We’ll know a lot more about three of college football’s deepest divisions by the end of Week 7. The SEC West’s pecking order behind Alabama should come into focus as Texas A&M faces a tricky road test at South Carolina while LSU hosts Georgia in the game of the week. Michigan can announce its return to the conference title race by knocking off Wisconsin in Ann Arbor to remain unbeaten in Big Ten play and send a message to its talented East division brethren. And out west, Oregon can muddy up the Pac-12 North waters by handing Washington its first conference loss of the year at Autzen Stadium, setting the table for a crowded stretch run with Stanford and Washington State both showing flashes of excellence.
Below, our writers and editors take turns defending their straight-up picks for the biggest games of the Week 7 slate.
Scooby Axson: 51–20 (71.8%)
Ross Dellenger: 49–22 (69.0%)
Molly Geary: 48–23 (67.6%)
Joan Niesen: 45–26 (63.4%)
Laken Litman: 44–27 (62.0%)
Andy Staples: 44–27 (62.0%)
Max Meyer: 44–27 (62.0%)
Eric Single: 43–28 (60.6%)
Florida at Vanderbilt (Noon ET, ESPN)
Eric Single picks Florida: This screams of a letdown spot for the Gators. An 11 a.m. local time kick in a sleepy road environment with the bye week tantalizingly close and a season-defining game against Georgia right after that? Buckle up. Vanderbilt quarterback Kyle Shurmur has the composure and the short-distance weapons to handle Florida defensive coordinator Todd Grantham’s blitzes. That won’t matter once the Gators realize that Jachai Polite, Cece Jefferson and Jabari Zuniga can wreak havoc on Vandy’s subpar O-line without any help from the second level.
Iowa at Indiana (Noon ET, ESPN2)
Molly Geary picks Iowa: The Hoosiers sometimes feel like the perfect trap game, but Iowa doesn’t seem to have the profile to be overly susceptible here. The Hawkeyes are giving up just 16.6 PPG (14th in the nation) and will make life difficult for an Indiana offense that sits at 95th in red zone offense and has lacked big plays, ranking 124th in passing yards per completion (just above the likes of Kansas and Rutgers).
Pitt at Notre Dame (2:30 p.m. ET, NBC)
Scooby Axson picks Notre Dame: Pittsburgh, which gives up 32.8 points a game, will try to neutralize its suspect defense being exposed by running the ball with Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall, who had almost 300 yards combined in an overtime win against Syracuse. The difference in the game will be Irish quarterback Ian Book, who has been sensational since taking over for Brandon Wimbush. Book has thrown for nine touchdowns in his last four games.
Georgia at LSU (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)
Andy Staples picks Georgia: This one won’t be easy for the Bulldogs because LSU needs this win to keep all its goals alive. The Tigers are wounded and cornered, and this game is in perhaps the nation’s most hostile environment. But this is also Georgia’s chance to prove it belongs on the same plane as Alabama, Ohio State and Clemson—which have been college football’s cool kids club for the better part of this decade. The Bulldogs are young but talented on the offensive line, and this will be a big test for a group that should grow into a dominant one as the season progresses.
Washington at Oregon (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2)
Laken Litman picks Washington: Oregon’s dynamic duo of quarterback Justin Herbert and receiver Dillon Mitchell will face its toughest test of the season against Washington’s pass defense, rated one of the nation’s best (allowing 174.7 yards through the air per game). Plus the group has only allowed 13 passing touchdowns dating back to last season. On the flip side, however, last year’s Heisman Trophy candidate Jake Browning will have to deal with the Ducks sneaky secondary, which leads the Pac-12 with eight interceptions. This rivalry has swung in the Huskies favor the last two years with lopsided victories—in 2016, for example, Browning scored eight touchdowns in a 70–21 win in Eugene. This year’s matchup has conference and potential playoff implications, though, and is expected to be much tighter (the Huskies are only a 3-point favorite).
Michigan State at Penn State (3:30 p.m. ET, BTN)
Joan Niesen picks Penn State: Michigan State is coming off a tough loss to Northwestern, but as much as it’ll want to avenge that with a win, it won’t do so at Penn State, which is coming off a bye and a loss to Ohio State that’ll certainly have lit a fire under an already extremely talented team.
UCF at Memphis (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2)
Molly Geary picks UCF: Why stop believing in the Knights now? This game lost some of its preseason luster after the Tigers lost by 16 to Tulane a couple weeks ago, but it’s still a step up from anyone UCF has faced so far this year. The Knights have done their job, trouncing opponents by an average of 31.2 points through five games, and should have enough firepower to offset any damage by the nation’s leading rusher, Memphis junior Darrell Henderson.
Texas A&M at South Carolina (3:30 p.m. ET, SECN)
Ross Dellenger picks South Carolina: Jimbo Fisher’s $75 million rebuilding project appears to be ahead of schedule. The Aggies took Clemson to the brink, played respectable at Alabama, beat rival Arkansas and knocked off undefeated Kentucky. The frame of his Aggie house is complete, and it’s now time for drywall. The problem? The surging Gamecocks and Will Muschamp are at home.
Missouri at Alabama (7 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Ross Dellenger picks Alabama: It’s time for your weekly Alabama blowout. We’re at the point now where the interest in the Crimson Tide’s games (hello, Bama students!) are on if Nick Saban’s group will cover the ridiculously large spread each week. This week against the Tigers, it’s 28 big ones.
West Virginia at Iowa State (7 p.m. ET, FS1)
Laken Litman picks West Virginia: It can sometimes be tricky to beat the Cyclones in Ames at night, but it can be equally tricky to doubt quarterback Will Grier at any point in time. West Virginia’s Heisman hopeful is completing 71.2% of his passes for an average of 363.8 yards per game and has thrown 21 touchdowns to just six interceptions this season. He is currently the leader of the Big 12’s only undefeated team, which also has the conference’s second-best defense. Now, the Mountaineers’ schedule is back-loaded with the final four games against Texas, TCU, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma, but they should handle Iowa State on the road before preparing for those future matchups.
Wisconsin at Michigan (7:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
Joan Niesen picks Michigan: Both teams have steadied after unfortunate nonconference losses, and both are fighting for their respective Big Ten divisions. They’re incredibly evenly matched, although Michigan’s Shea Patterson is looking better each week at quarterback, and with that in mind, the slight edge goes to the home favorites.
Colorado at USC (10:30 p.m. ET, FS1)
Max Meyer picks USC: USC’s offense is frustrating to watch between all of the penalties and confusing play calls, but this unit does have one clear strength: the deep ball. JT Daniels has completed eight throws for 40+ yards, which ranks fourth in the country. In last weekend’s 28–21 win over Arizona State, Colorado allowed completions of 72 and 40 yards to Frank Darby, and another 30-yarder to N’Keal Harry. This secondary will have trouble defending USC’s triumvirate at wideout in Amon-Ra St. Brown, Tyler Vaughns and Michael Pittman. Colorado has a strong aerial attack of its own with the electrifying connection between Steven Montez and Laviska Shenault, but the Trojans have more dynamic weapons. And while USC coach Clay Helton certainly has his flaws, you can’t disparage his perfect 18–0 record at home.