Saturday Storylines: Wait for Ducks & Devils
Plot threads to track in Week 7:
• Arizona State @ Oregon, 10:15 p.m. ET: In Week 7, the best game on the schedule is also the last. So maybe take a power nap during the first half of Virginia Tech-Wake Forest or something to rest up for Saturday's most compelling action.
With ASU fielding the best defense, statistically, the Ducks have had to face since LSU, and with Oregon missing its best player, this is an intriguing one to parse. LaMichael James is a likely scratch, but as you've likely surmised by now, the Ducks have enviable options like Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas to send in. Should he be pressed to throw, Darron Thomas will have to hustle: The Ducks are allowing less than a sack per game at their current clip, but the Sun Devils' pass rush has is adept. Oregon can pass when it's called upon to do so, but the Sun Devils have fared better defensively against the pass than the run, so the Ducks' first choice of offensive strike is also their best.
Backs not wearing JAMES on their jerseys versus an ASU defense currently allowing just under 120 yards per game to ground carriers is the story on one side of the field. Flip possession, and the matchup to watch is Brock Osweiler's 25th-ranked passing offense (292 yards per game) against the Ducks' 20th-ranked pass efficiency defense.
More main events
• No. 11 Michigan @ No. 23 Michigan State: Is Michigan State even any good? Can we just decide as a group, right now? I really want to know, and the Spartans are making their quality difficult to discern. They're 5-1, but three of those five wins came against Youngstown State, Florida Atlantic and Central Michigan. They did beat Ohio State, but they were handled 31-13 by common opponent Notre Dame, which Michigan edged in a shootout. Wouldn't we all like to have this one settled? With Western Michigan emerging as a top MAC contender, I really would like to settle on one major-conference Michigan team to follow. Thanks so much.
• Ohio State @ No. 16 Illinois: Elsewhere in Big Ten Teams Of Dubious Quality: We're not seriously buying this "undefeated Illinois is undefeated!" thing, right? ( ... right?)
• No. 20 Baylor @ No. 21 Texas A&M: So rare that one is able to predict a barn-burner on a campus replete with actual barns. Thank you, Texas A&M, for your agricultural bent, and thank you, both squads, for your unwillingness to sustain any sort of significant defensive pressure for an entire game over the past month. Truly, blessed are the points-cravers.
Intrigue in the undercards
• No. 15 South Carolina @ Mississippi State: Forget the ascension of Connor Shaw for just a second, if you can: Do the struggles of Chris Relf and able performance of Tyler Russell in Week 6 mean we've heard the last of college football's most poetic phrase, "Pass complete, Relf-to-Bumphis"?
• No. 19 Virginia Tech @ Wake Forest: The Hokies are favored by less than a touchdown, and though it's unlikely that you can name a single player on Wake's offense, know that the Deacons are actually a top 20 passing outfit. This could be a lot of fun. As in, "Wake Forest Hasn't Beaten Virginia Tech Since 1983" fun.
• No. 17 Kansas State @ Texas Tech: Two of the Wildcats' last three wins have been surprises; it is perhaps time to stop picking against them, even as underdogs, until they make me change my mind. The Wildcats outscored Baylor; they have the necessary components to do this. And Texas Tech is missing a key piece of its winning strategy after losing running back Eric Stephens to a bum knee.
• No. 6 Oklahoma State @ No. 22 Texas: Texas' pass efficiency defense is ranked seventh nationally, but the Longhorns allowed 367 yards to Oklahoma in the air just a week ago, and State comes in averaging 431 passing yards per game with the nation's second-ranked aerial offense. The good news for burnt orange partisans is that the Pokes' defense is ranked 103rd nationally, so at least look for more points on the board than the Horns managed in the Red River Shootout.
Non-AQ not-to-be-missed tilts of the week
Toledo-Bowling Green and UCF-SMU.
Not for human consumption
Indiana's lone 2011 win came against South Carolina State, which itself came the week before the Hoosiers' loss to North Texas. Indiana fields the nation's 97th-ranked defense, is allowing an average of 421.5 yards per game, and will be traveling to Camp Randall to face the nation's ninth-ranked offense. Western Kentucky and Florida Atlantic have one (1) win between two (2) teams. And frankly, it's just creepy that Duke has a better record than Florida State, no matter their early opponents. We cannot recommend partaking of these games under any circumstances.
Apart from the headlining game up top, late-night games on offer include two surefire bloodbaths. Who'll take his foot off the scoreboard accelerator first: Bob Stoops against a Kansas team that's wall-to-wall woeful, or first-year Utah State starting quarterback Chuckie Keeton and his merry band of tailbacks, who comprise the nation's sixth-ranked rushing offense, against a Fresno State defense that allowed 216 rushing yards to North Dakota?
SI.com in the field
Freshly minted Pac-12 resident Stewart Mandel will be up Eugene way, taking in the spectacle of Arizona State-Oregon, while Andy Staples hunkers down in Big Ten country with Michigan and Michigan State. Staples will also be providing updates on Saturday's action, as I've been taken out of service by one of those rare can't-miss in-season wedding invitations. (But the ceremony's in Nashville, so maybe we'll sneak away for a few snaps of Georgia-VanderHAHAHAHAH just kidding, we will in no way do that.)