Bleacher Report Expert Predictions for Week 7 in College Football
If you thought Week 6 of the 2018 college football season was wild, buckle up, because Week 7 has been a roller-coaster ride for more than a decade.
At least two teams ranked in the AP Top 10 have suffered a loss in Week 7 in each of the last six seasons, and the last time zero or one team in the Top 12 lost this week was way back in 2006.
Granted, part of that is because we're now into the meat of conference play, so it's more common to find ranked teams facing one another. But that wasn't the case one year ago when No. 2 Clemson, No. 5 Washington, No. 8 Washington State and No. 10 Auburn all lost to unranked opponents on the same weekend.
Could a similar barrage of chaos be headed our way this year?
Our college football experts—Matt Hayes, David Kenyon, Adam Kramer, Kerry Miller, Brad Shepard and Ian Wharton—conducted another meeting of the minds to forecast some of the stats and outcomes for this weekend, including:
- Will Georgia or LSU win the colossal SEC clash?
- How about Wisconsin or Michigan in the Big Ten showdown?
- What is Tua Tagovailoa going to do to Missouri's secondary?
- And could Georgia Tech rush for eight touchdowns for the third consecutive week?
The experts are on the case to let you know.
Can No. 13 LSU Bounce Back from Its First Loss to Knock off No. 2 Georgia?
Matt Hayes (Twitter: @MattHayesCFB)
The one thing that stood out to me in the LSU-Florida game was LSU's inability to cover the Florida receivers. The Gators had guys running free for most of the game but just couldn't get them the ball—either because of poor throws/reads by Feleipe Franks or poor pass protection. If UGA QB Jake Fromm gets protection, the Bulldogs passing game will be surgically dominant and hand LSU another loss.
David Kenyon (Twitter: @Kenyon19_BR)
LSU's defense is excellent. Strictly because of that, I won't count out the Tigers against any program. But when the opponent has a similarly strong unit on that side of the ball, it will be LSU's undoing. No power-conference defense has allowed fewer yards per pass attempt than Georgia, and it would be shocking if LSU runs the ball consistently. Give me the Dawgs.
Adam Kramer (Twitter: @KegsnEggs)
I believe LSU could win, in part because this will be one of the best environments we get all year long—or at least until LSU welcomes Alabama a few weeks from now.
My concern with the Tigers for this game is with the offense. Joe Burrow hasn't been bad, although that 53.9 completion percentage is not a number you feel comfortable with heading into Georgia. They have to run the ball, something they've done quite well, and really make this game ugly.
They did this last week, of course, and they nearly won. I think we'll get a similar looking game, and it wouldn't shock me if Georgia started slow. But I also feel like the outcome could be similar to last week: close, defensively-charged and a hard-fought Georgia win. But LSU feels very live here.
Kerry Miller (Twitter: @kerrancejames)
There are only three certainties in this life: Death, taxes and Kerry Miller incorrectly predicting the outcome of LSU games. In Weeks 1, 3 and 5, I had the Tigers losing to Miami, Auburn and Ole Miss, respectively. I finally bought stock in Week 6, and they promptly lost to Florida. So fans in the bayou should be ecstatic to hear that I'm picking Georgia to win on the road. The Bulldogs haven't been quite as dominant as expected, but they are too complete—especially on defense—to bet against this week.
Brad Shepard (Twitter: @Brad_Shepard)
No. LSU has too many limitations offensively, and that O-line is a problem. Georgia will bait quarterback Joe Burrow into mistakes, and the Tigers will lose again.
Ian Wharton (Twitter: @NFLFilmStudy)
Can they? Yes. Will they? No. The Tigers' biggest issue has been supporting quarterback Joe Burrow with quality offensive line play and receivers finishing at the catch point. The Bulldogs have already shown against South Carolina that an average offense won't be enough to beat them. It's going to take more than what LSU can throw at the Dawgs for them to lose.
Will No. 15 Wisconsin or No. 12 Michigan Remain Undefeated in Big Ten Play?
