1220
 

NCAA Week 7: Top 25 Preview

Updated: Oct 12, 2019

By Alex Scheer and John Kaufman – College Football Analysts


Week seven of the college football season is here, which means that you've got some NCAA football to watch. And that also means that Alex and I have prepared this handy-dandy Top 25 preview to guide you through this week's action. Let's take a look at the 18 games on tap to find out which teams will win, which ones will disappoint, who is for real, and who put on their Halloween costume a little early this year. Here we go!


#25 Cincinnati (4-1) (-7, O/U 51.5) at Houston (2-3)

3:30 pm Eastern on ESPN2


Cincinnati rolls into Houston this week fresh off one of the biggest wins in program history. Last weekend the Bearcats handed the Central Florida Knights their first regular season conference loss since 2016. It was a 27-24 home win which Cincinnati was losing at the half, 16-10. But 17 second-half points from their offense mixed with a stout performance by the Bearcat defense has resulted in a 4-1 Cincinnati team whose only loss in 2019 is at Ohio State. These Bearcats are off to one of the best starts in recent memory. And if they keep this going, their hopes and dreams of making a New Year’s bowl game will be alive and well for quite some time.


However…


Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a college team coming off a huge win at home goes on the road the following week and plays and underdog foe from their conference and what seems to happen more often than not? Yep. A massive letdown. I am not necessarily predicting a Houston win in this game. But if I were a gambling man – and lo and behold, my weekly Best Bets article on this very website confirms that I am – I would absolutely take the points with Houston here.


This is a tough spot for Cincinnati, coming off such a big win vs a ranked conference opponent then having to travel down south to face a dangerous Cougars squad. Houston’s offense can definitely hang with Cincinnati’s, so they had better be prepared for Houston to empty the playbook on Saturday afternoon. If the Bearcats are enamored with themselves after last week’s huge win, or if they are busy checking the rest of their schedule and counting up W’s, the Cougars will pounce and pounce hard. But if Cincinnati remains focused on simply taking this season one game at a time, they can keep their winning streak going this weekend.


I’m not 100% certain which version of the Cincinnati Bearcats will get off the bus in Houston this weekend. But like I said, I’ll be grabbing the points just in this one.


#23 Memphis (5-0) (-5, O/U 49) at Temple (4-1)

Noon Eastern on ESPN2


The undefeated Memphis Tigers head to Philadelphia to face the Temple Owls in this American Athletic Conference game. Memphis, who belongs to the American West division, has a 1-0 conference record after defeated Navy by a score of 35-23 in week five. Temple is on the American East side, and they also have a 1-0 conference record after taking care of East Carolina by a count of 27-17 last weekend.


Memphis features an impressive rushing attack led by freshman running back Kenneth Gainwell, who has 620 yards (8.2 yards per carry) and six touchdowns in their five games. He’s no slouch when it comes to catching the ball out of the backfield either – he has 17 receptions for 139 yards as well. For Tiger fans who are thoroughly enjoying the beginning of this exciting and successful season, Gainwell has been one of the brightest parts by far.


Meanwhile, Temple’s season has begun with some exhilaration as well. The Owls only have one blemish on their record – a 38-22 loss to Buffalo back in week four. Otherwise they have taken care of business and looked good while doing it. The highlight of their season was a week three win over the then-ranked #21 Maryland Terrapins. The Terps had looked unstoppable up to that point, but the Owls did indeed stop them in their tracks. And while Maryland has looked downright shaky since that loss, Temple has only the aforementioned loss to Buffalo to be embarrassed about. Otherwise they have been a team on the rise.


I think the home field advantage will play a factor in this game. I definitely expect the Owls to cover this spread, and a win on the field would not surprise me in the least. Temple is being slightly underrated in this contest, and while Memphis’ rushing attack is a solid one, the Owls’ defense is sneaky-good. I’d look for Temple’s defense to make a few impact plays and seal up the victory late in the game.


Texas Tech (3-2) at #22 Baylor (5-0) (-11, O/U 58)

4:00 pm Eastern (no TV listing)


If you’re like me then you also did not see the Big 12 being this good in 2019. Which means that these Baylor Bears straight up put on some slippers and just tiptoed right up behind us, huh? I don’t know about you but startled doesn’t even begin to describe it.


