College Football Picks: Week 7 Predictions for Every Game

Brian Pedersen@realBJPFeatured ColumnistOctober 9, 2014

College Football Picks: Week 7 Predictions for Every Game

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    If last week is any indication, there's almost no point in trying to pick games for the rest of the 2014 college football season. How can you possibly predict the unpredictable?

    With seven unbeaten teams and 11 squads ranked in the The Associated Press Top 25 falling, Week 6 was one of the wildest schedules in college football history. And somehow this upcoming slate has the chance to be nearly as crazy, if not more. 

    There are five matchups of ranked teams, including two pairings of unbeatens, so the list of perfect teams will include no more than eight after this weekend. The lineup also features plenty of key conference clashes, as for many schools the focus turns toward becoming bowl-eligible or fighting for a division title. 

    Check out our futile attempt to predict Week 7's games (including a contest set for next Tuesday in the Sun Belt Conference) and our experts' picks on this week's top contests, then give us your selections in the comments section. 

    Last week: 37-20 (.649)

    Season: 298-86 (.776)


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    When: Thursday, Oct. 9; 7:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: BYU pulled out a 24-17 home win over UCF in September 2011. 

    What to watch for

    BYU (4-1) heads into the rest of the season without its best player, as junior quarterback Taysom Hill broke his leg late in the first half of last week's home loss to Utah State. The Cougars had gotten more than 56 percent of their offense from the dual-threat quarterback but now will go with senior Christian Stewart to throw the ball and junior Jamaal Williams to pick up the rushing slack.

    UCF (2-2, 1-0 AAC) has had to do it with defense and just enough plays on offense to squeak by, the formula that earned it a 17-12 win at Houston last week. The Knights are 122nd in total offense at 279.3 yards per game, and quarterback Justin Holman has only thrown for 659 yards.

    Hill isn't BYU's only player, but he's the Cougars' most valuable one. They'll figure out a way to win without him, but not on this occasion. 

    Prediction: UCF 24, BYU 20

    Final: UCF 31, BYU 24 (OT)

Washington State at No. 25 Stanford

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    When: Friday, Oct. 10; 9 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Kevin Hogan threw for 286 yards and three touchdowns in Stanford's 55-17 win over Washington State last September in Seattle. 

    What to watch for

    Washington State (2-4, 1-2 Pac-12) has the unenviable distinction of being the team to score the most points in a loss (59) this season and also have its quarterback set an FBS passing record in that same defeat. The Cougars fell 60-59 at home to California late Saturday, squandering 812 yards of total offense (and 734 through the air from Connor Halliday) by missing a 19-yard field goal with 19 seconds left. 

    WSU has also lost by three to 5-1 Rutgers and seven to 4-1 Oregon and is the only team to beat Utah, but despite Halliday already sitting on 3,052 passing yards and 26 touchdowns it seems headed for a losing season, with every remaining team on the schedule holding a winning record. 

    Stanford (3-2, 1-1) may be the best two-loss team in the country and could still be among the top clubs overall if it could just figure out how to finish on offense. As Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports notes, the Cardinal are "a terrible team in plus territory, repeatedly killing possessions with turnovers, penalties, missed kicks or other mistakes." 

    Stanford has failed to score on seven of 21 trips into the red zone, which has forced its No. 2 defense to carry the team in most games. The Cardinal have only allowed 43 points but last week broke down in the final minutes to fall 17-14 at Notre Dame. 

    Halliday hasn't been slowed down by anyone this season, but last year he was held to 5.1 yards per attempt by the Cardinal. WSU has nothing without its pass attack, and Stanford opponents are completing only 53.3 percent of their throws. 

    Prediction: Stanford 40, Washington State 20

    Final: Stanford 34, Washington State 17

San Diego State at New Mexico

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    When: Friday, Oct. 10; 9:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Adam Muema ran for 233 yards and three touchdowns in San Diego State's 35-30 home win over New Mexico last November. 

    What to watch for

    San Diego State (2-3, 1-1 Mountain West) will be going with freshman Nick Bawden at quarterback for the second straight game with Quinn Kaehler still nursing a shoulder injury. Bawden was just 9-of-24 for 84 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions in the Aztecs' 24-13 loss at Fresno State, so expect SDSU to go heavy on the run with Donnel Pumphrey, who has nine touchdown runs this season. 

    New Mexico (2-3, 0-1) picked up a big 21-9 road win at UTSA last week, the fewest points the Lobos have allowed in a game since 2008. They also had two 100-yard rushers in the game, Jhurell Pressley and quarterback Lamar Jordan, which bodes well since No. 2 running back Crusoe Gongbay suffered a "significant foot injury," as coach Bob Davie told Rick Wright of the Albuquerque Journal

    The Lobos might have something going after last week. They had a shot to knock off Fresno State the game before and here will earn just their sixth conference win in as many seasons. 

    Prediction: New Mexico 31, San Diego State 23

    Final: San Diego State 24, New Mexico 14

Fresno State at UNLV

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    When: Friday, Oct. 10; 10 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: David Carr threw for 412 yards and four touchdowns in Fresno State's 38-14 home win over UNLV last October. 

    What to watch for

    Fresno State (3-3, 2-0 Mountain West) has gotten its groove back after a painful 0-3 start against USC, Utah and Nebraska. With Brian Burrell settling in as the quarterback and Marteze Waller becoming more consistent as a running back, the Bulldogs' overtaxed defense has had longer rests. The result has been allowing 53 total points during the three-game win streak compared to 55.3 per game earlier. 

    UNLV (1-5, 0-2) has lost by an average of 26.4 points when facing FBS opponents, and in only one game have the Rebels topped 17 points. It's been a far cry from the veteran team that won seven games a year ago. 

    UNLV is coming off three straight road games and will be happy to play at home. But Fresno is rolling right now and looks determined to defend its Mountain West title. 

    Prediction: Fresno State 30, UNLV 20

    Final: UNLV 30, Fresno State 27 (OT)

Middle Tennessee at Marshall

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 11; noon ET

    Last meeting: Tavarres Jefferson caught a nine-yard touchdown pass from Logan Kilgore as time expired to give Middle Tennessee a 51-49 home win over Marshall last October. 

    What to watch for

    Middle Tennessee (4-2, 3-0 Conference USA) has saved its best for league play, averaging 42.7 points per game in its three C-USA victories compared to 20.5 in nonconference losses to Memphis and Minnesota. Quarterback Austin Grammer is completing 71.3 percent of his passes, and in the past two games is 46-of-56 for 591 yards and four touchdowns. 

    The Blue Raiders also have a solid run game, with Grammer and three other backs contributing to a 224.7 yards-per-game average. 

    Marshall (5-0, 1-0) is even more balanced, getting 296.0 passing yards and 299.6 rushing yards per game. The emergence of running back Devon Johnson (680 yards, eight touchdowns) has made it so senior quarterback Rakeem Cato hasn't had to do it all. Cato has thrown for 1,361 yards and 12 touchdowns; he's 366 yards behind Byron Leftwich for the school's career passing mark. 

    These are the two best teams in C-USA right now, but as both are members of the East Division, only one can take the title. Marshall gets its toughest test yet but still wins. 

    Prediction: Marshall 41, Middle Tennessee 30

    Final: Marshall 49, Middle Tennessee 24

Rice at Army

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 11; noon ET

    Last meeting: Corey Clement threw for 384 yards and three touchdowns in Rice's 38-31 home win over Army in November 2008. 

    What to watch for

    Rice (2-3, 1-1 Conference USA) gave up 131 points in its first three games, all losses, but has settled down to win two straight and has kept the scores lower. The Owls rush for 205.0 yards per game but only 4.25 yards per carry, though Darik Dillard broke through with 141 yards and two touchdowns last week against Hawaii. The defending Conference USA champs are slowly improving after a rough start.  

    Army (2-3) ended a three-game skid with a 33-24 win over Ball State last week, capitalizing on its camouflage uniforms to rush for 425 yards, including 188 from Larry Dixon. The Black Knights are third in the country in rushing offense and carry it 58 times per game, and their triple-option involves fewer passes (43 in five games) than any other team that runs that style. 

    Army plays better at home with all of those cadets in the stands. That's enough to put the Knights over the top.

