Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:56 AM

Saturday's Essentials - Week 7

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Here’s a look at what must be considered before wagering on Saturday's slate in key FBS vs. FBS matchups:

Early Starts

Oklahoma vs. (-10/75.5) vs. Texas, 12 p.m. ET, ABC: Sooners QB Jalen Hurts cited playing in the Iron Bowl as providing him rivalry-game experience that has him well prepared for this one. The Longhorns defeated Kyler Murray-led OU 48-45 in last year’s regular-season meeting before faltering in the Big 12 Championship, so this will be the fourth time Tom Herman gets a crack at counterpart Lincoln Riley. The two highly-regarded offensive minds produced the highest-scoring Red River Rivalry game in history last season and are again capable of lighting up the scoreboard with standouts Hurts and Sam Ehlinger slinging it. The higher-ranked team is 14-3 in the last 17 matchups between these schools. It sounds like Texas will be reasonably equipped to pull off an upset since WR Collin Johnson and RB Keontay Ingram are both expected to be healthy enough to play their key roles alongside Ehlinger.

Memphis (-4.5/50.5) at Temple, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN2: The Tigers have a chance to be the top team in the American’s West Division since they avoid UCF and get to host SMU and Cincinnati, which on paper should be their toughest games. This one might be their trickiest remaining home game given that the Owls have beaten Maryland and Georgia Tech at the Linc already and have legitimate aspirations of dethroning UCF and current co-leader Cincinnati. Temple freshman Re’Mahn Davis is averaging 6.0 yards per carry and has been explosive and makes life easier for junior QB Anthony Russo, who has a number of solid receivers that will test a Memphis defense surrendering just 19.2 points. The Owls have allowed just 17.2 points for the season and just over 10 at home. Memphis will likely still be without leading rusher Patrick Taylor, Jr. (ankle) but have seen redshirt freshman Kenneth Gainwell emerge. He leads the conference with 620 rushing yards after breaking off 209 on just 14 carries in last week’s win over ULM.

Maryland (-3.5/53.5) at Purdue, 12 p.m. ET, BTN: The Boilermakers are still missing explosive receiver/returner Rondale Moore, who they’re hoping to have back by month’s end. QB Elijah Sindelar is likely out the rest of the season after suffering a broken collarbone, so redshirt freshman Jack Plummer is likely to gain plenty of on-the-job experience. The Terps are likely salivating at getting after Plummer, who was sacked 10 times by Penn State last week. They’re looking to build on a 48-7 rout at Rutgers after bouncing back from an embarrassing 59-0 home loss at Penn State. Mike Locksley is looking for his first road win since taking over the Maryland program and isn’t likely to have a better opportunity than this to get one since they’ll be ‘dogs in Minneapolis, Columbus and East Lansing. If Locksley is going to snap a two-year bowl drought, he’ll need to secure a win here. Starting QB Josh Jackson is likely out with a high ankle sprain, which means Tyrrell Pigrome will start and the Terps will be heavily reliant on running the ball with Anthony McFarland. Weather in West Lafayette should be sunny but windy.

South Carolina at Georgia (-21.5/52.5), 12 p.m ET, ESPN: The Gamecocks have already played Alabama and have to deal with Clemson at the end of every season, so one thing Will Muschamp’s team shouldn’t be coming off a bye is surprised by what they’re about to see. Being overwhelmed is still a possibility given the youth on the offensive front but the South Carolina defense has been pretty good most of the season outside of surrendering 47 to Alabama. RB Rico Dowdle, WR Randrecous Davis and true freshman QB Dakereon Joyner all practiced and are available, though freshman Ryan Hilinski is getting another start under center. Look for South Carolina to try and hang around by controlling possession via Dowdle and Clemson transfer RB Tavien Feaster, who has impressed the past few weeks. It’s going to be difficult to keep the Dawgs from coming after South Carolina’s young QBs since center Hank Manos and tackle Dylan Wonnum are both sidelined. Georgia has lost to South Carolina three times since 2010 but has lost the last four meetings by an average margin of 21 points.

