B/R Experts Answer Biggest College Football Questions for Week 7
As we approach the midpoint of the 2021 college football regular season, up is down, black is white, the second-most recent head coach to win a national championship is on the hottest seat in the country and Iowa might be really good.
What a wild ride it has already been just to make it this far.
In each of the first six weeks of this season, there have been multiple instances of an AP top-16 team losing to an unranked opponent.
The Week 7 slate looks like one in which order should finally reign supreme, but will it?
As we do every week, our college football experts—David Kenyon, Adam Kramer, Kerry Miller, Morgan Moriarty and Brad Shepard—will keep attempting to predict the unpredictable.
For Week 7, we're offering predictions on the hottest burning questions, such as:
- Will No. 11 Kentucky shock the world by knocking off No. 1 Georgia?
- Does Texas lose to an undefeated team from Oklahoma for a second successive week?
- Will any other undefeated teams take an L in Week 7?
- Does Kenneth Walker III's Heisman bandwagon pick up a few more followers?
- And will any game possibly produce more points than Ole Miss at Tennessee?
We're on the case.
No. 11 Kentucky Wildcats at No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs: Who You Got?
Kentucky is one of the coolest stories of the college football season, right up there with surprises like Iowa and Michigan State. What coach Mark Stoops has done at that woebegone program is pretty remarkable, and though his career record isn't the greatest, he's built the Wildcats into a team that can expect to have a winning record every year with an occasional real-contender season.
Unfortunately for Big Blue, it's all going to come crashing back to reality this weekend. It has very little to do with the Wildcats and everything to do with the Georgia Bulldogs. They're simply a better club, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
The Dawgs haven't skipped a beat, even as quarterback JT Daniels recovers from a lat injury. That's because virtually no one can score against them. That's not good news for a UK team that is 10th in the SEC in total offense. While signal-caller Will Levis has done a good job balancing the passing game with one of the SEC's top rushing attacks, it's just not the kind of unit that's going to score in bunches, especially against a team like UGA.
Even though Kentucky upset Florida in Lexington, the primary reasons were a blocked kick returned for a touchdown and the Gators amassing more than 100 penalty yards. That won't happen in this one.
Vegas doesn't care for Kentucky's chances, with a gaudy line of more than three touchdowns. The Wildcats may keep it slightly under that, but it's not going to be by much. Georgia is going to take care of business, 31-10.
The 23-point spread in this one tells you just about all you need to know here, but did you know there were five Week 6 games in which a double-digit underdog won outright? The big one was Texas A&M +19 against Alabama, but we also had Florida State +17.5 over North Carolina and a bunch of MAC carnage in the form of Akron +14 over Bowling Green, Northern Illinois +13 over Toledo and Ball State +12.5 over Western Michigan. Also, Marshall was a 21-point favorite against Old Dominion and was down by seven in the final minute before winning in overtime. So, you know, chaos has been afoot all season.
I just don't see it here, though.
I like Kentucky a lot this year. The Wildcats defense and rushing attack have both been considerably above-average. Given their remaining schedule after this game—Miss State, Tennessee, Vandy, New Mexico State and Louisville—I like their chances of getting to 11-1, and depending on how the bowl game goes, finishing the year in the AP top 10 for the first time since 1977.
But Kentucky is basically Georgia Lite.
Their run games are comparable, but Georgia has better receiving options and a much better defense. Kentucky has averaged just 8.3 points per game in its past four tries against Georgia, and I don't see this game going much better for Big Blue. Georgia wins, Kentucky covers, 31-10.
Does Texas Bounce Back from Red River Collapse to Knock off No. 12 OK State?
Trying to handicap emotions after massive wins and losses can be a difficult thing to do, but I'm going to try anyway.
While Texas was in control against Oklahoma for a good chunk of the game, the weight of giving that game away could linger.
Still, I like the Longhorns in this spot. Oklahoma was able to expose a Texas defense that has plenty of holes. But Oklahoma State, which might be one of the quietest undefeated teams in recent memory, simply can't score at the same pace.
The Pokes' defense, however, is excellent. I don't expect Bijan Robinson to simply run through this defensive front. Ultimately, he will find enough success to carry Texas, and I expect the offense to pick up where it left off.
