College Football Rankings 2018: Bleacher Report's Week 7 Top 25

Ian Wharton@NFLFilmStudyFeatured Columnist IVOctober 7, 2018

College Football Rankings 2018: Bleacher Report's Week 7 Top 25

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    It’s been an entertaining season thus far, but Week 6 really raised both the drama and the stakes to a new level. Upsets happened all over the nation all day long.

    Texas continued its growth, taking down the Oklahoma Sooners in the Red River Rivalry. Texas A&M defeated Kentucky, with the Aggies defense stifling the Wildcats' powerful running attack. And Auburn fell as the Mississippi State Bulldogs played keep-away with their ball-control offense.

    Even at the FCS level, No. 2 James Madison lost to heavy underdog Elon, 27-24. Elon headed into the game as a 39.5-point underdog, per Jason Kirk of SB Nation.

    Records were broken, too. Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald passed Tim Tebow for career rushing yards by an SEC quarterback, while FAU running back Devin Singletary passed Tebow to become the leader in touchdowns on the ground by any FBS player in the state of Florida. 

    Miami raced back after being down 20 to beat rival Florida State. Elsewhere in the ACC, the NC State Wolfpack overcame Boston College to earn a solid 5-0 record ahead of their showdown with Clemson on Oct. 19.

    Bleacher Report's panel of experts—Matt Hayes, David Kenyon, Adam Kramer, Kerry Miller, Brad Shepard and Ian Wharton—voted on the action. A first-place vote is worth 25 points, followed by 24 points for second, 23 for third, etc.

    Here is our Week 7 poll:

    1. Alabama (last week: 1)

    2. Georgia (2)

    3. Ohio State (3)

    4. Clemson (5)

    5. Notre Dame (6)

    6. West Virginia (8)

    7. Penn State (10)

    8. UCF (11)

    9. Washington (9)

    10. Texas (18)

    11. Oklahoma (4)

    12. Florida (22)

    13. LSU (7)

    14. Michigan (15)

    15. Wisconsin (16)

    16. Colorado (20)

    17. Miami (14)

    18. Kentucky (13)

    19. Oregon (17)

    20. NC State (NR)

    21. Texas A&M (21)

    22. Cincinnati (NR)

    23. Auburn (12)

    24. South Florida (NR)

    25. Iowa (NR)

    Others receiving votes: Stanford, Cal, Iowa, Mississippi State, Oklahoma State, San Diego State, Utah State

Who's Hot: Tom Herman and the Texas Longhorns

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    What a difference five games has made for the Texas Longhorns. Head coach Tom Herman drew ire after the team had another letdown performance against Maryland to start the 2018 season, but he has sparked an incredible recovery since. Herman and his Longhorns shocked the college football world after freshman kicker Cameron Dicker drilled a game-winning 40-yard field goal with just seconds remaining.

    Oklahoma still put up great statistical numbers in defeat, and its furious 21-point comeback was nearly enough to avoid the upset. But for most of the day, the Longhorns defense was able to do what few others have accomplished over the last three years: slow down Lincoln Riley's powerhouse.

    Three forced turnovers by the Longhorns were the launching point for their big third-quarter lead. The duo of sophomore quarterback Sam Ehlinger and junior receiver Lil'Jordan Humphrey were magnificent when capitalizing on opportunities, accounting for 394 yards and 143 yards, respectively. Freshman running back Keaontay Ingram also chipped in with a solid 6.6 yards per carry on the ground.

    The ripple effect will be huge and goes beyond the Big 12. Texas is officially "back" and figures to launch up the rankings. The conference's fate is in the Longhorns' hands now. Key matchups against Oklahoma State and West Virginia await them in coming weeks.

    Not many would've imagined this after the first game of the year.

Who's Not: Second-Tier Heisman Contenders

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    It wasn't a positive week for Heisman contenders not named Tua Tagovailoa or Dwayne Haskins. The Alabama and Ohio State quarterbacks combined for 789 yards and 10 passing touchdowns in their respective wins. Others were either treading water or sustaining a major blow to their campaign.

    Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray had an impressive stat line, going 19-of-26 for 304 yards and four touchdowns in addition to a 67-yard touchdown run. But his costly interception in the first quarter led to points that were the difference in this game. Murray is still in the mix, but he definitely took a step back.

    Fellow Big 12 quarterback Will Grier couldn't find his magic against Kansas, of all teams. His 332 passing yards look nice, but three interceptions through questionable decision-making limited the offense more often than not. He struggled to deliver catchable passes down the field, forcing the Mountaineers to be more of a dink-and-dunk attack. Like Murray, he's alive in the race but further behind now.

    We can safely count Stanford running back Bryce Love out after he missed another game due to injury. Unfortunately, his decision to come back for his senior season hasn't been prosperous on the field.
    Missouri quarterback Drew Lock was again inconsistent with his accuracy. Even though the second half was played in heavy rain, he's not helped himself this year, and his Heisman bid is all but over.