The Big 12 has three teams ranked (Oklahoma, Texas and Baylor), two of which are undefeated, and the third’s (Texas) only loss came against LSU this year. Okay, Big 12, we see you. We see you.


And we’ve noticed you too, Baylor, with your perfect résumé (5-0 overall; 2-0 conference) thus far. And we’ve definitely paid attention to the way in which you’re winning, outscoring your first five opponents by a combined 117 points. You’re getting style points a-plenty, that’s for sure.


Baylor’s run-first focused offense is what we’ve come to expect from that program, though it looks much different under current head coach, Matt Rhule, than it did under the former regime. Both versions found success, but this team may be one of their better rushing teams in recent memory. They are 11th in the nation in average yards per rush (5.8), and 37th in rushing yards per game (204.4). They are also 27th in total offense per game (465.6 yards). But most importantly, while they are very good at running the football, they are even better at hanging on to it. The Bears are 6th in the country in turnovers averaged per game at just 0.6. They may have sneaked up on us initially, but their perfect record isn’t a mystery at all.


Texas Tech is a very respectable 3-2 this year, with both losses coming on the road at Arizona (28-14) and at Oklahoma (55-16). Nothing to be ashamed of there, especially considering that, after the beatdown the Sooners handed them, they bounced right back and defeated then-ranked #21 Oklahoma State at home, 45-35. The Red Raiders were 10-point underdogs in that game last weekend, and they won it outright. Clearly, they can hang with the big boys.


But having to travel to Baylor is going to be another tough test for Texas Tech. And as I’ve already mentioned, they have not exactly shown up on the road this year. I don’t know about laying double digits in this game, but if I were forced to bet a side I would go ahead and take Baylor to win the game and cover the spread. The Bears are for real this year and I think they’ll be too much to handle for Texas Tech.


Incidentally, the better bet to make in this game is under 58. Both teams have run-oriented offenses and are slightly better on defense than in years past. It’s never easy (or fun) to bet the under in college football, but considering how these two teams like to play the game, this looks like one of the smarter bets to make this weekend.


#20 Virginia (4-1) at Miami (2-3) (-2, O/U 43.5)

8:00 pm Eastern (Friday, Oct 11) on ESPN


Ferris Bueller is not only one of the coolest movie characters in cinema history, but he’s easily one of the wisest as well.


I mean, don’t sleep on Master Oogway from Kung Fu Panda though. He dropped this gem on us:

“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. But today is a gift; that is why it is called the present.”

Whoa. Cartoon tortoise or not, that is Marianas Trench deep.


Anyway, Ferris reminded us that, “Life moves pretty fast.” You can’t see it right now, but the Miami Hurricanes are all nodding in unison.


Barely seven weeks ago Miami had the Florida Gators (ranked #8 in the nation at that time) on the ropes in their season opener with a 13-7 halftime lead. But Florida scored 17 second-half points – despite two atrocious 4th quarter interceptions thrown by their QB, Feleipe Franks – which sunk the Canes’ hopes for a huge upset win over their in-state rivals. And now here we are nearly two months and one Ferris Bueller quote later, and the Hurricanes are sitting at 2-3 with two conference losses (to North Carolina and Virginia Tech) to go with that brutal loss to Florida. Miami’s two victories have come at the expense of Bethune-Cookman (Google believes that is a real university so I’m going with that) and Central Michigan. This is not a pleasant list for Canes fans, in case you weren’t catching on. If life moved any faster for these Hurricanes, it would be called “life speed” instead. (Dad jokes, party of four? Right this way, folks.)


Meanwhile, life seems to be moving at a leisurely pace for the Virginia Cavaliers. They are 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the ACC this year, and their only loss came in a hard-fought game at Notre Dame two weeks ago. The Cavaliers lost to the Irish by 15, but the game was much closer than the score indicated. The Cavaliers gave the Irish all they could handle that day, so we’ll go ahead and file that game under the “good loss” category.


