The Week 7 college football schedule features two wonderful, underhyped Big Ten matchups – one of which hasn’t been played since Lee Corso was coaching on the sidelines in the late 1970s.
They don’t share a history that warrants a memorable rivalry tagline, like Alabama and Tennessee’s Third Saturday in October. And no one will have a chance to shock the world by beating a prime playoff contender, such as NC State traveling to No. 3 Clemson or Wisconsin hosting No. 2 Ohio State. Nonetheless, the following six under-the-radar and underhyped gems are packed with compelling storylines and intriguing subplots, and they warrant your attention in Week 7.
You like fireworks. We like fireworks. All fans like fireworks. The Toppers and the Blue Raiders ought to unleash some pyrotechnics Saturday afternoon.
Western Kentucky, the defending Conference USA champs, must win in Murfreesboro after losing a 55-52 track meet to Louisiana Tech a week ago. Middle Tennessee has already defeated La Tech, as well as North Texas, to start the league schedule 2-0. The showstoppers at Floyd Stadium will be the passing attacks. Hilltopper quarterback Mike White, Jeff Brohm’s latest prolific pupil, has thrown 14 touchdown passes, eight to Nicholas Norris and six to Taywan Taylor. Meanwhile, the trio of quarterback Brent Stockstill, wideout Richie James and all-purpose running back I’Tavius Mathers, an Ole Miss import, fuel the Raiders.
The races in the American are gradually coming into focus. Everyone in the West Division is chasing Navy, which shocked No. 6 Houston last Saturday. The East Division is South Florida’s to lose.
Save for the Sept. 24 loss to Florida State, the Bulls are rolling under Willie Taggart this season. In fact, in their five wins, they’ve outscored opponents, 46-20. Quarterback Quinton Flowers and running back Marlon Mack are the headliners of an assertive ground game, while the defense has been solid against everyone but the Noles. This week’s challenge for USF will be to maintain focus and put away a Husky team that silenced Cincinnati a week ago, 20-9, and ranks No. 11 nationally at stuffing the run.
Bowl games matter to teams like the Gophers and especially the Terps. And this week’s first-ever regular season meeting could go a long way to determining who reaches the necessary six-win threshold.
Minny and Maryland will both benefit from short memories. The Gophers have lost consecutive games they could have won, falling in overtime to Penn State before losing to Iowa, 14-7, last Saturday with Floyd of Rosedale hanging on the outcome. The Terps were no match for the Nittany Lions in Week 6, raising fears that the 4-0 start was merely the product of a soft early schedule. Gopher nation will get a glimpse of the future this weekend, since quarterback Mitch Leidner’s concussion will keep him out of pads. Junior Conor Rhoda, who has two career pass attempts, will get the ball from Tracy Claeys.
The Broncos appear unstoppable. The Zips believe they have a blueprint for turning both MAC divisional races upside down.
Western Michigan has been the story in the conference so far, beating two Big Ten teams and earning a spot in the Top 25 for the first time in school history. These will someday be labeled as the golden years of football in Kalamazoo. Akron, though, is no pushover under Terry Bowden. The Zips have won their last two, while devouring Marshall, 65-38, back on Sept. 17. And if quarterback Tra’Von Chapman, who’s subbing for injured starter Thomas Woodson, can build a little further on last week’s three-touchdown effort, Akron might have enough scoring pop to hang with WMU’s high-octane scoring machine.
Interesting instate matchup, mainly because the future of the Yellow Jacket coaching staff could be at stake.
Paul Johnson, who was on the staff of four national championship Georgia Southern teams, is in trouble regardless of what happens this Saturday on The Flats. His team has lost three straight and he has a new boss, AD Todd Stansbury. Lose to a local Sun Belt team just 207 miles to the southeast, and Johnson’s career at Tech will be stricken with rigor mortis. Fans of old-school football will delight in this second-ever meeting between the ground-and-pound, option-based Eagles and Yellow Jackets. Both schools like to pound it so often that it would make perfect sense to film the game in black and white.
The Huskers and the Hoosiers meet for the first time since 1978, both looking to reach midseason with the wind at their back.
Nebraska cracked the top 10 as it was idle, while Indiana views each weekend as a chance to crawl closer to postseason eligibility. The Huskers have been the better team, hands down, but who have they faced to warrant such a high ranking? Plus, their defense has exhibited softness against the run, surrendering 4.8 yards per carry. Indiana is a scrappy crew that surprised Michigan State two weeks ago and made Ohio State break a sweat for 45 minutes last Saturday. The Hoosiers harbor the back, Devine Redding, to attack the Husker front seven, as well as an improving quarterback in Richard Lagow. If Nebraska is the least bit rusty coming off the Week 6 bye, Indiana is liable to end its perfect run.