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Week 7 Watch Guide: Red River Rivalry, Battle of the Tigers and a Pac 12 South matchup

Conference match-ups continue to heat up as the battle for the CFP rages on

Florida v LSU Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

The college football season moves on to Week 7 with another week of big conference match-ups. Week 6 didn’t disappoint with NC State proving they were for real with another big win over Louisville, and TCU showed they may be top dog in the Big 12 after Oklahoma went down against Iowa State and the Horned Frogs took care of business at home against the Mountaineers. This week, we’ll be looking at the Red River Rivalry, the Battle of the Tigers in Baton Rouge and Utah facing off with USC in a Pac 12 South head to head.

No. 10 Auburn at LSU, 3:30 p.m. (CBS); AUB -7.0

Question: Can LSU continue to right the ship?

The Battle of the Tigers takes place in Baton Rouge Saturday when Auburn comes to town. Auburn has won four straight since their 14-6 loss at Clemson. LSU got back on track with a 17-16 win at then-No. 21 ranked Florida after a rough three weeks.

Auburn’s offense has been led by running back Kerryon Johnson, as his 12 rushing touchdowns is tops in the country. He ran for 204 yards and three touchdowns last week in the Tigers’ win over Ole Miss. Quarterback Jarrett Stidham has gone over 215 yards passing in each of the past four games and has completed 79.1 percent of his passes. They’ll be key parts in Auburn’s attempt to win in Baton Rouge for the first time in nine tries.

Mississippi v Auburn Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

LSU’s offense is going to need a marked improvement as quarterback Danny Etling, and running backs Derrius Guice and Darrel Williams look to provide that spark. Both Guice and Williams have been limited with leg injuries over the past few games but will be available Saturday.

The LSU Tigers’ defense will be packing the box to stop the run and leaving the corners on islands, so look for Stidham to test them early. Auburn ranks 6th in scoring defense and will get a big test Saturday if LSU’s offense shows up. I’m not one to doubt Coach Ed Orgeron twice in a row, so I expect a grinder Saturday with the home Tigers pulling out a close win to leap back into the SEC West picture.

Utah at No. 13 USC, 8 p.m. (ABC); SC -12.5

Prediction: Defense runs the first half, USC offense takes over second half

The top 2 preseason picks in the Pac 12 South meet up Saturday night at the Coliseum. In an offensive conference, these two have been impressive on the other side of the the ball. Both team rely on their defensive lines and forcing turnovers. USC’s defense has produced 15 turnovers, tying them for the most in the Pac 12. Utah is close behind with 14 of their own.

The Trojans are look to quarterback Sam Darnold, a preseason Heisman favorite, to continue leading the charge after getting back on track versus Oregon State with 316 passing yards and three touchdowns in a 38-10 win. The USC offensive line will have its hands full with future NFL star Lowell Lotulelei, the 6’2”, 320 lb. defensive tackle. Establishing some type of running game will be paramount to give Darnold some freedom to move the ball downfield. USC has it’s own pass rush duo in ends Rasheem Green and Christian Rector. Rector had his best performance to date last Saturday racking up seven tackles, one for a loss and a fumble recovery.

Oregon State v USC Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Utah went back to 2016 starter Troy Williams after Tyler Huntley was injured against Arizona. Williams had a tough outing in the Utes’ loss to Stanford, throwing for only one touchdown and two interceptions. If Huntley is ready to go, he’ll need to keep his head up as the Trojans are a pass rush happy defense. With the unknown under center, expect the Utes to rely on their defense, which has been stout thus far. They’ve only allowed 3.4 yards per carry and 108.8 rushing yards per game, which ranks 20th nationally.

I expect to see a competitive Utah team show up in this big match-up. Coming off a loss, they’ll be looking to get back on track but the inconsistency at quarterback position will hurt against a Trojan defense that’s been coming into it’s own under defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast. Darnold and company will keep things moving from last week’s win with a 10-point win at home.

No. 12 Oklahoma vs. Texas, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN); OU -7.5

Question: Can Oklahoma get back on track after three lackluster weeks?

The Red River Showdown will be a match-up of two teams in very different places after Week 6. The Oklahoma Sooners were being touted as a shoe-in for the College Football Playoff but after a loss to Iowa State, 38-31, they’ll have an uphill battle and need a little luck to get back into the picture. The Texas Longhorns on the other hand are 2-0 in Big 12 play for the first time since 2013 and have bounced back from early season losses to Maryland and USC.

Texas has had some bumps through the first six weeks, and last week went with freshman quarterback Sam Ehlinger in their matchup with Kansas State. Ehlinger did not disappoint in the Longhorns’ 40-34 double overtime win against the Wildcats. Ehlinger’s 487 yards of total offense ranks third in school history and he also had two passing touchdowns. Coach Tom Herman hasn’t committed to him as the full-time starter, but if he can follow up with a big performance in a game that means so much to so many people in both states that might be a little easier sitting at 3-0 in the conference.

Iowa State v Oklahoma Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images

Oklahoma was near the top of the rankings after dominating an Ohio State team in Columbus that most thought would also be participating in the CFP, but three lackluster performances in a row culminated with a home loss to the Cyclones. Quarterback Baker Mayfield and first-year head coach Lincoln Riley will be leaning on each other to come out on the other side of last weeks’ disastrous loss. Mayfield threw for 306 yards and two touchdowns to go along with a rushing touchdown but it wasn’t enough in Norman.

Both Herman and Riley will be coaching their first Red River Showdown as the head man. It’s the first time since 1947, when the great Oklahoma coach Bud Wilkinson and his Sooners lost 34-14 to the Longhorns, that new head coaches are featured on both sides.

As both look for a statement win, I expect a back and forth offensive battle. The defenses have been tested early this season and haven’t been able to hold up as well as either team had hoped, so an offensive display is very likely in this one. I think Oklahoma will get back on track with a close win as Baker Mayfield looks to leapfrog back up the rankings.

Enjoy Week 7!

Other Saturday games of note:

No. 8 Washington State at California, 10:30 p.m. (ESPN); WSU -14.5

No. 6 TCU at Kansas State, Noon (FS1); TCU -6.0

No. 24 Texas Tech at West Virginia, Noon (ESPNU); WVU -3.5

Purdue at No. 7 Wisconsin, 3:30 p.m. (BTN); WISC -17.5