The most significant regular-season game in the Big 12, Oklahoma vs. Texas, could be a preview of the Big 12 Championship Game in December. Week 7 also offers the opportunity to fade teams with limited offenses.
Eleven is too many points to lay in the Red River Rivalry and anybody expecting defense in the Cotton Bowl on Saturday will be sorely disappointed. Texas, 6-1 ATS in its last seven games against Oklahoma, can score enough points to remain within single digits and dropped 35 on a superior LSU defense earlier this year. The Longhorns’ hobbled defense is a serious liability, but the Sooners won’t be able to slow down Sam Ehlinger and his outstanding receivers in a game that should go back and forth.
Oklahoma has coasted through a very weak schedule—things have come easy against teams with either a losing record or backup quarterback—but the Sooners will finally meet a legitimate opponent in Week 7. Considering Oklahoma’s firepower and outstanding coaching, the lack of seasoning should not matter offensively. Oklahoma ranks first nationally in total offense, with 622 yards per game, behind the play of Heisman Trophy contender Jalen Hurts.
Despite growing up in Houston, Jalen Hurts has never been to a Texas-OU rivalry game.
“So this will be all new to you?”
“I’ve played in big games before. I think I’ll be alright.” pic.twitter.com/g1uPAH47eG
— Jake García (@Jake_M_Garcia) October 5, 2019
The same can’t be said of Oklahoma’s defense, which resembles Swiss cheese at times. The Sooners fielded the worst defense in the storied history of the program last year (105th nationally in yards allowed) and we saw a glimpse of their vulnerabilities against Houston this year, when they allowing more than 400 yards of offense and only led 42-31 late in the fourth quarter. Texas is much more formidable and is averaging 41.8 points per game behind Ehlinger. The Longhorns are 10-3-1 ATS in their last 14 games as an underdog.
Pick: Texas +11
After Syracuse was exploited by versatile offenses earlier this season, the Orange rebounded with a pair of confidence-building wins over lesser opponents. Syracuse will now face a one-dimensional NC State team that can’t throw the ball effectively (57.5% completion rate) and must rely upon its ground game.
Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren said third-string quarterback Devin Leary could play Saturday, after Bailey Hockman went 21-for-40 in his first serious action of the season against Florida State, and Syracuse is better at running back, with Moe Neal and Abdul Adams.
Doeren confirms Bailey Hockman will start, but says “Devin Leary will have an opportunity.”
“I thought Bailey came in the Florida State game and showed some guts.”
— Pack Pride (@PackPride) October 7, 2019
This season is a rebuilding a year for NC State, which had huge graduation losses in the offseason after the Wolfpack won 18 regular season games the last two years. The Wolfpack still has some talent on defense but has allowed 75 total points in a pair of games against Power Five conference foes. West Virginia rushed for 173 yards against NC State and Florida State passing for 316 yards (with three touchdowns and no interceptions). Even Ball State had 417 total yards in NC State’s last home game. Syracuse quarterback Tommy DeVito is starting to find a rhythm (nine TD passes in his last two games) and the Orange can win straight up.
Pick: Syracuse +4.5
USC lost 49-14 at Notre Dame in 2017 and expect more of the same this year. The Trojans bad on the road, with losses at BYU and Washington, and 1-9 ATS in their last 10 non-conference games. The home team has covered six straight in this series, and it will be all Notre Dame Saturday.
The Irish have covered four straight, and I like how quarterback Ian Book has developed as a passer. He has thrown for 1,254 yards this season, with 13 touchdowns and two interceptions. Notre Dame is averaging 41 points per game (11th in the nation) and the defense has developed an identity. The Irish stop unit held Georgia to 23 points and dominated Virginia.
Notre Dame now ranks in the Top 15 nationally in scoring offense (41.0) and scoring defense (14.8), joining Alabama, Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin and Georgia in that class.
— Pete Sampson (@PeteSampson_) October 6, 2019
USC’s air raid offense has worked effectively at home, but it has been bogged down on the road (only 163 passing yards at Washington), and it won’t be able to run effectively on Notre Dame.
Pick: Notre Dame -10
We’re fading an Iowa offense that rushed for only a yard, allowed eight sacks and had four turnovers at Michigan last week. The Hawkeyes have beaten up on bad teams, but were also held in check most of the way by Iowa State and needed a last-second score to reach 18 points. The Penn State defense has not given up more than 13 points in any game this season and ranks second by scoring defense nationally (7.5 points per game). While this represents Penn State’s toughest test of the season, Iowa’s pedestrian attack plays to its strength.
If my research is correct, Penn State is the only team in FBS that has yet to allow more than 14 points in a single game this season.
This defense is nothing short of incredible.
— DJ Bauer (@DJ_Bauer_99) October 5, 2019
Quarterback Sean Clifford, the second-ranked passer in Big Ten, has taken the reins for the Nittany Lions. He has passed for 1,443 yards, with 12 touchdowns and two interceptions, and is also a threat to pick up chunks of yardage on the ground. Iowa held Michigan’s dysfunctional offense to 10 points last week, but unbeaten Penn State has better weapons and is moving the ball with confidence.