The first College Football Playoff rankings don’t come out until Nov. 5, but the drama is already here. When we look back at the 2019 season, Week 7 might end up being when things started to come into clearer focus.
There are four games between ranked teams, including a top-10 matchup with No. 5 LSU vs. No. 7 Florida. Here’s how this week’s scores will alter the CFP chase.
Here’s how Week 7 will shake up the College Football Playoff race
Let’s start with those four Top 25 vs. Top 25 games. It’s not necessarily an eliminator for the loser, but there’s one truth through five seasons of the College Football Playoff: Don’t lose twice. Just don’t do it. Of the 20 teams to make the CFP semifinals, none have had more than one loss.
All times ET and on Saturday unless otherwise noted.
The Games of the Week
Last season, Texas shocked the Sooners in Dallas before OU won the rematch in the Big 12 title game. It’s possible the two could meet twice again this season. It’s going to be fun watching OU QB Jalen Hurts try to outscore Texas QB Sam Ehlinger.
Because Texas comes in with a defeat, this could be the Longhorns’ last stand with its CFP hopes. As for OU, it has plenty of time to regroup and win out; Oklahoma did just that last season.
- For Oklahoma: The Sooners have won the last four Big 12 titles. A win won’t finalize No. 5, but it would make OU a safe pick to make the Big 12 title game … barring a collapse of the ages.
- For Texas: The Longhorns upset OU last year. But Texas is ranked eight spots higher this season than last year coming into this game. A win makes the Longhorns the clear Big 12 favorite, though they might have to sweep the remaining schedule to stay in the CFP top-4 picture. As long as LSU keeps winning, it’s going to be impossible for Texas to jump the Tigers because of that head-to-head loss.
A&M plays the No. 1 team in the country for the second time this season. The first one didn’t end well, as the Aggies lost 24-10 at Clemson. Texas A&M gets a visit from the top-ranked Tide, but it hasn’t shown much this season to expect an upset win. Alabama might have looked leaky on rush defense, but QB Tua Tagovailoa has 1,718 passing yards and 23 touchdowns without an interception.
- For Alabama: Alabama is playing as No. 1 for the first time this season. The offense should be enough to beat the Aggies, but ‘Bama would like to see defensive improvement (especially in the running game) if it is going to beat LSU and Auburn in November. That might be something to watch more than anything else.
- For Texas A&M: All evidence coming in doesn’t make it seem likely the Aggies can shock the Tide. But a close game might give A&M confidence for later top-10 games at Georgia and at LSU to end the regular season.
Iowa has spoiled an undefeated Penn State season before, notably on a game-winning field goal to end the 2008 game. But in the last visit to Kinnick Stadium, Trace McSorley threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Juwan Johnson on the final play of the 2017 game.
If history repeats itself, the Nittany Lions and Hawkeyes will have this one in doubt until the final seconds.
- For Penn State: A loss would obviously be catastrophic. If Penn State can’t win at Iowa, how can it win at Ohio State? But a win would keep PSU on the path toward the Big Ten East showdown … as long as it also beats Michigan and Michigan State the next two weeks.
- For Iowa: After a 10-3 loss to Michigan, dropping a sixth in a row to Penn State would erase most remaining positive feelings from the 18-17 win at rival Iowa State in September. And with Wisconsin (and still undefeated Minnesota) ahead, the Hawkeyes might be fighting for 9-3 instead of going for its first double-digit-win season since 2015.
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OK, Florida. You beat then-No. 7 Auburn. Now try to beat No. 5 LSU — and in the craziness that is a night game at Tiger Stadium. It’s going to be LOUD. LSU QB Joe Burrow will likely be tougher to stop than Auburn’s Bo Nix, so a Gators win here could (should?) lead to some No. 1 votes for Florida.
- For LSU: A win continues Tigers hopes of what might be an inevitable undefeated showdown with Alabama on Nov. 9. A loss means the Tigers could have to sweep both Auburn and the ‘Tide to win the SEC West. Now that’s some pressure. A defeat would cast doubt that this Tigers team is the one to end the recent disappointment.
- For Florida: For the Gators, beating Georgia matters more than this one. If Florida falls to UGA, a win against LSU won’t matter for the SEC East race unless the Bulldogs lose twice. A close loss won’t really change Florida’s postseason dreams. But a win would give the Gators a very strong case for No. 1.
