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Revamped programs hope to prove their worth in Week 7
1:13 | College Football
Revamped programs hope to prove their worth in Week 7
Thursday October 15th, 2015

Can Alabama survive a trip to College Station? Will Michigan’s defense stifle rival Michigan State? SI.com breaks down the best matchups in each time slot on Saturday (all kickoff times listed are for Eastern time zone).

Early games

1. West Virginia at No. 2 Baylor, Noon, FOX

Baylor might be the No. 2 team in the country, but what do we really know about the Bears? They took advantage of a pillow-soft nonconference schedule before blitzing overmatched Texas Tech and Kansas squads. The question is which West Virginia defense shows up: The one that dominated during a 3–0 start against lesser foes, or the one that gave up a combined 77 points to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State in its last two games? Either way, you can bet Baylor has revenge on its mind: West Virginia’s 41–27 upset of the Bears last season cost Art Briles’s team a shot at the national title.

2. No. 17 Iowa at No. 20 Northwestern, Noon, ABC/ESPN2

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No one would have expected Iowa and Northwestern to meet halfway through the season with just one combined loss. This matchup in Evanston will impact the Big Ten West title. The Wildcats’ once-vaunted defense suffered a humbling 38–0 loss last week to Michigan. But unbeaten Iowa won’t be at full strength this weekend. Six starters will miss the game with an injury, including star defensive end Drew Ott. Can quarterback Clayton Thorson and Northwestern take advantage at home?

3. No. 13 Ole Miss at Memphis, Noon, ABC/ESPN2

Get used to hearing the name Justin Fuente a lot this season. Memphis’s coach should be high on the wish list of several Power Five teams looking for a new head coach. The Tigers, who shared last season’s American Athletic Conference title, are 5–0 with the top offense (47.8 points per game) in the league. Ole Miss, meanwhile, paces the SEC in scoring at 46.8 points per game. But don’t underestimate a stingy Memphis squad coming off a bye week, especially with quarterback Paxton Lynch. The junior is the AAC leader at 10.5 yards per attempt and has thrown 10 touchdown passes against zero interceptions.

Mid-day games

1. No. 10 Alabama at No. 9 Texas A&M, 3:30 p.m., CBS

We’ve now seen the good and bad sides of Alabama. The Crimson Tide can give up 37 points in a home loss to Ole Miss then turn around two weeks later and suffocate Georgia on the road 38–10. In a win over Arkansas last week, Bama scored 24 of its 27 points in the second half. Nick Saban’s squad is uncharacteristically inconsistent, and that’s troublesome with a road matchup against Texas A&M looming. The Aggies are 5–0 and were idle last week while preparing for the Tide. Expect the 12th Man to show up in full force at Kyle Field.

2. No. 7 Michigan State at No. 12 Michigan, 3:30 p.m., ESPN

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Michigan boasted one of the Big Ten’s better defenses a year ago, but this season’s unit looks even better. Since dropping a 24–17 opener at Utah, the Wolverines have allowed 14 total points while winning five consecutive games and have shut out their last three opponents. Now Jim Harbaugh’s crew welcomes rival Michigan State to the Big House. Though unbeaten, the Spartans have struggled as of late: They went down to the wire in one-score victories over Purdue and Rutgers in their last two games.

3. No. 19 Oklahoma at Kansas State, 3:30 p.m., ABC

Oklahoma is likely still searching for answers after a shocking 24–17 loss to Texas in last week’s Red River Showdown. The Longhorns rushed 58 times for 313 yards against the Sooners, who couldn’t find the end zone before a Baker Mayfield touchdown pass in the third quarter. Kansas State, meanwhile, has yet to notch its patented Bill Snyder Upset of the Year. The Wildcats came close the last two weeks but lost 36–34 to Oklahoma State and 52–45 to TCU. The Sooners can’t overlook the Wizard of Manhattan.

Primetime games

1. No. 8 Florida at No. 6 LSU, 7 p.m., ESPN

At long last, Leonard Fournette faces a truly challenging defense. Florida ranks third in the SEC in rushing defense (3.05 yards per carry) and has given up just three rushing touchdowns in 2015. Fournette, meanwhile, averages more than twice the rushing yardage (204.4) that the Gators allow as a team (99.17). But what can we expect from Florida’s offense? With quarterback Will Grier now suspended for the rest of the season, Treon Harris gets the start. The Gators’ offense was terrible with Harris at the helm in 2014.

2. USC at No. 14 Notre Dame, 7:30 p.m., NBC

Despite the turmoil in Los Angeles, USC still must play a football game this weekend. Only a few days removed from the firing of head coach Steve Sarkisian, interim coach Clay Helton leads the Trojans to South Bend. USC hasn’t resembled a preseason Pac-12 favorite this season; last Thursday’s 17–12 loss to Washington was the Trojans’ second defeat of the year. But Notre Dame isn't about to feel sorry for its West Coast rival. Quarterback DeShone Kizer and running back C.J. Prosise have helped the Irish absorb a rash of injuries to remain in the playoff hunt.

3. Arizona State at No. 4 Utah, 10 p.m., ESPN

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There’s a reason Utah coach Kyle Whittingham’s name has already surfaced as a possible replacement for Sarkisian at USC. Whittingham has the No. 4 Utes (5–0) sitting as the only undefeated team in the Pac-12 with wins over Michigan, Oregon and Cal. A key reason for the hot start is the turnover battle, where Utah is tied for first nationally in turnover margin (+2.0 per game). The Utes now welcome an Arizona State squad that upset then-No. 7 UCLA in the Rose Bowl two weeks ago. Sun Devils quarterback Mike Bercovici must make flawless decisions against Utah’s defense, which forced Cal’s Jared Goff into five interceptions last week.

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