by: Wilton Jackson Updated:
ATLANTA - Well, well, well … The first week of college football for the month of October is in the books, and it provided a direct indication of why college football is where some of the greatest upsets and comebacks take place in sports. The first week showed a preview of what could likely happen any given weekend in the month of October: major upsets and some top teams struggling to remain at the top, hoping to keep their chances of competing for a national championship or a New Year’s Six bowl game.
One can bet, following Iowa State’s upset of Oklahoma, Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield --- who had a superb performance against the Cyclones --- cannot wait to take the field this week to put an early-season conference loss behind him and defend his “trash talking” against the Texas Longhorns in Norman. For the 107,601 dedicated fans dressed in blue and maize, who sat in the rain in Ann Arbor and watched their Michigan Wolverines lose to the Michigan State Spartans, the season isn’t over just yet. There’s still a lot of football left to play.
For LSU, the Tigers needed a win in The Swamp against Florida and they were successful. Alabama and Clemson held on to secure their victories. NC State made a statement in the ACC after beating Louisville. Georgia looks impressive after slamming Vanderbilt in SEC East action. The Bulldogs look like they are on pace to meet the Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship game.
But, Georgia fans, don’t speak too soon. Keep taking each game one at a time.
These are only a handful of teams that you will want to keep your eye on this week and for the remainder of the month. Get ready for another great week of football in the month of October.
Week 7 kicks off Thursday as Texas State (1-5) looks to get its second win of the season against the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (2-3) in Sun Belt conference action.
On Friday, No. 2 Clemson (6-0) travels north to play Syracuse (3-3) in ACC Action while No. 8 Washington State (6-0) goes on the road against California (3-3) in a Pac-12 match.
Then, on Saturday, tune in for ESPN College Game Day as the crew will be broadcasting live at 9 a.m. from Bridgeforth Stadium and Zane Showker Field on the campus of James Madison University.
Rece Davis, Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard, Lee Corso, David Pollack and Maria Taylor will discuss all the big games for Week 7, including the headliner game for the afternoon as FCS defending champion and No. 1 James Madison looks to get a victory against Villanova to extend its winning streak to 18 games.
WATCH Channel 2 for the big games this weekend. Plus, follow Channel 2 Sports Director Zach Klein as he brings you the latest coverage from the Georgia-Missouri game and college football teams across the state playing in Week 7.
Top Games on Channel 2
(17) Michigan at Indiana | 12 p.m. on Channel 2
Although it was raining very hard in Ann Arbor for the Michigan-Michigan State game, some additional underlining factors came to the light and could hurt the Wolverines if they are not corrected moving forward.
Underlining factors? An identity and consistency on offense. With starting quarterback Wilton Speight out with a cracked vertebra, Wolverines fifth-year senior quarterback John O’Korn made his first start of the season, throwing for 198 yards and three interceptions on three consecutive plays.
But, hey, what about the nasty weather?
For Michigan, however, its offensive problems are beyond just the quarterback position. O’Korn was under a lot of pressure from the Spartans’ defense. Pass protection is important, something head coach John Harbaugh will have to fix, especially for a quarterback coming in trying to make a direct impact for the team. Then, when you factor in the turnovers and penalties, the Wolverines must do better and fast.
Michigan’s defense has remained stellar as the Wolverines (4-1) remain No. 1 overall and not allowing their opponents to score in the fourth quarter this season. Leaving your defense on the field for so long without scoring ay substantial points offensively can only work for so long, especially with teams who have shown they can score and move the ball efficiently. Indiana (3-2) averages nearly 30 points and 408 yards of total offense per game. Even with a switch at quarterback for the Hoosiers, from Richard Lagow to Peyton Ramsey, Indiana has proven it can move the ball through the air and on the ground. Last week, Ramsey threw for 321 yards, two touchdowns and one interception against Charleston Southern in a 27-0 victory.
While Charleston Southern’s defense is not Michigan’s defense, this will most likely be a major advantage for the Wolverines on Saturday.
However, here is the moral of the story.
Michigan will need to limit its turnovers and better protect O’Korn in the pocket, allowing him to make good decisions with the ball on offense. As an extra tidbit, the Hoosiers have a minus-7 turnover margin and rank No. 123 in turnovers. Thus, if the Wolverines defense can force the Hoosiers into making turnovers, Michigan must be ready to capitalize on the opportunities. Currently, the Wolverines hold a 21-game winning streak over the Hoosiers.
