Bold predictions for Week 7 of the college football season

Surprise performances and unexpected outcomes are anticipated each weekend in the wild world of college football. Even if everyone knows they are coming, guessing when and where they will happen is difficult. 

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The USA TODAY Sports college football staff — Jace Evans, Paul Myerberg, Brent Schrotenboer, Erick Smith, Eddie Timanus and Dan Wolken — weigh in with some bold predictions for Week 7 of the season:

Jace Evans

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Alabama enters its Saturday matchup with Georgia a shocking 65th in the country in total defense after its defensive debacle against Ole Miss. But the Crimson Tide offense keeps rolling along, even with Tua Tagovailoa and two first-round wide receivers gone to the NFL. Steve Sarkisian’s unit is third in the country in yards per game, and the Crimson Tide is the nation’s highest-scoring team. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs resemble the team Alabama used to be in the early days of its dynasty, their second-in-the-nation defense complemented by a methodical, smash-mouth offense.

a group of football players on the field: Mississippi State quarterback K.J. Costello throws against LSU during the first half at Tiger Stadium.

© Derick E. Hingle, Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport
Mississippi State quarterback K.J. Costello throws against LSU during the first half at Tiger Stadium.

So who wins this latest Game of the Century? As strong as Georgia has looked, I’m still going with Alabama – even after the Tide had a massive wrench thrown into their preparation with coach Nick Saban’s positive test for COVID-19.

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No matter who is overseeing it, it’s hard to imagine the Crimson Tide defense getting embarrassed two weeks in a row. Part of the optimism on that front stems from Georgia’s conservative offensive approach. Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart is clearly a fan of the grind-it-out formula Alabama relied on to win four national titles (2009, 2011, 2012, 2015) during his tenure as the Crimson Tide’s defensive coordinator. Against most teams Georgia faces, even in the SEC, pounding away until the dam breaks will work. In this contest, though, the Georgia offense will not have the luxury of talent winning out over time. As excellent as Georgia’s defense has been, Alabama is going to score some points, and it will be up to the Dawgs’ offense to respond. A deliberate approach low on explosive plays might be playing right into the hands of an Alabama defense that is still loaded with talent, despite its unusual struggles.

Paul Myerberg

Saban-less Alabama beats Georgia and moves to No. 1 in the Amway Coaches Poll. Beating the Bulldogs with Sarkisian in place of the six-time national champion will make the Crimson Tide the team to beat in the SEC and the race for the playoff. But losing doesn’t dramatically impact the Bulldogs’ chances, since there is plenty of time for Kirby Smart’s team to charge back into the top four. Besides, the two SEC powers are expected to meet again in the conference championship game.

Brent Schrotenboer

Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher earned some of that fat contract of his by upsetting a top-five Florida team last week at home. But now we get to see a different kind of test for him and Mississippi State coach Mike Leach. Fisher’s Aggies play Saturday in Starkville, where the Bulldogs have been strapped onto the Leach roller coaster: After a high-flying win against defending national champion LSU in the season opener, they crashed with two straight losses, leading to the usual roster crackdown by Leach in response. He’s ridden out these spells before in similar fashion and knows how to tweak A&M, having gone 7-3 against the Aggies when he was coach at Texas Tech from 2000 to 2009. A&M also hasn’t won at Mississippi State since 2012. Bulldogs win in another Leach special over the Aggies.

Erick Smith

Through three games, Auburn is about what was expected. The Tigers are inconsistent on both sides of the ball, especially as quarterback Bo Nix struggles to carry a team that isn’t as strong defensively as in 2019. A disappointing loss to Georgia and an unlikely win at home against Arkansas in the past two weeks illustrate the challenges facing the team.

A Saturday trip to South Carolina awaits Auburn and the recent performances are going to have to improve significantly. The Gamecocks may be 1-2 but they played Tennessee and Florida close. With this game at home, South Carolina evens its record and further creates questions about the Tigers going forward.

Eddie Timanus

During Clemson’s run of ACC dominance that began in 2015, the Tigers have lost a grand total of two league games. That number drops to zero since the arrival of Trevor Lawrence in 2018.

That is not to say the Tigers didn’t have any close calls during that stretch. Last year’s narrow escape came in Week 4 against North Carolina before we realized just how quickly Mack Brown’s return to Chapel Hill would bring results.

The top-10 showdown with Miami last Saturday was a potential stumbling block in theory, but Clemson was all business in the prime-time spotlight – ill-advised 61-yard field goal attempts notwithstanding. This Saturday’s visit to Georgia Tech appears far less daunting. The Yellow Jackets do have two league wins, which might be two more than many figured they’d have at this juncture. Admittedly those victories were against Florida State and Louisville, which have zero league wins between them.

As such, the Yellow Jackets might not have Clemson’s attention in the way that Miami did a week ago in a far more attractive TV window – and that’s where the Tigers occasionally encounter trouble. When Clemson does struggle to put away an ACC opponent, it usually happens in one of those early games like this one.

So will the Tigers actually lose? No, they’ll put pedal to metal when they have to. But they might not come out firing on all cylinders. Don’t be shocked if halftime comes and things are still a little dicey.

Dan Wolken

Regardless of Saban testing positive for COVID-19, a diagnosis that will likely keep him out of the stadium Saturday, this feels like the right time for Georgia to finally beat Alabama. In a year when so many teams are struggling on defense, which might stem from the irregular ways teams have had to practice this year to account for the coronavirus, it seems like the Bulldogs are way ahead of the game. The key numbers for this Saturday: Georgia is allowing just 3.7 yards per play and has racked up 10 sacks in three games. Being able to generate pressure is going to be huge in slowing Mac Jones and an Alabama offense ranked second nationally in passing at 385 yards per game. Georgia may not be the most dynamic team offensively, but Alabama’s struggling defense is going to give up points. Georgia will get more stops in this game and come away with a key early-season win. 

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Bold predictions for Week 7 of the college football season

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