Afternoon Delights

Washington State at Arizona State (PK/60.5), 3:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12: The Cougars followed up their brutal collapse against UCLA by getting squashed at Utah, finishing with just 13 points, the school’s lowest-scoring output since a 37-3 loss at Cal in 2017. Mike Leach has had a bye week to get his guys back on track and come up with an effective game plan for Herm Edwards’ effective Arizona State defense. ASU comes off its second outright upset on the road, shutting down Cal two weeks after winning at Michigan State. The Sun Devils will be taking the field in Tempe for the first time since losing to Colorado and have the 11th-ranked scoring defense in the nation (14.4 ppg), looking to pick up where the Utes left off in frustrating Cougs’ QB Anthony Gordon, who is the only QB in the country with over 2,000 passing yards. Leach is just 5-9 off bye weeks at Washington State and is 13-18 throughout his career. He’s got new defensive leadership with Tracey Claeys departing and hasn’t lost three straight games since closing out 2016 with a third consecutive setback in the Holiday Bowl. This could be a big day for freshman QB Jaylen Daniels given Washington State’s issues in the secondary and the need to gain confidence since Utah’s defense is on deck.

Cincinnati (-7/51) at Houston, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2: The Bearcats look to avoid an upset against a Cougars offense that scored a season-high 46 points in an upset of North Texas after news came down that QB D’Eriq King was redshirting alongside other seniors given the chance to improve and be part of a better effort next season. Clayton Tune, a backup who got into games as a true freshman, helped light up the Mean Green but will have a much tougher challenge against a talented Cincinnati defense. After an upset of American juggernaut UCF, the Bearcats have to make sure they’re recharged enough to pass a tough road test. QB Desmond Ridder has had issues with consistency but clearly has weapons around him with RB Michael Warren helping take the pressure off the offense. LB Terrance Edgeston remains out for Houston, which has won two straight in the series, last falling in 2014.

Michigan State at Wisconsin (-10/40.5), 3:30 p.m. ET, BTN: The Spartans will fall to 4-3 unless they’re able to pull off an upset. With Penn State in East Lansing next week, it’s looking like Mark Dantonio is on the hook for another tough season unless something changes offensively. Ohio State posted a 34-10 win last week, so both sides of the ball fell apart for Michigan State. The Badgers posted their third shutout of 2019 in crushing Kent State 48-0 last week and will be playing the final of five consecutive home games before trips to Illinois and Ohio State. Heisman candidate Jonathan Taylor is up to 12 rushing touchdowns for the season and enters the day tied for third in the country in rushing yardage, which is bad news for a Sparty run defense that surrendered 323 yards to the Buckeyes last week despite coming into the game surrendering just 55.8 on the ground per game. Wisconsin has allowed 5.8 points per game and hasn’t given up more than 15 in a single outing. They’re first in the country in scoring defense, passing yards allowed per game (131.0) and third down conversion percentage defense (15.9). QB Brian Lewerke continues to struggle with accuracy and Michigan State turned it over three times in Columbus. Wisconsin won the last meeting between the schools 30-6 in ’16 but lost at home the last time State came through town in ’12. Showers could be in the mix in the second half on a cold, windy day in Madison.

Alabama (17/61) at Texas A&M, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS: On paper, this is the Crimson Tide’s toughest test of the season thus far and will serve as such until LSU comes to Tuscaloosa on Nov. 9. Only South Carolina has been less than a four-touchdown underdog against ‘Bama to date and came within 24 points to cover in what’s been the team’s “closest” game thus far. The last team that has been made an underdog of 17 or fewer points against Alabama in the regular season was aforementioned LSU, who the Tide defeated 29-0 to open last November. Nick Saban’s team will be going on the road without their center since Chris Owens will be sidelined, moving right tackle Landon Dickerson into that spot. Deonte Brown returns from suspension to start for Dickerson. Jimbo Fisher has said the key to victory A&M will be to rattle Tua Tagovailoa, so count on an aggressive defensive game plan testing Alabama’s rebuilt line. The Tide has won 19 of their last 20 SEC road games. Aggies QB Kellen Mond is 35-for-62 for 433 yards in his two career losses against ‘Bama, rushing for 112 yards while throwing for two scores and running for two more. He’s thrown three interceptions.