I don't view this as a blowout. Oklahoma State has played in tight, close games all year, and that theme should continue. The only difference is the Longhorns pull off a win to get back on track.
As a general rule of thumb, when a good O/mediocre D team is at home against a mediocre O/good D team, I pretty much always ride with the superior offense. And that's what we've got in this game.
Granted, Spencer Sanders had the game of his life last year against Texas, throwing for 400 yards and four touchdowns. But the vast majority of that damage came courtesy of Tylan Wallace, and with all due respect to Tay Martin, the Cowboys don't have that type of dude who can just go get a deep ball when the going gets rough. In fact, Oklahoma State's only passing play of more than 36 yards this season was by running back Jaylen Warren.
Devoid of that home-run threat, Sanders isn't even averaging 200 passing yards per game, Oklahoma State is only putting up 25.8 points per contest and I don't think it'll be able to keep pace with Texas. Longhorns win 38-27.
Of the 9 Undefeateds Playing This Weekend, How Many Suffer Their First Loss?
My answer is three.
I already mentioned Kentucky dropping its first game in the previous UK-UGA prediction, which also means the Dawgs are going to keep their spotless record intact.
For the other two picks, let's go with Michigan State and Oklahoma State. While both have been unexpectedly strong thus far, their good vibrations are going to end.
Tom Allen is too good of a coach at Indiana to continue this 2-3 start, and the Hoosiers are going to turn it around this weekend by making the Spartans one-dimensional. Kenneth Walker III is a Heisman Trophy candidate and an awfully strong dimension, but something about this game feels funny. I expect one of the biggest Big Ten upsets of the year on Saturday.
Then there's Texas, trying to pick up the pieces after straight-up blowing last weekend's Red River Rivalry against Oklahoma. If I'm Steve Sarkisian, I tell my team, "Pretend those guys have on Sooners jerseys and get your payback now." This is a game of strength-on-strength and weakness-on-weakness with the Longhorns O going up against OSU's second-ranked Big 12 D, and two struggling units on the opposite side of the ball.
But the 'Horns are simply more talented, and they'll win in the end.
Well, I've already picked Kentucky to lose the 6-0 showdown with Georgia and Oklahoma State to lose at Texas, so there's two for you.
But I think that's it.
Iowa might not actually be the second-best team in the country, but it's good enough to win at home against Purdue. Cincinnati is going to maul Dillon Gabriel-less UCF. Oklahoma, per usual, will make things more interesting than it needs to, but it will win at home against TCU. I like Michigan State on the road against Indiana's anemic offense. San Diego State should run San Jose State into the ground. And UTSA—the nation's lone remaining unranked unbeaten—will cruise to victory at home against Rice.
I didn't notice this until just now, but I have each of those six teams winning by at least 14 points in my predictions for every game from earlier this week .
Which Matchup Between Unranked Teams Will Be Most Entertaining?
Most entertaining, for the record, is a much different qualifier than most important to watch. The latter is undoubtedly a split between Miami/UNC and Pitt/Virginia Tech, two results that can shape the ACC Coastal. Yeah, it's a bad division, but someone has to represent the Coastal in the ACC Championship Game. Those results will be very impactful.
In the MAC, meanwhile, there may be an entertaining, high-scoring affair in Kalamazoo.
Kent State has traveled to Texas A&M, Iowa and Maryland this season, yet the offense is still averaging 6.0 yards per snap. Versatile QB Dustin Crum leads the Golden Flashes to Western Michigan, which desperately needs a "get-right" kind of game. Since upsetting Pitt 44-41, the Broncos have managed 22.3 points per game. A Kent State defense that ranks 110th in total yards allowed per game will afford that opportunity. I'm expecting both offenses to cross the 30-point barrier in a matchup with several lead changes.
Regular readers of this piece will already know that I factor the schedule into my pick here. If it's not one of the three most noteworthy games in its window, I'm not going to pick it, because I already know I'm not going to watch much of it. And, sadly, that rules out both Pitt-VT and Miami-UNC, which kick off at the same time as Kentucky-Georgia, Iowa-Purdue and BYU-Baylor (the secret best game of the weekend).
But Air Force at Boise State with a 9 p.m. ET kickoff is looking like the second-screen game of the evening slate, and it's also looking like an upset.