Wisconsin is the better team; Michigan has the better quarterback. No matter how you analyze Wisconsin, the Badgers win and lose big games behind QB Alex Hornibrook. He played well two weeks ago at Iowa, and the Badgers avoided a slow start, finished strong and looked elite. But that's the same quarterback who struggled in mid-September against an average BYU team. Meanwhile, QB Shea Patterson finally looks comfortable in the Michigan offense, and the Wolverines defense has been stout. All things being equal, I'll take Patterson over Hornibrook.
This is a prove-it game for Patterson. Michigan's passing game has started to show legitimate promise over the last few weeks, and Wisconsin's secondary is dealing with a few injuries. I can't trust the Wolverines to run the ball effectively, but their defense will give Patterson every opportunity to show his value. He will lead them to victory.
Wisconsin's defense is a far cry from what we've come to expect from this program. Three consecutive opponents—BYU, Iowa and Nebraska—averaged more yards per play against Wisconsin than they did against any other team thus far this season. And against a Michigan defense that leads the nation in both yards allowed per play and per game, the Badgers won't have the luxury of relying upon Jonathan Taylor to carry them to victory. Not only does Michigan win this home game, but it's going to get ugly. I'm talking "Wolverines win by three touchdowns and everyone suddenly remembers that they're a playoff contender and the biggest threat to Ohio State" ugly.
Just when you think Michigan is ready to grab the bull by the horns, the Wolverines have made a habit of laying colossal eggs under Jim Harbaugh. Not this time, though. It's scary picking Patterson in a big game, but Big Blue's D gets the job done.
I'll take Michigan. Outside of a bad first half against Northwestern, Michigan has looked like the championship-caliber team most expected. Wisconsin's Taylor has a big chance to gain traction in the Heisman race. But I have more trust in Patterson's growth than I have in the benign Badgers passing game.
Does No. 7 Washington Remain in CFP Hunt with a Road Win over No. 17 Oregon?
No. Let's take a look at the Washington resume: lost to Auburn in the season opener and hasn't really looked all that impressive since. Tight wins over Arizona State and winless UCLA have only underscored an odd first half of the season. And now, the Huskies find themselves in the toughest environment in the Pac-12 against a team that can score from anywhere on the field. Washington QB Jake Browning hasn't been the same since a humiliating loss to Alabama in the 2016 CFP semifinals and could use a big game in a big environment to get him out of a year-and-a-half-long funk. But he won't get it.
As long as the Huskies contain Dillon Mitchell, that answer is a resounding yes. Oregon didn't need to lean on him during nonconference play, but he has shredded two Pac-12 opponents for 21 catches, 344 yards and a touchdown. However, the Ducks are relatively thin on pass-catching weapons beyond Mitchell. Control him, and UW wins.
That Week 1 game featuring Auburn and Washington feels like it was played eight months ago. Auburn has obviously had its struggles, and Washington, while unbeaten since, hasn't exactly set the football world on fire. That brings us to this week, which feels like a moment.
By no means is Oregon a perfect team, but Justin Herbert is a problem at quarterback, especially with one of the best home-field advantages in the country. This game will be close—similar to the game Oregon and Stanford played three weeks ago, a game the Ducks should have won—although the result this time around will be different. Oregon 37, Washington 31.
Don't pay any mind to Washington's close call against UCLA this past weekend. The winless Bruins were in desperation mode, it was a road game for the Huskies and it immediately preceded a four-game gauntlet (at Oregon, Colorado, at California, Stanford) for UW. It had all the trappings of a trap game, but Myles Gaskin and Co. survived. They'll do the same this week, eking out a close win over Oregon. Ducks QB Justin Herbert will make things interesting, but Washington's secondary will do just enough for a repeat of last week's score against UCLA: 31-24.
I was not a big believer in Washington a few weeks ago, but the Huskies appear to have turned a corner. The defense always has been stout, but Browning looks better than he has in a couple of years. He's the difference in a Washington win.
