Week 7 of the College Football season includes two top-10 matchups and several other important games. With less than three weeks until the unveiling of the first College Football Playoff Rankings, teams are looking to impress the Playoff Committee and prove they are worthy of a top-4 ranking. Here’s a list of the best matchups, with players to watch in each game. All times are Eastern.
(16) Miami FL hosts UNC at 3:30 PM on ABC/ESPN2. The Hurricanes look to bounce back after a blocked extra point led to a 19-20 loss to FSU last week. Miami fell six spots in the AP rankings, but their season is far from over. A win this Saturday would get the Hurricanes back on track towards a potential spot in the College Football Playoff. The Hurricanes are currently a 7 point favorite, but defeating UNC will be no easy task. QB Mitch Trubisky and RBs Elijah Hood and T.J. Logan have been exceptional this year, producing a combined 26 TDs. The Tar Heels are, however, coming off a blowout 3-34 loss to (17) Virginia Tech which forced them off of the AP rankings this week. This game is a must-win for the Tar Heels, considering a loss would virtually crush all chances of a significant bowl selection. The player to watch for this game is Miami RB Mark Walton. Leading the team with 484 rushing yards and 8 rushing TDs, the 19 year old sophomore has been the catalyst for Mark Richt’s offense. If Walton is successful early in the game, it will put less pressure on QB Brad Kaaya and keep the Tar Heels’ defense on edge.
(9) Tennessee hosts (1) Alabama at 3:30 PM on CBS. The Volunteers’ lost a crucial matchup against (6) Texas A&M in overtime last week, and limp into Week 7 with a nine game losing streak against Alabama. Tennessee scored three TDs against (6) Texas A&M in the last eight minutes of the game, but seven turnovers ultimately led to their first loss of the season. Tennessee’s defense has also been a huge issue, allowing just under 400 yards per game. Alabama, on the other hand, has a 6-0 record and is a 13.5 point favorite. The Crimson Tide had a relatively easy win against (16) Arkansas last week, 49-30. A win this Saturday would put even more pressure on (6) Texas A&M, with both teams currently undefeated. The player to watch in this game is Alabama QB Jalen Hurts. The freshman QB is averaging over 250 yards of total offense per game and has taken full command of Alabama’s offense. His dual-threat abilities will certainly keep Tennessee’s defense off balance.
(22) Arkansas hosts (12) Ole Miss at 7:00 PM on ESPN. Last season, Arkansas defeated Ole Miss 53-52 after a game-winning two-point conversion in overtime. This Saturday, Ole Miss looks to get some revenge and continue their winning streak after suffering two losses earlier this season. Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly passed for 368 yards and rushed for 110 in last year’s matchup, but the senior is averaging 319 passing yards and only 25 rushing yards per game this season. A win on Saturday could elevate the Razorbacks into the AP top-10. Arkansas suffered a deflating loss to (1) Alabama last week, and another defeat will knock the Razorbacks out of the AP top-25. However, a win on Saturday and a relatively easy end to their schedule could potentially earn the Razorbacks a top-15 ranking. The player to watch in this game is Arkansas QB Austin Allen. Allen has done an exceptional job filling in for his brother Brandon Allen, who graduated last spring. Allen’s 77.9 QBR rating on ESPN ranks him as a top-15 QB in the nation. An outstanding performance this week might lead to another upset win against Ole Miss.
(8) Wisconsin hosts (2) Ohio State at 8:00 PM on ABC. The Buckeyes have their first top-10 matchup of the year against the eighth-seeded Badgers, who are coming off of a grueling loss against (4) Michigan. Ohio State’s third-ranked defense has carried Urban Meyer’s squad to a 5-0 record, conceding only 246 yards per game. Offensively, the Buckeyes rank 5th in the country with 538 yards per game. Indiana limited Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett to only 93 passing yards last week, but the Buckeyes won easily, 38-17. Barrett will need to improve his play against Wisconsin’s eighth-ranked defense for the Buckeyes to stay undefeated. A bye week following their loss to (4) Michigan gave the Badgers extra time to prepare for their most important game of the season. Wisconsin’s exceptional run defense is ranked fourth in the country, but they face a daunting task in containing Ohio State’s fourth ranked rush offense. A dominant performance by Wisconsin’s defensive line could seal an upset win for the Badgers. The player to watch in this game is Ohio State S Malik Hooker. The sophomore from New Castle, Pennsylvania is tied for the most interceptions in the FBS with 4. If Hooker is able to contain Wisconsin’s pass catchers and help force a substantial amount of three-and-outs, the Ohio State offense will be awarded with plenty of opportunities to score and ultimately stay undefeated.