The college football season features 14 weeks before the postseason matchups are revealed, meaning that this weekend will represent the end of the first half of the 2017 season. Strangely, there are zero games matching two ranked opponents, but from the Red River Showdown to important tests for teams like No. 6 TCU (at Kansas State), No. 10 Auburn (at LSU), No. 17 Michigan (at Indiana) and No. 11 Miami (vs. Georgia Tech), there are plenty of games worth paying attention to on Saturday in Week 7, after Syracuse's upset over Clemson and Cal's upset over Washington State got things started on Friday night.
All times are Eastern, and within each time slot games are previewed in order of importance and watchability.
* * *
Saturday Early Afternoon
No. 6 TCU at Kansas State
Everybody is on the TCU bandwagon now. The Horned Frogs allowed just seven points in a nonconference win at Arkansas. They beat Oklahoma State on the road. They beat West Virginia last week, shortly after Oklahoma was upset by Iowa State. TCU is ranked No. 6 and is the Big 12's only remaining unbeaten team, with a solid group of weapons on offense, improved play from QB Kenny Hill and one of the Big 12's best defenses. Meanwhile, Kansas State lost to Vanderbilt and Texas and, according to multiple reports, will need to start backup QB Alex Dalton in place of the injured Jesse Ertz. Everything seems to be going TCU's way here.
That means it's time for a classic Bill Snyder upset, right? Delton is a good runner, and the key for Kansas State is to try to do what it does best and control the flow of the game with that ground attack. Additionally, its defense needs to force a couple mistakes from Hill and the TCU offense. Most of what happened in the first six weeks of the season points TCU's way, but in what increasingly looks like a parity-dominated Big 12 season, the Horned Frogs will have a tough time keeping this unbeaten run going, no matter how well they've been playing. Don't be shocked if the undefeated record is spoiled on Saturday.
Pick: Kansas State 24, TCU 23
No. 17 Michigan at Indiana
Michigan is in a tough spot. Its quarterback, Wilton Speight, is injured. Its offensive line isn't anywhere close to the standard Jim Harbaugh set at Stanford. It has been horrendous in the red zone, and it is coming off its eighth loss to Michigan State in the past 10 rivalry games. It lost the turnover battle 5-0 in that game. Now it has to go on the road to face a feisty Indiana defense, the week before a prime-time white out game at No. 3 Penn State next Saturday. Any panic about where Michigan is in Year 3 under Harbaugh is exaggerated, as this is a young team that is in a transition year after losing at on of seniors from last year's Orange Bowl squad. Nevertheless, there's a lot to fix, and this is a big spot on the road in which the Wolverines need to rebound.
Indiana has also dealt with offensive uncertainty, with Peyton Ramsey taking the quarterback job from Richard Lagow. He'll face a stiff test in a dominant Wolverines' defensive front seven. The Hoosiers have the ability to push Michigan, but expect the Wolverines to successfully bounce back behind that defense.
Pick: Michigan 26, Indiana 17
No. 24 Texas Tech at West Virginia
Texas Tech is a somewhat surprising addition to the top 25 this week at 4-1, having already matched last year's win total. The Red Raiders do have solid wins over Arizona State and Houston and kept things close with Oklahoma State, and, as usual, they're highly dangerous on offense. They head to Morgantown this week for what figures to be a shootout between Red Raiders QB Nic Shimonek and West Virginia QB Will Grier. Both teams are in the top 10 nationally in yards per play, scoring and passing yards, and both defenses have holes, even if Texas Tech is a little bit better than usual. That Red Raiders growth will certainly be tested in a tough road game on Saturday. Dana Holgorsen has defeated Kliff Kingsbury three years in a row, and despite Texas Tech's improvement, West Virginia can make it four in a row here.