    Prediction: Army 30, Rice 28

    Final: Rice 41, Army 21

Cincinnati at Miami (Florida)

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 11; noon ET

    Last meeting: Miami beat Cincinnati 38-12 in 1998, its 11th straight win over the Bearcats. 

    What to watch for

    Cincinnati (2-2, 0-1 C-USA) has dropped two straight and has seen its offensive production dip in nearly every game this season. Quarterback Gunner Kiel burst out of the gate with 14 touchdown passes in his first three games, but last week in a 41-14 home loss to Memphis he was just 11-of-27. And with a 113th-rated rushing game the Bearcats can't afford for Kiel to struggle, especially with a defense that is giving up 37.3 points per game. 

    Miami (3-3, 1-2 ACC) is unbeaten at home and winless on the road, looking like a completely different team when playing in Sun Life Stadium. The youth that plagues it away from home doesn't struggle in Miami, with Brad Kaaya throwing six of his nine interceptions on the road. Running back Duke Johnson is averaging 6.3 yards per carry and has back-to-back 100-yard games for the first time since late 2012. 

    Miami will play with that home confidence, and while a shootout is possible, the Hurricanes will take it. 

    Prediction: Miami 38, Cincinnati 33

    Final: Miami 55, Cincinnati 34

Tulsa at Temple

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 11; noon ET

    Last meeting: Tulsa beat Temple 15-10 in 1988. 

    What to watch for

    Tulsa (1-4, 1-0 American) is giving up 511.0 yards and 42.4 points per game, its defense doing nothing to help an offense that has a strong passing combo in quarterback Dane Evans and receiver Keevan Lucas but not much else. The Golden Hurricane don't help themselves on offense by turning the ball over a lot, as their 13 giveaways are tied for 112th nationally

    Temple (3-1, 1-0) thrives on forcing turnovers, collecting 17 takeaways in four games. The Owls have held three of four opponents to 10 points or fewer, while on offense quarterback P.J. Walker has managed games by completing 65.1 percent of his passes and only throwing three interceptions. 

    Tulsa has had at least one turnover in every game and will probably end up with at least three in this loss. 

    Prediction: Temple 29, Tulsa 17

    Final: Temple 35, Tulsa 24

No. 1 Florida State at Syracuse

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 11; noon ET

    Last meeting: Florida State scored 28 first-quarter points en route to a 59-3 rout of visiting Syracuse last November. 

    What to watch for

    Florida State (5-0, 3-0 ACC) went from giving up 24 points in the first quarter and 41 overall to yielding just a field goal a week later. That bounce-back on defense will be critical for the Seminoles to continue their win streak, which stands at 21 games, as well as to stay in the mix for the playoffs as the schedule toughens over the next few weeks.

    FSU still needs to get its run game into gear, as it sits 100th nationally with only 133.2 yards per game. 

    Syracuse (2-3, 0-1) has dropped three in a row by increasingly larger margins, as its offense outside of dual-threat quarterback Terrel Hunt has been nonexistent. Things could be even bleaker now that Hunt is expected to be out four-to-six weeks after fracturing his fibula in the 28-6 home loss to Louisville last week. 

    With Hunt, the Orange might have had a shot to surprise FSU. They have little chance without him, though.

    Prediction: Florida State 33, Syracuse 10

    Final: Florida State 38, Syracuse 20

West Virginia at Texas Tech

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 11; noon ET

    Last meeting: Davis Webb threw for 462 yards and two touchdowns in Texas Tech's 37-27 win at West Virginia last October, moving his team to 7-0 on the season. 

    What to watch for

    West Virginia (3-2, 1-1 Big 12) continues to post big passing numbers behind senior Clint Trickett (1,902 yards, 10 touchdowns) and receiver Kevin White (48 receptions, 765 yards, four touchdowns), while wide receiver Mario Alford has developed into one of the best dual threats in the country. The senior has 387 receiving yards and four touchdowns, also averaging 37.3 yards on kick returns with two scores. 

    Texas Tech (2-3, 0-2) has started its tailspin much earlier than last year, when a 7-0 start was followed by five straight losses. The Red Raiders have lost their last three by an average of 21 points, and while the defense has been "consistent" in allowing 45 or more points in each of those games, their own offensive output keeps dwindling. Webb has thrown for 1,603 yards and 16 touchdowns but has also been intercepted 10 times. 

    Both teams are minus-eight in turnover margin, so a game that has the potential to be a shootout is also one where mistakes could be the difference. Look for Tech to right the ship here.

    Prediction: Texas Tech 47, West Virginia 41

    Final: West Virginia 37, Texas Tech 34

Texas vs. No. 11 Oklahoma (at Dallas)

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 11; noon ET

    Last meeting: Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray combined for 243 rushing yards in Texas' 36-20 win over Oklahoma last October at the Cotton Bowl. 

    What to watch for

    Texas (2-3, 1-1 Big 12) was able to slow down Baylor's high-octane attack last week, but without much offensive rhythm of its own it could only muster a late touchdown in a 28-7 home loss. The Longhorns will have to do it by forcing mistakes and capitalizing on those miscues, something that won't happen as much when they face the better teams in the Big 12.

    Oklahoma (4-1, 1-1) got knocked around at TCU last week, its second straight rough road trip, but instead of asserting its will in the second half like the previous outing at West Virginia the Sooners scored on their first possession of the third quarter but then managed only 93 yards on their final eight drives. 

    Samaje Perine wasn't able to run free like before, and though he had three rushing TDs he averaged only 3.48 yards per carry. With Trevor Knight struggling through the air, Oklahoma had its first offensive hiccup while being unable to make stops down the stretch.

    With both teams coming into this heated rivalry off a loss, the notion of it being a make-or-break game for each should only heighten the intensity. Oklahoma gets Baylor at home next month and therefore is still in the hunt for the conference title and a playoff spot, but not with another loss.

    Texas could have its first signature win of the Charlie Strong era after a tough start to his tenure. However, the Longhorns will keep it close but won't have enough to get the job done. 

    Prediction: Oklahoma 30, Texas 21

    Final: Oklahoma 31, Texas 26

Illinois at Wisconsin

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 11; noon ET

    Last meeting: Melvin Gordon ran for 142 yards and three touchdowns in Wisconsin's 56-32 win at Illinois last October. 

    What to watch for

    Illinois (3-3, 0-2 Big Ten) has been able to move the ball well this season when Wes Lunt is at quarterback, but he broke his leg late in the home loss to Purdue and is out four to six weeks. Lunt was completing 66.5 percent of his passes with 13 touchdowns and three interceptions, while backup Reilly O'Toole (52.6 percent, one TD, four interceptions) has been far less successful.

    But regardless of who is leading the offense, the Fighting Illini's defense is atrocious, particularly against the run, where it allows 249.5 yards per game and yielded 349 rushing yards to Purdue. 

    Wisconsin (3-2, 0-1) has arguably the best running back in the country in Gordon, who has 871 yards and nine touchdowns with an 8.3 yards-per-carry average. But even with that production, the Badgers have lost two games they should have won because of a lack of balance with the pass game.

    Both Joel Stave and Tanner McEvoy will play in this game, according to Derek Franklin of The Badger Herald, as Wisconsin hopes to avoid being too one-dimensional. 

    The Badgers could give it to Gordon and other rushers every snap in this game, but it won't matter. Illinois isn't good enough to win a Big Ten road game. 

    Prediction: Wisconsin 45, Illinois 20

    Final: Wisconsin 38, Illinois 28

Indiana at Iowa

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 11; noon ET

    Last meeting: Cody Latimer caught three touchdown passes in Indiana's 24-21 win over visiting Iowa in November 2012. 

    What to watch for

    Indiana (3-2, 0-1 Big Ten) beat up on North Texas last week to remain on its win-loss pattern, which would mean the Hoosiers are due for a loss this time out. They were crushed at home by Maryland in their conference opener after pulling off a surprise at Missouri the week before, showing how the Hoosiers have been inconsistent this season despite having one of the best all-purpose players in the country in Tevin Coleman.

    Iowa (4-1, 1-0) hasn't topped 24 points since its opener against Northern Iowa, yet the Hawkeyes haven't allowed more than 23 points all season. There's been a lot of grind-it-out, just-get-by play in their games, but since losing to Iowa State the Hawkeyes have become more sound on defense and rank seventh nationally in rushing defense at 93.2 yards per game. 