Boise State did just knock off BYU, but these aren't the Broncos we've grown accustomed to watching over the past two decades. They're still certainly one of the better teams in the Mountain West, but they've allowed nearly twice as many rushing yards as they have gained this season. They almost need to dominate the turnover battle to win, sitting at plus-11 in their three wins and minus-3 in their three losses.
Enter 5-1 Air Force, which has only committed three turnovers all season and is leading the nation in rushing at 341.3 yards per game. It also ran for 415 yards and four touchdowns in this matchup last fall.
Maybe you won't be entertained if you find triple-option offense to be boring, but I think it's going to be a great game the Falcons win 31-23.
Which Game Will Feature the Most Total Points?
Is Ole Miss playing?
Yes. That one.
Who are they playing?
Seriously, though, Tennessee is yet another fun matchup for a dynamic Ole Miss offense and lackluster defense.
Although it took a couple of games and an injury, Tennessee finally made the right choice and committed to Virginia Tech transfer Hendon Hooker as the quarterback. He has always been an efficient thrower and—at 6'4" and 218 pounds—an absolute nightmare to tackle. After seeing Arkansas' K.J. Jefferson—who is still developing as a passer—throw for 326 yards on Ole Miss, I expect Hooker to have a massive day, too.
On the other hand, I'm not jumping off the Ole Miss bandwagon I've been steering for a few months. There isn't a quarterback I enjoy watching more than Matt Corral, a dual-threat QB who is averaging 350.4 passing/rushing yards per game and has totaled 20 touchdowns with zero interceptions.
I hope this one eclipses 100 points.
Ole Miss is fourth in the nation in scoring at 46.2 points per game.
Tennessee is seventh in the nation in scoring at 41.5 points per game.
Neither of those SEC teams has what you might call a "good" defense.
The over/under in this one opened at 77 and has already trickled up to 82, which is 13 points higher than any other game on the slate.
No need to overthink this, as Corral is going to pad the heck out of his Heisman resume here.
If it ends up not being Ole Miss-Tennessee, though, my back-up pick would be Western Kentucky at Old Dominion. Hilltoppers quarterback Bailey Zappe is literally averaging more than a quarter-mile of passing yards per game for a team whose games have averaged 78.8 total points. I don't imagine ODU will have enough offense to rival the SEC's scoring bonanza, though.
Will Arizona, Connecticut or UNLV Finally Put a One in the Win Column?
Apologies to Husky and Rebel fans for their continued misery, but I am going to go with the Arizona Wildcats getting a win this week.
While this one is on the road for Arizona, Colorado isn't exactly playing lights out at home. The Buffs are 1-4 on the season, with home losses to USC, Texas A&M and Minnesota.
The Wildcats have the edge over the Buffaloes in points per game (16.8), total yards (363.3) and passing yards (250.8). Arizona's defense has been giving up 31.6 points per game, but Colorado comes into this one having scored no more than 14 points against an FBS opponent all season.
I think Arizona can pull out a low-scoring, ugly affair. Yes, the Wildcats just lost starting quarterback Jordan McCloud for the year to an injury. But the Wildcats' starter at the beginning of the season, redshirt freshman Gunner Cruz, will take over. He's thrown for 454 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions in his three outings.
"I believe in Gunner," Arizona head coach Jedd Fisch said of his QB situation this week, per ESPN's Adam Rittenberg. "Gunner won the job in training camp because of the way he was able to throw the football in training camp. We have to now reverse course ... and remind him why he won the job."
There are two games on the Week 7 docket that you couldn't pay me to watch: 0-5 Arizona at 1-4 Colorado and 0-7 Connecticut at home against FCS school Yale.
But I like both of those winless teams to finally get off the schneid.
As bad as Arizona has been over the course of its 17-game losing streak, this Colorado team might be even worse. The Buffaloes have averaged an abysmal 203.8 yards and 8.5 points in their four games against FBS opponents. They have also allowed at least 30 points and well over 400 yards in each of their past three games. Meanwhile, the Wildcats put up respectable (by their standards) fights against BYU, Oregon and UCLA. And though they just lost McCloud for the year to an injury, Cruz threw for 336 yards against BYU and should be capable enough to beat Colorado.