Pick: West Virginia 42, Texas Tech 34
South Carolina at Tennessee
After a horrifying 41-0 loss to Georgia at home, the Volunteers mercifully had an off week last Saturday. Now, they face an enormous game for coach Butch Jones, who's unquestionably on the hot seat. Last year, South Carolina derailed the Vols' SEC East title hopes with a 24-21 win in Columbia. This year, the Gamecocks travel to Knoxville to face a new Vols starting QB: redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano, who takes the place of the struggling Quinten Dormady. The Vols have a talented runner in John Kelly, but they rank 98th in yards per play. Their defense also ranks a mediocre 71st. It's still hard to get a read on South Carolina, which crushed Arkansas last week with the help of three defensive touchdowns and is missing its best weapon, Deebo Samuel. The Gamecocks do have a quarterback advantage, though, with Jake Bentley, and it's hard to pick Tennessee with confidence, even in a must-win game the week before a trip to Alabama.
Pick: South Carolina 21, Tennessee 19
No. 20 N.C. State at Pittsburgh
Noon, ACC regional
N.C. State owns wins over both Louisville and Florida State, turning its dreams of being a sleeper ACC title contender into a reality. The Wolfpack are ranked in the AP top 20 for the first time since 2003, and this is a big game in which they need to take care of business on the road against a beatable Pitt squad. After the bye, N.C. State plays Notre Dame and Clemson in back-to-back games. The Wolfpack hold several advantages here, as Pitt has been a mess, ranking 123rd in yards per play allowed on defense and 96th in yards per play on offense. Pitt QB Max Browne is out for the season, putting the starting job in the hands of Ben DiNucci, who has shared time thus far. It's a brutal matchup against N.C. State's talented defensive line, and it's hard not to see that unit controlling this game.
Pick: N.C. State 35, Pittsburgh 20
Florida State at Duke
Florida State is just 1-3, and it still has games against Louisville, Clemson and Florida left. After a heartbreaking loss to Miami, the Seminoles desperately need a confidence-boosting road win this week in Durham. They should get it. Duke has lost back-to-back games to Miami (31-6) and Virginia (28-21) following a 4-0 start. It has played well on defense and ranks sixth in tackles for loss per game, which is bad news for a struggling Florida State offensive line, but the Blue Devils' offense has also stumbled the past couple games. Florida State's defensive talent has the advantage to push the Noles back in the right direction.
Pick: Florida State 31, Duke 17
BYU at Mississippi State
Noon, SEC Network
Mississippi State followed its blowout win over LSU with blowout losses to Auburn and Georgia. It got a needed off week and returns home to Starkville for a matchup that looks far more favorable than expected before the season. BYU has had a rough first half of the season, going 1-5 with an offense that ranks 125th in yards per play and 128th in scoring. The Cougars are solid defensively, but given how much their offense has struggled, this game comes down to one thing: Mississippi State has Nick Fitzgerald and BYU doesn't, and after a couple of lousy games, Fitzgerald can rebound.
Pick: Mississippi State 27, BYU 13
Boston College at Louisville
12:20 p.m., ACC regional
Boston College's defense can cause some problems against Louisville's offensive line. Unfortunately for the Eagles, they're among the teams least equipped to take advantage of Louisville's problems in pass defense. Making matters worse for Boston College is that the Cardinals' best defender, cornerback Jaire Alexander, is ready to start again after dealing with an injury. Lamar Jackson had 416 yards of total offense in a 52-7 win over the Eagles last year, and he'll lead Louisville back from last week's disappointment at N.C. State.
Pick: Louisville 37, Boston College 13
* * *
Saturday Late Afternoon
No. 12 Oklahoma vs. Texas (at Dallas)
3:30 p.m., ESPN
Oklahoma's shocking home loss to Iowa State -- its first since 1990 -- against a backup quarterback was quite deflating for both the Sooners and the appeal of this game. After all, Oklahoma had been ranked No. 3 with a Heisman frontrunner quarterback in Baker Mayfield and the season's best win, at Ohio State, on its resume. The upset loss means that the Sooners almost certainly have to run the table to make the playoff. That looks unlikely, given the current state of the defense. Oklahoma allowed a total of 37 points in three nonconference games (including 16 points against the Buckeyes). In two Big 12 games, it has allowed 41 points to Baylor and 38 to Iowa State. It also has injury problems, with both RB Abdul Adams and WR CeeDee Lamb questionable for Saturday's game at the Cotton Bowl.