    Look for the Hawkeyes to key heavily on Coleman, forcing Indiana to move the ball through the air, though not enough to pull out the win. 

    Prediction: Iowa 27, Indiana 16

    Final: Iowa 45, Indiana 29

Northwestern at Minnesota

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 11; noon ET

    Last meeting: Minnesota forced three turnovers and returned an interception for a touchdown in a 20-17 win at Northwestern last October. 

    What to watch for

    Anyone who predicted before the season that this early October game in Minneapolis would be for the Big Ten West Division lead should go out and buy a lottery ticket.

    Northwestern (3-2, 2-0 Big Ten) has been a completely different team since conference play began, shaking off an opening stretch that featured home losses to California and Northern Illinois by impressively routing Penn State on the road and then knocking off Wisconsin. The Wildcats haven't been particularly flashy on offense, ranking 104th in rushing, but freshman Justin Jackson has been a spark in the backfield the last three weeks.

    Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune wrote that Northwestern's turnaround has been due to coach Pat Fitzgerald having more confidence in his players while also being willing to take more chances.

    "Fitzgerald has changed his approach on game day, transforming from Mr. Conservative to a guy willing to split face cards," Greenstein wrote, citing how the Wildcats went for it on fourth down several times against Wisconsin and executed trick plays. 

    Minnesota (4-1, 1-0) has been very strong with the run, ranking 24th at 230.2 yards per game, as David Cobb has three games with 180 or more yards. The Golden Gophers have also been pretty good on defense even with numerous injuries to their front seven, allowing just 21 total points in their past two games. 

    A 30-14 win two weeks ago at Michigan, despite the opponent, was a huge way for Minnesota to start Big Ten play after it began and ended the conference schedule with two-game losing streaks. The Gophers last started 2-0 in the Big Ten in 2004 but will do so again this season.

    Prediction: Minnesota 27, Northwestern 22

    Final: Minnesota 24, Northwestern 17

Louisiana-Monroe at Kentucky

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 11; noon ET

    Last meeting: Kentucky's Randall Cobb scored on rushing and punt return touchdowns in a 36-13 home win over Louisiana-Monroe in October 2009. 

    What to watch for

    Louisiana-Monroe (3-2, 2-1 Sun Belt) is averaging only 336.8 yards per game, topping 22 points once this season. The Warhawks are getting by with average passing from Pete Thomas and a defense that doesn't give up too many big plays, but they don't have the talent to beat a good team.

    Kentucky (4-1, 2-1 SEC) is a delay-of-game call in overtime against Florida away from being unbeaten, but the Wildcats will take where they sit all the same. Last week's comeback win over South Carolina showed amazing resilience, and the rhythm their offense had after it went to the Wildcat formation behind running back Jojo Kemp brought a different dynamic.

    Look for Kentucky to use this game as a final tweak before returning to SEC play.

    Prediction: Kentucky 31, Louisiana-Monroe 14

    Final: Kentucky 48, Louisiana-Monroe 14

No. 13 Georgia at No. 23 Missouri

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 11; noon ET

    Last meeting: L'Damian Washington caught two touchdown passes, and Missouri overcame the loss of quarterback James Franklin to win 41-26 at Georgia last October. 

    What to watch for

    Georgia (4-1, 2-1 SEC) heads into its biggest game of the season without its best player, as the school announced Thursday it had suspended running back Todd Gurley indefinitely while being investigated for alleged NCAA violations. That news completely changes the scope of the Bulldogs' trip to Missouri, where it was looking to avenge a home loss from the year before but also put themselves in position to win the East Division.

    Georgia finally had a breather of a conference game last week after two nip-and-tuck contests to open up SEC play, and with Vanderbilt not posing much of a challenge the Bulldogs were able to get everyone in line and ready for this far more important game. The run game remains the best part of their attack, but without Gurley (who accounted for 53.5 percent of the team's rushing yards and eight of its 18 touchdowns) that asset loses value. 

    The Bulldogs defense will be challenged again this week, but it seems to be every time out because of breakdowns in pass coverage and not much of a rush up front. 

    Missouri (4-1, 1-0) made a big comeback late to win at South Carolina two weeks ago, avenging its only regular-season SEC loss from a year ago. The Tigers aren't as explosive on offense this season, though quarterback Maty Mauk has thrown for 14 touchdowns. It's been Mizzou's defense that has led the charge to this point, with its defensive line anchored by Shane Ray and his 11.5 tackles for loss. 

    The SEC East is so balanced that two losses could still win the division, but since Missouri hasn't lost yet it could take a big lead on the field with a victory here. Georgia can still win this without Gurley, but it won't.

    Prediction: Missouri 34, Georgia 24

    Final: Georgia 34, Missouri 0

Duke at No. 22 Georgia Tech

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 11; 12:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Vad Lee threw four touchdown passes in Georgia Tech's 38-14 win at Duke last September. 

    What to watch for

    Duke (4-1, 0-1 ACC) got stifled the last time out, managing only 10 points in a loss at Miami (Florida) after averaging 43.5 points per game during its perfect start. The Blue Devils are averaging 225.8 rushing yards per game, but it's the play of quarterback Anthony Boone that dictates how they fare. 

    Boone was 22-of-51 with two interceptions against Miami, and Duke couldn't overcome his poor outing. 

    Georgia Tech (5-0, 2-0) has quietly gotten off to a great start with its usual efficient option running attack, which ranks 12th nationally at 297.2 rushing yards per game. The Yellow Jackets are also throwing it more effectively than the past few seasons, with Justin Thomas accruing 663 yards and seven touchdowns to keep defenses honest.

    The Yellow Jackets have won their last three games by an average of six points and have avoided making mistakes at critical moments to hold on to leads or make comebacks. They're in a part of the schedule where they can build huge momentum toward a possible Coastal Division title and will capitalize on this opportunity. 

    Prediction: Georgia Tech 33, Duke 21

    Final: Duke 31, Georgia Tech 25

Buffalo at Eastern Michigan

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 11; 1 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Branden Oliver ran for 150 yards and two touchdowns in Buffalo's 42-14 home win over Eastern Michigan last October. 

    What to watch for

    Buffalo (3-3, 1-1 Mid-American) has shown a strong offense behind quarterback Joe Licata and running back Anthone Taylor, with the Bulls scoring at least 35 in five of six games. The problem is they haven't been able to slow down any opponent's attack, allowing 16 rushing touchdowns and 34.7 points per game. 

    Eastern Michigan (1-4, 0-1) has managed only 23 total points over its last four games while allowing 186 in that span. The Eagles are second-worst in the country in total offense, gaining just 229 yards per game, with former LSU and Penn State quarterback Rob Bolden completing only 32 of 71 passes since taking over the starting job. 

    Buffalo has the kind of defense that could finally allow Eastern Michigan to break through. 

    Prediction: Eastern Michigan 27, Buffalo 21

    Final: Eastern Michigan 37, Buffao 27

Bowling Green at Ohio

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 11; 2 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Travis Greene ran for 149 yards and two touchdowns in Bowling Green's 49-0 home win over Ohio last November. 

    What to watch for

    Bowling Green (4-2, 2-0 Mid-American) seems resigned to trying to win shootouts this season, as its last three wins have been back-and-forth affairs that the Falcons have pulled out in the end. In between was a 68-17 loss at Wisconsin, an example of what happens when their offense can't keep up, though that's not likely to happen much in the MAC with how quarterback James Knapke is throwing.

    Ohio (3-3, 1-1) has been held to 17 or fewer points on four occasions this season, including 10 in last week's loss at Central Michigan. The Bobcats have shuffled between two quarterbacks, neither of whom have been particularly effective.

    Bowling Green will use its usual approach to win, scoring a lot and giving up almost as much. 

    Prediction: Bowling Green 37, Ohio 29

    Final: Bowling Green 31, Ohio 13

Miami (Ohio) at Akron

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 11; 2 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Jawon Chisholm ran for three touchdowns in Akron's 24-17 win at Miami last October. 

    What to watch for

    Miami (1-5, 1-1 Mid-American) ended a 21-game losing streak last week by rallying from 27 points down late in the second quarter to win 42-41. Andrew Hendrix had 528 of the RedHawks' 557 yards of total offense, throwing four touchdowns and scoring on a one-yard run with 2:58 left. Despite having lost the previous five this season, Miami has been far more competitive than in 2013. 

