was being taken.
That twist in the coaching search at USC is certainly one to keep an eye on going forward.
What's the Deal with Jadeveon Clowney?
In Week 6, South Carolina Gamecocks star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney did not play against Kentucky due to bruise ribs.
However, it was later revealed by ESPN that it wasn't coaches or doctors that kept Clowney out, but rather Clowney himself.
"Clowney came to the coaches before the game and said that bruised ribs that kept him from practice Thursday were too sore for him to play," ESPN's report read.
In the report, South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier expressed his displeasure with Clowney's decision to not play.
"It was just we didn't know he wasn't playing until right before the game," Spurrier said. "That is always a little frustrating. Usually the trainer or doctor comes and tells you this guy is out, and that did not happen last night. But on the other side if a player is in pain and can't play, I don't want him to play. None of us do."
Because of Clowney's decision to not play, questions surrounding his commitment to the Gamecocks have arose. His season has already been a disappointment, as he has just two sacks this season.
The Gamecocks are starting a three-week road trip, which starts in Arkansas against the Razorbacks this season. Clowney's status for the game is still uncertain.
But the implications and questions surrounding Clowney are growing bigger and bigger by the week.
Texas Tech QB Baker Mayfield's Health
Like the Baylor Bears, the Texas Tech Red Raiders are quietly one of the country's best offenses. The Red Raiders are a perfect 5-0 and they've been led so far by freshman walk-on quarterback Baker Mayfield.
However, Mayfield suffered an injury to his right knee last week against Kansas, forcing the quarterback out of the game.
The Associated Press reported that Mayfield suffered no structural damage and will not miss the entire season.
The walk-on's injury doesn't "appear to be a season-ending type," Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "Timetable-wise, I'm not sure yet but that was good news."
Kingsbury said he's not sure whether Mayfield will start or even play against Iowa State this week.
According to the Associated Press report, Mayfield is ranked No. 18 in the country is passing. And he's certainly been one of Texas Tech's best weapons.
If the Red Raiders have to go without their star quarterback for a lengthy period of time, it could spoil what was looking like a promising season in Lubbock, Texas.
The Latest with the Academy Teams
Following the federal government shutdown, teams from the U.S. military academies across the country are facing another week of uncertainty.
According to the Associated Press, United Services Automobile Association paid $230,000 to cover Air Force's travel expenses so they could face Navy in Annapolis, Md.
This week, according to the same report, the Navy athletic department is having to provide documents to the Department of Defense to show that no government funds are being used for travel as Navy faces Duke on the road this week.
"Today (Monday) I know that the Department of Defense is again reviewing additional information as it pertains to expenses and travel and no government spending. Hopefully we're gaining even more confidence in the fact that we're financially independent."
Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk added, "No one has told us we can't play."
Air Force and Army both play at home this weekend, so both teams shouldn't face problems in playing their games as scheduled.
Do We Buy Mike Davis' Story?
In last week's game between the Texas Longhorns and Iowa State Cyclones, Texas wide receiver Mike Davis delivered what appeared to be a cheap shot cut block against Iowa State defensive back Deon Broomfield.
While Davis given a personal foul and was reprimanded by the Big 12 for his actions, he was not suspended.
According to Scott Gleeson of USA Today, Davis is unapologetic to the incident.
"If we have another run-pass situation, I'd do the same thing," Davis told reporters Monday. "If the DB's loafing, he deserves to get cut."
"It was crazy," Davis added. "I think people blew it out of proportion and took it too far. It really wasn't that bad."
In an ESPN report by Max Olson though, Davis says he was simply blocking in a run-pass situation.
"The play was a run/pass play, and I was just being protective of my teammate that was going for a screen," Davis said.
The play that Davis made the cut block was a 6-yard touchdown run by Joe Bergeron.
Whether or not fans buy Davis' excuse will certainly draw heated reactions from both sides.
Can Kentucky Do the Unthinkable and Upset Alabama?
The Kentucky Wildcats may be just 1-4. But three of their losses have been to ranked teams, and the Wildcats could be a better team than Alabama is expecting.
The Wildcats actually gave both Louisville and South Carolina a run for their money. The Cardinals struggled in the first half before pulling away with a 27-13 win, while the Gamecocks struggled to a 35-28 win last week.