Despite Oklahoma's tumble, this is still probably the biggest game of this weekend. It's the first Red River Showdown between coaches Lincoln Riley and Tom Herman, making this the first time this rivalry has featured two first-year coaches since 1947, when Blair Cherry and No. 3 Texas beat Bud Wilkinson and No. 15 Oklahoma 34-14. Cherry coached Texas only three more years, and the legendary Wilkinson won nine of the next 10 games against the Longhorns as Oklahoma dominated the 1950s.
The Sooners should have the better team in this game, but Texas has clearly made strides since its opening loss to Maryland. The Longhorns' defense has especially improved, playing well in the loss at USC, and the team is coming off an OT win over Kansas State. The biggest question for Texas is quarterback, as freshman Sam Ehlinger had 487 yards of total offense last week and appears poised to wrestle the job away from Shane Buechele, who has been dealing with injuries.
A Texas win would put it squarely in the Big 12 race while knocking Oklahoma out of the playoff picture and potentially squashing Mayfield's Heisman hopes. It's still tough to bet against Mayfield bouncing back.
Pick: Oklahoma 34, Texas 27
Georgia Tech at No. 11 Miami
3:30 p.m., ABC
It's a spot that screams trouble for Miami. The Hurricanes finally beat Florida State for the first time since 2009, and they're hoping to finally get to their first ACC title game ever. The door is open after the rivalry win. But after the emotional high of beating Florida State, Miami had to quickly refocus to prepare for Georgia Tech's option attack, which has been moving well behind new QB TaQuon Marshall. Making matters worse for Miami is its injury report: In addition to RB Mark Walton being out for the season, the Hurricanes will play this game without guard Navaughn Donaldson, cornerback Dee Delaney and safety Sheldrick Redwine. Standout receiver Ahmmon Richards is also questionable.
That's a lot of bad news, but Miami can survive problems in its secondary this week. It is loaded in the defensive front, a group that contained Georgia Tech in a 35-21 win last year. Playing the Yellow Jackets is nothing new for former Georgia coach Mark Richt, of course, and the Canes have the talent and athleticism up front defensively to contain Marshall and this attack. There's little doubt that this is a tough spot for Miami, but it's also a difficult matchup for Georgia Tech.
Pick: Miami 30, Georgia Tech 24
No. 10 Auburn at LSU
3:30 p.m., CBS
Auburn still hasn't won in Baton Rouge since 1999, the last year of the Gerry DiNardo era at LSU. That means LSU has won eight in a row in Death Valley against its fellow Tigers, first under Nick Saban, then under Les Miles. Now it's up to Ed Orgeron to continue that streak, in LSU's first home game since losing to Troy. Although LSU has owned Auburn on its home field, losing to Auburn last year in Jordan-Hare Stadium ended the storied tenure of Les Miles. Despite bouncing back from the Troy loss with a win at Florida, LSU is a touchdown underdog against a surging Auburn squad that has been phenomenal defensively -- sixth in yards per play and points allowed -- and has been improving on offense, as well. In three SEC games, Jarrett Stidham has averaged 13.3 yards per attempt with five TDs and zero picks, aided by a strong running game that's being led by Kerryon Johnson with Kamryn Pettway hurt.
In the past four games, LSU has single-digit wins over Syracuse and Florida, an upset loss to Troy and a blowout loss to Mississippi State. It's possible that the Troy game served as a wake-up call, but there's still be no indication that LSU, which has uncharacteristic problems on its offensive line, can respond to beat a complete Auburn team that appears to be head and shoulders above the rest of the SEC West's challengers to Alabama.