    Akron (3-2, 1-0) has a solid defense that has allowed only 17.0 points per game, with that number dropping to 13.5 if you take out the 48 given up to unbeaten Marshall. The Zips aren't flashy on offense, but quarterback Kyle Pohl has been efficient and has kept his mistakes to a minimum.

    Miami may win another game or two this season, but Akron is the far better team.

    Prediction: Akron 34, Miami 23

    Final: Akron 29, Miami 13

Massachusetts at Kent State

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 11; 2 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Massachusetts (0-6, 0-2 Mid-American) has been the team of near misses this season, with four losses by five or fewer points. But as much as that's shown the Minutemen's competitiveness, it's also indicative of how they can't hold a lead, blowing a 41-14 advantage at winless Miami (Ohio) last week and also leading later against Colorado, Vanderbilt and Bowling Green.

    Kent State (0-5, 0-2) hadn't come close to looking competitive since its season opener until somehow playing Northern Illinois within a field goal last week. The Golden Flashes have lost their MAC games by three points, the others by an average of 36, and they've yet to surpass 14 points on the season. 

    UMass is involved in a battle of winless teams for the second straight week, both on the road. This is where the Minutemen finally break through. 

    Prediction: Massachusetts 34, Kent State 28

    Final: Massachusetts 40, Kent State 17

Arkansas State at Georgia State

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 11; 2 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Arkansas State scored on a blocked punt and a fumble return to hold off visiting Georgia State 35-33 last November. 

    What to watch for

    Arkansas State (3-2, 1-0 Sun Belt) was competitive in nonconference losses at Tennessee and Miami, and the Red Wolves have taken that experience and used it to pull out close wins the last two games against Utah State and Louisiana-Monroe. Junior running back Michael Gordon's 168 rushing yards last week make ASU more diverse along with quarterback Fredi Knighten. 

    Georgia State (1-4, 0-2) won its opener against FCS Abilene Christian in a thriller but hasn't since been able to replicate that success against FBS teams. Three of the Panthers' four losses have been by 10 points or fewer, and the other saw them lead 14-0 at Washington before faltering. 

    Arkansas State is playing with plenty of confidence and will take that on the road for a close victory. 

    Prediction: Arkansas State 33, Georgia State 30

    Final: Arkansas State 52, Georgia State 10

New Mexico State at Troy

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 11; 3 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: New Mexico State beat Troy 22-18 in 2004, when the Aggies were previously in the Sun Belt Conference. 

    What to watch for

    New Mexico State (2-4, 1-1 Sun Belt) has been in every game but one this season. It already has as many wins as last year thanks to opening with an FCS team and one transitioning into FBS. The Aggies turn the ball over too much, though, with Tyler Rogers' nine touchdown passes negated by 11 interceptions. 

    Troy (0-5, 0-1) has been outscored 208-82 this season, yet the Trojans are coming off their best performance of the season in a 22-20 loss at Louisiana-Monroe. Longtime coach Larry Blakeney announced that he'll retire after the season, his 24th at Troy, but before he goes the Trojans have a few games on the schedule they can take.

    The emotions associated with Blakeney's announcement, combined with playing at home against a mistake-prone team, gives Troy the edge. 

    Prediction: Troy 31, New Mexico State 27

    Final: Troy 41, New Mexico State 24

Western Michigan at Ball State

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 11; 3 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Keith Wenning threw for 324 yards and three touchdowns in Ball State's 38-17 win at Western Michigan last October. 

    What to watch for

    Western Michigan (2-3, 0-1 Mid-American) lost its conference opener at home to Toledo last week because of a missed extra point in overtime, blowing a chance to get a big win over a league contender. The young Broncos have been competitive but still haven't shown they know how to win close games. Freshman running back Jarvion Franklin has cooled the last two weeks but still has 682 rushing yards and an FBS-leading 12 touchdowns. 

    Ball State (1-4, 0-1) has lost four straight by a combined 31 points, and while its offense is starting to be more consistent, the defense has been unable to hold. Running back Jahwan Edwards is the Cardinals' best weapon, as he as three 100-yard rushing games as he paces toward a third straight 1,000-yard season.

    Both teams are young and rebuilding, so the winner will get a huge confidence boost. Home team wins. 

    Prediction: Ball State 28, Western Michigan 23

    Final: Western Michigan 42, Ball State 38

North Texas at UAB

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 11; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: UAB beat North Texas 19-14 back in 1995.

    What to watch for

    North Texas (2-3, 0-1 Conference USA) saw its normally strong run defense get crushed for 363 yards at Indiana last week, but that level of opponent isn't what the Mean Green will face most weeks in C-USA. Its own run game has been the best part of the offense, but that's not saying much because North Texas is only throwing for 141 yards per game. 

    UAB (3-2, 1-1) shocked Western Kentucky on the road last week, with Cody Clements completing 22 of 25 passes for 300 yards and Jordan Howard rushing for 183 yards and two touchdowns. The Blazers have been very competitive this season under first-year coach Bill Clark and have the capability to win most games when they don't turn the ball over. 

    UAB laid an egg in its last home game but following the big road win is playing with momentum. 

    Prediction: UAB 37, North Texas 29

    Final: UAB 56, North Texas 21

No. 8 Michigan State at Purdue

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 11; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Jeremy Langford ran for 131 yards and Michigan State used a defensive touchdown to pace a 14-0 home win over Purdue last October. 

    What to watch for

    Michigan State (4-1, 1-0 Big Ten) dominated unbeaten Nebraska for three quarters then tried its best to give the game away before holding on to a 27-22 win last week in its conference opener. The Spartans used some big plays to get the big lead but otherwise stalled on offense and had to rely on their defense, an old formula that got them through many games in 2014.

    The Spartans have moved up to 12th in total defense, with teams only rushing for 74 yards per game against them. 

    Purdue (3-3, 1-1) ended a nine-game Big Ten losing streak with a 38-27 win at Illinois last week, the third time it's topped 30 points this season after averaging 14.9 points per game in 2013. The decision to slide Austin Appleby into the quarterback role was huge for the Boilermakers, as he completed 15 of 20 passes for 202 yards and a touchdown and added 76 rushing yards with two scores. 

    Akeem Hunt is averaging 5.9 yards per carry, and if Purdue can keep the score low it has a shot to pull a shocker. But that won't happen. 

    Prediction: Michigan State 31, Purdue 17

    Final: Michigan State 45, Purdue 31

Toledo at Iowa State

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 11; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Toledo got a punt return touchdown and recovered a fumble in the end zone in the final six minutes of a 36-35 home win over Iowa State in September 2007. 

    What to watch for

    Toledo (4-2, 3-0 MAC) was lucky to win last week at Western Michigan, getting by in overtime after the home team missed an extra point. Leading rusher Kareem Hunt has missed the last two games with leg injuries, and without him the Rockets don't have the balance needed to compete with better opponents. 

    Iowa State (1-4, 0-3 Big 12) led early at Oklahoma State and then fell apart, with quarterback Sam B. Richardson completing only 17 of 39 passes. The Cyclones made critical mistakes that got them in a hole, and they aren't good enough to win when they give the ball away. 

    ISU needs a game to build confidence, and with Toledo's Hunt still uncertain, the Cyclones get this one, but just barely.

    Prediction: Iowa State 30, Toledo 27

    Final: Iowa State 37, Toledo 30

North Carolina at No. 6 Notre Dame

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 11; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Cameron Sexton's four-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter gave North Carolina a 29-24 home win over Notre Dame in October 2008. 

    What to watch for

    North Carolina (2-3, 0-2 ACC) has gone from being ranked 23rd in the preseason to a team that's facing an uphill battle to be bowl-eligible. The Tar Heels defense has been abysmal all season but somehow even worse during its three-game losing streak, in which it's given up 154 points.

    UNC is 120th in total defense, allowing 505.8 yards per game, which has prevented its offense from being able to make any headway when constantly playing from behind.

    Notre Dame (5-0) has backslid the past two weeks from an offensive standpoint, with quarterback Everett Golson suddenly becoming mistake-prone. He's thrown three interceptions and lost three fumbles in the past two games, yet in each contest he's also managed to be a hero with big throws at key points.