Everything points to Virginia being the superior team in this contest, and yet it is the Hurricanes who are favored by two points. Talk about a head-scratcher, huh? Neither I nor Ferris, wise tho one of us (him) may be, can explain that one to you all. Perhaps the betting public is all over Miami because of name recognition alone, ignoring the putrid résumé they’ve scrapped together this year. Or maybe people just don’t think that Virginia’s wins at Pittsburgh, and at home against William & Mary, Florida State and Old Dominion are all that impressive. I truly cannot explain this betting line whatsoever.


That usually is a good indicator that it might be better to sit this one out. So that’s what I’ll do for this game: I’ll keep my money in my wallet and just be a fan. I am going to pick Virginia to beat Miami on the field though. I just don’t believe that we have enough good information to make a bet on either team.


Where’s Master Oogway when you need him?


Louisville (3-2) at #19 Wake Forest (5-0) (-7, O/U 65.5)

7:30 pm Eastern on ACCN


Boy oh boy, if you haven’t seen Wake Forest quarterback Jamie Newman play football yet this year, you need to tune into this game and watch this young man toss the football around. Not only is he fun to watch, but he is really good as well. Newman is 1st in the ACC in adjusted yards per pass attempt (9.9) and passing efficiency (169.6), and he’s 2nd in the conference in passing touchdowns (14). And let’s not forget that the ACC is the conference that Heisman-hopeful Trevor Lawrence calls home. It’s safe to say that Newman is having an impressive season.


Louisville, on the other hand, has been riding the rollercoaster all year. They opened up with a tough home loss to Notre Dame, then bounced back by whipping both directional Kentucky schools (Eastern and Western Kentucky) in back to back weeks. Next up was a bad loss to a mediocre-at-best Florida State team. And then they barely squeaked by Boston College last weekend, 41-39. Describing the Cardinals’ season as being filled with ups and downs is perhaps too gentle.


This Demon Deacons program has been one on the rise ever since their current head coach – Dave Clawson – left Bowling Green University to take the Wake Forest job back in 2014. And while they may not have a huge win over a top five program, or spent a lot of time ranked in the top ten themselves, any Wake Forest fan will tell you that what they’ve seen from Clawson these past five and a half seasons is a substantial improvement. Wake fans have come to expect their Demon Deacons to win winnable games, especially at home. Well, I’m with them this week, as I expect Wake Forest to take care of business against Louisville on Saturday night. I’ll be tuning in to see Newman dazzle us and help the Demon Deacons stay undefeated this year.


Washington St. (3-2) at #18 Arizona St. (4-1) (-1, O/U 59.5)

3:30 pm Eastern on PAC-12 Network


Perhaps more than any other so far in 2019, this week seven slate is full of intriguing matchups. And if you’re looking for intrigue and mystery, the Cougars and Sun Devils have that in spades.


Washington State is coming off two straight PAC-12 losses to UCLA and Utah, and that loss to the Bruins was one of the biggest and most bizarre comebacks in college football history. The Cougars were up 49-17 with just under four minutes remaining in the third quarter, when all hell broke loose. In roughly 19 minutes of football, the Bruins scored 50 (!!!) points and in doing so, erased a 32-point deficit and somehow won the game. If you went to bed when the Cougars held that four-plus touchdown lead, when you woke up and saw the final score you’d have sworn that the internet itself was trolling you.


Wazzu’s other conference loss to Utah (38-13) was of the more straightforward variety of losses – they got whipped.


Arizona State, however, has road wins at then-ranked #18 Michigan State (10-7) and #15 Cal (24-17), to go with an in-conference home loss to Colorado (34-31). The Sun Devils’ other two wins came against Kent State (30-7) and Sacramento State (19-7). To the unobservant, Arizona State seems like a tough team to figure out.


Aha! But we pay attention over here, don’t we, dear reader? And what seems like a puzzle to most is anything but to us. We know that this Arizona State team has the ability to show up at times with an incredibly stout defense while also really struggling to move the ball and score on offense. That seems to be their secret identity to the unaware public. But to us it’s just a 6’5” reporter who’s chiseled out of granite and wearing glasses. We’re not fooled anymore, Sun Devils.


