Week 7 had a jam-packed slate of highly anticipated match-ups. All of them either met or exceeded expectations. Photo courtesy of Gerald Herbert / Associated Press
Coming into this weekend, there was so much anticipation for the plethora of marquee match-ups. To me, it almost felt like that this weekend was getting so much hype that we were destined to be let down and have a bunch of blowouts. However, the hype proved to be spot on early Saturday afternoon and carried over into Saturday evening. Offensive explosions, brutal defenses and wild upsets all played a factor in Week 7, and it was glorious.
Saturday started with another amazing chapter in the Red River Rivalry’s history. Oklahoma QB Jalen Hurts continued his incredible season with a big performance over the hated Longhorns. Hurts had a total of 366 yards of total offense and four total touchdowns in Oklahoma’s 34-27 win. Hurts might have just had his Heisman moment in this game when he switched the ball between hands behind his back, broke away from what would have been a big sack, and threw a dime for a first down. While that was an incredible play, and one that made all of the highlight reels, the biggest takeaway for me from the game was the play of the Oklahoma defense. Coming into the game, there was a lot of talk about if this Oklahoma defense had really improved from a year ago. Saturday, they looked completely unrecognizable. They were flying all over the field and flying to the football. They were able to get pressure and sack Sam Ehlinger nine times in this one. If this defense can continue to play like that through the rest of the season, coupled with a very explosive offense, they are going to be a serious title contender.
At the same time that Oklahoma was beating its rival, the most shocking result of the day was brewing “Between the Hedges” in Athens, GA. #3 Georgia was hosting the Gamecocks of South Carolina in a game that everyone thought would be a runaway. That didn’t happen. The Gamecocks defense played lights out and were able to get pressure on Jake Fromm forcing him to throw three interceptions, none bigger than a 53 yard pick-6 at the end of the first half. Shout-out to Carolina DB Israel Mukuamu who accounted for all three interceptions by the Gamecock defense. Up front, Carolina was able to keep Georgia’s run game in check and the Georgia offense was rendered useless in this game. A couple of missed field goals by veteran kicker Rodrigo Blankenship didn’t help the Dawgs either, especially the one in the second overtime that would have tied the game. South Carolina squeaked out of Sanford Stadium with the win, but the result was more than just an upset. South Carolina exposed just how mediocre this Georgia offense is when their run game is shut down and how poor their offensive line play has been. While this doesn’t necessarily end Georgia’s SEC title hopes or even playoff hopes, there is plenty to worry about for fans in Athens as Georgia still has to take on Auburn, Florida, Missouri and Texas A&M.
All of that led to three huge match-ups on Saturday night. I’ll start with another edition to a historic rivalry game that took place in South Bend, IN. The #9 ranked Irish of Notre Dame played host to USC. The Trojans came into the game 3-2 with close losses to Utah and Washington in Pac-12 play. Notre Dame was 4-1 with their only loss being a close one on the road at Georgia. Notre Dame was the heavy favorite coming in and probably should have won in a runaway. But credit USC for hanging around and making this a game. QB Kedon Slovis, who started the year as the backup QB, got the start this week after being out for the past couple of games for the Trojans. I felt that if USC could manage to find a running game, they’d have a pretty good shot to win. Needless to say, they did, but it wasn’t nearly as impressive as Notre Dame’s ground attack that tallied 308 yards and 2 scores. This one looked to be over in the early stages of the third quarter when Notre Dame went ahead 20-3. However, USC was able to hang around and get within three points with just over a minute left in the game. The comeback effort would fall just short, but I think USC proved something in that game and they showed just how talented they really are. If the Trojan fan base can hold off on calling for Clay Helton’s job, I think USC can make a big statement next year in 2020.
Over in the Big 10, we got the type of game you’d expect to see from the Big 10. A hard fought, defensive struggle of a game. Neither Penn State or Iowa were able to do a whole lot offensively. Every yard gained had to be worked for. The Hawkeyes have a defense that is good enough to win games, the problem for Iowa is their lack of consistency on offense. Before the Michigan game a week ago, Iowa’s offense looked to have turned a corner. But now two straight losses against two good defenses have shown us who Iowa really is on that side of the ball. In the two losses Iowa’s defense as only given up 27 points. That’s 13.5 points per game, good enough for most teams to win with. However, in those same two games, their offense has only scored 15 points. If the Hawkeyes can get that fixed, they will be a tough team to beat. Heck, even right now with the defense they have, they are a tough team to beat. On the flip side, Penn State continues to play great defense and was really tested for the first time on offense. QB Sean Clifford will have to play better if the Nittany Lions want to get through the rest of their schedule unscathed.