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Georgia Tech at (11) Miami | 3:30 p.m. on Channel 2
While Clemson continues to gain national attention and dominate the ACC Atlantic division, Miami (4-0) has built a reputation of its own, sitting atop the ACC Coastal division and looking to become a Top 10 team in the country. Under second-year head coach Mark Richt, who coached the team to a 9-4 record in his first season, the Hurricanes could be on the brink to returning to the dominant team they were at the turn of the century under head coaches Butch Davis and Larry Coker. Since the turn of the century, the last time Miami won more than nine games was from 2000-2003.
Given Richt and the Hurricanes' success in his first year, this might be the year that “The U” is back.
But, the season is still early and just beginning to get interesting. To continue the thought of Miami restoring its place as a powerhouse team in college football, the Hurricanes must stay focused in an ACC Coastal clash this weekend against Georgia Tech, a team that is looking to make a statement by getting a win against a quality conference opponent.
Georgia Tech (3-1) has wins against Jacksonville State and two wins against Pittsburgh (2-4) and North Carolina (1-5). This week, the Yellow Jackets will be tested.
But, one thing you can count on for sure is that Yellow Jackets head coach Paul Johnson’s game plan will not change. Tech is going to run its triple offense rushing attack. Quarterback TaQuon Marshall has rushed for a team high 523 yards, averaged 5.1 yards per carry and recorded nine touchdowns while throwing for 333 yards and four touchdowns. With running the ball as a primary asset of the offense, Georgia Tech leads the country in time of possession per game, ranks fourth in third-down conversions and ninth in fourth-down conversions. Marshall may throw a pass here and there, but you can count on Tech’s running game as the first and mostly the only option on offense.
The Yellow Jackets, who rank second in rushing with 396 yards per game, may have some trouble against Miami’s defense. The Hurricanes give up 384 yards per game but only 148 on the ground. With Tech not having much of a passing game and if the Canes can slow down Tech’s rushing attack, Miami could be on pace to get another division win in conference play.
The Hurricanes thrive on making big plays, a reason that their time of possession total remains low. Miami averages 472 yards of total offense with 275 of those yards coming through the air. Like the Hurricanes, the Yellow Jackets have a solid defense, ranking 17th in both yards per play and opponent passer rating. Georgia Tech also gives us fewer big plays than any other team as the Yellow Jackets have given up 32 plays of 10-plus yards and 11 of 20-plus and none longer than 60. In last year’s matchup against Miami, the Yellow Jackets gave up seven plays of 10 yards or more in 21 plays in the first-half.
If Tech wants to earn a win on the road, the Yellow Jackets must limit the Hurricanes' big plays. They also must limit turnovers, having lost eight fumbles and committed 14 total this season. If Tech commits turnovers and Miami is rolling on both sides of the ball, the turnovers will ultimately be the difference maker between a win and a loss for the Yellow Jackets this weekend.
Utah at (13) USC | 8 p.m. on Channel 2
Most people will expect the Utah-USC game to be a very high scoring one, and it could be. However, given the impressive stats on their respective defenses, this game could come down to which team can break the mold and score efficiently. In the end, one of the respective defenses will be exposed or one of the offenses will struggle to score in Saturday’s match in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Defensively, Utah (3-1) is 20th in the nation against the run and third in the conference, allowing only 3.4 yards per carry and 109 yards per game. With USC’s running game taking a drop in recent weeks due to the injury to Ronald Jones II and relying on freshman running back Stephen Carr, things have been shaky in the Trojans rushing attack and could be problem in the game on Saturday night. Jones is working his way back to normal speed as he rushed for 79 yards on 12 carries for one touchdown, averaging almost seven yards per carry last week against Oregon State. The rushing attack is something that USC head coach Clay Helton will look to have ready for Saturday’s game.
Not only do the Trojans need a threat on the ground, it will also help quarterback Sam Darnold, who has been under pressure a lot in passing situations, mainly due to the numerous injuries on the Trojans offensive line and their inability to establish the rushing attack they had through the first three weeks of the season. Darnold has thrown for 1,705 yards, 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Having Jones back to more of a normal pace, hopefully having Carr to play on Saturday and offensive linemen Toa Lobendahn and Chuma Edoga back, USC’s offense will run efficiently.
