College Football Predictions: 5 Games You Won't Want to Miss in Week 7
With no big-name matchups scheduled to be played under the lights this week (unless you're really into that bitter rivalry between Idaho and New Mexico State), most college football fans will turn their attention to the afternoon slate of games for their NCAA fix this Saturday.
That being said, this week's afternoon schedule will be one of the more entertaining sets of games we've had so far this season.
The upcoming week provides us with several key conference matchups that should make for an exciting day of football. The conference portion of the schedule usually has the most tightly-contested games, as teams see each other year in and year out.
Along with the matchups, I've listed the spread for each game next to the home team. Of course, these lines are for recreational purposes only (unless you're in Vegas for the weekend.)
Conference play is in full swing, and teams are fighting for bragging rights. Without further ado, here are the five biggest college football games of the upcoming weekend...
(*All point spreads are consensus lines from Las Vegas sportsbooks per Covers.com at the time of this article's publication.)
Michigan vs Michigan State (-2.5), 12:00 PM on ESPN/ESPN3
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In-state rivalries make the world go 'round. At least, it holds true for collegiate athletics.
The opening game on Saturday features Michigan heading to East Lansing to take on Michigan State in a battle of Big 10 conference undefeateds.
Eleventh-ranked Michigan comes into this game fresh off a strong showing last week, in which they beat Northwestern on the road 42-24. Denard Robinson is finally showing the kind of poise on the field that matches his amazing athletic ability.
Michigan State is coming off a bye week—having two weeks to prepare for the spread-option attack Robinson will bring to Spartan Stadium is key for the home team. With an extra week to study film of Michigan, 23rd-ranked Michigan State's stingy defense will be ready.
This matchup is an exciting one because Michigan's rushing attack is averaging 257 yards per game, good for seventh in the country. On the other side of the ball, Michigan State has kept opposing teams off the scoreboard by allowing only 10.2 points per game.
Something's gotta give here.
Additionally, the winner of the game will control their own destiny in the Legends Division of the newly-expanded Big 10 conference. As if these two teams needed any motivation for Saturday.
Prediction: Michigan's offense proves to be too much for the Spartans as Robinson leads the way again. Final score: Michigan 28, Michigan State 24.
Baylor vs Texas A&M (-9.5), 12:00 PM on FX
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In another matchup of ranked teams, 20th-ranked Baylor faces off with No. 21 Texas A&M. The battle between these two Texas schools will generate more buzz than usual this year, as both teams were projected to be offensive forces this season.
We've all read the stories on Robert Griffin III. Yes, his early-season numbers are ridiculous: 1,520 passing yards, an 80.3 percent completion percentage and 19 touchdowns against only one interception. The kid can play.
However, if the Aggies' pass rush can get pressure on Griffin while keeping outside contain on the Baylor quarterback, A&M should have no problem defending the Baylor aerial attack. The only way Griffin can neutralize Texas A&M's front seven is by establishing the run early and relying on his strong play-action ability to hook up with his No. 1 receiver, Kendall Wright.
Texas A&M has shown they can match points with any team, although the positive results haven't always been there on the scoreboard.
A&M lost to Arkansas two weeks ago despite scoring 38 points. And after building a 21-point lead against Oklahoma State in Week 3, their defense wasn't able to hold on for the win.
Those experiences will certainly be on the minds of the A&M defenders in Saturday's game. And Robert Griffin will be looking to take advantage.
Prediction: A&M still can't find a way to keep their opponents out of the end zone as Griffin returns to stellar form for Baylor in the upset. Final score: Baylor 38, Texas A&M 35.
South Carolina vs Mississippi State (+2.5), 12:20 PM on SEC Network/ESPN3
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It seems like the South Carolina Gamecocks are back on track. The Mississippi State Bulldogs haven't really gotten going. However, it doesn't mean this game will lack intensity.
Starkville is a difficult place for visiting teams to play, what with the cowbells and raucous Mississippi State fans out in force on Saturdays. One of the saving graces for South Carolina in this game will be the fact that it will be played during the day.