    The Fighting Irish still haven't developed a consistent run game, averaging 152.8 yards per game but only 120.8 (with just two touchdowns) against power-conference opponents. 

    UNC's defense has been a salve for struggling offenses—Virginia Tech scored 34 on it last week—and it will help get Notre Dame back on track heading into the Oct. 18 showdown at Florida State. 

    Prediction: Notre Dame 44, North Carolina 17

    Final: Notre Dame 50, North Carolina 43

No. 9 TCU at No. 5 Baylor

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 11; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Baylor forced four turnovers and returned two interceptions for touchdowns in the Bears' 41-38 road win over TCU last November. 

    What to watch for

    TCU (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) is coming off its biggest win since joining the conference, knocking off Oklahoma to leap into the Top 10 for the first time since ending the 2010 season ranked third. Trevone Boykin, who has emerged as an elite quarterback in the Horned Frogs' new offensive system, has been paired with a perennial defensive power to create a great combination.

    The Horned Frogs threw Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight off his game, which is promising for them as they hit the road to face an even more accomplished quarterback in Baylor's Bryce Petty. Petty is coming off arguably his worst game as a starter, having thrown for just 111 yards and two touchdowns on 7-of-22 passing, and last year was 19-of-38 for 206 yards against TCU.

    "Defensively, they're always tough and very well-coached," Petty told reporters. "They always seem to have a good plan against us."

    Baylor (5-0, 2-0) didn't have to deal much with Boykin last season, as he had lost the quarterback job to Casey Pachall, yet he did throw a 21-yard touchdown pass on his only attempt of the game. This season Boykin has thrown for 1,176 yards and 10 TDs and is also TCU's top rusher with 260 yards and three scores.

    The Bears' last two games haven't been as crisp as earlier in the season, at least on the offensive side. But their defense continues to be an underrated unit that is fourth nationally in yards allowed at 267.2 per game. 

    Prediction: Baylor 41, TCU 24

    Final: Baylor 61, TCU 58

Boston College at North Carolina State

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 11; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Andre Williams ran for 339 yards and two touchdowns in Boston College's 38-21 home win over North Carolina State last November. 

    What to watch for

    Boston College (3-2, 0-1 ACC) has that big win over USC on its resume but also home losses to Colorado State and Pittsburgh. The Eagles are sixth nationally in rushing at 316.8 yards per game, with quarterback Tyler Murphy remaining the top running threat. Boston College's defense has been hot and cold, registering 16 tackles for loss against USC and 15 against everyone else. 

    North Carolina State (4-2, 0-2) has gone from a sleeper to a stinker in the span of seven quarters, being outscored 90-17 since taking a 24-7 first-quarter lead on Florida State two weeks ago. The Wolfpack's offense fell apart, with Jacoby Brissett going from an unstoppable force to being almost invisible in last week's 41-0 loss at Clemson.

    Both of these teams have potential as well as former Florida quarterbacks running their offense. In a showdown of guys who could be starting for the Gators now, give the edge to NC State. 

    Prediction: North Carolina State 37, Boston College 30

    Final: Boston College 30, North Carolina State 14

Louisville at Clemson

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 11; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Louisville (5-1, 3-1 ACC) has been phenomenal on defense this season, allowing just 12.7 points per game and FBS-best totals in overall yards (231.0) and on the ground (58.3), which has prevented a slow-to-develop offense from being too much of a crutch.

    Todd Grantham has found a renewed purpose working with the holdovers from Charlie Strong's 2013 defense, but he's also sparked breakouts from the likes of safety Gerod Holliman, whose seven interceptions are three more than anyone else in the country. 

    The Cardinals will need to get better on offense in order to compete against a loaded second half of the schedule, though, and that starts with freshman quarterback Reggie Bonnafon. He's taken over the job from Will Gardner but has thrown for only 380 yards and a touchdown in his two starts.

    Brandon Radcliff has been a pleasant surprise, rushing for 239 yards and four TDs in the past two games. The 5'9", 214-pound sophomore is part of a more grind-it-out approach than you'd expect from a team coached by Bobby Petrino, but so far the coach hasn't minded because the wins are continuing.

    "We're not a team that's going to go out and rack up 700 yards," Petrino told reporters.

    Clemson (3-2, 2-1) should have its season looked at in two segments: the uneven part before Deshaun Watson became quarterback and the period of prosperity that's occurred since. Watson has thrown eight touchdown passes and run for two more in his two starts, wins of 50-35 and 41-0, and for the year the true freshman is completing 68.9 percent of his passes with 12 TDs and only one interception.

    His play has enabled the Tigers defense to take more chances and not worry about giving up a big play from time to time. That's freed up Vic Beasley and the defensive line to become more aggressive, which was seen last week in crushing North Carolina State 41-0 a week after NC State scored 41 against Florida State. 

    Prediction: Clemson 27, Louisville 20

    Final: Clemson 23, Louisville 17

VMI at Navy

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 11; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Trey Miller ran for 116 yards and three touchdowns and added 107 passing yards in Navy's 41-3 home win over VMI in September 2012. 

    What to watch for

    VMI (1-5, 0-3 Southern) is allowing 43.2 points per game this season, including 48 in a loss at Bowling Green on Sept. 6, and last time out it gained only 165 yards in a 55-7 loss at Chattanooga. The Keydets are 0-29 all-time against FBS competition. 

    Navy (2-4) has dropped three straight, its longest skid since losing six in a row in 2011. That was also the last season the Midshipmen failed to reach bowl eligibility, finishing 5-7. Navy still ranks second in the country in rushing offense, averaging 340.5 yards per game on the ground, but quarterback Keenan Reynolds has had to battle injury all season. 

    Reynolds missed a game with a knee injury already, and after injuring his shoulder late in last week's loss at Air Force he is questionable for Saturday, according to Bill Wagner of The Baltimore Sun

    Navy will win this one without him, but the rest of the season is up in the air if Reynolds can't get back to 100 percent. 

    Prediction: Navy 41, VMI 14

    Final: Navy 51, VMI 14

No. 2 Auburn at No. 3 Mississippi State

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 11; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Nick Marshall's 11-yard touchdown pass to C.J. Uzomah with 10 seconds left gave Auburn a 24-20 home win over Mississippi State last September. 

    What to watch for

    Auburn (5-0, 2-0 SEC) has only faced one serious challenge to this point, and the Tigers were able to overcome an off running game to escape at Kansas State in mid-September. Marshall has slowly integrated his arm into Auburn's offense, with the senior throwing for seven touchdowns and one interception in his last three games. 

    The Tigers' run game remains strong, though not as dominant as a year ago, but it's still 15th nationally with 268 yards per game. 

    Where Auburn has shown the most improvement this season has been on the defensive end, improving from 87th in yards allowed in 2013 to 14th this year. They're giving up only 100.2 yards per game and 2.9 yards per carry on the ground this season, the result of players not missing their assignments nearly as much as last year.

    Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson told reporters that cutting down on mistakes has been huge, but he tempered his excitement by noting Auburn faces its toughest challenge yet this week in the form of Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott:

    This week, we're going to be playing a quarterback who may be the best in the country at running the offense he runs. It's going to be a whole different deal. ... I'm certainly not taking anything away from the effort and the accomplishment of our players. I think we did a great job and I'm really proud of them, but the test is going to get a lot tougher.

    Mississippi State (5-0, 2-0) heads into its third straight game against an unbeaten Top 10 team and the second in a row at home. The Bulldogs had little trouble with LSU and Texas A&M, leading them by 24 and 31 points, respectively, during the fourth quarter. And last year a similar MSU team gave Auburn all it could handle early in the season. 

    Prescott has moved himself firmly into the Heisman discussion after his performance against A&M, in which he had 345 yards of total offense and five touchdowns. Prescott is 10th in the country in total offense at 335.6 yards per game and has accounted for 19 TDs.

    Throw in Josh Robinson (592 rushing yards, six TDs) and a defense that has forced 12 turnovers, and MSU is playing as well as any team in the country. With more challenges under their belt and playing at home, the Bulldogs get the edge. 

    Prediction: Mississippi State 36, Auburn 30

    Final: Mississippi State 38, Auburn 23

Liberty at Appalachian State

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 11; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Appalachian State beat Liberty 29-22 in September 2002. 