Yes. I don't trust Oregon and won't until it finally proves it can exorcise its demons in must-win games. Herbert is lethal when he's kept clean, and the Ducks certainly have the talent to win. But Washington is athletic across the defensive front and will get to Herbert often. If he's even slightly off in his performance, Washington will pull away with a win.
What Will Tua Tagovailoa's Box Score Look Like Against Missouri?
Whatever Nick Saban (and offensive coordinator Mike Locksley) want it to be. Seriously, what is the Missouri defense, torched by a senior backup quarterback last week versus South Carolina, going to do to stop Tua Tagovailoa? It's not just that Missouri has no pass rush, which is a big enough problem by itself. But when you can't cover in the secondary—and can't get a push up front to help out the secondary—you've got significant problems against an Alabama passing game that is playing better than anyone in the country.
Magic. Poetry in motion. Excellence. You know, all that good stuff. Missouri ranks 109th nationally in yards allowed per pass attempt at 8.3, and Tagovailoa is leading the FBS with a legendary average of 14.8. Missouri can actually put up some points, so Tagovailoa will throw his first fourth-quarter pass of the season and finish the game 21-of-31 with 315 yards and four touchdowns.
Can we answer this with a GIF? Because if we could—and I want to throw this in the suggestion box—I would probably use one of those black-and-white atomic bomb explosions as my answer.
I will actually be at this game, and I cannot wait to see this football destruction in person. What makes this question even more intriguing is that Missouri—despite last week's soggy debacle—should be able to score some points against an Alabama defense that looks semi-human. If that is the case, Tagovailoa might actually have to (gasp) throw a pass in the fourth quarter. My final prediction: 19-of-25, 365 yards and five touchdowns. I'll report back on how it goes.
Missouri has allowed exactly three passing touchdowns in each of its last three games, giving up at least 37 points in each of those contests. And with all due respect to Jake Fromm, the Tigers haven't faced an elite QB yet this season. Heck, in last week's loss to South Carolina, they couldn't stop Michael Scarnecchia—a fifth-year senior who entered the game with 13 pass attempts in his career.
Tagovailoa is going to destroy this secondary. And with Missouri QB Drew Lock likely to at least put up somewhat of a fight against Alabama's defense, we may finally get to see the Heisman favorite play more than just the first three quarters. Tua the Terrific will more or less match what he did against Texas A&M, throwing for just under 400 yards with five combined touchdowns.
Oh man. Mizzou's secondary is bad. Really, really bad. Tagovailoa continues to roll and still has no picks. I'm going with 21-of-26 for 344 yards and four touchdowns before being relieved. The Tigers won't be able to hang.
Missouri's passing game has massively faltered in recent weeks, as Drew Lock has been exposed when pressured. Alabama will get to Lock plenty, reducing how often Tagovailoa will have to throw. Still, he'll have a ridiculous line: 18-of-25, 312 yards, 4 TD, 1 INT.
Of the 5 Undefeated Teams Playing on the Road, How Many Suffer a Loss?
One—but two other games will be huge obstacles for unbeatens. I expect USC, after a week off, to play well at home against Colorado, get a few turnovers and knock the Buffs from the unbeaten.
Memphis knows UCF's personnel and could give the Knights problems early. But at some point, UCF QB McKenzie Milton will be too much for the Tigers to overcome. Elsewhere, we have Iowa State freshman QB Brock Purdy—who played a near-perfect game (402 total yards, 5 TD) in last week's win at Oklahoma State—getting his first home start against West Virginia. But the Mountaineers are the better team, and QB Will Grier will be zeroed in after throwing three interceptions last week.
One. Colorado will be in trouble if USC manages to limit Laviska Shenault Jr. and does not allow the Buffs to fall back on their running game. I'm also keeping a close eye on West Virginia at Iowa State. Will Grier is prone to a few bad decisions every game, and the Cyclones can flip the game if they snatch a takeaway in scoring position and prevent a WVU score with another pick.