I am pretty surprised at how high this total is. Sixty points seems like a lot for these two teams. And the point spread indicates that this is anyone’s game. I would agree, though I’ll take the prediction one step further. Either Arizona State will win an ugly, low-scoring game – something like a 20-13 slug-fest. Or Washington State figures out the Sun Devil defense and blows them out. I don’t think there are any other options based upon what we know of these two schools. I won’t be approaching the betting window for this game, but if you bet the under I wouldn’t be mad at ya.


#16 Michigan (4-1) (-23, O/U 49) at Illinois (2-3)

Noon Eastern on ABC

I don’t think I will ever get tired of talking about Michigan, specifically in these Jim Harbaugh years. I am constantly fascinated by the fact that, under Harbaugh, they are perennial Big Ten favorites in August. And then six weeks later, college football fans everywhere are trying to figure out what is wrong with the Wolverines. It is the plot of 50 First Dates, only instead of trying to make Drew Barrymore fall in love with him every day, Adam Sandler must try to convince the nation every August that Michigan and Jim Harbaugh are simply overrated. Well, I don’t know if you need more walruses or less penguins, but it ain’t working, Adam.


In all seriousness, I do not mean to pick on Michigan or their fans. The yearly letdown is obviously not on them. The expectations placed upon this team each year are absurd. Anyone who thought that Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson would lead that vanilla offense to the College Football Playoff, let alone a Big Ten Championship, is either insane or new to the planet. Or both. Probably both.


The unwarranted preseason hype put on this team year after year simply is not fair to the Wolverine fans, players and coaching staff. If preseason polls didn’t exist and we didn’t begin to rank teams until week seven or eight, our entire outlook on Michigan’s past few seasons, as well as Harbaugh’s tenure there, would change dramatically. Unfortunately for those in and around Ann Arbor, that is not the world in which we live.


But I digress. We have a game to talk about here and I’m finished meandering. So let’s get to it.


Truthfully, there isn’t much to discuss when it comes to this game. The spread has ballooned up to 23 points and the total is only 49. Las Vegas believes that Michigan will win a low-scoring affair in a very resounding manner. I agree. Illinois is just not a very good team and they won’t threaten the Wolverines very much. And Michigan’s offense will probably look the best it has all season in this contest. This is definitely not the most interesting matchup in the Top 25, but good gravy, that’s why we have sports betting!


I will be taking the points in this game for sure. In fact, that is one of my favorite college football bets of the weekend. It’s not that I’m backing the Illini here; I just think that 23 points is a lot for Michigan to cover, especially with the total being so low. Michigan could waltz into Champaign and control this game from start to finish, winning by a score of perhaps 30-10, and we’d still cover the spread. I expect the Wolverines to win this game and to look good doing it. But winning by 24+ is a lot to ask of a team that has looked leaky on defense and downright awful at times on offense.


#15 Utah (4-1) (-14.5, O/U 59.5) at Oregon St. (2-3)

8:00 pm Eastern on PAC-12 Network


Utah makes the trip up to Corvallis to face the Oregon State Beavers on Saturday night. The Utes have been impressive so far this year, with only one slip up on the road at USC a few weeks back. Otherwise they’ve fared well with wins at hated rival BYU, and then at home against Northern Illinois, Idaho State and Washington State. Before the season began Utah had aspirations of winning the PAC-12. The loss to USC may have nicked them up a bit, but notching another conference win this weekend will go a long way to repairing that damage.


With a 2-3 record it’s easy to dismiss Oregon State’s 2019 as another lost season. But a closer look reveals that OSU has a lot to be excited about this year. Sure, opening up with a very bad home loss to Oklahoma State (52-36) and then another one on the road to Hawaii (31-28) is, shall we say, less than ideal. But they beat up Cal Poly (45-7) the following week, then nearly took down Stanford (31-28) before going to UCLA and putting it on the Bruins (48-31). Now they get their biggest test of the season as Utah and their dual-threat quarterback, Tyler Huntley, comes to town.


While the Beavers have been shockingly good on offense this year – the