    What to watch for

    Liberty (3-3, 0-0 Big South) led 22-21 at North Carolina in its opener only to lose 56-29. The Flames, led by former Buffalo and Kansas coach Turner Gill, are 2-19 all time against FBS teams, with their most recent win coming in 2010 against Ball State.

    Appalachian State (1-4, 0-2 Sun Belt) has yet to beat an FBS team since making the move into the upper division this season. The Mountaineers' only victory was a 66-0 romp over FCS Campbell, and in their other games they've been outscored 154-69, and they rank 114th in rushing defense. 

    Liberty has aspirations to move into FBS someday, possibly into the Sun Belt, which  Appalachian State joined this season. Liberty will put up a good fight, but the home team will come out on top.

    Prediction: Appalachian State 27, Liberty 23

    Final: Liberty 55, Appalachian State 48 (OT)

No. 12 Oregon at No. 18 UCLA

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 11; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Byron Marshall ran for three touchdowns and Oregon outscored UCLA 28-0 in the second half of a 42-14 home win over the Bruins last October. 

    What to watch for

    A week ago, this Pac-12 clash looked like a preview of the conference title game and a preliminary match to help determine which team from the league would make the College Football Playoff. Now, after both teams suffered shocking home losses, it's almost become an elimination game.

    Oregon (4-1, 1-1) was a three-touchdown favorite over Arizona yet instead lost its sixth straight game when failing to score 30 points. Issues with the Ducks offensive line and a defense that keeps leaving players wide open finally caught up to them. And with quarterback Marcus Mariota having an off game that included two lost fumbles against Arizona, it was a recipe for disaster.

    UCLA (4-1, 1-1) seemed to have answered the critics who were concerned about its slow start by winning 62-27 at Arizona State the week before. Then the Bruins fell behind 14-0 to Utah and lost on a field goal in the final minutes in between giving up 10 sacks of quarterback Brett Hundley. 

    Neither team has been able to protect their passers of late, with UCLA allowing 22 sacks and Oregon 15 to both rank in the bottom 20 teams in FBS, which isn't a good stat for teams that feature Heisman-worthy quarterbacks.

    Chris Huston of tweeted Monday that the "over/under on total sacks" for the game should be 12. 

    When given a chance to do their thing, both Hundley and Mariota have been masterful. But with those deficiencies up front, each has been held back at times. Mariota faces the tougher challenge, as UCLA's front seven is loaded with studs like Eddie Vanderdoes, Eric Kendrick and Myles Jack, a trio that will be X-factors in this game. 

    Prediction: UCLA 30, Oregon 24

    Final: Oregon 42, UCLA 30

Chattanooga at Tennessee

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 11; 4 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Tennessee beat Chattanooga 31-0 in 1969, its eighth straight win over the in-state opponent. The Volunteers are 37-2-2 all time against the Mocs. 

    What to watch for

    Chattanooga (3-2, 2-0 Southern) is ranked 12th in the FCS coaches poll and in its last three games has outscored opponents 135-37. The Mocs opened the season with a 20-16 loss at Central Michigan and are 3-33 all time against FBS teams. That includes a win last season over Georgia State. 

    Tennessee (2-3, 0-2 SEC) is coming off back-to-back one-score losses in SEC play, falling 35-32 at Georgia and then losing 10-9 at home to Florida. The Volunteers led both games but couldn't finish the deal, still searching for that over-the-hump victory this season. The young lineup is showing improvement, but a rushing offense that ranks 112th is one of many things holding it back. 

    The Vols roll in front of a hopeful homecoming crowd.

    Prediction: Tennessee 37, Chattanooga 17

    Final: Tennessee 45, Chattanooga 10

No. 16 Oklahoma State at Kansas

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 11; 4 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Clint Chelf threw for 265 yards and three touchdowns in Oklahoma State's 42-6 home win over Kansas last November. 

    What to watch for

    Oklahoma State (4-1, 2-0 Big 12) has scored at least 31 points every game this season despite having to replace most of its offense, a testament to the Cowboys' game plan and how the new lot of contributors have fared. Daxx Garman's performance at quarterback after J.W. Walsh went down with injury has been solid, as he's thrown for 1,200 yards and nine touchdowns.

    Desmond Roland has only run for 304 yards but has six touchdowns and will be relied on more and more as the season progresses. The Cowboys haven't played a true road game yet, getting comfortable with four straight home games after opening in Arlington, Texas, against Florida State.

    Kansas (2-3, 0-2) is playing its first home game since firing Charlie Weis, two days after the Jayhawks were blanked 23-0 by Texas. They didn't do much better last week at West Virginia under interim coach Clint Bowen, managing only 176 yards and turning it over three times. 

    The Jayhawks have scored 17 points in their three games against power-conference opponents, and Oklahoma State might be better than all the ones they've faced so far. 

    Prediction: Oklahoma State 37, Kansas 14

    Final: Oklahoma State 27, Kansas 20

Central Michigan at Northern Illinois

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 11; 5 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Jordan Lynch set the FBS record for rushing yards by a quarterback (which he'd later break) with 316 yards and three touchdowns in Northern Illinois' 38-17 win at Central Michigan last October. 

    What to watch for

    Central Michigan (3-3, 1-1 Mid-American) ended a three-game losing streak last Saturday, but the Chippewas are still struggling to move the ball consistently. They rank 112th in total offense, and quarterback Cooper Rush has been sacked 16 times this year. 

    Northern Illinois (4-1, 1-0) squeaked past winless Kent State last week, making another change at quarterback in the process. Drew Hare has had the most work, but the Huskies have used three passers as they try to find someone who works best with a run-heavy offense that gains 256 rushing yards per game. NIU also excels at holding on to the ball, only turning it over three times this season. 

    Expect a more consistent effort from the Huskies this week.

    Prediction: Northern Illinois 29, Central Michigan 17

    Final: Central Michigan 34, Northern Illinois 17

Houston at Memphis

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 11; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Kenneth Farrow's two second-half touchdown runs gave Houston a 25-15 home win over Memphis last October.

    What to watch for

    Houston (2-3, 0-1 American) is turning to Greg Ward Jr. at quarterback after he was the more effective player in last week's home loss to UCF. More of a run-first guy, Ward had 116 yards passing after replacing John O'Korn. The Cougars need any help they can get on offense, as they're 93rd nationally with 374.8 yards per game. 

    Memphis (3-2, 1-0) blew out Cincinnati on the road last week, showing it's going to be a major player in the AAC race thanks to a schedule that avoids East Carolina and UCF. Known more for their defense, the Tigers have become much better moving the ball this season, as Paxton Lynch is averaging 269.3 passing yards per game if you remove the poor effort at Ole Miss. 

    Memphis has a chance to get on a big roll, and this is part of that path. 

    Prediction: Memphis 31, Houston 17

    Final: Houston 28, Memphis 24

Washington at California

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 11; 6 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Bishop Sankey ran for 241 yards and two touchdowns in Washington's 41-17 home win over California last October. 

    What to watch for

    Washington (4-1, 0-1 Pac-12) has one of the best front sevens in the country, at least as far as getting defensive pressure goes. The Huskies' trio of lineman Danny Shelton and linebackers Shaq Thompson and Hau'oli Kikaha have contributed to 20 sacks and three defensive touchdowns (all by Thompson).

    A superb effort will be needed by that group to keep California quarterback Jared Goff from putting up big numbers again, while Washington needs better production from its own quarterback slot after averaging just 162.6 passing yards per game this season. 

    California (4-1, 2-1) has been playing with fire most of the year, getting into shootouts each of the last few weeks and taking the last two after losing on a Hail Mary at Arizona three weeks ago. The Golden Bears' last three games have been 49-45 (Arizona), 59-56 (Colorado) and 60-59 (Washington State) as Goff has thrown for 1,875 yards and 22 touchdowns overall.

    They also allow 545 yards per game, making each outing an adventure.

    Washington has been able to score when it can be consistent, and Cal's defense helps breed production. Expect another shootout, with Cal coming out on top again. 

    Prediction: California 46, Washington 41

    Final: Washington 31, California 7

No. 7 Alabama at Arkansas

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 11; 6 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Alabama ran for 352 yards in a 52-0 home shutout of Arkansas last October. 

