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College Football Roundup: Week Seven Brings Yet Another Wild Weekend

Week seven of the college football season brought even more upsets, wild finishes and exciting games that shook up the rankings

Week 7 marked the official halfway point of the 2021 college football season, with more regular season games played at this point than there are remaining. After a wild Week 6, the Week 7 matchups provided a bit of respite – at least on paper – with only two games between ranked opponents taking place. But, even on what was supposed to be a quiet weekend, the 2021 season still had some surprises in store, including another shakeup in the College Football Playoff race.

PURDUE 24 #2 IOWA 7

Purdue put on the most impressive performance of the weekend in a dominating 24-7 win over previously unbeaten Iowa in Iowa City. The formula for Iowa to this point in the season was simple – let an opportunistic defense force turnovers that give an inconsistent offense short fields to work with. Through the first half of the season this had worked wonderfully for the Hawkeyes, as they led the nation with +15 turnover margin.

On Saturday though, that script was flipped on Iowa. Purdue only turned the ball over once (a fumble through the end zone that was inches from being a touchdown) while an underrated Boilermaker defense forced Hawkeye QB Spencer Petras into four interceptions to go along with four sacks and eight tackles for loss. On the offensive side of the ball, Jeff Brohm designed a unique game plan that kept the aggressive Iowa defense at bay by playing three quarterbacks. The star of the show was Aidan O’Connell, who threw for 375 yards and 2 TDs. WR David Bell was the primary beneficiary of that passing performance, catching 11 balls for 240 yards and a TD.

Believe it or not, Purdue controls its own destiny in the Big Ten West as the Boilermakers hold the tiebreaker over Iowa, but it won’t be easy with November games against Michigan State and at Ohio State. For Iowa, the Hawkeye’s CFP hopes took a major hit, but should Iowa win out and beat the Big Ten East champion in the Big Ten title game, Iowa would likely still get into the playoff. There is no more margin for error though.

#1 GEORGIA 30 #11 KENTUCKY 13

Kentucky was off to its best start since 1950 but traveled to Athens for a tough matchup against a Georgia team that has been the nation’s best through the first half of the season. Even though Kentucky ranked 11th in the nation, the Wildcats entered the game as 22.5-point underdogs, and it makes sense why. According to the 247 Talent Composite rankings, Kentucky’s roster ranks 31st in the country while Georgia ranks 2nd.

The Wildcats played hard and never quit (covering the spread with a touchdown with four seconds left), but Georgia controlled this entire game. Kentucky came into the game averaging 214 yards rushing per game and needed to run the ball successfully to keep this close. But though the Dawg defense gave up (gasp) two touchdowns, they still held Kentucky to just 243 total yards, including just 51 yards rushing on 1.9 yards per attempt. Kentucky was forced to throw the ball 42 times, and despite completing 32 of them, QB Will Levis still averaged only 6.0 yards per completion.

The main question facing Georgia at this point is whether the offense is explosive enough to win a title. QB Stetson Bennett was solid again with 250 yards passing and 3 TDs and the Dawgs averaged 6.1 yards per carry against a strong Wildcat defense, but to this point in the season the Georgia offense has never had to carry the team. For Kentucky, the Wildcats need to make sure that this loss does not derail a special season – they still have a good shot to play in a New Years Six bowl for the first time in school history.

