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2011 NCAA College Football – Week Seven Preview

Denard Robinson will take on the nation's top-ranked defense.
Leon Halip, Getty Images

With the autumn temperatures starting to fall, the action on the field is heating up. This week in college football features a key in-state Big Ten matchup, along with top 25 games in the Big 12 and Pac-12. Here are the highlights for this week’s key matchups.

#1 Louisiana State (6-0) at Tennessee (3-2)

[Saturday, Oct. 15 at 3:30 PM ET on CBS]

Tennessee senior quarterback Matt Simms, who started eight games for the Volunteers last season, will get his first start of 2011 in place of the injured Tyler Bray (broken thumb). While Simms certainly has more experience than most backup quarterbacks, that won’t make his job any easier going against an LSU team that ranks fifth in total defense. He’ll need help from an anemic running game (114th in the nation) that will try to break through LSU’s fourth-rated rush defense, which is giving up just 69 yards per game. LSU has beaten Tennessee three straight times, while the Vols have lost seven straight to top 25 opponents.

#2 Alabama (6-0) at Ole Miss (2-3)

[Saturday, Oct. 15 at 6:00 PM ET on ESPN2]

Mississippi’s offense has struggled this season, ranking 114th in total yards nationally and 96th and scoring. However, the Rebels seemed to have found a little bit of rhythm behind new quarterback Randall Mackey. But Mackey and Ole Miss have not faced a defense like Alabama’s, which is giving up just seven points per game and has already pitched two shutouts this year. The Crimson Tide has won seven in a row in this series.

#3 Oklahoma (5-0) at Kansas (2-3)

[Saturday, Oct. 15 at 9:15 PM ET on ESPN2]

Bob Stoops is 12-0 all-time in the week after playing Texas, and he doesn’t look to have much trouble extending that streak with a visit to a woeful Kansas team that has the worst defense in the nation, giving up 556 yards and over 49 points per game. Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones is averaging 363 passing yards per game. All the stats say this could get ugly, quickly.

Indiana (1-5) at #4 Wisconsin (5-0)

[Saturday, Oct. 15 at 12:00 PM ET on ESPN2]

Last year the Badgers beat Indiana 83-20…and that was before Russell Wilson set foot on campus. Wisconsin’s offense, which ranks ninth in the country in yardage and third in scoring, will be facing a Hoosiers defense that is giving up over 420 yards per game (97th in the nation). Indiana has lost six straight to Wisconsin, by an average of over 30 points per game, and 14 of their last 15 Big Ten games.

#5 Boise State (5-0) at Colorado State (3-2)

[Saturday, Oct. 15 at 6:00 PM ET on Mountain West Sports Network]

Broncos quarterback Kellen Moore continues to roll up big numbers, completing 74 percent of his passes for 17 touchdowns and four interceptions. This week, he’ll go against a Colorado State team that ranks 12th nationally in pass defense, but has not faced a passing attack of Boise’s caliber. The Rams haven’t beaten a ranked team since 2002.

#6 Oklahoma State (5-0) at #22 Texas (4-1)

[Saturday, Oct. 15 at 3:30 PM ET on ABC/ESPN]

Last year, Oklahoma State won in Austin, 33-14, for the first time since 1944. This year, they get the chance to do it again. With the Big 12 schedules needing to be shuffled after Colorado and Nebraska left the conference, the Cowboys are playing in Austin two years in a row. Texas is looking for some confidence after being drilled last week by #3 Oklahoma. OSU, whose offense ranks first nationally in scoring and second in yards, is coming off a name-your-score type of mismatch win over Kansas. Under head coach Mack Brown, the Longhorns are 13-0 all-time in the game immediately following the Red River Rivalry.

#7 Stanford (5-0) at Washington State (3-2)

[Saturday, Oct. 15 at 7:30 PM ET on Versus]

Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck is putting up more Heisman-type numbers, completing 73 percent of his passes and throwing 14 touchdowns to just two interceptions. Stanford is currently riding a nation’s-best 13-game winning streak and scoring over 46 points per game. This week, they face a Washington State team that can put up some points of their own (40.6 points per game), but whose defense has blown fourth quarter leads in both of the Cougars’ two losses this year.

#8 Clemson (6-0) at Maryland (2-3)

[Saturday, Oct. 15 at 7:00 PM ET on ESPNU]

Clemson’s do-it-all quarterback Tajh Boyd left last week’s game with a hip injury, but is expected to be cleared to play at Maryland this week. Boyd currently leads the ACC in passing and is second in touchdowns. He’ll be going against a Terrapins defense that has only given up one passing touchdown this year, but is the worst in the conference against the rush. So if Boyd is not full-strength, expect Clemson to lean on running back Andre Ellington, who has scored in each of his last five games. Maryland is facing a quarterback controversy after starter Danny O’Brien was pulled last week in favor of C.J. Brown. Both quarterbacks, however, were ineffective against Georgia Tech, combining to go just 5-23 for 53 yards. Clemson is seeking its first 8-0 start since 2000.

#18 Arizona State (5-1) at #9 Oregon (4-1)

[Saturday, Oct. 15 at 10:15 PM ET on ESPN]

Oregon’s offense hasn’t missed a beat after putting up record numbers last year, currently ranking fifth in the nation in total yards and second in scoring. But this week they will face their toughest test since a season-opening loss to LSU with an Arizona State defense that ranks third in the nation in forced turnovers. Adding to the drama, Oregon’s Heisman candidate, running back LaMichael James, is questionable for the game after suffering a dislocated elbow last week against California. The Ducks have won 19 straight home games.

