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College Football Preview, Week 7: Arizona St. Hopes To Make Statement Vs. Oregon

The race to conference championship games begin to take center stage this week with a huge battle in the Pac-12 where 9th ranked Oregon welcomes the balanced attack of 21st ranked Arizona St in the SB Nation Boston Game Of The Week.

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WEEK 6 IN REVIEW

The annual Red River Shootout is often used as a benchmark for both Oklahoma and Texas to measure themselves and their worthiness as a national title contender.  With both teams ranked in the Top 15 this year, the game looked to be more of the same. 

For the most part Oklahoma had already established it self as a legitimate Top 10 team, but Texas, while ranked 11th still had much to prove.  They'd yet to beat or play a team ranked anywhere near the Top 25 and had major quarterback issues that they were attempting to work through.  A case could be made that we would learn a lot more about the Longhorns than the Sooners.

After a slow first quarter that saw both teams feeling each other out, the Sooners turned up the intensity level in the second quarter.  On the third play of the quarter, the Longhorns problems at quarterback manifested in a David Ash interception that turned into an Oklahoma touchdown and the rout was on.

The Sooners put up 28 points in the decisive quarter, 14 of them coming off turnovers including a 55 yard interception return for a TD by Demontre Hurst along with two touchdown passes from Landry Jones to Kenny Stills and Ryan Broyles and led 34-10.

The second half was really no better for the Longhorns as they ripped off the first 21 points to take a 55-10 lead before a late Texas TD represented their first offensive points since the first quarter. 

Texas was grossly overrated and was a product of the voters who didn't actually see their games and simply looked at their record and their margin of victory over mediocre teams like Rice and UCLA and voted as though this was a legitimate ranked team.  The Longhorns have major issues at quarterback and their issues with defense haven't subsided either since their ugly 2010 season.

The Sooners on the other hand needed to win and win big as they'd dropped from the public eye in recent weeks despite not losing.  They had fallen from their No. 1 ranking thanks to impressive wins by Alabama and LSU, and needed to reassert their claim as one of the best teams in the country, which they did.

Oklahoma will probably only get one or two more chances to make a real statement as a national title contender.  They'll need more performances like this if they hope to navigate their way back into one of the coveted spots that would slide them into the national championship game.

Elsewhere, an SEC battle between two of the nations most inconsistent teams turned into a one sided mugging as Arkansas drilled defending national champion Auburn 38-14.  The Razorbacks were coming off a wild win over Texas A&M the week before, and were still struggling to find some semblance of a running game and a defense.

The running game continues to elude the Razorbacks, but the defense finally made some strides, shutting out the Tigers over the final three quarters, despite allowing almost 300 yards on the ground (192 to Michael Dyer). 

Tigers quarterback Barrett Trotter struggled badly in the game, as he had the last few weeks, throwing two interceptions and completing just six passes.  His struggles led head coach Gene Chizik to yank Trotter and try to find an answer among his other scholarship QB's, with little success.

The bread and butter for Arkansas continues to be quarterback Tyler Wilson, who threw for 262 yards and a pair of touchdown in the win.

As we turn the clock forward toward Week 7, the conference races take center stage as a number of ranked teams will try and navigate some tricky landmines against conference rivals. 

9th ranked Oregon faces its first real challenge since it was dismantled by LSU back on the opening night of the season, Michigan will try to keep its undefeated season rolling when they visit East Lansing to take on Michigan St., and Virginia Tech will travel to Winston-Salem to take on the surprising Demon Deacons of Wake Forest.

All games are Saturday October 15th, unless otherwise noted.

MAIN EVENT

No. 18 Arizona St. Sun Devils (5-1) @ No. 9 Oregon Ducks (4-1) -- 10:15 p.m. (ESPN)

This is the first time that the Ducks will face a team capable of competing with them since their season opening loss against LSU.  For Arizona St. this game marks their biggest opportunity to date to make a real statement about their chances of winning the new look Pac-12.  For the Sun Devils, quarterback Brock Osweiler has been the catalyst for an offense that has been held to less than 35 points just one time this season.  They also boast a strong rushing attack with Cameron Marshall averaging over four yards per carry.  When it comes to playing the Darron Thomas, LaMichael James and the Ducks though, the question is whether or not your defense can slow down their high octane offense.  While not as dominant as last year, the Ducks offense continues to hum along at an impressive rate, especially on the ground where James is averaging over nine yards per carry.  The teams that have had success slowing Chip Kelly's attack have been teams with a dominant defensive line that can slow the running game.  ASU allowing 149 yards on the ground to USC's Marc Tyler a few weeks ago doesn't indicate that they have a lot of room for improvement.  The elbow injury to James could change the dynamic of the game, even though Kenjon Barner has proven himself a more than capable back-up.  Barner ran for 88 yards on 10 carries in relief of James during the teams win over Cal last week.