It will take a lot of effort, and the challenge will not be easy for the Trojans.
The Utes (4-1) have generated 14 turnovers and their defensive linemen have been outstanding, despite an injury to its top pass rusher, Kylie Fitts. Bradlee Anae has stepped for Fitts and blended well with the line.
Utah also features an offense that is dominant, averaging 32 points per game and averaging 431 yards of total offense. The Utes, however, are also dealing with some quarterback issues in which the Trojans will need to be prepare for either Troy Williams or Tyler Huntley. Huntley was injured in the Utes game against Arizona, giving Williams another chance to start. Williams did not have best game last week in a loss against Stanford, throwing one touchdown and two interceptions.
The Utes quarterback issues could be a positive for USC’s defense, one that has generated 15 turnovers. The Trojans also feature as fierce pass rush that has forced opposing quarterbacks into throwing interceptions and forcing fumbles.
All in all, it comes down to which offense will have the least struggles to get going and remain consistent throughout the game. Will it be the Trojans rushing attack or the Utes quarterback situation? Either way, The Coliseum will be rocking Saturday night in Los Angeles.
Top Local Games
Missouri at Georgia | 7:30 p.m.
For Georgia fans, your Bulldogs are still undefeated and are crushing their opponents in all aspects of the game. In their 45-14 win over Vanderbilt last week, the Bulldogs held the Commodores to 14 points and ran for 423 yards on the ground, showcasing an outstanding performance on the ground. Then, throw in quarterback Jake Fromm’s performance of throwing for 102 yards and two touchdowns. One cannot ask for a better all-around performance.
But, that was last week. It is a new week, a new opponent and a new challenge.
The new opponent? The Missouri Tigers.
Although Missouri (1-4) is dead last in the SEC East right now, Georgia must remain focused and play with the same attitude it has played with through the first six weeks of the season. This is not the week to slip up, get lax and let being ranked No. 4 in the nation go to their heads.
And, Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart echoes the same mindset.
In an ESPN article, Smart talked about the importance of the race, referring to their current rank of being No. 4 but the end goal being more important and not getting caught up in the hype.
"The race is after the 50-meter mark and that's where the race is,” Smart said in the article. “I don't know one person that ever talked about (Justin) Gatlin being ahead of (Usain) Bolt at the 50-meter mark. Nobody cared. They only care about where you finish and they only care about what you do next. That's our objective -- to do what's next."
Keeping Smart’s philosophy in mind, the Bulldogs have another opportunity to put on another dominating performance if they play with the same intensity and enthusiasm they have been playing with previously.
Georgia has won the last three meetings dating back to 2014. The last time Missouri beat Georgia was in 2013 when the Tigers defeated the Bulldogs on the road, 41-26. With the game being played in Athens on Saturday, the Bulldogs need to be ready to go on all cylinders as they do not need a midseason upset from a Missouri team who has not won a conference game, giving up 40 points and 459 yards per game to its opponents.
Considering the Tigers numbers on defense, the Bulldogs should have an efficient day offensively. Out of the 459 yards the Tigers are surrendering to their opponents, 193 are coming from their opponents’ ground game. For Georgia, this a great.
If all goes as planned, Nick Chubb ---who ranks seventh in SEC history with 4,042 yards --- and Sony Michel should be able to combine for huge numbers on the ground. When the running game clicks, it takes pressure off Fromm to do as much, even though he’s capable of putting on a solid performance. Georgia’s rushing attack ranks 11th in the nation, averaging 268 yards per game.
The Bulldogs are in a good situation, and they must take advantage of it.
As for Missouri, the Tigers have struggled defensively but on offense, they can move the ball up and down the field, averaging 470 yards per game (294 yards passing, 176 yards rushing).
Missouri is also averaging 27 points per game but the Tigers average points total per game stems from non-Power Five conference teams.
With Georgia’s defense --- one that ranks first in the SEC in total defense and third nationally, fifth against the run and 10th against the pass, the Bulldogs defense will be tested and they must not get comfortable. Georgia’s front seven must continue to bring pressure and the linebackers and secondary must be ready at all times.
If Georgia executes on both sides of the ball, it should be another strong win for the Bulldogs.