    What to watch for

    Alabama (4-1, 1-1 SEC) allowed two late touchdowns then saw Blake Sims' potential game-winning touchdown pass intercepted in the end zone in the loss at Ole Miss. The Crimson Tide's first legitimate challenge of the season exposed breakdowns on defense and saw their potent offense slow down on the bigger stage.

    "We did not play as well as what we have been playing and do what we do to continue to improve," Alabama coach Nick Saban told Andrew Gribble of

    The Tide haven't lost consecutive SEC games since 2007, in Nick Saban's first season, but after being unable to get to a mistake-prone Bo Wallace they now have to deal with a bruising run game that's well-rested after being off last week. Alabama tends to fare better against running teams, but if it keeps turning the ball over its defense is vulnerable to being worn down.

    Arkansas (3-2, 0-2) averages 316.6 rushing yards per game, seventh-best in the country. Combined, Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams have run for 14 touchdowns and average just under 7.3 yards per carry as they run behind a massive offensive line that will give Alabama's great defensive front a huge test. 

    For the first time in recent memory, it will be Alabama trying to be the one to ramp up the tempo, but it will be Arkansas' control of the clock that gives it the victory and sends the Tide spiraling into uncertainty. 

    Prediction: Arkansas 28, Alabama 24

    Final: Alabama 14, Arkansas 13

Idaho at Georgia Southern

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 11; 6 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Idaho (0-5, 0-3 Sun Belt) has given up at least 34 points every game this season, which has made the Vandals' decent passing game less impressive since it's having to throw so much from behind. Idaho has lost 12 in a row and 30 of its last 32 games. 

    Georgia Southern (4-2, 3-0) is thriving in its first season of FBS play, already winning a pair of road games in the Sun Belt and riding the momentum of the nation's top-rated rushing offense. The Eagles' option attack averages 373.5 yards per game and 7.21 yards per carry, with Matt Breida and quarterback Kevin Ellison each above 600 yards on the season. 

    The Eagles are on a roll and will continue to be against a schedule that avoids Sun Belt powers Arkansas State and Louisiana-Lafayette. 

    Prediction: Georgia Southern 47, Idaho 18

    Final: Georgia Southern 47, Idaho 24

No. 19 East Carolina at South Florida

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 11; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: South Florida beat East Carolina 24-7 in the 2006 Papa Bowl. 

    What to watch for

    East Carolina (4-1, 1-0 American) is averaging 43.6 points and 581.4 yards per game this season against a lineup that featured two ACC opponents and one from the SEC. The Pirates have beat North Carolina and Virginia Tech, lost by 10 at South Carolina and look like the best bet to represent the non-power conferences in the College Football Playoffs host bowls.

    Shane Carden, who became the school's all-time passing leader last week, has thrown for 1,879 yards and 15 touchdowns and has two go-to receivers in Justin Hardy (37 receptions, 479 yards, five touchdowns) and Isaiah Jones (38 catches, 453 yards, four TDs). 

    South Florida (2-3, 1-0) is 121st in the country in total offense with 283.4 yards per game, but the Bulls have already matched last season's win total by facing a pair of bad teams during a four-game homestand to start the year. Freshman running back Marlon Mack averages 5.4 yards per carry, but after rushing for 275 yards and four touchdowns in the opener he's had only 261 yards and one score.

    East Carolina controls its own destiny and just has to avoid playing down to its opponents. 

    Prediction: East Carolina 44, South Florida 14

    Final: East Carolina 28, South Florida 17

Florida International at UTSA

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    J Pat Carter/Associated Press

    When: Saturday, Oct. 11; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Florida International (3-3, 2-0 Conference USA) has used a ball-hawking defense to overcome a relatively anemic offense, a formula that has enabled the Golden Panthers to top 30 points three times this season. FIU has forced an FBS-best 21 turnovers, with Richard Leonard returning two interceptions for touchdowns this season. 

    UTSA (1-4, 0-1) has massively underachieved since opening with a 27-7 win at Houston, and last week the Roadrunners scored only nine points in a home loss to New Mexico. Freshman Blake Bogenschutz has taken over at quarterback, but it's UTSA's seniors who need to show the most improvement to save this season.

    Look for UTSA to start turning the corner here. If not, the year is pretty much lost. 

    Prediction: UTSA 30, Florida International 17

    Final: UTSA 16, Florida International 13

Penn State at Michigan

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 11; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Bill Belton's two-yard touchdown run in the fourth overtime gave Penn State a 43-40 win over visiting Michigan last October. 

    What to watch for

    Penn State (4-1, 1-1 Big Ten) had a week off to work on its struggling offense, which because of a shoddy line has put quarterback Christian Hackenberg in danger of being sacked on nearly every play. The Nittany Lions' run game has been nonexistent, and they're not making big stops on defense anymore. 

    Michigan (2-4, 0-2) has dropped three straight and is 0-2 in the Big Ten for the first time since 1967. The Wolverines remain listless on offense, and now there's even less to work with now that leading rusher Derrick Green is done for the year with a broken clavicle. 

    Last year's game was an offensive explosion in Happy Valley, but this one could be more of a battle of attrition with the way each team is moving the ball. Michigan will find a way amid all of the team turmoil to take this one in a wild finish.

    Prediction: Michigan 28, Penn State 24

    Final: Michigan 18, Penn State 13

LSU at Florida

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 11; 7:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: LSU used two short rushing touchdowns and lots of defense to win 17-6 at home over Florida last October. 

    What to watch for

    LSU (4-2, 0-2 SEC) is coming off its worst performance in SEC play in 15 years, a 41-7 loss at Auburn where freshman Brandon Harris failed in his first start at quarterback. The Tigers couldn't do anything on offense, and their normally strong defense gave up 566 yards, including 298 on the ground.

    LSU hasn't started 0-3 in conference play since 1999, when it went 3-8, but without much offensive consistency that kind of an early hole is very possible. 

    Florida (3-1, 2-1) has its own offensive issues to deal with, managing only 10 points last week but still rallying to win at Tennessee. The Gators' quarterback situation is a mess, with Jeff Driskel getting benched for freshman Treon Harris, who led the comeback but will be unavailable indefinitely after being suspended by the school amid allegations of sexual assault

    With all of the turmoil that each team is facing right now, losing this game could ruin the season for either. That will be the situation LSU faces after falling in the Swamp. 

    Prediction: Florida 20, LSU 14

    Final: LSU 30, Florida 27

Charleston Southern at Vanderbilt

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 11; 7:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Charleston (5-0, 0-0 Big South) is ranked 23rd in the latest FCS poll and is one of seven unbeaten schools in the Football Championship Subdivision. The Buccaneers are 0-14 all time against FBS teams, including a 43-10 loss at Colorado last season.

    Vanderbilt (1-5, 0-4 SEC) could be winless if not for Massachusetts missing a chip-shot field goal at the end of regulation on Sept. 13. Take away that game, and the Commodores have been outscored by an average of 23.8 points, as Derek Mason's first season has been a disaster. They're averaging 265.5 yards per game, which ranks 123rd in FBS.

    Vandy has only lost once to an FCS team, and the last four such clashes were won by an average of 42.3 points. This is a very losable game but will end up being a confidence-booster for the Commodores in an otherwise lost season.

    Prediction: Vanderbilt 34, Charleston Southern 23

    Final: Vanderbilt 21, Charleston Southern 20

Connecticut at Tulane

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 11; 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None 

    What to watch for

    Connecticut (1-4, 0-2 American) has only a three-point win over an FCS team to be proud of this season, otherwise it's been a lot of the same in Bob Diaco's first year. The Huskies have yet to surpass 21 points in any game and are 124th nationally in total offense at 264 yards per game. 

    Tulane (1-4, 0-1) also only has a win over an FCS team, and in its last two games it has been outscored 78-19. The Green Wave are giving up 196.6 rushing yards per game, and despite forcing 11 turnovers they've also given the ball away 13 times. 

    This is one of those winner-by-default games, and the advantage goes to Tulane for being at home. 

    Prediction: Tulane 27, Connecticut 20

    Final: Tulane 12, Connecticut 3

Old Dominion at UTEP

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 11; 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Old Dominion (3-3, 1-2 Conference USA) has fallen apart after a 3-1 start, as the Monarchs' normally strong passing game has gone away during back-to-back losses. Taylor Heinicke has 1,619 passing yards and 15 touchdowns, but he's thrown four interceptions the last two games and last time out was just 10-of-25 for 85 yards. 

