College football Week 7: Florida-LSU highlights slate of attractive matchups
LSU and Florida meet in Baton Rouge in a battle of unbeatens, with the potent Tigers offense being challenged by the stingy defense of the Gators.
College football’s Super Six remained intact last weekend, and five members of the elite group (Ohio State is idle) enter Week 7 of the season seeking to hold their positions in the Associated Press poll.
Despite the fact they’re both favored by double digits, Louisiana State and Oklahoma appear to be in the most jeopardy Saturday, with the Tigers facing fellow unbeaten Florida, and the Sooners taking on Texas in the annual Red River Rivalry.
No. 7 Florida at No. 5 LSU, 8 p.m., ESPN
When Joe Burrow was languishing on the Ohio State bench, few knew at the time that he was capable of putting up the spectacular numbers he’s posted this season with LSU.
With 22 touchdown passes, the graduate transfer already has surpassed his total from last season. He leads the nation in completion percentage at .784 and is third in passing efficiency while thriving under Joe Brady, LSU’s new passing-game coordinator.
Still, a Tigers offense that’s atop the nation in scoring at 54.6 points per game will face its stiffest test of the season. The Gators are allowing just 9.5 points and 276.3 yards per contest and limited previously undefeated Auburn to 269 yards in last week’s 24-13 victory.
One more note: LSU is a 14-point favorite, the first time in Dan Mullen’s career at Florida as offensive coordinator and head coach, covering 72 games, that his team has been a double-digit underdog.
“Do we get those points before the game starts?” Mullen asked. “If we walked in and it said, ‘Florida 14, LSU 0,’ I would definitely use that. The rest of it’s irrelevant.”
Southern California at No. 9 Notre Dame, 7:30 p.m., NBC10
The luster of this rivalry might have been dulled a bit by the Trojans’ 3-2 start and the tenuous status of coach Clay Helton, but stability at the quarterback position — they’ve used three starters in their first five games — appears to be returning.
Freshman Kedon Slovis is the starter again after sitting out USC’s loss to Washington with a concussion. His 77.9% completion rate is second in FBS, and three Trojans receivers have caught more than 24 passes.
Notre Dame last week beat up on Bowling Green, 52-0, a game in which Ian Book threw one more touchdown pass (five) than incompletions (four). He will pose a challenge for a USC defense allowing more than 411 yards per game.
No. 6 Oklahoma vs. No. 11 Texas at Dallas, noon, Fox29
Check out this stat: The Sooners have run only six more offensive plays than their opponents, but have outgained them by a grand total of 1,487 yards. They enter the Cotton Bowl contest leading the nation in total offense and ranking second in scoring.
All eyes will be on Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts (404.4 yards per game of total offense), but Sam Ehlinger’s eyes light up when he sees the Sooners. The Longhorns junior quarterback has thrown for 391, 386 and 384 yards in his last three games against Oklahoma.
He accounted for nine touchdowns — four passing, five rushing — in last year’s two games, a win in the regular season and a loss in the Big 12 championship game.
No. 1 Alabama at No. 24 Texas A&M, 3:30 p.m., CBS3
This marks the 12th consecutive season that the Crimson Tide have spent time atop the AP poll, an interesting development when you consider their first 2019 game against a ranked opponent will be vs. the Aggies. And Texas A&M is only the fifth team since the start of the AP poll in 1936 to face two No. 1 teams in a season, having lost last month to Clemson.
It could be a bigger challenge than usual for the Tide’s Tua Tagovailoa (23 touchdowns, zero interceptions) against an Aggies defense that yields 299.8 yards per game.
Michigan State at No. 8 Wisconsin, 3:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
It could be a milestone day for former Salem (N.J.) High School star and Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor, who needs 84 yards to join Herschel Walker, Ron Dayne and LaMichael James as the only players to rush for 5,000 yards through their junior season.
The Spartans, facing a top-10 team on the road for the second straight week, allowed an uncharacteristic 323 yards on the ground last week at Ohio State.
Florida State at No. 2 Clemson, 3:30 p.m., 6ABC
Not so long ago, this was the ACC’s best rivalry, the two teams that have combined for the last eight Atlantic Division championships. After a 1-2 start, the Seminoles have won two in a row but the Tigers, who lost their No. 1 ranking after a narrow 21-20 win over North Carolina, want to show they still rule the conference.
What else is happening?
- Third-ranked Georgia has a legitimate claim to be RBU — Running Back University — with former Bulldogs Nick Chubb, Todd Gurley and Sony Michel ranking among the top 20 rushers in the NFL. Leading rusher D’Andre Swift (St. Joseph’s Prep) continues the tradition for the ‘Dogs, who will host South Carolina.
- No. 22 Baylor will play for the first time as a ranked team under coach Matt Ruhle, the former Temple main man. The Bears might have starting quarterback Charlie Brewer back against Texas Tech and will seek to add to its seven-game winning streak, longest current run in the Big 12.
- Speaking of coaches with Philadelphia-area ties, Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson, who spent three years in the 1990s as Villanova’s offensive coordinator, leads the No. 19 Demon Deacons into their first game as a top-25 team since 2008: a home date against Louisville.
Expatriate of the week
Junior running back John Lovett, a graduate of Cherokee High School, is the leading rusher for Baylor with 312 yards, a 7.6 yard-per-carry average and three touchdowns. Lovett, whose 108-yard performance last month against Stephen F. Austin was his fourth career 100-yard game, runs behind an offensive line on which two area products — senior offensive tackle Johncarlo Valentin (Imhotep Charter) and sophomore tight end Rob Saulin (Pennsville) — have seen playing time.