We’ve just come off a wild week of college football one Saturday ago that had a multitude of upsets and wild finishes. The hope can only be for more of the same entering Week 7. Team identities have come into focus and there’s a picture of the College Football Playoff that’s beginning to formulate.
The top four teams in the AP Poll — Georgia, Michigan, Ohio State, and Florida State — are all set to kickoff at Noon on Saturday with all four being three score favorites or more in their respective matchups. We’ll see early on how those perceived top programs fair.
There are four ranked matchups on Saturday beginning with a tilt between No. 7 Washington and No. 8 Oregon at 3:30 p.m. EDT time.
Three matchups occupy the primetime slot with No. 10 USC traveling to No. 21 Notre Dame for a “prove it” game, with the Trojans having one of the weaker opponent slates to begin the season in the Power Five.
No. 25 Miami travels to No. 12 North Carolina in an ever-important ACC tilt that could have ACC Championship implications. Keep an eye on the Hurricanes after dropping a heartbreaker to Georgia Tech with nearly no time remaining after one of the biggest coaching blunders in recent memory.
The PAC-12 is just a turnstile for ranked matchups in 2023 — No. 18 UCLA and their tremendous defense travels to No. 15 Oregon State. It would be of no surprise if the entire conference just ends up knocking each other back and forth to a point where there is no CFP representative from the conference despite an overall very strong final showing from the conference as a whole in 2023.
Let’s talk prospect matchups to keep an eye on today, and then we we’ll deep-dive into the game of the week. Drop your thoughts in the comments below on what you’re watching in Week 7.
North Carolina QB Drake Maye Faces Off Against Two Future Sunday Safeties — Miami’s Kam Kinchens and James Williams
Drake Maye should be the strong favorite to be the No. 2 overall selection in the 2024 NFL Draft behind USC’s Caleb Williams. Maye is coming off of his best performance all season against Syracuse, but he’s made high level throws week in and week out this year. His team is undefeated and hosting a very strong Miami defensive unit. He’s not been as good statistically speaking. This is a big time opportunity for him to show off his talent.
Miami has plenty of talent on the defensive side of their own at all three levels. There’s no unit stronger than Miami’s safety tandem of Kam Kinchens and James Williams. Both players will be high-end NFL Draft choices with very different archetypes. Kinchens is a natural ball hawk who also has the downhill ability to fit the run and make open field tackles. Williams is a tall, lanky safety listed at 6’5” who can do both but really thrives in short areas and working as a tight end eraser. Their strengths play off of each other very well.
Kinchens appeared to be victimized last week on what ended up being the game sealing touchdown to lose the Hurricanes the game in Coral Gables with just a second left on the clock. He will be looking for a bounceback in this game.
Washington WRs Rome Odunze, Jalen McMillan, and Ja’Lynn Polk vs. Oregon CB Khyree Jackson
Washington has the best wide receiver trio in the country. I have a hard time finding someone who could disagree with the unit that the Huskies trot out on a weekly basis. When you play this team, you’re not hiding your weaknesses on the back end. All three work well in unison with one another — Odunze the X-receiver and ball winner, McMillan as the vertical slot, and Polk as the junkyard do-it-all for the Huskies. It’s a tremendous challenge for any defensive backs looking to limit their production.
Oregon’s defense is a strong unit and surely Washington’s biggest test of 2023. Alabama transfer cornerback Khyree Jackson is having himself a very nice year. He’s a long, strong athlete at the outside corner spot, which seems to set himself up with Odunze early and often in this contest. Jackson had starting experience at Alabama but saw some writing on the wall and decided to depart to Oregon to be a full-time starter. He’s thriving in that role with a large opportunity in front of him.
Oregon State OT Joshua Gray vs. Washington DE Laiatu Latu
This is a matchup of two reigning PAC-12 players of the week on the offensive and defensive lines respectively. Gray and Latu are two of the best at their positions in the entire country. Gray has some potential tweener traits with some question on whether he plays tackle or guard in the NFL. At the moment, Gray is the Beavers’ left tackle, and he’s very strong at that spot in college. Gray is a very good athlete who lacks length.
Latu is a player who just plays with his hair on fire at all times. No play is over for him even if he loses his initial rep. He’s not an elite athlete based off game film, but he’s a coach’s dream as an edge rusher because of how sound he is in all phases. Latu previously had to medically retire due to a neck injury where the Washington program advised he wouldn’t play football again. Latu transferred in 2022 to UCLA and has since been on a tear. It’s a wonderful story. This matchup will be important for Latu to see if he can take advantage of a tackle who is deficient in length.
Game of the Week
No. 8 Oregon @ No. 7 Washington
3:30 p.m. EDT
One of the games of the year has arrived in Week 7 of the college football calendar. This matchup has legitimate College Football Playoff implications. Neither of the two teams competing has played against a quality opponent yet. But both have taken care of business to this point with each standing 5-0 heading into the contest.
We’ve already talked some about Washington’s offensive skill, but they are led at the quarterback position by southpaw Michael Penix who has seen his playing career resurrect with the Huskies after transferring from Indiana. He has a strong arm with noticeable pop off his hand. He needs to continue to grow as a processor, but he’s the right distributor to get the ball into his three primary play makers’ hands.
The wide receiver trio of Odunze, McMillan, and Polk is a special one as mentioned above. When you think of the units Alabama and Ohio State have had over the past several years, this grouping belongs in the discussion amongst the best.
On the offensive line, left tackle Troy Fautanu is the best of the group for Washington. He’s a multi-year starter at left tackle and has size, length, and athleticism to hold up at that spot in the NFL as well. Oregon’s defense presents some challenges from a size and power standpoint. Fautanu’s performance will be one to watch.
Oregon’s defense has some big, twitchy bodies up front with South Carolina transfer Jordan Burch and Brandon Dorlus leading the way. Both players will play the edge for Oregon while also pushing 280 pounds a piece. Burch is a former high recruit who never put it all together at South Carolina. Here lies an opportunity ahead for both Dorlus and Burch to position themselves amongst the elite of pass rushers in the senior class.
As previously mentioned, Khyree Jackson is having a fantastic season at corner for the Ducks. He and the rest of the secondary have a gargantuan task ahead.
When Oregon is on offense, Auburn transfer Bo Nix will be the signal caller after claiming the starting spot early on after his decision to depart for the west. Nix is one of the best senior quarterbacks in this NFL Draft class. He and Penix are of similar caliber in the Day 2 range at this point.
Running back Bucky Irving is looking to stamp himself into relevance amidst a weak running back class. He’s listed at 5’10” and 195 pounds, but it wouldn’t be a shock if that was a generous number. Irving is explosive and could work himself into being a back in a rotation at the NFL level.
Wideout Troy Franklin continues to put up video game numbers and doubles the yardage of the second leading receiver on the Ducks. He’s on pace for a season over 1,000 yards and easily over 10 scores. Speed is the name of the game for Franklin.
Right tackle Ajani Cornelius is a mean blocker who could project to the interior in the NFL. The Rhode Island transfer has fit in just fine at his new home in Oregon in 2023.
Washington only has six total sacks as a team this season, but they still have some defensive linemen with NFL futures in edge rushers Bralen Trice and Zion Tupuola-Fetui. Both those guys will need big games to potentially wreck this game for Oregon. This game projects to be high scoring. A sack in a key situation by one of these players could prove to be a large difference in the outcome.