Pick: Auburn 24, LSU 17
No. 25 Navy at Memphis
3:45 p.m., ESPNU
Yes, Memphis was blown out by UCF a couple weeks ago, but this stands out as a sneaky good game on the Week 7 schedule, between an unbeaten Navy squad and a dangerous Tigers offense coming off a 70-point effort at UConn. It's a clash of styles between Navy's option offense, led by QB Zach Abey (870 rushing yards), and Memphis' pass attack, led by QB Riley Ferguson (1,535 passing yards) and WR Anthony Miller (516 receiving yards). It's also an enormous game in the battle for the AAC West title, and the first of two big conference games in a row for the Midshipmen, who play UCF next Saturday. Navy has won each of the first two conference meetings with Memphis, but its pass defense faces a tall task against Ferguson and Miller.
Pick: Memphis 35, Navy 31
Purdue at No. 7 Wisconsin
3:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
The only ranked team on Wisconsin's regular-season schedule is No. 17 Michigan, a home game on Nov. 18. The Badgers pulled away from Nebraska on the road last week in one of their toughest games of the season, and it's hard not to look at their schedule and think they at least have a chance of going through the regular season unbeaten. That's true even though they have an unreliable passing game; they're stout defensively, again, and freshman running back Jonathan Taylor has been spectacular. This is the type of game that's a bigger challenge than previously thought, as coach Jeff Brohm has brought energy to the Boilermakers, who are 3-2 and coming off a 14-point win over Minnesota. Is Purdue good enough to win in Camp Randall Stadium? Not yet, but it can at least be competitive.
Pick: Wisconsin 29, Purdue 20
Baylor at No. 14 Oklahoma State
3:30 p.m., FS1
Baylor is 0-5 and searching for its first win under coach Matt Rhule. After an off week, the Bears are going to have to keep waiting. Although they did challenge Oklahoma at home a few weeks ago, going on the road to Stillwater is an unlikely spot for that first victory. The Cowboys just have too many weapons, with Mason Rudolph throwing to James Washington and a talented receiving corps. Baylor is improving enough to grab a couple Big 12 wins, but not against a team like Oklahoma State.
Pick: Oklahoma State 49, Baylor 27
* * *
Saturday Prime Time
Utah at No. 13 USC
8 p.m., ABC
USC has one of the nation's most grueling schedules, with 12 games in a row before an off week to end November. It already played Texas in nonconference play, and it gets Notre Dame on the road next week. After its closest thing to an off week -- a home game against Oregon State, after which Beavers coach Gary Andersen quit -- the Trojans' grind begins again. Before visiting Notre Dame, they have to beat Utah at home. The Utes quietly went 4-0 in September before falling to Stanford last week. They were Sam Darnold's opponent for his first start last year, winning a 31-27 heartbreaker for the Trojans. A lot has changed since then, of course, as the Trojans have won 14 of 15 games and Darnold has become a household name who's a coveted NFL prospect.
Darnold's season hasn't quite gone as expected, though, as he's thrown nine interceptions and ranks 46th in passer rating. He's had flashes of brilliance, but in an offense dealing with injury problems, he's been undeniably inconsistent. Utah will test his progress, as it ranks 19th in yards per play allowed and always challenges opponents with a physical defense.
Pick: USC 31, Utah 21
Arkansas at No. 1 Alabama
7:15 p.m., ESPN
Bret Bielema is 27-29 overall and just 10-24 at Arkansas. This year's Razorbacks beat Florida A&M and New Mexico State, lost close to Texas A&M and got blown out by TCU and South Carolina. At 2-3 overall and 0-2 in the SEC, now Arkansas has to play Alabama and Auburn in back-to-back games. In other words: Things are going to get worse before they get better for the Hogs. Nick Saban is a perfect 10-0 against Arkansas as Alabama's coach, and the past four meetings in Tuscaloosa have been double-digit Crimson Tide wins. There's no reason to believe those trends won't continue on Saturday.