Best of the rest
Here’s a sneaky good matchup that might not get the attention it deserves. The AAC has a handful of teams thinking this is their season to win the conference now that UCF looks vulnerable. Even if Memphis wins, the Tigers still have to play vs. Tulane, vs. SMU, at Houston and vs. Cincinnati.
Memphis is one of three ranked AAC teams: No. 21 SMU and No. 25 Cincinnati are the others. Still, Memphis could lose here and win out to reach the conference title game for the third season in a row. But that’s a big ask. There are six teams in the AAC West Division — two are undefeated and two have only one loss.
POLLS: The Week 7 Top 25 rankings
It’s not Florida State or N.C. State or South Carolina. Instead, Clemson’s only game left against a ranked team is No. 19 Wake Forest (Nov. 2). That means any stunning loss could be devastating for the Tigers’ CFP hopes. Clemson might be the defending national champion, but the resume would be so empty of big wins, any loss might be too much to overcome to get back into the top 4.
The Tigers are also playing without the No. 1 ranking for the first time this season. They’ve won four in a row against the Seminoles, who are 3-2 and on a little two-game winning streak as they head to Death Valley. Much attention will be on Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence, who has thrown five interceptions this year.
Notre Dame escaped Los Angeles last year to secure a College Football Playoff spot. The Irish might need some help to make it back to the CFP this year, so style points could matter here. Notre Dame has only one more game against a team that’s currently ranked: Michigan on Oct. 26.
Because of that, a New Year’s Six spot might be the ceiling for the Irish. But the only thing the Irish can control is what’s ahead. That starts with defeating a 3-2 USC team.
No, this hasn’t been the turnaround season as hoped for in Miami. But if the Hurricanes (0-2 in the ACC) can upset the Cavaliers (2-0 ACC), that would throw the Coastal Division race wide open. But Miami will have to be better with the football, as it had five turnovers in a 7-point loss to Virginia Tech last week.
UVA avoids Clemson in ACC play and is seen as the Coastal Division favorite. A win in Miami cements that thinking.
Boise State is the Group of Five favorite to make the New Year’s Six, but a loss would open up the door wider for the AAC. Hawai’i has already defeated Arizona (who’s now 4-1) and Oregon State, but this would be an even bigger win. The Broncos have won six in a row in the series and have yet to lose on the Blue Turf to the Rainbow Warriors.
The Broncos won’t challenge for the CFP top 4 (beating Florida State isn’t a big enough win against a Power Five team), but they should be thinking New Year’s Six for the first time since the 2014 season.
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College football Week 7 preview: What to watch out for, big questions
Is Penn State or Wisconsin the top challenger to Ohio State?
Ohio State is tied for third in the AP Poll and is getting more votes for No. 1 as it destroys opponents each week. The Buckeyes are also seen as the obvious Big Ten leader.
The best news? Ohio State plays both this season in Columbus: Wisconsin on Oct. 26 and Penn State on Nov. 23. But we’ll know more about where the Badgers and Nittany Lions stand this weekend, as each has a tough game (Wisconsin is home against Michigan State and Penn State is at Iowa).
It’s also possible Ohio State will have to play Wisconsin twice, should the two make the Big Ten Championship Game.
Texas A&M officially takes on spoiler role
Texas A&M started the season ranked No. 12 with hopes of challenging for the CFP. But the Aggies’ schedule always looked like a hurdle too steep to jump over again and again:
- at then-No. 1 Clemson: Loss, 24-10
- vs. then-No. 8 Auburn: Loss, 28-20
- vs. No. 1 Alabama: TBD (this Saturday)
- at current No. 3 Georgia: TBD (Nov. 23)
- at current No. 5 LSU: TBD (Nov. 30)
Wow. That’s already two different No. 1-ranked teams, with an outside chance at more if UGA or LSU make a run toward the top. But that brutal schedule gives Jimbo Fisher and his team three more chances to possibly ruin somebody’s season. And that’s when A&M could be more dangerous.
The AAC might have the most interesting conference race
When a conference has three ranked teams and not one is the preseason favorite (UCF), you know it’s been a wild start to the season.
- No. 21 SMU is 6-0 and already bowl eligible.
