Can Anyone Avoid the Upset? Big Questions for Week 7 in College Football
When the previous week's upsets leave Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Baylor and TCU as the biggest storylines in college football, you know it’s going to be an interesting weekend. Here are some of the big questions this week:
Can the Mississippi State Magic Keep Rolling?
Mississippi State's Dak Prescott vaulted himself into the Heisman mix with last week’s victory over Texas A&M, but can the junior continue his hot play against No. 2 Auburn and a defense that ranks ninth nationally in scoring? The Tigers have given up 20 or fewer points in five straight games for the first time in seven years.
With a win this week, No. 3 Mississippi State has to be considered a serious national title contender. (Raise your hand if you ever thought you’d read that sentence. Now put it back down, you’re obviously lying.) The rest of the season, the Bulldogs will face only one more ranked opponent (No. 7 Alabama on November 16) before a season-ending Egg Bowl matchup against No. 3 Ole Miss that could determine the SEC West and a spot in the college football playoff. (Raise your hand if you ever ... ah, forget it.)
The Big 12 Game of the Week Is ... What?
The Red River Rivalry is this weekend—one of the greatest traditions in college football. Held right in the middle of the Texas State Fair. Corny dogs and beer for breakfast. The stadium divided right at the 50, with half in burnt orange and half in crimson and cream. For years, it was the biggest game in the country this weekend. But this year, it’s not even the biggest game in the state of Texas.
As odd as it sounds, that’s exactly the scenario this weekend. While Oklahoma still has a lot riding on this week’s matchup with archrival Texas, the Big 12 game with the biggest ramifications is down I-35 where No. 5 Baylor hosts No. 9 TCU. It should be quite a matchup, as TCU’s stout defense (seventh nationally in scoring) faces off against a Baylor offense that has racked up huge numbers but stumbled a bit in last week’s 28-7 win over Texas. (The Bears’ 28 points was the second-fewest they have put up in two years.) The winner will be left standing as the only undefeated team in the Big 12.
Is This Alabama’s Version of a Quarterback Controversy?
You know you’re a little spoiled when one loss to a Top 5 team is enough to have fans and former players at each other’s throats. But that’s exactly where Alabama is this week, with Phyllis calling in to Finebaum and Bama fans getting demolished by stadium security:
But things really got interesting this week when former Tide quarterback A.J. McCarron criticized Saban, wondering aloud if the coach was “putting the handcuffs” on offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin and criticizing current players:
[O]ne of the things that this team is lacking that hurts them the most is not having the true leaders like we had last year and guys that, when things go bad, 'Hey, let’s calm everybody down, pick it back up and go back to work and get back on the right track.' I feel like when things go bad, this team struggles a little with bouncing back and making good plays.
That prompted a quick and less subtle response from NFL legend Fran Tarkenton:
Did he go to class? Did he make the league or not? He needs to be quiet. He was so fortunate to play in that program. He’s an average quarterback at best. He played fine, but he couldn’t have played anywhere else but Alabama. To make a comment like that is just disrespectful. He should keep his mouth shut and praise Saban and Alabama for the rest of his life.
To be fair, McCarron did finish second in the Heisman voting and won two national championships, so Fran might have gone a bit far calling McCarron an “average quarterback at best.” But Tarkenton played at Georgia, so who knows why he’s so gung ho to defend the current Alabama regime. Whatever the reason, it will only add fuel to the fire for a rabid fan base not used to losing.
Why Can’t Florida Have Nice Things?
Steve Spurrier, Danny Wuerffel and Tim Tebow won Heismans. Wuerffel, Tebow and Chris Leak won national championships. Florida has proven it can produce successful quarterbacks. So what’s going on in Gainesville right now marks a new low point in The Swamp.
Starting quarterback Jeff Driskel was yanked last week after throwing three interceptions against Tennessee and backup freshman Treon Harris led the Gators to a 10-9 comeback win. But before you could even say “quarterback controversy,” Harris was suspended on Sunday pending investigation of an alleged sexual assault of a fellow UF student. Then, less than 48 hours later, police were called to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium to break up a fight between Florida football players that left third-string quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg in the hospital with cuts to his face. No charges were filed and Mornhinweg is expected to be the backup this weekend. But with Driskel already struggling and no backup clearly ready to step up, it could be a long season for the Gators, with upcoming games against LSU, Missouri and Georgia.
Who Will Keep their Playoff Hopes Alive?
After last week’s bloodletting, lots of highly touted teams now have one loss. But will they still be playoff contenders with two? It’s not likely, so this is a big week for a lot of programs. There are several 4-1 teams with tough matchups they’ll need to win to stay alive. No. 12 Oregon faces off with No. 18 UCLA in a key Pac-12 matchup. No. 13 Georgia and No. 23 Missouri face off, potentially with the SEC East on the line. After a tough loss last week, things don’t get easier for No. 14 Texas A&M with No. 3 Ole Miss coming to town.
One loss you can get away with this season. Two losses? Now you’re playing with fire.
Will Students Turn Down for Waffles?
It’s not always easy to get students to roll out of bed for early morning games, particularly when you’ve lost three in a row and are playing an unranked, non-rival opponent. So Texas Tech is getting creative for this week’s game against West Virginia. In an effort to get students in the stands before the 11:00 a.m. kickoff, the university is offering 10,000 free waffles at the student gate, starting at 8.
Will the Red Raiders be able to pack the stadium this way? We’ll see. But if not, next week they may have to call out the big guns and give away free bacon.