Florida State at Clemson (-18.5/58.5), 3:30 p.m ET, ABC: Wake Forest has elevated its game to emerge as the Tigers’ chief competition in the Atlantic Division this season, but that role is typically filled by the ‘Noles. For that reason, it will be interesting to see how the defending national champions respond coming off a bye, especially considering it is coming off a 21-20 squeaker of a win in Chapel Hill despite being a 27.5-point favorite at North Carolina. Trevor Lawrence has been off all season, likely ending his Heisman Trophy candidacy before it truly ever got off the ground. RB Travis Etienne has been the Tigers’ most valuable player on the offensive side of the ball. FSU is expected to have guard Cole Minshew and tackle Jauan Williams available after injury-related absences, so they’ve got a shot to be better up front. QB James Blackman and RB Cam Akers have experience against the Tigers, who have won the past four meetings between the schools. Safety Jaiden Woodbey is out for the season and won’t have DE Janarius Robinson for the first half of this one due to a targeting suspension.

Primetime Matchups

Penn State (-3.5/43) at Iowa, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC: Inclement weather is typically a threat in Iowa City, but the forecast calls for a windy day to grow increasingly milder as kickoff approaches and rain should stay away for this high-profile Big Ten clash. James Franklin has helped continue a run of five straight wins over Iowa that dates back to Joe Paterno’s final season and is the longest streak in the series since 1971-75. This is the smallest spread in this game since the Hawkeyes were favored in ’12, so Kirk Ferentz is hopeful his team can bounce back from last week’s 10-3 loss at Michigan. Iowa is going to be wearing bright yellow against Penn State on Saturday night and Franklin is 0-6 on the road against ranked opponents, so at least one streak figures to end on Saturday night. Look for KJ Hamler’s ability to create plays against the Hawkeyes’ banged-up secondary to play a large role here.

USC at Notre Dame (-6.5/55), 7:30 p.m. ET, NBC: The Irish have won the last five times they’ve been favored against USC, which includes last season’s 24-17 win in L.A. Brian Kelly’s team has covered in four of the games, falling short last year after falling behind 10-0 and rallying to win. A slow start here would probably be related to an inability to limit big plays from the Trojans, but you would imagine Notre Dame would have an edge in dealing with the cooler weather since temperatures are expected to be in the mid-40s throughout this game, with steady winds making it feel even colder. That would likely benefit Ian Book and the ND offense, especially with USC welcoming back true freshman starter Kedon Slovis from concussion protocol. RB Vavae Malepeai and WR Amon-Ra St. Brown are banged up, which might mean more touches for speedy RB Markese Stepp in his homecoming. Safety Talanoa Hufanaga and CB Olaijah Griffin are also expected to play. Notre Dame gets back RB Jamar Armstrong, who tore his abdomen in the season opener. The Irish will have more playmakers available for this rivalry game than they’ve had all season.

Florida at LSU (-14/55), 8 p.m. ET, ESPN: The Gators have ridden Kyle Trask on a winning streak that includes last week’s Homecoming conquest of Auburn, but the former career backup got his knee twisted up in the second quarter before returning to finish off the Tigers. He’ll start here, but we’ll see if there are any lingering effects. LSU QB Joe Burrow has crashed the Heisman race by ranking first in the SEC in yards per game, completions and completion percentage while ranking second in rating and touchdown passes behind Tagovailoa. The offense has looked championship-caliber for the first time in years and the defense has made strides The Tigers have won four of six in the series but lost last year’s contest 27-19 in the Swamp, making this a revenge game for Ed Orgeron’s team. The Gators have injury concerns in the secondary that could limit their depth here, which isn’t ideal given how effective Tigers’ receivers have been all season.

Late-night Snack

Washington (-6/60) at Arizona, 11 p.m. ET, ESPN: The Huskies have already dropped two Pac-12 games, matching the amount they’ve lost in two of the last three years. A third conference title in four years doesn’t appear to be in the cards, although their three toughest games (Oregon, Utah, Washington State) will all be played in Seattle. They may not get to those games with a chance to battle back if they fail to handle business in Tucson against the only team besides the Ducks that is currently perfect in league play. After beating Texas Tech, UCLA and Colorado in consecutive games, this will be the toughest test yet for Kevin Sumlin’s Wildcats, who haven’t lost since opening the season by falling short at Hawai’i.

Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA

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