Kennesaw State at Liberty | 6 p.m.
It is homecoming for Liberty this week but the Flames have a lot more to worry about than the mere fact of it being homecoming weekend. Liberty enters Saturday’s game on a two-game losing streak, hoping to avoid its first three-game losing streak since dropping five games in a row between the 2011 and 2012 seasons.
Liberty’s homecoming opponent? Big South preseason co-favorite Kennesaw State.
The Flames will have their hands full in slowing down the Owls, who are riding a four-game winning streak, tying their longest in program history. The Flames have held its last four opponents to 101 yards on the ground.
However, Kennesaw State loves to run the ball on offense as the Owls are ranked fourth nationally in rushing yards per game with nearly 303 per game, mainly behind the play of quarterback Chandler Burks who ranks among conference leaders with 377 yards and five touchdowns.
The Flames’ defense will be challenged. But, if the numbers mean anything, Liberty could be in the right position to end its current losing streak.
The Flames are 2-0 all-time against the Owls. Liberty is 8-2 in its last 10 conference openers and homecoming games. The Flames are also 4-1 coming off a bye under head coach Turner Gill and have won five straight games played in month of October.
Flames quarterback Stephen Calvert is having a solid year, leading the conference with 1,611 passing yards and four touchdowns. Thus, the Flames have the ability to move the ball up and down the field. If Liberty is successful in doing so, the Flames could be on the brink of snapping their two-game losing skid and become the first opposing team ever to record three wins over the Owls.
As for Georgia State, a win for the Panthers would continue to help solidify their identity as a team in the conference.
Georgia State at Louisiana-Monroe | 5 p.m.
After back-to-back losses to start the season, Georgia State has put together a couple of victories that have put the Panthers in a good position going into their fourth straight road game of the season against conference opponent University of Louisiana-Monroe.
The Panthers (2-2) had a cancelled game against Memphis due to Hurricane Irma but their recent victories have come against conference opponents in Charlotte and Coastal Carolina.
Like Georgia State, Louisiana Monroe (3-2) had a cancelled game against Florida State in between its first two losses to kick off the season. Since starting 0-2, the Warhawks have won three straight games against University of Louisiana Lafayette, Coastal Carolina and Texas State.
With the Panthers starting to find themselves as a team and the Warhawks riding the wave of a three-game win streak, Saturday’s matchup in Malone Stadium should be a good one.
Louisiana Monroe, however, has won the last two games when the teams played each other. Last year, the Warhawks beat the Panthers, 37-23. Warhawks running back Thomas Koufie rushed for 201 yards and five touchdowns.
If the Panthers hope to earn a victory, they cannot give up 200-plus yards on the ground. Currently, the Warhawks are averaging 456 yards of total offense per game with 203 coming on the ground.
The positive for the Panthers? They have only allowed their opponents 156 yards per game on the ground and have shown they are capable of slowing down some teams with solid rushing attacks when needed. The Panthers will have the task of slowing down Warhawks running back Derrick Gore, who has rushed for 290 yards and five touchdowns this season.
While Georgia State has given up 387 yards per game to its opponents, the Panthers have only allowed 23.5 points per game in comparison to the Warhawks 37. Thus, all the Panthers need to do is get critical stops on defense, not allow the Warhawks to score despite their ability to move the ball and find ways to score.
Finding ways to score sounds simple, right? For the Panthers, not so much.
Georgia State is only averaging 16 points per game. Turnovers have hurt the Panthers all season. If Georgia State can reduce its turnovers, the Panthers may have a good shot at winning. Currently, Panthers quarterback Conner Manning leads the Sun Belt in completion percentage at 65.5 percent, running back Glenn Smith has 330 all-purpose yards in the last two games and wide receiver Penny Hart leads the conference in receptions.
Other SEC Action
BYU at Mississippi State | 12 p.m.
South Carolina at Tennessee 12 p.m.
(10) Auburn at LSU | 3:30 p.m.
Vanderbilt at Ole Miss | 3:30 p.m.
Texas A&M at Florida | 7 p.m.
Arkansas at Alabama | 7:15 p.m.
Other ACC Action
Florida State at Duke | 12 p.m.
(20) NC State at Pittsburgh | 12 p.m.
Boston College at Louisville | 12:20 p.m.
Virginia at North Carolina | 3:30 p.m.
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