McDONOUGH’S MUSINGS

  • Texas has blown fourth quarter leads two weeks in a row, turning a promising start into what looks like another middle-of-the-pack finish in the Big 12. Last week, Oklahoma outscored Texas 25-7 in the fourth quarter en route to a 55-48 victory. This week, Texas led 24-16 heading into the fourth, but was outscored 16-0 by Oklahoma State. Most concerning for the Longhorns? Despite having arguably the nation’s best running back in Bijan Robinson, Texas was only able to net 6 yards on three fourth quarter drives.
  • Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley made the decision to ride the hot hand and start true freshman Caleb Williams against TCU. Williams was sensational on Saturday, with 361 total yards and 5 TDs in a 52-31 victory, but his biggest impact on the Sooner offense was on the rushing attack – not the passing attack. Oklahoma may be known as a passing team, but from 2013-2019, the Sooners never ranked worse than fourth in the Big 12 in rushing while averaging at least 220 rushing YPG each season. This season, heading into the Texas game last week, the Sooners ranked 5th in rushing offense in the Big 12 and were only averaging 161 rushing YPG. Against Texas and TCU with Williams and his dual-threat ability at the helm though, Oklahoma has run for 569 yards on 7.5 YPC, which has keyed their offensive explosion.
  • The craziest stat of the weekend was that Purdue’s victory over Iowa was the Boilermakers’ ninth win as an unranked team against an AP poll top-two team in program history. No other college football program has more than four such wins. In terms of total victories over top-two teams in the AP poll, the Boilermakers now have thirteen, trailing only Notre Dame, Ohio State, USC, and Oklahoma.
  • Having passed the halfway point of the season, let’s check in on the state of the Power 5 conference races:
  • SEC
    • Favorite: Georgia
    • Other Contenders: Alabama
    • Biggest Surprise: Kentucky
    • Biggest Disappointment: Florida
    • Top Storyline for the Second Half: Georgia and Alabama appear on a collision course for the SEC Championship game. If the Tide knock off the Bulldogs, the SEC will still get two CFP bids, but if the Bulldogs beat Alabama in a close game, could a two-loss Alabama team still make the playoff?
  • BIG TEN
    • Favorite: Ohio State
    • Other Contenders: Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State, Iowa, Purdue
    • Biggest Surprise: Michigan State
    • Biggest Disappointment: Wisconsin
    • Top Storyline for the Second Half: Who will win the Big Ten East and face either Iowa or Purdue in the Big Ten Championship game? Ohio State has stabilized after an early loss to Oregon, Penn State has been impressive when Sean Clifford is healthy, and Michigan and Michigan State boast strong rushing attacks. Things get real on October 30th, when Michigan State hosts Michigan and Penn State travels to Columbus to face the Buckeyes.
  • ACC
    • Favorite: Wake Forest
    • Other Contenders: NC State, Clemson, Pittsburgh
    • Biggest Surprise: Wake Forest
    • Biggest Disappointment: North Carolina (followed closely by Clemson)
    • Top Storyline for the Second Half: Can anyone dethrone Clemson? Despite ranking 115th in the nation in total offense, Clemson can still make the ACC Championship game by winning out and NC State losing another game. Until anyone else earns it on the field, the ACC still belongs to the Tigers.
  • PAC-12
    • Favorite: Oregon
    • Other Contenders: Utah, Oregon State, Arizona State, UCLA
    • Biggest Surprise: Oregon State
    • Biggest Disappointment: USC
    • Top Storyline for the Second Half: Can Oregon navigate the remaining PAC-12 schedule and get back in position for the conference’s first playoff berth since 2016, or will the PAC-12 continue its history of cannibalizing its top teams? The Ducks have a tricky remaining schedule that includes trips to UCLA, Washington, and Utah before the season-ending Civil War game against Oregon State.
  • BIG 12
    • Favorite: Oklahoma
    • Other Contenders: Oklahoma State, Baylor, Iowa State
    • Biggest Surprise: Baylor
    • Biggest Disappointment: Texas
    • Top Storyline for the Second Half: Will the annual Bedlam game between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, which figures to be even more heated given the fact the Sooners are moving to the SEC, feature a matchup of two undefeated teams? Iowa State and Baylor are still in position to play spoiler despite early season conference losses. The Bears host Oklahoma on November 13th and the Cyclones host Oklahoma State next weekend before traveling to Norman on November 20th.

BIGGEST WINNERS OF THE WEEKEND

  • Purdue: Though the offensive stars have gotten most of the attention in the wake of the Boilermakers’ victory over Iowa, Purdue’s defense has been really good this season. Led by All-American DE George Karlaftis and a strong supporting cast, Purdue ranks second in the Big Ten in total defense and scoring defense, allowing only 293.2 YPG and 14.0 PPG respectively.