#10 Arkansas (5-1) BYE

The Razorbacks are idle this week. They will return to action next Saturday at Ole Miss.

#11 Michigan (6-0) at #23 Michigan State (4-1)

[Saturday, Oct. 15 at 12:00 PM ET on ESPN]

The Michigan/Michigan State rivalry is always entertaining, and this year’s edition promises to be no different with a classic strength-versus-strength matchup. Wolverines quarterback Denard Robinson leads the Big Ten in rushing, with 134.8 yards per game, which is also fourth nationally. He is also averaging over 206 passing yards for a Michigan offense that is putting up an average of 38 points per game. But this week, he’ll be going against the best defense in America, statistically speaking, a Spartans unit that is allowing less than 174 yards and just 64 rushing yards per game. Michigan State is seeking its first four-game winning streak in the series since 1959-62.

#12 Georgia Tech (6-0) at Virginia (3-2)

[Saturday, Oct. 15 at 3:30 PM ET on ESPN]

The Yellow Jackets are off to their best start in 45 years, but now face the meat of their ACC schedule with back-to-back road games followed by matchups with #8 Clemson and #19 Virginia Tech. This week, the powerful Georgia Tech offense (fourth in the nation in total yards, sixth in scoring) goes up against a Cavaliers team that ranks third in the ACC in total defense, but needed a stop on a two-point conversion in overtime to avoid being upset by Idaho in their last game.

#13 West Virginia (5-1) BYE

The Mountaineers have the week off to prepare for back-to-back road games at Syracuse and Rutgers.

#14 Nebraska (5-1) BYE

Coming off the biggest comeback win in school history against Ohio State, the Cornhuskers get a week off. They will return to action next week at Minnesota.

#15 South Carolina (5-1) at Mississippi State (3-3)

[Saturday, Oct. 15 at 12:21 PM ET on SEC Network]

After a failed alcohol test, South Carolina finally parted ways with troubled senior quarterback Stephen Garcia, who had struggled with substance abuse issues and had been suspended five times in his career. He had already been benched in favor of sophomore Connor Shaw, who threw for 311 yards and four touchdowns in his second career start last week against Kentucky. However, while Shaw may bolster the Gamecocks’ passing game, South Carolina is still a run-first offense, riding the legs of sophomore running back Marcus Lattimore, the SEC’s leading rusher. Mississippi State also made a quarterback change last week, with the ineffective Chris Relf being benched at halftime in favor of Tyler Russell. But Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen has not announced who will start against South Carolina.

Ohio State (3-3) at #16 Illinois (6-0)

[Saturday, Oct. 15 at 3:30 PM ET on ABC/ESPN]

Ohio State’s offense, which has struggled all season, showed signs of life last week, jumping out to a 27-6 lead at #14 Nebraska. But a costly turnover and an injury to quarterback Braxton Miller helped Nebraska turn the tide, scoring 28 unanswered for the win. The Buckeyes will now try to regroup against an Illinois team that is off to its best start since 1951. Miller is expected to return to action this week, but will be facing an Illinois defense that ranks 17th in the country in total defense and has forced a turnover in 21 straight games, the best streak in the nation. Illinois has lost nine consecutive home games to Ohio State.

#17 Kansas State (5-0) at Texas Tech (4-1)

[Saturday, Oct. 15 at 7:00 PM ET on Fox Sports Net]

This should be another great matchup of offense versus defense. The surprising Wildcats have ridden the strength of their defense, which ranks in the top 20 of most defensive categories, to a 5-0 start. This week, they’ll be facing a high-powered Texas Tech offense that ranks in the top 10 in the nation in passing yards, total yards and scoring. Four of the Wildcats’ five wins have been by seven or fewer points. The Red Raiders have won five in a row in this series.

#19 Virginia Tech (5-1) at Wake Forest (4-1)

[Saturday, Oct. 15 at 6:30 PM ET on ESPN3]

Coming off their win over Florida State, the Demon Deacons will look to pull another upset by defeating Virginia Tech at home for the first time since 1970. The Wake defense ranks 21st in the nation against the run, but will face a stout challenge this week in Hokies running back David Wilson, who leads the ACC in rushing. Wake Forest is off to its best conference record since joining the ACC in 1953.

#20 Baylor (4-1) at #21 Texas A&M (3-2)

[Saturday, Oct. 15 at 12:00 PM ET on FX]

While the action will be on the field, there will certainly be plenty of undercurrents here with all of the drama that played out in recent weeks with Baylor’s efforts to keep Texas A&M from leaving the Big 12. Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III has been almost unstoppable for the Bears, ranking second in the nation in pass efficiency and throwing 19 touchdowns, compared to just one interception. On the other side of the ball, the Aggies’ defense is looking for anything to give them some confidence after blowing big halftime leads against Oklahoma State and Arkansas and needing a blocked field goal return for a touchdown to avoid a similar fate last week against Texas Tech.

Florida (4-2) at #24 Auburn (4-2)

[Saturday, Oct. 15 at 7:00 PM ET on ESPN]

Earlier this week, Auburn coach Gene Chizik announced that, despite struggling this season and being replaced in the second half against Arkansas, Barrett Trotter would start again this weekend for Auburn. While replacing Cam Newton is certainly no east task, Auburn’s offense under Trotter ranks 104th in passing yards and 64th in scoring. However, Florida’s quarterback situation is equally shaky. Starter John Brantley has been ruled out with a sprained ankle, and Gators coach Will Muschamp has yet to make a decision on which of his two freshmen backups, Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel, will be under center Saturday.

#25 Houston (6-0) BYE

After cracking the top 25 for the third time in as many years, the Cougars have a bye week to prepare for next week’s home tilt with Marshall.

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