College football has a hard act to follow after last Saturday’s wild ride. But this sport rarely lacks for weekly drama, so there should again be plenty of action worth watching.
The Week 7 slate features just one top-25 meeting, but there are several other matchups with high entertainment potential. Those include a late-night contest out West that could determine a major conference division race, a big test in the Big 12 and an independent hoping to get off the deck. In all, we submit six games for your approval, though we’re sure there will be others that will grab the spotlight for stretches on Saturday.
No. 11 Kentucky at No. 1 Georgia
3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
Why watch: The weekend headliner pits the Bulldogs, defending their newly acquired No. 1 ranking, against the upstart Wildcats in a huge showdown that in all likelihood will determine the SEC East championship. UK already owns a head-to-head win against Florida, and an upset here between the hedges would all but punch its ticket to the conference finale.
Georgia meets the Gators in a few weeks, but a win here would in effect put the Bulldogs two games clear of the field. The Kentucky offense isn’t flashy, but QB Will Levis is averaging 8.4 yards per passing attempt, enough to keep the running lanes open for RB Chris Rodriguez. Few have managed to do that, however, against the Bulldogs’ top-ranked defense that surrenders just 203.5 yards a game. But the Wildcats have a top-20 defense themselves and have a good chance to keep it close. Georgia QB J.T. Daniels remains week-to-week with a back muscle injury, but Stetson Bennett has handled the Bulldogs’ attack quite capably in his absence.
Why it could disappoint: Bearing the above in mind, if UK is able to make a game of it, a low-scoring slog could be on tap. Auburn did manage to find the end zone once against the Bulldogs last week, but the Wildcats will nevertheless find it difficult to sustain drives. A multiple-possession lead for Georgia might prove insurmountable.
No. 22 Arizona State at Utah
10 p.m. ET, ESPN
Why watch: This Pac-12 nightcap is for the outright lead in the South Division, and though half the season remains, the winner will be difficult to overtake the rest of the way. The Utes still have a crossover date with Oregon on their slate but have a chance to get to 4-0 in league play (their two losses were out of conference).
The Sun Devils have a more manageable schedule going forward but need to get past this major road test. ASU QB Jayden Daniels has shown superb command of the Sun Devils’ offense in their last two wins against UCLA and Stanford. QB Cameron Rising and the ground defense for Utah were just as impressive in last week’s win at Southern California, the Utes’ first-ever victory against the Trojans in the L.A. Coliseum.
Why it could disappoint: The Sun Devils’ last visit to the Beehive State didn’t go well in an error-filled loss to BYU. But they’ve eliminated the mistakes of late, and if they continue to play sound football, the Utes could have trouble answering scores. It’s #Pac12AfterDark though, so anything can happen.
No. 12 Oklahoma State at Texas
Noon ET, Fox
Why watch: The Longhorns don’t get much time to lick their wounds after failing to close the deal against Red River rival Oklahoma. They head home to take on the rested and still unbeaten Cowboys, who could be eyeing an epic showdown of their own with the Sooners when Bedlam comes around at season’s end.
Both teams will want to start quickly. The Texas backfield tandem of QB Casey Thompson and RB Bijan Robinson looked unstoppable in the first half last week in Dallas but couldn’t get anything going after intermission. The Oklahoma State offense, triggered by veteran QB Spencer Sanders and featuring WR Tay Martin, has experienced similarly inexplicable second-half struggles all season.
Why it could disappoint: A blowout either way seems unlikely, but the Texas ground defense has been the primary culprit in the team’s two losses. That’s where Cowboys RB Jaylen Warren comes in. A big day from him could allow the Cowboys to pull away.
No. 5 Alabama at Mississippi State
7 p.m. ET, ESPN
Why watch: We come now to a test for the non-existent law of college football transitivity. The Crimson Tide, coming off an almost unheard of loss to an unranked opponent, hit the road again to meet the Bulldogs, who visited Texas A&M themselves just a week earlier and came away victorious. It isn’t as if the Crimson Tide were bad in their two true road games. But they were not dominant as fans have come to expect from Alabama teams.
They escaped Gainesville but were not so fortunate in College Station, with the defense in particular looking surprisingly vulnerable. Bulldogs QB Will Rogers has a healthy 75.7 completion percentage in the pass-heavy system that could pose a challenge. Tide QB Bryce Young and Co. will try to set the tone early to silence the cowbells in Starkville.
Why it could disappoint: Notwithstanding the occasional big run, the Crimson Tide’s ground game has been inconsistent some weeks, including the Texas A&M setback. One can assume there was – ahem – a degree of emphasis on that in practice this week. The Bulldogs’ defense has been quite good, particularly in the secondary, but they could be in for a long night if the Tide is able to impose its will as it did against Mississippi.
No. 14 Mississippi at Tennessee
7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network
Why watch: And, speaking of Ole Miss, we have to mention this Lane Kiffin return to Knoxville. Yes, we know we’re spending a lot of time in the SEC this week. (Fret not, Big Ten fans. Your days are coming.) But games involving the Rebels are often appointment TV anyway, and the – erm – history with Tennessee adds another level of intrigue.
As far as on-field matters are concerned, we should be in for another track meet. Ole Miss is putting up 46.2 points a game, with the Volunteers not far behind at 41.5. Hendon Hooker has added a different dimension to the Tennessee ground game since taking over at QB, with RB Tiyon Evans also reaping benefits.
Why it could disappoint: A significant chunk of Tennessee’s stats, however, came in its two most recent outings against Missouri and South Carolina. The Rebels’ defense can spring leaks as well, but the last high-end QB to visit Knoxville, Kenny Pickett, pretty much had his way with the Vols’ secondary. That figures to be good news for Ole Miss’ Matt Corral.
No. 20 Brigham Young at Baylor
3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Why watch: BYU’s hopes of landing a major bowl invitation were severely diminished by last week’s home loss to Boise State. A New Year’s Six spot might still be possible given the level of chaos around the sport, but the Cougars will need to bounce back quickly for this road challenge before even thinking about that.
The Bears shook off their first loss of the campaign with a convincing triumph against West Virginia and now look to move back into the top 25. Both teams find ways to move the ball effectively, so this one should be entertaining. BYU QB Jaren Hall can be inaccurate at times but has numerous playmakers available like RB Tyler Allgeier and WR Gunner Romney. Bears’ QB Gerry Bohanon has yet to throw a pick through six games, and Tyquan Thornton and R.J. Sneed lead a veteran WR group.
Why it could disappoint: Turnovers proved BYU’s undoing a week ago. Any further miscues on the road will be damaging, especially against an opponent that doesn’t commit many.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: College football games to watch, Week 7: Georgia vs. Kentucky at top