Athlon sums up a full slate of college football with the five most important things to take away from this weekend.
1. No. 1 falls again on the road – Beating Wisconsin in Madison hasn’t come easy for Ohio State. The last three games in this series played at Camp Randall Stadium have been decided by seven points or less and after watching Alabama fall to South Carolina last week, the Buckeyes were on upset alert. The Badgers fired the first shot by taking the opening kickoff back for a touchdown and used the one-two punch of running backs John Clay and James White to grind out a 31-18 victory. The Wisconsin defense played well, holding Terrelle Pryor out of the endzone and limiting him to 156 passing yards. Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema was 0-4 against top-10 teams coming into this game and this victory should ease some of the criticism about his coaching in big games for the Badgers. However, Wisconsin can’t celebrate this win for too long. Saturday’s game against Iowa is another opportunity to earn a marquee win and jump back into Big Ten title discussion.
2. Nebraska unable to earn revenge – Considering the outcome of the Big 12 Championship and having 10 months to get ready for the rematch, most figured Nebraska would handle Texas. However, the Longhorns sent Nebraska an early parting gift to the Big Ten. Although the Longhorn offense remains a concern, the defense turned in a dominating effort, holding Taylor Martinez to 21 rushing yards and 63 through the air. Although the redshirt freshman quarterback had an underwhelming performance, the receiving corps dropped several passes and didn’t give him much help. The Cornhuskers still have a chance to get back to the Big 12 Championship, but the offensive question marks from last season need to be addressed. If the rushing attack is contained, Martinez and his receivers have to step up and make plays. The Longhorns still have a chance to reach the Big 12 title, but need help in the form of an Oklahoma loss. The upcoming schedule is favorable and a 10-win season in Austin can't be ruled out.
3. Newton makes a Heisman statement – Basketball season tipped off for most colleges last week, but no one expected the scoring to translate from the court to Jordan-Hare Stadium. The Auburn offense outlasted Arkansas 65-43 to improve to 7-0 and setup a huge showdown against LSU next Saturday. The 65-43 shootout was the most points scored in a SEC game that didn’t go to overtime. Arkansas lost quarterback Ryan Mallett to a concussion in the first half, but fought back behind Tyler Wilson. The sophomore completed 25 of 34 passes for 332 yards and four touchdowns, but threw two costly interceptions. Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton deserves to be mentioned more in the Heisman discussion, especially after his performance against the Razorbacks. The junior threw for 140 yards and one score, while rushing for 188 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Although Newton didn’t make many big plays through the air, his playmaking ability on the ground is more than enough to carry this offense. The Tigers also received 60 rushing yards from Mario Fannin and 53 from an injured Michael Dyer. There’s no doubt the Auburn defense is a concern, but Newton and this offense can trade scores with anyone. If Auburn survives next week’s game against LSU, look for Gene Chizik’s squad to be undefeated when they play Alabama in the regular season finale.
4. A mess in the SEC East – Figuring out the SEC East is usually pretty easy. After all, Kentucky, Vanderbilt and South Carolina have never appeared in the SEC Championship, and Florida has dominated with 10 overall appearances. One look at the standings after seven weeks and there’s still plenty to be decided. Despite the loss to Kentucky, South Carolina is atop the East with a 2-2 record. After the Gamecocks are Florida and Georgia tied with a 2-3 record. Even with the Gators and Bulldogs off to bad starts, neither find themselves out of the East race. Florida would figure to have the inside track to reach Atlanta, especially with games remaining against South Carolina and Georgia. However, as the first seven weeks have shown, don’t count on anything to go according to plan.
5. Oklahoma State, Missouri remain unbeaten – These two teams were a quiet 5-0 going into Week 7 and scored key victories to move to 6-0. Oklahoma State won for the first time in Lubbock against Texas Tech since 1944, while Missouri posted a convincing 30-9 win over Texas A&M. The Cowboys returned only five starters this year, but have quickly jelled on offense with new coordinator Dana Holgorsen, averaging 49.5 points per game. The schedule hasn’t been particularly challenging, but if the Cowboys can knock off Nebraska this Saturday, they will generate more discussion to be a serious contender to Oklahoma and Texas in the South. Similar to Oklahoma State, Missouri’s strength of schedule wasn’t overwhelming through five weeks. Although San Diego State is much-improved, the Tigers needed a late touchdown to hold off an upset bid. However, the Tigers turned in one of the most impressive outings from Week 7, easily handling Texas A&M 30-9. Although the Missouri offense has plenty of firepower, the defense has allowed only nine points in two conference games. The defensive line for Missouri constantly pressured Texas A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson, registering seven sacks – without preseason All-American candidate defensive end Aldon Smith. There’s a long way to go in 2010, but both teams are worth watching over the second half of this season.
