College Football Preview; Week 7

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From Last Word on College Football, Tony Siracusa

Raising a teenager can remind you of your youth, especially as you see them on weekends when getting out of bed at 1pm becomes their chosen path. They roll out into the family room, eyes half-closed as if they really aren’t awake yet and wonder what it is they missed in the morning hours when we “regular” people were already awake for hours. That is a little like what Week 7 of the college football season is like. There is no long list of marquee games that previous weeks have had, so you might feel like it is okay to join the rest of the “family” later in the day. But like my teenage daughter, if you snooze you will lose and get up wondering what happened earlier. There is enough good college football spread out throughout the day that you need rise and shine and be ready in due time. Consider this your Week 7 alarm clock:

North Carolina State (4-1, 1-0) @ Clemson (6-0, 3-0); 12noon EDT, ABC

The early game in the East is the really early game in the West, so no oversleeping here please, regardless of how you spent your Friday night. The Wolfpack had a Hurricane Matthew game last weekend, beating Notre Dame 10-3 in a slog fest. It wasn’t pretty but at this point in the season a win is a win. Running back Matt Dayes ran for 126 yards against the Irish, and while that may not seem like much, considering the field looked like one big Slip and Slide, it was pretty good. Quarterback Ryan Finley has yet to throw an interception this season, and the offensive balance is going to be key to staying in the game. Clemson’s offense had only one play over 40 yards all season until last week’s 56-10 beat down of Boston College, and quarterback Deshaun Watson now has nine touchdown passes in the last two games. These two teams put up 97 points in last season’s match-up, so have your coffee ready when you get up.

Alabama (6-0, 3-0) @ Tennessee (5-1, 2-1); 3:30pm EDT, CBS

Now that you have gotten your morning adrenaline, settle in for the SEC’s highlight game of the day. Tennessee is licking its orange-colored wounds after they finally got behind one too many times and lost at Texas A&M last weekend. Running back Jalen Hurd is said to be a possible return this week for the Vols after missing last week with concussion symptoms. Quarterback Joshua Dobbs could use the help as Tennessee’s offense needs more weapons. They had six turnovers in the loss last weekend, and Dobbs has now thrown at least one interception in every game this season. The Vols are going to need all weapons awake and alert against the Tide defense. Bama did give up 421 yards to passing to Chad Kelly and 400 yards passing to Austin Allen, so it is doable. Of course Alabama also won both games, despite giving up the big yards, so there is that. They are getting a lot more of a running game than they expected with Damien Harris and Joshua Jacobs each averaging more than eight yards per carry.

North Carolina (4-2, 2-1) @ Miami (4-1, 1-1); 3:30pm EDT, ABC

In the West, it will be midday and there will be just rising sports fans (daughter), still asking what happened earlier. However, in the East, it is late afternoon and you should be able to handle the remote flipping back and forth between games at the same time. The Tar Heels did not fare as well playing football in a massive storm as their Tobacco Road counterparts last week, getting hammered at home by Virginia Tech. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who had been nothing short of great all season wound up with just 58 yards last week with two interceptions. Running back Elijah Hood is expected back after missing last week with an injury. His stats are not going to jolt you awake, but the Tar Heels need another offensive weapon. Miami was poised for a season-setting win against Florida State last weekend, but a blocked PAT gave FSU the win. Head coach Mark Richt is also having to deal with quarterback Brad Kaaya being limited in practice with shoulder issues stemming from the Florida State game. Then there was Kaaya’s dental appointment also to take care of the tooth he lost from a targeting hit to his head. Kaaya has only 1,149 yards passing and no Miami running back has even 500 yards rushing so far this season. But this is a program that has made a quicker than expected turnaround under Richt and to add to the glitz, they will be honoring the BCS championship team during the game.

Nebraska (5-0, 2-0) @ Indiana (3-2, 1-1); 3:30pm EDT, ABC

Speaking of sleep, just as I am not giving up on someday getting more than three-and-a-half hours per night, I am also not giving up on Indiana this season. The Hoosiers stayed with Ohio State for nearly three-and-a-quarters last week before the Buckeyes offense became too overwhelming. Nothing to hang your head about. Everyone has trouble with the Ohio State offense. Indiana running back Devine Redding is going to have to step up. He has been over 100 yards rushing in their three wins and under that in their two loses. Quarterback Richard Lagow had his worst game at the worst time, against Ohio State, but he is throwing at a 60% completion rate with 1,460 yards. Nebraska is coming off a bye week that the Huskers needed in order to deal with some nagging injuries to some starters. This will be their toughest game yet this season. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong has been the key, even with only nine touchdown passes. His ability to take off running is keeping the offense from bogging down at times. Here is an eye opening stat for you. This is the first time these two have played since Nebraska joined the Big 10 in 2011. Commissioner Delaney, please fix your staggered schedule.

Ohio State (5-0, 2-0), @ Wisconsin (4-1, 1-1); 8pm EDT,  ABC

You have done a good job staying alert, making it through the slate of games all day without needing a nap, and now your reward is the game of the day in prime time. The Badgers are a seven point loss to Michigan away from undefeated, and they got a bye week after that game to regroup. Wisconsin’s quarterback play has been up and down this season with freshman quarterback Alex Hornibrook throwing for only 88 yards against Michigan. To beat the team with a defense that is top 10 in the country in most major categories, Wisconsin is going to need running back Corey Clement to show up. He is averaging just under four yards per carry and has crossed the 100 yard threshold only once this season. Ohio State seems to have no problems on offense, averaging 53.2 points per game, but, Heisman candidate quarterback J.T. Barrett completed only 43% of his passes for 93 yards last week against Indiana. Now he will face a defense, led by T.J. Watt, that is fourth in the nation in total points allowed. The Buckeyes will also need their running game, (Mike Weber is averaging 113 yards per game), to be able to beat Wisconsin.

Reward yourself when this game is over. Go sleep in on Sunday. Those chores will wait. Mine always do.

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