    UTEP (2-3, 0-1) has allowed 113 total points in back-to-back losses, and the Miners' strong run game has disappeared. Aaron Jones has rushed for just 110 yards in the past two games after gaining 549 in the first three contests. 

    Both teams need a win to turn their seasons around, but the long trip out west will be too much for Old Dominion. UTEP ends its two-game skid. 

    Prediction: UTEP 31, Old Dominion 30

    Final: UTEP 42, Old Dominion 35

No. 3 Ole Miss at No. 14 Texas A&M

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 11; 9 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Johnny Manziel had 470 yards of total offense and ran for two touchdowns as Texas A&M got a 33-yard Josh Lambo field goal as time expired to win 41-38 at Ole Miss last October. 

    What to watch for

    Ole Miss (5-0, 2-0 SEC) must curb the joy and exultation of its big win over Alabama to focus on a very tough road game against an opponent that was humbled on the road and will be looking for redemption. The Rebels' 23-17 victory turned Oxford into a giant party last Saturday, but one win won't get the job done in the ultra-tough SEC West.

    Mississippi got a very clean, calm performance from senior quarterback Bo Wallace, who threw three touchdown passes and had only his second interception-free game of the season. With Wallace clicking and the defense hauling in interceptions (Ole Miss is third nationally with 10 picks) it has the two things that can key a win in College Station.

    Texas A&M (5-1, 2-1) was dominated by Mississippi State last week, with nothing going well after near perfection before that. Kenny Hill was intercepted three times, and the Aggies' young defense was exploited over and over again. The 5-0 start against teams that are 12-15 (with FCS Lamar's 4-2 mark the best of the lot) doesn't look as impressive anymore.

    "A&M didn't forget how to play football overnight, but its fundamental problems will remain all year long," wrote Adam Jacobi of SB Nation. "And with games against Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss and even offense-happy Mizzou remaining, it's difficult to see a path to 10 wins for the Aggies."

    Getting Ole Miss at home, and right after such an emotional win for the Rebels, might be Texas A&M's best shot to right the ship. We can't say how the rest of the season will go, but the Aggies will pull this one out and keep the SEC West muddied. 

    Prediction: Texas A&M 38, Ole Miss 34

    Final: Ole Miss 35, Texas A&M 20

Air Force at Utah State

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 11; 10:15 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Chuckie Keeton threw for 360 yards and five touchdowns in Utah State's 52-20 win at Air Force last September. 

    What to watch for

    Air Force (4-1, 1-1 Mountain West) is off to its best start since 2010, and it's doing it with an offense that's far more diverse than in the past. The Falcons are still running for 298 yards a game, which is 11th in the country, but Kale Pearson has been effective by throwing six touchdown passes to balance things out. 

    Utah State (3-2, 0-0) won at BYU for the first time in 36 years last week, blowing out the Cougars behind backup quarterback Darell Garretson. He's thrown for 589 yards and five touchdowns since replacing Keeton, and like last year (when he went 6-1 in relief of Keeton, leading the Aggies to the Mountain West title game) the team seems to thrive with him at the helm.

    Utah State will take a key Mountain Division clash.

    Prediction: Utah State 30, Air Force 24

    Final: Utah State 34, Air Force 16

Colorado State at Nevada

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 11; 10:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Kapri Bibbs ran for 312 yards and four touchdowns in Colorado State's 38-17 win over Nevada last November. 

    What to watch for

    Colorado State (4-1, 0-1 Mountain West) has won three straight, getting both heady play from senior quarterback Garrett Grayson and balanced running from Dee Hart. The Rams have allowed 21 or fewer points in four of five games this season, and despite their lone loss coming to division rival Boise State, they are strong contenders for the Mountain Division title. 

    Nevada (3-2, 1-1) lost a shootout at home to Boise State last week, losing the turnover battle as quarterback Cody Fajardo threw four interceptions, which included one pick-six. The Wolf Pack have a strong offense, and the defense has forced 11 turnovers this season, but they cannot afford to make mistakes.  

    Colorado State is playing as well as anyone in the conference right now and will take this one in the final minutes.

    Prediction: Colorado State 34, Nevada 29

    Final: Colorado State 31, Nevada 24

USC at No. 10 Arizona

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 11; 10:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: USC jumped out to a 28-3 lead and held on to beat visiting Arizona 38-31 last October in the Trojans' first game under interim head coach Ed Orgeron. 

    What to watch for

    USC (3-2, 2-1 Pac-12) was the latest Pac-12 team to lose on a Hail Mary, allowing Arizona State to complete a 46-yard touchdown pass on the final play without much of an effort to defend it. It was part of a fourth quarter full of defensive breakdowns for the Trojans, who allowed 20 points in the final 3:53 of play.

    Cody Kessler has remained nearly perfect for USC, now with 10 touchdowns and 177 attempts without an interception, while skill standouts like running back Javorius Allen and receiver Nelson Agholor have remained solid. It's USC's defense that has been the issue, as it allowed 510 passing yards to ASU and got torched for 452 rushing yards at Boston College last month.

    Arizona (5-0, 2-0) does passing and rushing well, as it showed last week in picking apart Oregon's defense en route to a shocking 31-24 road win. The Wildcats are off to their best start in 16 years and doing it mostly with underclassmen. Yet with senior running back Terris Jones-Grigsby going for 210 yards of total offense they have a two-headed rushing attack along with freshman Nick Wilson.

    The Wildcats are seventh in the country in total offense at 574 yards per game, but now as a Top 10 team for the first time since 2010 they must try to reverse a bad historical trend. Arizona is 13-8-1 all time when ranked this high, and last time it happened it lost at home to unranked Oregon State the following game. 

    Time for history to stop repeating.

    Prediction: Arizona 40, USC 30

    Final: USC 28, Arizona 26

Wyoming at Hawaii

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    When: Sunday, Oct. 12; 12 a.m. ET

    Last meeting: Brett Smith had 640 yards of total offense and accounted for all eight of Wyoming's touchdowns (seven passing, one rushing), but the Cowboys needed a 36-yard field goal from Stuart Williams in overtime to beat visiting Hawaii 59-56 in overtime last November. 

    What to watch for

    Wyoming (3-2, 1-0 Mountain West) has been blown out at Top 10 teams Michigan State and Oregon, but against more even competition the Cowboys have squeaked out wins by five, four and one point, respectively. Under first-year coach Craig Bohl this team is showing a completely different approach from Dave Christensen's squads, with defense and ball control the main focal points.

    Hawaii (1-4, 0-0) led 14-7 at Rice late in the third quarter last week before giving up three touchdowns in the final 16 minutes, including one with 12 seconds left. The Warriors' four losses are by an average of eight points, as a much-improved defense has helped keep them in games. However, an offense that gains only 336 yards per game hasn't done its part.

    Close, low-scoring games have been Wyoming's bread and butter, and the Cowboys will do it again even with the long travel involved.

    Prediction: Wyoming 23, Hawaii 21

    Final: Hawaii 38, Wyoming 28

Louisiana-Lafayette at Texas State

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    When: Tuesday, Oct. 14; 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Terrance Broadway threw for 335 yards and four touchdowns in Louisiana-Lafayette's 48-24 home win over Texas State last October. 

    What to watch for

    The first of the season's Tuesday night games pits the reigning Sun Belt champions against one of many contenders lining up to dethrone them.

    Louisiana-Lafayette (2-3, 1-0 Sun Belt) needed a 21-yard Broadway touchdown pass with 3:34 left to beat lowly Georgia State at home last week. It's been a season of disappointment so far for the Ragin' Cajuns, who are defending Sun Belt champs but have a minus-nine turnover margin that ranks tied for third-worst in FBS

    Texas State (3-2, 1-0) has won its past two games by eight points combined after losing by a touchdown at Illinois. The Bobcats got a breakout performance from senior running back Terrence Franks last week, getting 284 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries. Texas State sits 16th in rushing offense. 

    Unless ULL gets its act together, it's going to be handing off that Sun Belt crown soon enough.

    Prediction: Texas State 31, Louisiana-Lafayette 24

    Final: Louisiana-Lafayette 34, Texas State 10

    Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.