These 10 teams have something to prove in Week 7
BY PAUL MYERBERG and dan wolken October 11, 2013 9:14PM
Indiana's Tre Roberson (5) rushes the ball out of the backfield during an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013, in Bloomington, Ind. Indiana defeated Penn State 44-24. (AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)
Updated: October 12, 2013 12:02PM
Only two Southeastern Conference teams enter Week 7 of the 2013 season without a loss.
You know one: No. 1 Alabama has won nine games in a row dating to last November, the third-longest active streak in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The second undefeated SEC team comes as a bit of a surprise: Missouri, now 5-0, has matched its victory total from all of last season.
But that’s misleading. Missouri slid to five victories last fall, its first as a member of the SEC, not because of the increased level of competition — the Tigers had been extremely successful in the Big 12 — but largely because of a cruel run of injuries on the offensive side of the ball. Quarterback James Franklin, for example, was hampered throughout last season with the lingering effects of an
injury to his throwing shoulder and a sprained left knee.
Now healthy, Missouri’s offense has regained some of its explosiveness in the new-look SEC — now one of the highest-scoring leagues in the FBS. But can the Tigers maintain this pace against the SEC’s best? After starting 5-0 against lesser competition, Missouri put its perfect record on the line Saturday at No. 7 Georgia in a game with long-lasting implications. A victory not only would legitimize Missouri’s torrid start, but it also would move the Tigers to the top of the SEC East while vaulting them into the national-championship conversation.
Nine other teams with something to prove this weekend in college football:
For all its early-season struggles, the Longhorns remain in good position. Texas is 2-0 in conference play, tying it with Oklahoma and Texas Tech for first in the Big 12. That Texas stands in the Bowl Championship Series mix added another layer to its rivalry date Saturday against the Sooners, though history wasn’t on the Longhorns’ side: Texas had dropped three in a row to Oklahoma, the last two by a combined score of 128-38.
‘‘We can get all this righted by winning the Big 12,’’ coach Mack Brown said after a 44-23 loss to Mississippi on Sept. 14 dropped the Longhorns to 1-2.
The Hoosiers’ confidence has skyrocketed after a convincing victory against Penn State. But Indiana’s season has seen similar highs already: The Hoosiers have alternated victories and losses the last four weeks, with the win against Penn State following a 45-28 loss to Missouri. To reach the postseason, the Hoosiers must go on the road and move the football against Michigan State’s stingy defense. For those still on the fence, beating the Spartans on the road would endorse Indiana’s hopes for a postseason berth.
Despite what seems like evidence to the contrary, Florida enters Week 7 at 3-0 in the SEC, tied for the first in the East. The offense has been sparked by the ascension of quarterback Tyler Murphy, who replaced an injured Jeff Driskel as starter in a Sept. 28 victory at Kentucky. While the defense continues to rank among the best in the country, the Gators’ offense will be needed against LSU and new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. Consider: Florida has gained more than 400 yards against SEC competition only four times since hiring Will Muschamp in 2010 — with three of those games coming against the Wildcats.
The offense is on pace to shatter FBS season records for points and yards per game. How will the Bears fare on the road? Their trip Saturday to Kansas State marked Baylor’s first trip outside the friendly confines. It’s also the team’s stiffest test to date, even if the Wildcats have scuffled while breaking in a new cast. While Baylor’s offensive production strains credulity, the team’s national standing seemingly has suffered for its soft early-season schedule.
The Terrapins’ first taste of Atlantic Coast Conference play ended poorly: Florida State 63, Maryland 0. It was on coach Randy Edsall and his staff to rebuild the team’s tattered sense of self-confidence in advance of its home game Saturday against Virginia, another team reeling after an ugly loss to Ball State. The matchup against the Cavaliers was the first of two must-win games in a row before the Terps meet Clemson to end October. Maryland still can regain a national ranking, but only if it takes care of business against the bottom half of the ACC.
If a loss last week at Stanford tested Washington’s resolve, its home game Saturday against Oregon tested the Huskies’ stamina. Two weeks, two teams, two championship contenders, two very different styles. Washington moves from the Cardinal’s physical style to the Ducks’ quick-tempo electricity, and the Huskies’ hopes for a Rose Bowl berth hang in the balance. Although the loss at Stanford didn’t drop Washington too far in the polls, it would be tough for this team to retain its national ranking with a lopsided loss to the Ducks. Perhaps the only way to slow down Oregon’s offense is to feign injury, but don’t tell that to Washington coach Steve Sarkisian.
Very little about the Wolverines has inspired confidence that they can stay unbeaten all the way to Nov. 30, when they host Ohio State. Was their 42-13 victory last weekend against Minnesota a major step forward or fool’s gold? Michigan traveled Saturday to Penn State, which should be desperate coming off a lopsided loss last weekend at Indiana. Wolverines quarterback Devin Gardner, who has eight interceptions this season, must avoid turnovers.
While very much a Mid-American Conference contender — perhaps the best team in the East — Bowling Green has failed to match the level of consistency on defense it showed last season. The good news? The Falcons are still 5-1, even if their last three victories have come against Murray State, Akron and Massachusetts. The trip Saturday to Mississippi State was a big game for Bowling Green, of course, but it was an equally important road date for the MAC. The league has some top-heavy contenders, led by Northern
Illinois, but could use another marquee nonconference victory.
Remember these guys? With two losses already, the Broncos have fallen out of the national conversation, but their Mountain West title hopes were very much on the line Saturday at Utah State. The Aggies might have been favored in this game, but quarterback Chuckie Keeton suffered a season-ending knee injury last week, giving Boise a huge opportunity to get back in the division race and perhaps earn a rematch with Fresno State in the conference championship game.