Every single one feels like it could go either way, which speaks volumes to the lovely slate of games we have here. There will be two losses. USC seems primed to take down unbeaten Colorado—especially when you consider that the Trojans are sizable favorites. I love what the Buffs have accomplished, but they have done it against a weaker schedule. USC has been hit-or-miss, but this feels like a good spot to take down a ranked team.
The more interesting upset will come when Memphis takes down UCF. It feels like the Knights haven't lost a game in the last five years, but this is a tricky road opponent that features one of the nation's most explosive players. Seriously, Darrell Henderson is basically getting a first down every time he touches the football. That will be a problem.
Depending on which predictive models you prefer, there's about a 6 percent chance that all five of these teams win. That's the outcome I'm projecting, though. South Florida will likely be the only one that wins in blowout fashion. Colorado and USC may well be decided by a last-second field goal. But these undefeateds live to see another day.
Just Colorado at USC. The Buffaloes finally got a bit of a head-turning win over an upstart Arizona State. But I don't see JT Daniels going through his first season without an upset win. The Trojans are going to find some things that work, and they will slow down Steven Montez and Shenault enough to win a close one.
None. That's not a fun answer, but it's hard to trust the young USC roster, even though it is more physically gifted than Colorado. The Buffaloes are experienced and a legitimate top-four team in the Pac-12. They'll respond well to their biggest test of the season. West Virginia is at risk, too, against Iowa State. Will Grier forced too many throws last week, but that was uncharacteristic. He'll bounce back and lead the Mountaineers to a road win.
No UConn or Oregon State to Pick on This Week; What's the Highest Scoring Game?
I'm going a little off the board here to an unexpected place: Ole Miss at Arkansas. The Rebels have put up huge numbers against everyone not named Alabama and LSU, and Arkansas showed last week that it could score on Alabama's backups. It's a home game for the Hogs, and it's a night game in Little Rock, where things tend to get funky quickly. This one feels like at least 80 combined points.
UCF and Memphis combined for 117 points in last season's AAC Championship Game, more than doubling the 53 from their lopsided regular-season matchup. This game will follow the championship clash and approach 100 points. Memphis allowed 35-plus points to South Alabama and Tulane, so UCF should hit 50. But Memphis will hang around into the fourth quarter, too.
I would've laughed at myself for saying this a year ago, but it could very well come from Missouri at Alabama. It depends on how Nick Saban's defense responds, because the Alabama offense could probably post 65 if it needs to. (Note: It probably won't need to.) But if it does, look out.
I'll go with UCF at Memphis, though. McKenzie Milton is going to produce points for UCF against a Memphis defense that has been "meh" at best. But the Tigers should also get theirs behind the legs of Darrell Henderson. The end result could be a good ol'-fashioned basketball score.
It has to be UCF at Memphis, right? We probably won't get a repeat of last year's 62-55 thriller in the AAC Championship Game. Still, it's hard to imagine either team failing to reach 30 points in this one. UCF generally has the better defense of these two squads, but the Knights did give up 320 yards and four touchdowns on the ground against Florida Atlantic. That bodes well for a Henderson-led Memphis running game that averages 7.7 yards per carry. UCF prevails in the end, but 12 combined touchdowns might be a conservative estimate here.
The Memphis at UCF game has a recent history of high-scoring shootouts, and that should continue here. The Knights score a lot, and Mike Norvell's team can't stop anybody. That isn't a great combination for fans of low-scoring affairs. UCF wins by a near-triple-digit score of something like 58-41.
Troy at Liberty. Both teams are offensively gifted because of solid quarterback play and great schematic building. Troy head coach Neal Brown looks primed to get a Power Five job next year. Meanwhile, make sure you catch Liberty quarterback Stephen "Buckshot" Calvert. He's a big-armed playmaker who can hit any throw.
What Will Georgia Tech's Rushing Line Be Against Duke?
Not nearly as impressive as it was against Louisville for two reasons: Duke is disciplined on defense, and the Duke offense can score points with a methodical approach to keep the Yellow Jackets off the field. You're not going to see three-and-outs from the Duke offense, putting its tired defense in bad situations. It just won't happen. That's part of the game plan against Georgia Tech. Three-and-outs are as bad as turnovers against the Yellow Jackets, especially if GT has just finished a double-digit-play scoring drive.