Seeing as how Mississippi State canceled classes in preparation for the Thursday night game against LSU in Week 3, South Carolina is getting off easy since they'll be able to play before the home fans have a chance to get rowdy (for lack of a better term).
With Connor Shaw managing the South Carolina offense, the Gamecocks will look to attack the Mississippi State secondary. Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery is poised to make an impact with Shaw under center, as the two have quickly developed some chemistry since Shaw was named the starter.
Mississippi State's offense will face a tough task on Saturday, as stud defensive end Melvin Ingram is expected to be back in the lineup for South Carolina. Between Ingram and freshman pass rush specialist Jadeveon Clowney, Mississippi State quarterback Chris Relf might be in for a long afternoon.
The line seems a bit low for this game considering the gap in talent between the two teams. Then again, Mississippi State will be fired up to protect their home turf against a quality opponent. I can see this game being decided by a few points if South Carolina fails to take care of the football.
Prediction: the one-two punch of Alshon Jeffery and Marcus Lattimore at the skill positions carries the day for the Gamecocks, but barely. Final score: South Carolina 24, Mississippi State 20.
Oklahoma State vs Texas (+7.5), 3:30 PM EST on ABC/ESPN/ESPN3
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Texas will have to have a short memory if they want to remain in the national rankings.
After last week's embarrassing 55-17 loss to Oklahoma, the 22nd-ranked Longhorns return home to play host to the Oklahoma State Cowboys on Saturday. It won't be an easy task for Texas, as Oklahoma State has dominated its opponents all season (with the exception of their one-point win against Texas A&M).
The Cowboys are ranked first among FBS teams in points scored per game, amassing 51.4 points per contest. They're also ranked second in passing yards per game with 431.2, courtesy of quarterback Brandon Weeden and his favorite wide receiver Justin Blackmon.
Texas will have to play amazing defense if it hopes to have a shot in this one. Head coach Mack Brown and his team can only hope Oklahoma State comes out flat to start the game. Otherwise, we might see a repeat of last week's Red River Rivalry game.
Since this Saturday's game will be a true home game for Texas, the players will return to their routines during the week and on game day, which should help them prepare for Oklahoma State. The young Longhorns looked overmatched in the Cotton Bowl last week, as the venue and the rivalry with Oklahoma may have gotten the best of them.
While Texas will have home field as their motivation, Oklahoma State has an outside shot at the BCS National Championship game should they run the table in the Big 12, which is the best motivation a team can have.
Prediction: Oklahoma State scores early and often to silence the fans in burnt orange. Final score: Oklahoma State 45, Texas 21.
Louisiana State vs Tennessee (+16.5), 3:30 PM EST on CBS
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National title hopes are also alive and well with Louisiana State, which has looked every bit like college football's best team so far this season.
The Bayou Bengals travel to Knoxville this Saturday for a late-afternoon tilt with a Tennessee Volunteers team still reeling from last week's loss to Georgia. Not only did the Volunteers lose the game 20-12, but they lost starting quarterback Tyler Bray to injury.
Enter Matt Simms for Tennessee.
Although Simms is making his first start of the season this Saturday, the Volunteers have faith in their senior quarterback. Not only has he had experience as a starter, but Simms nearly led Tennessee to an upset win on the road at LSU last season.
The Volunteers will have plenty of the "nobody believes in us" factor going for them this weekend, which may serve them well. Outside of the players in the Tennessee locker room, not many people expect this to be a close game (as evidenced by the large spread). However, the only people who need to believe that the Volunteers can win on Saturday are the team and its fans.
Rocky Top will be filled to capacity, again solidifying its status as one of college football's toughest road venues for opposing teams.
Louisiana State will have their work cut out for them, but they'll be prepared. They have one of the nation's most stifling defenses and will look to force Simms into third-and-long situations where they'll be able to make use of their speed and athleticism on the blitz.
To secure their position atop the rankings, LSU will have to make a statement like they did on the road against West Virginia in Week 4. Look for them to come through again in this game.
Prediction: LSU scores a defensive touchdown but doesn't supply enough offense to cover against the Volunteers. Final score: LSU 24, Tennessee 13