Pick: Alabama 40, Arkansas 13
No. 9 Ohio State at Nebraska
7:30 p.m., FS1
Nebraska won its first Big Ten meeting with Ohio State in 2011, the Buckeyes' transition year between Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer. Since then, they've met twice, both times at Ohio State: a 63-38 Buckeyes win in 2012 and a 62-3 Buckeyes win in 2016. The Buckeyes have scored at least 54 points three games in a row against UNLV, Rutgers and Maryland, and although this will be a more difficult game in a tough environment, the Cornhuskers haven't done much to make anyone believe they're capable of beating Ohio State a year after losing this matchup by 59. Ohio State's dominant defensive line and running game can control this game.
Pick: Ohio State 42, Nebraska 17
Texas A&M at Florida
7 p.m., ESPN2
Texas A&M put forth an admirable effort against Alabama last week, losing by only eight points after the Crimson Tide obliterated Vanderbilt and Ole Miss. The Aggies are solid up the middle defensively, they can run the ball and freshman QB Kellen Mond is showing off impressive potential. It's never easy to bounce back from a physical loss to Alabama and go on the road to a place like the Swamp, but it's not as if the Gators aren't beatable. Florida continues to play without big weapons on offense -- injured WR Tyrie Cleveland is doubtful -- and its defense is not nearly as stingy as the past few years. The Gators are still 3-1 in SEC play, but there's yet to be a moment where they've been truly impressive. Last week, they lost at home by a point to LSU in a toss-up game. In another toss-up game, the slight edge goes to an Aggies team that has more playmakers, led by Christian Kirk and Trayveon Williams, and will surely be wearing the better uniforms:
Pick: Texas A&M 24, Florida 21
No. 21 Michigan State at Minnesota
8 p.m., Big Ten Network
Suddenly, a spotlight is back on Michigan State. After last year's dreadful 3-9 campaign and an early loss to Notre Dame, the Spartans have re-entered the top 25 thanks to wins over Iowa and, more importantly, Michigan. They scored a total of only 31 points in those two wins, but their defense has played well and their offense has avoided making costly mistakes. That's the hope again on Saturday night in night road game at Minnesota, in its first year under P.J. Fleck. The Golden Gophers started 3-0 in nonconference play, but they've lost back-to-back Big Ten contests to Purdue and Michigan State. All signs point to this being another low-scoring, defense-first game involving the Spartans. They've won two in a row, and the mission this week is to avoid a letdown after their big rivalry win and pull off something similar.
Pick: Michigan State 22, Minnesota 15
Missouri at No. 4 Georgia
7:30 p.m., SEC Network
Their meeting last year was a 28-27 thriller that Georgia won on Jacob Eason's 20-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah McKenzie on fourth-and-10 with 1:29 left. Georgia hoped that would be a launching point to stardom for Eason, a five-star recruit who started as a true freshman. But although the Bulldogs are experiencing a breakthrough in the second season under coach Kirby Smart, it's not Eason leading them. Injured in Week 1, Eason is now backing up true freshman Jake Fromm, who has played well but also hasn't been asked to do much. That's because Georgia's offensive line is exceeding expectations and the defense has been one of the nation's most dominant. Thus, this should be a far different result than last year: Georgia has made huge strides, and Missouri has been a mess, sitting at 1-4 with blowout losses to South Carolina, Purdue and Auburn.
Pick: Georgia 38, Missouri 7
Cincinnati at No. 18 South Florida
7:30 p.m., ESPNU
South Florida has won all five of its games by double digits, but there's still a sense that it hasn't necessarily earned its top-20 billing. It plays one of the nation's weakest schedules, and this is another week in which we're unlikely to learn a whole lot. Charlie Strong inherited a much better Year 1 situation at USF than Luke Fickell did at Cincinnati, which is 2-3 and has lost to Marshall by 17 and UCF by 28 the past two games.