UNDERCARD

No. 11 Michigan Wolverines (6-0) @ No. 23 Michigan St. Spartans (4-1) -- 12:00 p.m. (ESPN)

The Wolverines have played one of the softest schedules in the country this season, only being tested once, back in Week 3 against Notre Dame.  This is the first time that they'll play what can be described as a solid team on the road.  The Spartans were way overrated in the Top 15, but this is about right for them.  With quarterback Kirk Cousins and running back Leveon Bell, the Spartans will provide a real test for the Wolverines defense that struggled so badly last year but has shown signs of improvement against mediocre competition.  On the other side, Wolverines quarterback Denard Robinson remains one of the Heisman favorites as he continues to mix his ability to scramble with an improving passing game.  For the Spartans to have a chance they must limit Robinson in the running game and make him more of a passer. 

No. 20 Baylor Bears (4-1) @ No. 21 Texas A&M Aggies (3-2) -- 12:00 p.m. (FX)

Baylor is in the midst of one of its best starts in school history thanks to the continuing statistical insanity that is Robert Griffin III.  Griffin, who until recently had more touchdown passes than incompletions, has really blossomed as a true dual threat quarterback.  The former track star no longer needs to run the ball, but when flushed from the pocket his blazing speed and size make him a nightmare to bring down.  On the other hand, Texas A&M is searching for answers after losing two straight games.  The Aggies came into the season with hopes of winning the Big 12 in their final season, but now are faced with simply trying to finish in the upper crust of the conference after come from ahead losses to Arkansas and Oklahoma St.  Christine Michael and Cyrus Gray continue to be wrecking balls for the Aggies, racking up almost 1,000 yards on the ground between them.  The trouble has been quarterback Ryan Tannehill who has thrown five interceptions against only seven touchdowns and a defense that suddenly can't stop anyone with even a modest passing attack, something Baylor has in spades.

UPSET SPECIAL (RECORD: 2-4)

Ohio St. Buckeyes (3-3) @ No. 16 Illinois Fighting Illini (6-0) -- 3:30 p.m. (ABC)

The Buckeyes were well on their way to fulfilling my upset special proclamation last week on the road against Nebraska before freshman quarterback Braxton Miller sprained his right ankle in the 3rd quarter. With Miller expected back and a weaker opponent in Illinois, I'm giving the Buckeyes a chance to atone for ruining the upset special last week.  Illinois is a much improved team under Ron Zook this year.  Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase has been a revelation, accounting for 1,500 total yards and 14 total touchdowns, but the Iliini's one credible win was a close home win over Arizona State back in September.  They've had a series of too-close-for-comfort games against less than impressive opponents which would lead you to believe that this is another case of a colossally overrated Big 10 team that has feasted on a home heavy early schedule of cupcakes and patsies (see: Michigan State 2010, Penn St. 2008). Even in their weakened state, if Miller stays healthy, the Buckeyes should get it done.

LOCAL SPOTLIGHT

South Florida Bulls (4-1) @ Connecticut Huskies (2-4) -- 3:30 p.m. (ESPN3.com)

The 2010 Big East Championship for UConn seems like ages ago thanks to an ugly start to their season featuring bad losses to Western Michigan and Iowa St.  But, it bears mentioning that the game these two played last year in Tampa was one of the most dramatic of the season as the Huskies had to rally in the closing moments to secure their conference championship.  The Bulls look to have improved since that night and looked to be co-favorites with West Virginia before getting dismantled by Pittsburgh last week at Heinz Field.  For the Huskies, the task will be to slow electric Bulls quarterback BJ Daniels.  Daniels isn't much of a threat with his arm, but if given space he'll do damage with his legs.  Offensively the Huskies must find a way to get something from the quarterback position where Johnny McEntee seems to have solidified himself as the best of a slew of weak options.

New Hampshire Wildcats (4-1) @ William & Mary Tribe (3-3) -- 12:00 p.m.

Rhode Island Rams (1-4) @ Maine Black Bears (4-1) -- 1:00 p.m.

UMass Minutemen (3-2) @ Delaware Blue Hens (4-2) -- 3:30 p.m

Princeton Tigers (1-3) @ Brown Bears (3-1) -- 12:30 p.m.

Dartmouth Big Green (1-3) @ Holy Cross Crusaders (2-3) -- 1:00 p.m.

Bucknell Bison (4-2) @ Harvard Crimson (3-1) -- 1:00 p.m.

Yale Bulldogs (3-1) @ Lafayette Leopards (1-4) -- 6:00 p.m.

Central Connecticut St. Blue Devils (2-4) @ Duquesne Dukes (4-2) -- 12:00 p.m.

St. Francis (PA) Red Flash (1-5) @ Sacred Heart Pioneers (3-2) -- 12:00 p.m.

Monmouth Hawks (2-3) @ Bryant Bulldogs (4-2) -- 1:00 p.m.