And that leads us to the biggest match-up of Week 7. Florida and LSU. The Gators and the Tigers. We all knew how good this LSU team was before this game. They’ve been playing at an elite level all season so far. The biggest match-up in the game in my opinion was that LSU offense going up against that tough Gator defense. Joe Burrow and the Tigers shredded Florida, especially on the ground as LSU put up over 500 yards of offense in this one, making it look all too easy. On the other side, I really worried that Florida’s offense would be good enough to keep them in the game if this got into an offensive battle. I was proved wrong. Kyle Trask, other than the interception near the end of the game, played great. Florida’s offense was unable to be stopped as they methodically trotted down the field time after time. In the first half the Gators put together scoring drives of 12 plays, 13 plays and 11 plays. The final score, however, is a little misleading as to how close this game actually was. There are glaring problems for both teams, mainly on defense. Both defense’s gave up a bunch of yards and had trouble stopping both the run and pass. Florida may be okay considering their aren’t many teams left on their schedule that can threaten them like LSU did. LSU on the other hand may have some issues against a team like Alabama. If the Tigers can remain undefeated, the game with the Tide in November is going to be huge. Honestly, I think this Tigers offense is good enough to win in a shoot-out with a team like Alabama.
The big games this week all lived up to the hype. However there were plenty of other good games and surprises throughout the FBS in Week 7. For instance, the craziest game of the weekend took place in Winston-Salem. Wake Forest came in ranked #19 as they faced a Louisville team, that is better from a year ago, but still has a long way to go. Neither team could stop rain in a bucket in this game as both teams combined for over 1,500 total yards (offense and special teams) and 121 points. If you do the math, the two teams were scoring 2 points every minute! There were a combined 45 points scored in the Fourth Quarter alone! A big win for Head Coach Scott Satterfield and this Louisville team moving forward. They will have some momentum going into next week when the host Clemson.
Other surprises where Virginia losing to a very bad Miami team on Friday night, in a game in which the Cavaliers got into the redzone 6 times and only came away with 9 points. Tennessee got their first SEC conference win of the year when the beat Mississippi State. And poor Vandy got dominated at home this week by UNLV 34-10. This a UNLV program that hasn’t had a winning season since 2013. Vanderbilt fans are already looking ahead to basketball and baseball season as the Commodores drop to 1-5 here in 2019.
The Southern Conference schedule was pretty light in Week 7 as their were only two games, both conference showdowns. The Citadel got a nice bounce back win at home over Western Carolina. The Catamounts defensive woes continued as they gave up 412 yards of offense to The Citadel. Bulldogs QB Brandon Rainey looked healthy and got the offense back into rhythm. Just in time too, as The Citadel will now shift their focus to this Saturday when they travel up to Greenville to take on Furman. Western Carolina goes to Spartanburg to face Wofford.
VMI continues to surprise everyone as they get another huge conference win over Samford. This game was an absolute shoot-out. VMI running back Alex Ramsey had a career day for the Keydets rushing for 6 touchdowns. QB Reece Udinski continues to shine as well as he has yet to throw an interception this year. The Samford offense got back on track against a weak VMI defense, but a couple of turnovers really hurt the Bulldogs. Much like Western Carolina, VMI and Samford have some of the worst defenses in the FCS, but they Keydets were able to do just enough to win this one 48-41 in overtime. VMI gets ready to take Mercer next week down in Macon. Samford gets the week off before hosting ETSU.
The Panthers and Buccaneers squared off in the wee hours of Sunday morning as the game took place over in London. Carolina lost the first match-up with the Bucs back in Week 2, but got another big win this week. QB Kyle Allen continues to show the hot hand right now as the Panthers have not lost with him as the starter. Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel both had a good for Carolina. The Panthers defense continues to play lights out as they had a huge day as a unit forcing seven Buccaneers turnovers. Carolina has really turned their season around since the opening two losses. The Panthers have supplanted the second spot in the NFC South and have a real shot to still win the division. They get a much needed bye before having to travel to San Francisco.
Houston and Kansas City played what was probably the best game on Sunday. Deshuan Watson just keeps tearing apart defenses and the offensive line is getting better each week. Houston was able to put up almost 200 yards on the ground against a pretty good Chiefs defense. On the flip side, Patrick Mahomes was short of a one man band out there for KC. Houston was able to render the Chiefs’ running game ineffective only allowing 53 yards. A nice fourth quarter rally gave Houston the 31-24 win and get them to 4-2 on the year. Kansas City has now dropped two straight, both to AFC South competition.
The biggest shocker in the league was the Jets beating Dallas on Sunday. New York was previously win-less, but got starting QB Sam Darnold back this week. The Jets offense showed how much better they really are with a healthy Darnold. The surprising thing was that New York actually jumped out to a huge lead in this game as they went into halftime up 21-6. Give Dallas some credit for coming back in this game, but ultimately the Jets defense was able to hold the Cowboys off just long enough to pull out the 24-22 win.
Check out the Week 7 recap show on The Spread Podcast page or on Soundcloud. John and I break down all of these great match-ups from this weekend in football. Also, be sure to visit our social media pages on Twitter and Facebook. Like and follow us to get all the latest in the world of football and let us know what you’re biggest takeaways have been so far this season.