As far as UConn-Yale goes, I'm not going to sit here and act like I've been an avid viewer of Yale games, but the Bulldogs are 2-2 and aren't even a top-three team in the Ivy League, per ESPN's Bill Connelly's SP+ ratings. Connecticut has already lost to one FCS program this season (Holy Cross), but maybe, just maybe, this one will be different.
Will There Be at Least One AP Top 10 Loss for a Fourth Consecutive Week?
As fun as that it would be to extend that streak, I don't think so.
I just don't see any game on this week's schedule that screams upset to me.
For No. 1 Georgia, the Dawgs get an undefeated and much improved Kentucky team at home, but the Wildcats don't have enough firepower to score big on Georgia's defense. No. 2 Iowa shouldn't have any issues against Purdue at home. No. 3 Cincinnati gets UCF at home, where the Bearcats are favored by three touchdowns.
While the TCU at No. 4 Oklahoma game could be interesting, I expect Caleb Williams to have a great day as the Sooners' (presumed) starter. Oh, and remember that No. 5 Alabama team that lost on the road last week? Tide head coach Nick Saban doesn't lose often, but when he does, Bama rarely loses the next week, as Saban is 9-2 the week after a loss dating back to 2008. The 2013 Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma was the last time Alabama lost two games in a row.
No. 10 Michigan State at Indiana is the only game that has some potential upset intrigue, but I trust Sparty's offense to take care of things here. MSU is averaging 36.7 points per game, while Indiana's defense allows 28 points on average. Not to mention Michigan State became just the fifth team in FBS history with a 300-yard passer, a 200-yard rusher and a 200-yard receiver in a single game last week at Rutgers.
I should probably know better than to pick both Arizona and Connecticut to win AND say that there won't be any colossal upsets this weekend, but it's me, Charlie Brown, ready to kick the football Lucy is holding.
I've already made picks for five of the seven games involving teams in the top 10 of the AP poll, picking each of Georgia, Iowa, Cincinnati, Oklahoma and Michigan State to win by double digits. Of that bunch, I'm least confident in Oklahoma, solely because the Sooners seem to only know how to play games that come right down to the wire.
The other two games—Oregon vs. California and Alabama at Mississippi State—are also going to be blowouts in the favorites' favor. Cal did hold Oregon to 17 points in each of their past two meetings, but the Ducks are better and the Golden Bears are worse than they have been in recent years. And the Crimson Tide are going to take out some serious frustration against an opponent they have held to seven points or fewer in 10 of the past 13 meetings. (Alabama won all 13.)
Over/Under 123.5 Rushing Yards for Kenneth Walker III at Indiana?
I'm being told by my bosses that a three-word answer will not suffice, so allow me to dive deeper.
If you have not enjoyed the work of Kenneth Walker III yet, a) you're late and b) now should be the time. Walker is the nation's leading rusher by a margin of 122 yards. With only six games played, that's pretty remarkable.
He has rushed for more than 200 yards twice this season, and he has eclipsed 125 yards in four of six games.
Indiana is allowing 4.12 yards per carry, which ranks 76th in the country. The schedule hasn't exactly been kind with games against Iowa, Penn State and Cincinnati, although this part of the team has struggled.
Against a player like Walker, who is now a legitimate Heisman candidate, that is suboptimal. And while I don't think he eclipses 200 yards once again, he will factor in huge with 27 carries, 145 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
My official stance on this one is: rooting for the over; expecting the under.
That rooting interest has nothing to do with how I feel about Michigan State or Indiana. I just think the world is a better place when a running back is a legitimate threat to win the Heisman, and Walker is probably going to need to do something special in this game in order to keep pace with the massive day Matt Corral is likely to have against Tennessee.
But for all the things that have gone wrong for the Hoosiers thus far this season, they've done a pretty good job of bottling up their opponents' best rushers. Iowa's Tyler Goodson is the only player to surpass 75 rushing yards against Indiana thus far, and even he only got to 99 after taking one 56 yards to the house on the fourth snap of that season opener.
Indiana also held Cincinnati's Jerome Ford to just 66 yards on 20 carries, and he is otherwise averaging 7.3 yards per carry and 112.5 yards per game this season.
While Walker has been awesome, the Spartans also have a pretty potent passing attack they can lean on if the Hoosiers decide to focus all their defensive energy on Walker.
He'll come close, though. Let's call it 110 yards and a touchdown in a relatively comfortable road win.