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Week 7 games that will impact the College Football Playoff

October 12,2018 16:10

With the exception of the BYU game, the Huskies have struggled to put opponents away. The veteran duo of QB Jake Browning and RB Myles Gaskin have been steady if unspectacular. They'll have to be error free in the hostile environs of Autzen Stadium, ...



Eddie Timanus USA TODAY
Published 9:31 AM EDT Oct 12, 2018

On paper, the Week 7 schedule doesn’t appear as though it will change the College Football Playoff landscape all that much. Football, of course, is not played on paper, and the potential for the unexpected exists any time two teams take the field.

Bearing that in mind, here are the five games we think will have the biggest impact on the playoff race.
No. 2 Georgia at No. 12 LSU
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
LSU’s first loss of the season at Florida last week was significant on several levels within the SEC. It was a setback for the Tigers, of course, who have plenty of challenges left in their quest to conquer the hyper-competitive West Division. But it was also another signal that Georgia’s remaining trek through the East might not be a cakewalk, either. For now, the Bulldogs still have that slight margin for error, but they’d rather not take a loss if they can avoid it.
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Up until the final moments against the Gators, LSU QB Joe Burrow had made all the necessary plays to win. He still isn’t always accurate, however, and that could be problematic against the likes of Bulldogs CB Deandre Baker. The other bad news for LSU coming out of the Swamp was the success Florida had in the second half powering the ball on the ground. Georgia, which is averaging a shade over six yards per rushing attempt with RB Elijah Holyfield leading a deep rotation, will look to take charge of the line of scrimmage. If the Bulldogs can do that, QB Jake Fromm will have an easier time keeping his passes away from Tigers S Grant Delpit and CB Greedy Williams.
No. 7 Washington at No. 17 Oregon
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
The Huskies entered the 2018 campaign as the favorite to claim the Pac-12 North. They still might, but the resurgent Ducks have emerged as formidable challengers. One needed piece has already fallen into place for Oregon in the form of Stanford’s loss to Utah. A win against Washington on its home field would further enhance its position.
With the exception of the BYU game, the Huskies have struggled to put opponents away. The veteran duo of QB Jake Browning and RB Myles Gaskin have been steady if unspectacular. They’ll have to be error free in the hostile environs of Autzen Stadium, especially when Ducks’ S Ugochukwu Amadi is around. Oregon QB Justin Herbert has been brilliant at times as his completion percentage has climbed, though there are a few plays in the Stanford game he’d like to have back. WR Dillon Mitchell has emerged as his primary target, but Huskies’ disruptive LB Ben Burr-Kirven will do his best to throw off their timing.
No. 10 Wisconsin at No. 13 Michigan
Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC
This cross-divisional Big Ten clash isn’t an eliminator in the conference race. It almost certainly is, however, as far as the quest for the playoff is concerned since it will be a second loss for somebody. The Badgers’ non-league setback against BYU hasn’t aged as well as the Wolverines’ opening-day decision at Notre Dame, but neither team wants to put such comparisons in the hands of the committee.
The Wolverines have performed much better at the Big House thus far in 2018. That has been especially true of QB Shea Patterson, who has thrown all 10 of his TD passes this year in friendly surroundings. With the Wisconsin secondary severely hampered by a rash of injuries, the Badgers will do their best to keep the ball out of Patterson’s hands. This will necessitate a heavy workload for standout RB Jonathan Taylor, who must make doubly sure his occasional ball-security issues don’t crop up. He’ll likely become well acquainted with Wolverines LB Devin Bush.
No. 18 Colorado at Southern California
Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET, FS1
Colorado remains something of a mystery team. The Buffs answered some questions by outlasting Arizona State at home to keep their record clean, and they’ll look to answer some more in their first Pac-12 road test. It’s equally hard to know what to make of the Trojans. They had last week off and enter this date with CU on a two-game winning streak. Both those wins were squeakers, but those triumphs followed a loss to Texas that might not have been as bad as it appeared.
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USC’s freshman QB JT Daniels continues to have ups and downs, though his most recent home outing in which he rallied the Trojans to victory against Washington State was a huge boost. He must steer clear of Buffs DE Mustafa Johnson. Colorado’s combo of QB Steven Montez and Laviska Shenault is capable of providing an answering score at any time. The USC defense remains a work in progress, but LBs Cameron Smith and Porter Gustin will be active.
Michigan State at No. 8 Penn State
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, BTN
This one lost a bit of its luster as Michigan State all but excused itself from the Big Ten East race with last week’s loss to Northwestern. But the Spartans have been known to play spoiler, and the Nittany Lions will be taking the field for the first time since the Ohio State game got away from them two weeks ago.
The Spartans have been unable to establish any consistency on the ground, making it difficult for QB Brian Lewerke to finish drives with points despite respectable passing stats. The absence of RB LJ Scott (ankle) hasn’t helped, and his availability this week won’t be known until game time. The MSU ground defense, anchored by LB Joe Bachie, has been excellent. But Nittany Lions QB Trace McSorley will be difficult to contain for 60 minutes. His most explosive target, WR KJ Hamler, took a hard hit late in the Ohio State game but is expected to be available.
Published 9:31 AM EDT Oct 12, 2018

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