College Football Picks: First can’t-miss slate of season
If this college football season was a television series, you could jump right in this weekend without needing to catch up on previous episodes.
The first six weeks have been entertaining, sure, but really not much has happened. No plot twists. No significant new story lines. Take a glance at the Top 25 and your friends can get you up to speed in five minutes.
Week 7 feels like the first of the season you can’t miss. A season-high four games match ranked teams, all involving at least one top-10 team. Two more top-10 teams are facing high-profile rivals that have been in turmoil. Pretty much every game is a conference game. Both Death Valleys should be rocking Saturday.
The Red River Rivalry is a good place to start with its noon ET kickoff. No. 11 Texas has emerged from several years of mediocrity to again be a legitimate threat to No. 6 Oklahoma in the Big 12. The Longhorns and Sooners split two games last season, including the Big 12 championship. Final combined score: Oklahoma 84, Texas 75.
The headliner under the lights is No. 7 Florida at No. 5 LSU. The Gators are playing in a second-straight top-10 matchup after a home victory against Auburn. The annual SEC crossover rivalry has been one of the most competitive in the conference in recent years. The last seven meetings have been decided by 11 points or fewer, including six one-possession games.
In between, No. 1 Alabama visits No. 24 Texas A&M; No. 2 Clemson hosts Florida State; No. 10 Penn State is at No. 17 Iowa; and No. 9 Notre Dame faces Southern California.
A note of caution: The odds makers are not forecasting as much drama as the rankings and/or history suggests with most of the marquee matchups. Only one (Penn State-Iowa) has a point spread of less than 10 points as of Wednesday.
Colorado (plus 21) at No. 13 Oregon
QB Justin Herbert has only occasionally looked like a future top-tier NFL draft pick this season, but the Buffs’ pass defense has been dreadful (9.5 yards per pass, 126th in the nation) ... OREGON 34-17.
No. 20 Virginia (plus 2) at Miami
This probably won’t be much consolation to ’Canes fans, but with just a few breaks Miami would be 4-1 ... MIAMI 24-20.
No. 1 Alabama (minus 16½) at No. 24 Texas A&M
Johnny Manziel isn’t walking through that door for the Aggies ... ALABAMA 38-20.
Florida State (plus 27) at No. 2 Clemson
Tigers have won the last two meetings by a combined 90-24 and it feels like Clemson is due to break out after a close call at North Carolina; Or maybe FSU can show it has turned a corner under Willie Taggart and keep things competitive ... CLEMSON 45-21.
South Carolina (plus 24½) at No. 3 Georgia
Bulldogs have won four straight (36-15 average) to flip the rivalry back to its traditional state after the Gamecocks won four of five ... GEORGIA 36-15.
No. 7 Florida (plus 13) at No. 5 LSU
This is a huge ask for the Gators to go on the road and pull the upset ... LSU 35-20.
No. 6 Oklahoma (minus 11½) vs. No. 11 Texas at Dallas
The winning quarterback — either OU’s Jalen Hurts or UT’s Sam Ehlinger — becomes the Big 12′s Heisman front-runner ... OKLAHOMA 48-35.
Michigan State (plus 10½) at No. 8 Wisconsin
Badgers star RB Jonathan Taylor, meet Spartans star LB Joe Bachie ... WISCONSIN 28-20.
Southern California (plus 11) at No. 9 Notre Dame
Trojans will get QB Kedon Slovis (concussion) back after he missed most of the last two games ... NOTRE DAME 35-21.
No. 10 Penn State (minus 3½) at No. 17 Iowa
Kinnick Stadium at night and a solid Hawkeyes defense should provide a good test for a Penn State team that hasn’t faced many so far ... PENN STATE 27-20.
Hawaii (plus 11½) at No. 14 Boise State
Broncos have won six straight against the Rainbow Warriors, none close ... BOISE STATE 38-24.
No. 15 Utah (minus 14) at Oregon State
Utes should have their hands full with Beavers WR Isaiah Hodgins, second in the nation in yards receiving per game (126.4) and TD catches (nine) ... UTAH 42-31.
No. 16 Michigan (minus 23) at Illinois
Status of former Michigan QB Brandon Peters (upper body injury), who transferred to the Illini, is uncertain ... MICHIGAN 31-14.
Washington State (minus 1) at No. 18 Arizona State
Cougars have lost two straight and have not dropped three straight regular-season games since 2014 ... ARIZONA STATE 31-27.
Louisville (plus 6½) at No. 19 Wake Forest
Demon Deacons trying to go 6-0 for the first time since 1944 ... WAKE FOREST 35-27.
Texas Tech (plus 11) at No. 22 Baylor
Baylor tries to avoid a loss and likely becoming the fourth Big 12 team to spend just one week ranked, joining TCU, Kansas State and Oklahoma State ... BAYLOR 28-20.
No. 23 Memphis (minus 6) at Temple
Start of a season-defining stretch for the Owls: No. 21 SMU next week and UCF after that ... TEMPLE 28-24.
No. 25 Cincinnati (minus 7½) at Houston
What can the Bearcats do to follow-up last week’s big victory against UCF? ... HOUSTON 31-27, UPSET SPECIAL.
Nebraska (plus 7½) at Minnesota — @mjsayler
Gophers are the only undefeated Power Five team still unranked ... MINNESOTA 30-21.
Iowa State (minus 10½) at West Virginia — @PCBounds
Mountaineers hung tough against Texas last week ... IOWA STATE 34-21.
Washington (minus 6) at Arizona — @bkbeban
Who would have thought the Wildcats would be better positioned in Pac-12 than the Huskies at this point? ... WASHINGTON 38-33.
Wyoming (plus 3½) at San Diego State — @barredindc
Cross-division game that could be pivotal to the Mountain West races ... SAN DIEGO STATE 24-17.
Mississippi (plus 12) at Missouri — @ConnorClaxton
Tigers have been steamrolling opponents since they left Wyoming with a surprising opening loss ... MISSOURI 42-21, BEST BET.
Last week: 16-5 straight; 10-9-2 against the spread.
Season: 104-33 straight; 74-58-4 against the spread.
Upset specials: 2-4 (straight up).
Best bets: 2-3-1 (against the spread).
Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at https://podcastone.com/AP-Top-25-College-Football-Podcast
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