While little has been decided through the first six weeks of the college football season, the upcoming slate of games could go a long way toward providing clarity in the conference and BCS races. Week 7 contains several matchups that could influence the conference championship games in the Big 12, Big Ten, SEC, and Pac-12.
*AP Top 25 rankings for Week of Oct. 6
Texas (3-2) vs No. 12 Oklahoma (5-0) | Cotton Bowl, Oct. 12
Regardless of the records or rankings of the teams involved, the Red River Rivalry is always one of the must-see games of the season, and this year is no exception. In each of the last two meetings, the teams have combined for over 70 points, and with both squads averaging over 30 points per game in 2013, a shootout could once again be in store at the Cotton Bowl.
After a shaky two-game stretch in which the defense gave up 84 total points, Texas seems to have found its footing, entering the game with momentum after posting a pair of impressive victories over Big 12 opponents in its last two games. Oklahoma, on the other hand, has been dominant all season long, emerging as a BCS National Championship contender with wins over Notre Dame and TCU in its previous two contests.
No. 18 Michigan (5-0) vs Penn State (3-2) | Beaver Stadium, Oct. 12
Michigan will hit the road for just the second time this season in this Big Ten battle in Happy Valley. The Wolverines have had some close calls this season—their games against Notre Dame, Akron, and UConn all went down to the wire—but have ultimately come out unscathed, making them one of only two undefeated teams in the conference along with Ohio State.
After dropping its Big Ten opener at Indiana, Penn State will be eager to get on the board in conference play, and head coach Bill O’Brien will likely have his team ready to go for its first home game in three weeks. Michigan’s pass defense will be tested by Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg, who has led PSU in his freshman year with nearly 1,400 yards and eight touchdowns.
No. 10 LSU (5-1) vs No. 10 Florida (4-1) | LSU Tiger Stadium, Oct. 12
Traditionally known for their defenses, these two teams have shown the ability to put up points on a much more consistent basis in 2013—the Gators have scored 24 or more points in each of their three SEC games, while the Tigers have scored 35 or more points in theirs. Florida’s defense still remains one of the best in the country, allowing a paltry 12.2 points per game, but will be up against one of the nation’s premier passers in Zach Mettenberger.
The LSU QB has had a breakout senior campaign under new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, compiling 1,738 yards and 15 touchdowns through the air. The Tigers also boast one of the top runners in the country, as Jeremy Hill has averaged 7.5 yards per carry this season while finding the end zone nine times. Depending on how the rest of the season plays out, this showdown in Death Valley could very well be a preview of the SEC title game.
No. 9 Texas A&M (4-1) vs Ole Miss (3-2) | Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Oct. 12
It’s always appointment viewing when Johnny Manziel steps on the football field, but even more so when it’s against top-level SEC competition. Manziel has put up monster numbers (1,489 yard, 14 touchdowns) once again in his sophomore season en route to guiding the Aggies to a 4-1 record, and his chances to win the Heisman once again would be greatly improved with a big road win in Oxford.
After starting the season with a very challenging schedule full of road contests, Ole Miss will be looking to defend its home turf in order to get back into the thick of the SEC West race. This will be the first home game for the Rebels in over a month, and the crowd at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium will undoubtedly do its best to give the team an edge over the highly ranked Aggies.
No. 2 Oregon (5-0) vs No. 16 Washington (4-1) | Husky Stadium, Oct. 12
The Oregon Ducks have been nearly impossible to stop in the early going, scoring at least 55 points in each of their first five games en route to posting an undefeated record. While Oregon’s schedule has not been easy—four of their five blowout wins came over FBS-level competition—the Ducks have certainly not yet faced a team of Washington’s caliber.
The Huskies—whose lone loss on the season came in a narrow road defeat at the hands of the highly ranked Stanford Cardinal—are allowing only 14.8 points per game this season, good for 11th in the NCAA. Additionally, Washington has a top-15 rushing offense, racking up nearly 260 yards per game on the ground. With the combination of a ball-control offense and stifling defense, Washington may just have what it takes to keep Marcus Mariota and the high-powered Oregon offense off the field.
Wisconsin (3-2) vs No. 19 Northwestern (4-1) | Camp Randall Stadium, Oct. 12
The Wildcats will have no time to dwell on their hard-fought loss to Ohio State last week, as they must hit the road to take on another of the Big Ten’s top contenders in Wisconsin. If Northwestern is going to come away with a win at Camp Randall Stadium, it will likely need a big-time game from Kain Colter, whose do-it-all performance against the Buckeyes included a rushing and receiving touchdown to go along with 98 yards passing and zero incompletions.
As usual, Wisconsin’s game plan will likely include a healthy dose of rushes. After struggling to stop Ohio State on the ground—the Buckeyes rushed for 192 yards on 43 carries—Northwestern will take its shot at slowing down the Badgers’ vaunted rushing attack, which has averaged over 300 yards per game thus far.