Other thoughts from Week 7
The first release of the BCS standings is supposedly a big event and fans from different schools will be disgruntled about where their team ranks. However, it’s only Week 7 – there are seven weeks of action until the bowl game matchups are decided. A lot is going to change and upsets will happen, so don’t get too worked up if your team isn’t ranked where you would like to see it.
Minnesota has made the first change among head coaches, firing Tim Brewster with a 15-30 record. The Golden Gophers are 1-6 and finding another win on the schedule will be difficult. Offensive coordinator Jeff Horton will serve as interim head coach.
Turner Gill’s rebuilding job at Kansas is clearly going to take a lot longer than most expected. The Jayhawks have some nice pieces on offense – quarterback Jordan Webb and running back James Sims – but injuries on the offensive line and a struggling defense could push this team to a 2-10 finish.
Somehow, Purdue 2-0 in the Big Ten. The Boilermakers are without a talented trio on offense – quarterback Robert Marve, running back Robert Bolden and receiver Keith Smith – due to knee injuries suffered in spring practice and this season. Although the Boilermakers have some work to do to in order to get bowl eligible, head coach Danny Hope isn’t getting enough credit for the job he has done this year.
Ron English is finally in the win column at Eastern Michigan. The Eagles stormed back from a 28-7 deficit to beat Ball State 41-38 in overtime. The win by Eastern Michigan is its first since knocking off Central Michigan 56-52 on November 28, 2008. With the Eagles earning their first victory, only Akron, Western Kentucky and New Mexico remain winless in 2010.
Was Pittsburgh’s convincing 45-14 win over Syracuse a sign this team has found the right mix on offense? If the Panthers play like that the rest of the year, they will have something to say about the Big East title.
After Baylor’s 31-25 win over Colorado, the Bears are just one win away from bowl eligibility. With Kansas State and Texas A&M on the schedule, it’s a good bet the Bears will be playing in the postseason for the first time since 1994.
Similar to Baylor, San Diego State is headed in the right direction. The Aztecs defeated Air Force 27-25 to improve to 4-2 this year. With winnable games against New Mexico, Wyoming, Colorado State and UNLV remaining, the Aztecs should reach a bowl game.
With an 11:30 p.m. kickoff on the east coast, many missed the Nevada-Hawaii game. The Warriors ended the Wolf Pack’s bid at an undefeated season and improved their record to 5-2. Coach Greg McMackin began the year on the hot seat, but has the Warriors poised to reach the Hawaii Bowl with two more wins. The loss is certainly damaging to Nevada, but the Wolf Pack still have an opportunity to win the WAC if they defeat Boise State on November 26.
Looking ahead to Week 8
A small sample of what’s ahead
UCLA vs. Oregon
After back-to-back weeks of the No. 1 team losing, don’t expect Oregon to fall victim to the Bruins.
Michigan State vs. Northwestern
Spartans can’t overlook pesky Wildcats before taking on Iowa on October 30.
Rutgers vs. Pittsburgh
Plenty of uncertainty remains about the Big East, but one team can take a step towards challenging West Virginia with a win.
Georgia Tech vs. Clemson
Yellow Jackets have won six out of the last seven games against the Tigers, including the 2009 ACC Championship contest.
North Carolina vs. Miami, Fla.
ACC Coastal title still within reach for Hurricanes, but must beat Tar Heels for the first time since 2006.
Nebraska vs. Oklahoma State
Cowboys off to great start, but will offense find any room against stingy Nebraska defense?
Oklahoma vs. Missouri
Sooners have dominated this series, winning 19 of last 20 matchups.
Wisconsin vs. Iowa
Badgers can’t afford a hangover from Ohio State game with road date against Hawkeyes.
LSU vs. Auburn
Huge game for the national and SEC championship hopes for both teams. Can the LSU defense find an answer for Cam Newton?
Washington vs. Arizona
Can the Wildcats knock off the Huskies without starting quarterback Nick Foles?
Taking a look at some of the key players suffering injuries this weekend.
Arizona QB Nick Foles (knee)
Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett (concussion)
Cincinnati WR D.J. Woods (undisclosed)
Clemson CB Marcus Gilchrist (leg)
Florida WR Andre Debose (sprained ankle)
Florida DE Jaye Howard (sprained ankle)
Florida LB Jelani Jenkins (concussion)
Louisville CB Johnny Patrick (undisclosed)
Michigan QB Denard Robinson (shoulder)
Michigan C David Molk (ankle)
Michigan DT Mike Martin (ankle)
Michigan State DT Jerel Worthy (knee)
North Carolina TE Zack Pianalto (leg)
Notre Dame WR Theo Riddick (sprained ankle)
Ohio State LB Ross Homan (ankle)
South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore (sprained ankle)
Texas LB Keenan Robinson (concussion)
Texas A&M OG Evan Eike (sprained ankle)
Texas Tech QB Taylor Potts (jaw)
USC RB C.J. Gable (knee)