The college football landscape looks a little different after several surprises unfolded last weekend.
Three teams went down in the Top 10 (Florida State, LSU and Georgia), while West Virginia, South Carolina and Florida continued to climb closer to the top, rounding out the Top 5 behind the Quack Attack and the Crimson Tide.
Week 7 features yet another clash of Top 10 teams in the SEC, as well as a non-conference battle between Top 15 teams at South Bend and the classic Red River Rivalry game in the Big 12, along with seven other marquee matchups around the country that make my list of the Top 10 Games of the Week (all times eastern).
Last Week: 8-2 (38-22)
No. 15 USC (4-1) at Washington (3-2) – 7:00 p.m.
Matt Barkley and company still have an opportunity to get back into the national title discussion despite their Week 3 loss to Stanford with potentially tough tests at Washington (10/13), at Arizona (10/27), vs. Oregon (11/3), at UCLA (11/17) and the season finale against Notre Dame (11/24), as well as a possible rematch with a Pac-12 North rival in the conference championship.
But first thing’s first and that’s Saturday’s showdown at Seattle. The Huskies will face some tough sledding, but an upset is very possible here and would certainly extinguish the Trojans’ national championship aspirations.
However, look for USC to improve to 2-2 vs. Steve Sarkisian, as the team’s pair of prolific receivers remind the country that they’re every bit as lethal as the duo in Morgantown, WV. Prediction: USC 34, Washington 27
No. 18 Oregon State (4-0) at Brigham Young (4-2) – 3:30 p.m.
The Cougars’ two losses have come at the hands of Boise State and Utah (both on the road) by four points combined. BYU’s defense has racked up 20 sacks (10th most in the country) and ranks 13th in pass efficiency. The Beavers will present a tough test for QB Riley Nelson, but BYU has home-field advantage and more experience under center over OSU’s Cody Vaz. Prediction: BYU 17, Oregon State 13
No. 13 Stanford (4-1) at No. 6 Notre Dame (5-0) – 3:30 p.m.
Like the game featured above, this is a battle between programs from the Pac-12 and the Independents conference that should be very physical for four quarters and will be far from a high-scoring affair. The Fighting Irish might have their fists full this time, but find a way to win in the end with yet another stellar defensive showing. Prediction: Notre Dame 24, Stanford 17
No. 7 Kansas State (5-0) at No. 22 Iowa State (4-1) – 12:00 p.m.
One of the top Heisman candidates, QB Collin Klein, might have a tougher time in the ground game in Saturday’s showdown against Iowa State’s linebacker corps at Jack Tice Stadium. The Wildcats won’t run wild in this contest, which is one of four marquee matchups in the Big 12 in Week 7. With that said, they’ll start to pull away in the fourth quarter. Prediction: Kansas State 31, Iowa State 16
No. 4 West Virginia (5-0) at Texas Tech (4-1) – 3:30 p.m.
The Red Raiders aren’t ranked remotely where they should be on defense due to their cupcake competition this season, facing the likes of Northwestern State, Texas State and New Mexico, in addition to Oklahoma and Iowa State, but Texas Tech is improved on both sides of the football and could give Geno Smith and the high-flying West Virginia Mountaineers some trouble.
West Virginia will win in a Texas-style shootout, but the team had higher stakes and more to play for last Saturday at Austin under the national spotlight. Prediction: West Virginia 42, Texas Tech 38
No. 16 Texas (4-1) at No. 14 Oklahoma (3-1) – 12:00 p.m.
These two teams renew their Red River Rivalry at the home of the Cotton Bowl in one of the best contests of Week 7. Each team is expected to present plenty of fireworks, as Texas is averaging 47.4 points per game and the Sooners are scoring an average of 38.25 PPG. Oklahoma likely has the more sound defense, but the Longhorns have stronger play from their starting signal-caller. Prediction: Texas 34, Oklahoma 31
No. 25 TCU (4-1) at Baylor (3-1) – 7:00 p.m.
Both teams are coming off disappointing losses (TCU suffered a 37-23 loss against Iowa State and Baylor got beat by West Virginia 70-63 before entering its bye week). So it’s safe to say both teams will be able to put up points in this Texas-style shootout. Baylor has the home-field advantage, but TCU bounces back from last week’s loss with a win in thrilling fashion on the road. Prediction: TCU 36, Baylor 29
No. 20 Texas A&M (4-1) at Louisiana Tech (5-0) – 9:00 p.m.
There’s much more hype entering what should be an entertaining affair here after the contest was delayed due to Hurricane Isaac, as each team has had a strong start to the season are ranked side-by-side (No. 22 and No. 23) in the latest AP Poll.
Louisiana Tech has put at least 50 points on the scoreboard in four of its first five games and the only game the team missed the mark was when the Bulldogs beat Virginia on the road, 44-38 to wrap up the month of September.
The Aggies lost their season opener against the Gators and escaped the Rebels of Ole Miss each by just three points, but the other three tests against Arkansas, Southern Methodist (SMU) and South Carolina State by a combined 176-27 margin of victory.
This should shape up to be another close contest for A&M against LA Tech at Independence Stadium, especially with LSU on the schedule at home next week, followed by Auburn, Mississippi State and Alabama all on the road.
This will go right down to the wire, but the Bulldogs’ won’t be able to pull off the upset by winning the turnover battle here. Prediction: Texas A&M 55, Louisiana Tech 41
No. 3 South Carolina (6-0) at No. 10 LSU (5-1) – 8:00 p.m.
After beating up on the Bulldogs by four scores, Steve Spurrier the the Gamecocks face their second of three straight tests against Top 10 teams from the SEC (assuming Florida doesn’t fall at Vanderbilt).
South Carolina has the edge here, despite playing against LSU in front of its crazy crowd in Baton Rouge under the lights at night. This might be the toughest test of the entire year for the third-ranked team in the country, though that could change next week against the Gators next week at the Swamp.
Look for LSU to try to find some much-needed rhythm and confidence on offense and rely on the crowd to make things tough for Connor Shaw, Marcus Lattimore and the Gamecocks’ productive offense. Prediction: South Carolina 23, LSU 20
Tennessee (3-2) at No. 17 Mississippi State (5-0) – 9:00 p.m.
A win would be momentous for Mississippi State, an under-the-radar program with a highly unlikely, but still theoretically very possible shot at playing in the conference championship on Dec. 1 in Atlanta.
The Bulldogs have to face the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa on Oct. 27 and Texas A&M a week later at home before taking a trip down to Baton Route in a date with the Tigers. Their final two tests are against Arkansas (home) and the rebels of Ole Miss (road).
It’s an important test for Tennessee, too, after falling to the other Bulldogs team in the SEC in a 51-44 thriller on the road followed by their bye week.
The Volunteers’ final four games are all very winnable (vs. Troy, vs. Missouri, at Vanderbilt and vs. Kentucky), but their next two tests following Saturday’s battle with the Bulldogs are brutal (Alabama at home and South Carolina on the road).
Tyler Bray and company come up with the win in Starkville, MS. Prediction: Tennessee 28, Mississippi State 24
Verse of This Piece: “I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘Go fall into the sea.’ And if you have no doubts in your mind and believe that what you say will happen, God will do it for you. So I tell you to believe that you have received the things you ask for in prayer, and God will give them to you.”—Mark 11:23-24
Michael Gartman is a College Football and NFL Senior Writer, the AFC South and NFC West Lead Writer and the Founder, CEO of GridironGrit.com. He’s also about to start reporting on topics across all sides of the political spectrum and analyze important issues in the liberty movement for a political website. Follow @_MichaelGartman and @GridironGrit on Twitter!