“We expect this to be a difficult game,” Saban said. “I think our players need to prepare for this team with a lot of respect, and I think our players understand how difficult it is to play on the road in our league.” Saban said the Tide would face “greater resistance” as each week progresses in SEC play. “The games in front of us will be more and more challenging,” he said.
While Alabama is obviously more talented than the Wildcats, Mark Stoops would surely love nothing more than to knock off the nation's top team in his first season in Lexington.
Is This the Week Michigan Finally Falls?
The Michigan Wolverines have been an enigma this season.
Despite being undefeated at 5-0 and having logged a win against Notre Dame, the Wolverines have looked spotty this season. They almost fell to the Akron Zips, one of college football's worst teams. It took a goal line stand at the end of the game for Michigan to walk away with a 28-24 win there.
One week later, Michigan barely edged out UConn 24-21.
So with a matchup against the Penn State Nittany Lions looming, is this the week everything catches up to the Wolverines and they finally lose a game?
The Wolverines have to go to Penn State's house, which is one of the best atmospheres in all of college football.
According to MLive.com, the Wolverines are just a 3-point favorite against Penn State.
Ultimately though, if quarterback Devin Gardner and company can get the offense going, they'll likely just simply outscore the Nittany Lions, who are averaging just the 57th-most points per game in the country according to ESPN.
Can Brett Hundley Take Control of the Heisman Trophy Race?
Brett Hundley has the UCLA Bruins squarely in the hunt for a Pac-12 title.
Behind his 1,059 yards passing and nine touchdowns, the Bruins are a perfect 4-0 which includes wins over Nebraska and Utah.
This week, the Bruins face off against the California Bears, one of the country's worst defenses. According to ESPN, the Bears rank 125th in the country in points allowed per game at 45.0.
The Bears also rank just 115th in passing yards allowed per game, as they give up over 300.
That means should have a huge game and could potentially take a prime spot in the race for the Heisman Trophy.
Will Virginia Tech Exact Its Revenge on Pittsburgh?
The Virginia Tech Hokies have gotten off to a great 5-1 start this season, with their only loss coming in Week 1 to top-ranked Alabama.
Now fresh off wins against Georgia Tech and North Carolina, the Hokies are 2-0 in ACC play entering into Saturday's game against the Pittsburgh Panthers.
Last season, the Panthers delivered the Hokies' first loss of the season, which kicked off a shaky 7-6 season in Blacksburg, Va.
Now the Hokies have a great chance to take revenge on the Panthers and grab a share of the driver's seat in the ACC title race.
Beamer ball appears to be back in full force in Blacksburg for the time being. A win against Pittsburgh could give the Hokies plenty of momentum heading into the rest of the season.
What Is Northwestern's Answer to Wisconsin After Losing to Ohio State
The Northwestern Wildcats suffered a tough defeat to the Ohio State Buckeyes last week in a 40-30 loss.
But while it was still a loss, that game proved that Northwestern is a legit threat in the Big Ten. And now they get to face the Wisconsin Badgers, who have had an up-and-down season and are looking for a marquee win.
The Badgers have one of the nation's best running attacks, led by Melvin Gordon who has 698 yards and seven touchdowns on the year.
If the Wildcats want to prove that they are a truly great team though worthy of being included with the likes of Ohio, they'll have to take care of a reeling Wisconsin team, who also lost to Ohio State two weeks ago in their last game.
What Is the Right Approach for Clemson Against Boston College?
The Clemson Tigers 5-0 and cruising through their schedule after that thrilling Week 1 win against the Georgia Bulldogs.
To top it off, quarterback Tajh Boyd is looking like the Heisman Trophy favorite early on as he's passed for 1,449 yards and 14 touchdowns.
So while teams can't ever overlook their opponents, it's important that the Tigers err on the side of caution with Saturday's game against Boston College.
Boston College did actually give Florida State all they could handle on Sept. 28 as the Seminoles squeaked out a 48-34 win.
But ultimately, the Eagles are a weak team offensively going up against a juggernaut. Clemson's top goal should be to make sure that they bury Boston College early and avoid injuries to guys like Boyd and Sammy Watkins.
In one week's time, Clemson will be prepping for Florida State in a game that could decide the ACC. So it's important to go into that game not only undefeated, but with a healthy team.