Even though Duke has enjoyed recent success in the series, Georgia Tech has still consistently put together a commendable day on the ground against the Blue Devils. The Yellow Jackets should eclipse the 300-yard mark in a high-scoring game. While I'm an enormous fan of nine pass attempts over the last two weekends, they'll need to throw the ball more often Saturday.
Let me first say that salty Paul Johnson is the best Paul Johnson. That was what we saw last week as Georgia Tech unloaded on Louisville—specifically defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder. Don't cross this man, is the point. Although, this is a different week, a different coach and a different challenge.
Duke has actually been formidable against the run, allowing only 3.3 yards per carry this season. Last year, the Blue Devils allowed 277 rushing yards against the Yellow Jackets in a 23-point Duke win.
That total increases notably this week. Georgia Tech suddenly looks like a force, although it will fall short of its current, ridiculous two-game pace. Final tally: 375 rushing yards and four touchdowns in a thrilling win.
Georgia Tech leads the nation in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns by a laughable margin, but this week could be a bit of a speed bump for the Yellow Jackets.
Duke's defense is a hell of a lot better than the Bowling Green and Louisville front sevens GT has obliterated in recent weeks. And the Blue Devils have already shown they can hold their own against the triple option, limiting Army to 168 yards and one touchdown in the season opener. (The Black Knights have averaged 343 yards and 3.8 touchdowns since.) Georgia Tech rushes 51 times for 249 yards and two touchdowns in a losing effort.
Duke will shake things up a little. TaQuon Marshall is a running force for the Bees under center, and they've been running Paul Johnson's offense to perfection. But the Devils will keep them a little under their recent average. Let's say 338 yards and four touchdowns.
Duke has one of the better run defenses in the country, and the Blue Devils are well-versed in preparing for Georgia Tech's attack. They're going to slow the Yellow Jackets to 300 yards and three touchdowns. That's still a great day but not quite as dominant as the last two weeks.
Over/Under 1.5 Total Touchdowns for Colorado's Laviska Shenault Jr.?
Under. USC is underrated defensively, and the Trojans have had two weeks to figure out a way to prevent Shenault from doing too much damage. They'll bracket him with a safety and try to pressure QB Steven Montez into quick throws. USC wants to keep everything in front of the defense and prevent big plays, forcing CU into extended drives instead of giving up damaging chunk gains.
Under, though he catches one. Shenault's target share is ridiculous, and USC's secondary is by no means spectacular. However, the Trojans will dare Colorado to have anyone other than Shenault beat them—especially inside the 30-yard line—and I'm not convinced that's going to happen.
Can we please talk about how awesome this kid is first?
I know we are all aboard the Tua Tagovailoa-for-everything bandwagon, but Shenault has been the second-best player in college football this season. It's not just the numbers—he has those—but the impact he has on every game he plays in. He's a deep threat, a short-yardage threat, a slant threat and essentially an everything threat. Shenault has been Colorado's engine, and that theme will continue, even though his team will lose this game.
Let's go over on the touchdown total—one rushing and one receiving. Let's also throw in nine catches for 144 yards for good measure.
USC has allowed multiple receiving touchdowns in four of five games this year. That even includes the season opener against UNLV, which might have the worst passing attack in the entire country. Meanwhile, Shenault has more receiving touchdowns (six) than the rest of Colorado's roster combined (five) and has even rushed for four touchdowns. Add it all up, and I've got to go with the over here. The following week against Washington will be a different story, but Shenault finds the end zone at least twice against the Trojans.
USC will key on him, and the big athletes will rustle things for him. He will still get in the end zone but only once.
Under. Shenault will draw the Trojans' full attention, and they have the defensive speed to at least deter targets. But Shenault is a fantastic playmaker who has helped change the team's outlook with his size and finishing ability at the catch point.