- No. 23 Memphis is 5-0
- No. 25 Cincinnati is 4-1, losing only to Ohio State
Add in 4-1 Temple, 4-1 Tulane and 3-1 Navy and you have what looks like a thrilling AAC race.
UCF has won the American in each of the past two seasons, though the Knights needed 2OT to beat Memphis in 2017 and a rally from down 17 to beat the Tigers again in 2018. There’s a very real chance the 2019 AAC title game is between two 10-2 teams (or maybe even better). The question is, which of the realistic contenders of Cincinnati, Memphis, Navy, SMU, Temple, Tulane and UCF get there?
Oh, what a knight!
— Cincinnati Football (@GoBearcatsFB) October 5, 2019
College football rankings: Week 7
Week 7 college football schedule
All times Eastern. All schedules and networks subject to change.
Thursday, Oct. 10
Friday, Oct. 11
Saturday, Oct. 12
No. 6 Oklahoma vs. No. 11 Texas (Dallas, TX) | 12 p.m. | FOX
Mississippi State at Tennessee | 12 p.m. | SEC Network
No. 16 Michigan at Illinois | 12 p.m. | ABC
Maryland at Purdue | 12 p.m. | Big Ten Network
No. 23 Memphis at Temple | 12 p.m. | ESPN2
South Carolina at No. 3 Georgia | 12 p.m. | ESPN
Miami (OH) at Western Michigan | 12 p.m. | ESPNU
Rutgers at Indiana | 12 p.m. | Big Ten Network
Toledo at Bowling Green | 12 p.m. | CBSSN
Georgia Tech at Duke | 12:30 p.m. | ACC Network Extra
Ball State at Eastern Michigan | 2 p.m. | ESPN+
Old Dominion at Marshall | 2:30 p.m. | Stadium
New Mexico State at Central Michigan | 3 p.m. | ESPN3
Florida State at No. 2 Clemson | 3:30 p.m. | ABC
No. 1 Alabama at No. 24 Texas A&M | 3:30 p.m. | CBS
Kent State at Akron | 3:30 p.m. | ESPN3
Northern Illinois at Ohio | 3:30 p.m. | ESPN+
Washington State at No. 18 Arizona State | 3:30 p.m. | Pac-12 Networks
Michigan State at No. 8 Wisconsin | 3:30 p.m. | Big Ten Network
No. 25 Cincinnati at Houston | 3:30 p.m. | ESPN2
BYU at South Florida | 3:30 p.m. | CBSSN
UConn at Tulane | 3:45 p.m. | ESPNU
Texas Tech at No. 22 Baylor | 4 p.m. | FS1
Georgia State at Coastal Carolina | 4 p.m. | ESPN+
Iowa State at West Virginia | 4 p.m. | ESPN
Rhode Island at Virginia Tech | 4 p.m. | ACC Network
UNLV at Vanderbilt | 4 p.m. | SEC Network
Middle Tennessee at Florida Atlantic | 4 p.m. | ESPN+
San Jose State at Nevada | 4 p.m. | AT&T Sportsnet
UAB at UTSA | 6 p.m. | ESPN+
Army at Western Kentucky | 7 p.m. | Stadium
UMass at Louisiana Tech | 7 p.m. | ESPN3
North Texas at Southern Miss | 7 p.m. | Stadium on Facebook
Ole Miss at Missouri | 7 p.m. | ESPN2
Charlotte at Florida International | 7 p.m. | ESPN+
Fresno State at Air Force | 7 p.m. | CBSSN
No. 10 Penn State at No. 17 Iowa | 7:30 p.m. | ABC
Southern California at No. 9 Notre Dame | 7:30 p.m. | NBC
Louisville at No. 19 Wake Forest | 7:30 p.m. | ACC Network
Nebraska at Minnesota | 7:30 p.m. | FS1
Arkansas at Kentucky | 7:30 p.m. | SEC Network
Navy at Tulsa | 7:30 p.m. | ESPNU
No. 7 Florida at No. 5 LSU | 8 p.m. | ESPN
No. 15 Utah at Oregon State | 8 p.m. | Pac-12 Networks
Hawai’i at No. 14 Boise State | 10:15 p.m. | ESPN2
Wyoming at San Diego State | 10:30 p.m. | CBSSN
Washington at Arizona | 11 p.m. | FS1