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  • Michigan State: If I had told you the Spartans would have only 241 total yards, commit twelve penalties, go 5-16 on third down, and only have 26:30 time of possession on the road, you would have predicted a big Indiana victory. Instead, Michigan State rode a strong defensive performance which included a pick-six from LB Cal Haladay to go along with clutch 51 and 49-yard field goals from K Matt Coghlin to pull out a 20-15 win and move to 7-0. The Spartans have a bye before a massive October 30th matchup against archrival #6 Michigan on the banks of the Red Cedar.
  • Oklahoma State: The Cowboys continued to ride their strong defense and running game to stay undefeated with a 32-24 comeback victory over Texas. RB Jaylen Warren ran for 193 yards and the Big 12’s second-ranked defense shut out the Longhorns in the fourth quarter. Oklahoma State travels to Iowa State next weekend in what will be the toughest test for the Cowboys until the Thanksgiving weekend Bedlam matchup with archrival Oklahoma.
  • UTSA: The Roadrunners cooked Rice 45-0 this weekend to move to 7-0 on the season and jump into the AP and Coaches Top 25 rankings for the first time in school history. UTSA has only been playing football since 2011 and has the inside track for its first Conference USA championship this season. Expect to hear head coach Jeff Traylor’s name connected to some bigger jobs this offseason.

BIGGEST LOSERS OF THE WEEKEND

  • Iowa’s offense: Despite giving up 464 yards to Purdue, the Iowa defense still only allowed 24 points, extending the nation’s longest streak of holding opponents under 25 points to 29 games. The Iowa offense could not hold up its end of the bargain. Even though QB Spencer Petras struggled (again) to throw the ball, the most concerning stat for the Hawkeyes is that they were held to 76 yards rushing and only averaged 2.5 YPC. For a team that prides itself on a strong offensive line setting a physical tone, it is shocking to see Iowa ranked 13th in the Big Ten in rushing at only 116.6 YPG.
  • Dan Mullen and Todd Grantham: Playing an LSU team that was coming off two straight losses and (as we found out Sunday morning) had already fired coach Ed Orgeron, Florida’s performance on Saturday was unacceptable. The Gators lost 49-42 and allowed an LSU offense that came into the game averaging 83.3 rushing YPG to rush for 321 yards. You have to question the game plan from Mullen and defensive coordinator Grantham. The Gators have a bye before taking on Georgia in the “World’s Largest Cocktail Party”, but the pressure is building on Mullen to turn the season around – Florida is only 2-6 in its last 8 games against Power 5 opponents. If the Gators sputter to the finish, staff changes will be in order in Gainesville, starting on the defensive side of the ball.
  • Oregon: The Ducks managed to squeak by 1-5 California on Friday night despite trailing 17-10 heading into the fourth quarter. The offensive stats still look nice for the Ducks as they rolled up 454 total yards – but nine penalties and two lost fumbles allowed the Golden Bears to stay in the game. Oregon still owns that win over Ohio State and is helped by an Iowa loss making it less likely there are two Big Ten teams in the playoff, but the Ducks need style points to get the nod over other one-loss teams (or even a two-loss Alabama).
  • Tennessee fans: Volunteer fans showed their displeasure with some questionable officiating in the 31-26 loss to Ole Miss by hurling trash onto the field – including a golf ball in Lane Kiffin’s direction. In addition to this obviously being incredibly dangerous for the coaches, players, and cheerleaders on the field, this is a terrible look for the fan base and university. The Volunteers haven’t played many games that mattered since 1999, and evidently their fans forgot how to act.

BIGGEST GAMES OF WEEK 8

  • #14 Coastal Carolina at Appalachian State (Thursday)
  • #16 Wake Forest at Army
  • #8 Oklahoma State at Iowa State
  • #10 Oregon at UCLA
  • LSU at #12 Ole Miss
  • Clemson at #23 Pittsburgh
  • #5 Ohio State at Indiana
  • USC at #13 Notre Dame

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