Pick: South Florida 42, Cincinnati 20
East Carolina at No. 22 UCF
7 p.m., CBSSN
Two seasons after going winless, UCF is 4-0 with blowout wins that include Maryland and Memphis. The Knights are on a roll under second-year coach Scott Frost, scoring 47.5 points per game behind breakout star quarterback McKenzie Milton. Meanwhile, East Carolina is 1-5 in its second year under coach Scottie Montgomery, with all five losses by at least 20 points. ECU has already allowed more total yards than Michigan did all of last season.
Pick: UCF 55, East Carolina 14
* * *
Saturday Late Night
Boise State at No. 19 San Diego State
10:30 p.m., CBSSN
Although the Broncos aren't as potent as expected -- they were blown out by Virginia a few weeks ago -- they represent perhaps the biggest hurdle standing in the way of San Diego State's bid for an undefeated regular season. The Aztecs are in the position Boise State had grown accustomed to: They beat two Pac-12 teams (Stanford, Arizona State), they have a nationally known star player (RB Rashaad Penny), they look like clear Mountain West favorites, they're ranked in the top 20 and they're contenders for a New Year's Six bowl bid. Boise State has taken a step back, so it's hope here is to spoil all the fun for the Aztecs, who, after the Broncos, don't play anybody ranked better than 74th in Football Outsiders' F/+ ratings.
Pick: San Diego State 24, Boise State 21
Oregon at No. 23 Stanford
11 p.m., FS1
Either Oregon or Stanford won the conference every year from 2009-15, and at least one of these teams was ranked in the top 10 when they met each of those years. That's changed, as Washington has made a leap to the top of the Pac-12 North, and this is no longer game of the week material. (Instead, it will kick off at 11 p.m. ET.) That doesn't mean it's not worth watching. There are two terrific running backs in this game, with Oregon's Royce Freeman dueling with Stanford's Bryce Love. For how good Freeman has been throughout his career, he has nearly 600 fewer yards than Love in six games, simply because Love's rushing production has been otherworldly: 118 carries for 1,240 yards and nine touchdowns, an average of 10.5 yards per carry with a ridiculous number of big plays. Oregon's defense has improved under new coordinator Jim Leavitt, but it hasn't faced a ground attack like this.
Pick: Stanford 34, Oregon 21
No. 5 Washington at Arizona State
10:45 p.m., ESPN
Chris Petersen isn't happy with it, but Washington draws yet another #Pac12AfterDark game, its second in a row that kicks off at 10:45 p.m. ET. After smashing Cal last week, the Huskies go on the road this time to Tempe to meet a 2-3 Sun Devils squad that beat Oregon a couple weeks ago and has had every game decided by 10 points or less. Before an off week, the Sun Devils gave up 301 rushing yards to Stanford's Bryce Love. Washington's Myles Gaskin isn't going to do that, but an efficient Huskies offense and a dominant Huskies defense should be more than enough to carry them to a road win against another Arizona State team that can't stop anybody.
Pick: Washington 38, Arizona State 17
UCLA at Arizona
9 p.m., Pac-12 Network
Arizona's two leading rushers are quarterbacks. Brandon Dawkins has 358 yards on the ground, but he left last week's win over Colorado early, opening the door for Khalil Tate to set the single-game FBS quarterback rushing record with 327 yards and four TDs on only 14 carries. It's the type of performance that can't be duplicated, but now Tate faces a UCLA defense that ranks 129th in rushing yards per game allowed. On the other side, UCLA has its own prolific quarterback, the possible top pick in the draft: He hasn't gotten much help, but Josh Rosen leads the nation in passing, averaging 427 yards per game with 17 TDs and five picks. It's hard to have confidence in either defense at this point, but Rosen is more likely to continue the high statistical output, and UCLA had an off week to prepare.
Pick: UCLA 42, Arizona 31