    A surprise entrant this year was Kentucky running back Benny Snell Jr., but Texas A&M's elite run defense effectively limited him to his worst game of the season. His third game of the year under 100 yards, and second in a row under five yards per carry, has him on the outside looking in after being so ineffective in the Wildcats' loss.

    Both UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton and Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor had decent but inconsequential days in their teams' big home victories. In order to hang with Tagovailoa and Haskins, both need even more impressive numbers than what they produced.

Fun Fact: Week 6 Is Deadly for Ranked Teams

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    Week 6 hasn't been kind to ranked teams in recent years. This season, LSU, Oklahoma, Auburn, Kentucky, Michigan State and Oklahoma State all lost to underdogs. There's something about October nights that brings out the best in opponents.

    Then-No. 3 Oklahoma also fell in Week 6 in 2017, as did No. 7 Michigan. Oklahoma's stunning 38-31 loss to Iowa State highlighted limitations the Sooners also showed against Georgia in the College Football Playoff. Michigan's 14-10 loss to Michigan State set it on a path that included three straight losses to end the season.

    2012 was more unforgiving. No. 3 Florida State lost to unranked NC State, No. 4 LSU lost to No. 10 Florida, No. 5 Georgia lost to No. 6 South Carolina, and No. 15 TCU lost to Iowa State.

    But 2014's Week 6 will haunt contenders forever. Five of the Top Eight teams were wiped out, opening the door for Ohio State to re-enter the playoff mix. No. 2 Oregon lost to unranked Arizona, No. 3 Alabama lost to Ole Miss, No. 4 Oklahoma dropped a close game to No. 25 TCU, No. 6 Texas A&M was smoked by No. 12 Mississippi State, and No. 8 UCLA lost by two to Utah.

    LSU, Oklahoma and Kentucky succumbed to their obvious flaws this year. Neither LSU nor Kentucky could scrounge together enough offense to fight off Florida and Texas A&M, respectively. Oklahoma couldn't get meaningful stops or turnovers, leading to its loss to Texas.

    Auburn hasn't had a good offense since its second-half collapse against LSU, and that reared its ugly head against a stout Mississippi State defense. If Jarrett Stidham had developed one bit since stepping on campus, this would be an elite iteration of the Tigers.

What to Watch For: Marquee Matchups

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Georgia at LSU (3:30 p.m. ET)

    This one lost some of its luster after LSU dropped its road game against Florida. But that doesn't change the importance of this matchup for either team. Georgia has College Football Playoff aspirations, and LSU isn't out of the race if it can rebound with a win.

    Georgia will hold the advantage due to its offensive upside and consistency compared to LSU. Considering the Bulldogs have a defense as talented as Florida's, Tigers quarterback Joe Burrow is going to need a career game out of his surrounding cast to win. It's not out of the question, but they must be crisper with execution to win.


    Washington at Oregon (3:30 p.m. ET)

    The Pac-12 has a midday showdown in Eugene with Washington and Oregon facing off. The Huskies have taken care of business against the bottom-feeders on their schedule, but they haven't proven themselves against a top-tier opponent yet.

    Oregon will be one of their toughest tests this year. Ducks signal-caller Justin Herbert is lethal when he's left clean in the pocket, so pressuring him can derail their high-powered offense, which could decide this game.


    Michigan State at Penn State (3:30 p.m. ET)

    After dropping a game against Northwestern and looking generally unprepared, the Michigan State Spartans haven't fulfilled expectations. Mark Dantonio's crew looked much better on paper prior to the season, but the passing game has been abysmal, as the offensive line and receivers have often failed quarterback Brian Lewerke. Even so, Penn State cannot overlook the Spartans.

    The Nittany Lions showed they're one of the stronger teams in the country against Ohio State. They've taken time to warm up in most games, and that could be costly if they start slow again. A rebound win is needed.


    Wisconsin at Michigan (7:30 p.m. ET)

    Two teams viewed as potential College Football Playoff contestants before the season, this evening game is a must-watch. Michigan has recovered well after losing to Notre Dame to start the season and it appears the offense is taking strides in the right direction. The Wolverines must win to keep up with Ohio State.

    Meanwhile, Wisconsin has what it takes to still win the conference. The Badgers' trench toughness matches the Wolverines', but they need to find the playmaking to create easier scoring opportunities. That means Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook must complete the few critical throws he'll be asked to make, and the defense needs to confuse Michigan QB Shea Patterson into turnovers.


    Colorado at USC (10:30 p.m. ET)

    Prior to their Week 6 win against Arizona State, the Colorado Buffaloes' opponents had just two combined wins. It was fair to be skeptical of the quality of their 4-0 record, but beating Arizona State was a good start in proving their talent.

    The spotlight on Colorado quarterback Steven Montez and receiver Laviska Shenault will be brighter than ever when they travel to USC. The Trojans are maddeningly inconsistent, which is to be expected considering their youth, but it's bad for these bigger games. If the Buffaloes win, the Heisman hype for Montez will significantly increase, as will the team's presence in the national media.