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Fearless predictions: Week 7

Spotlight game

No. 1 Ohio State at No. 18 Wisconsin (+4), 7 p.m.: Will we see No. 1 fall again for a second straight week? For the Badgers to pull the upset, Wisconsin’s secondary can’t get beat deep on throws from Terrelle Pryor to DeVier Posey and Dane Sanzenbacher. If that happens, Wisconsin could be in big trouble. Also, how well Wisconsin’s massive offensive line controls Ohio State’s superb defensive front will be another key factor. Running backs John Clay and James White will need room to run for Wisconsin to be able to move the ball. Even so, quarterback Scott Tolzien will still need to step up and make some plays – provided the O-line keeps Ohio State out of the backfield. The bottom line: Wisconsin needs to make Pryor uncomfortable throwing the ball, especially deep. Pryor looked very comfortable against Indiana last week with 334 yards and three touchdowns. If Wisconsin can turn Ohio State into a running team, which has been known to happen under Jim Tressel in tight, low-scoring games, then I like the Badgers will have a shot to pull the upset. But, in my opinion, Pryor has progressed to the point where is as much a threat to beat you with his arm as he is with his legs. You saw Pryor’s evolution as a quarterback in the Rose Bowl against Oregon. That has continued this season. Ohio State 27, Wisconsin 20

Other key games on Saturday:

No. 21 Missouri at Texas A&M (-3.5), noon: Yes, Missouri is 5-0. The Tigers, however, play their first road game on Saturday in College Station. Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert suffered a hip injury last week and it’s uncertain how healthy he’ll be this week against the Aggies. This is the start of a key three-game stretch for the Tigers. After playing Texas A&M, Missouri plays Oklahoma at home and then at Nebraska. Texas A&M is 3-0 at home this season. The Aggies played Arkansas tough last week, losing by a touchdown. The key with Texas A&M is quarterback Jerrod Johnson, who can be very good when he’s not turning the ball over. Johnson has nine interceptions in his last three games. Missouri is only giving up 11 points a game this season, but it hasn’t played a really good offense yet. Texas A&M is averaging 35 points per game. I’m hesitant to pick the Aggies because of the turnover situation. But I’m more concerned about the health of Gabbert. Texas A&M 27, Missouri 24

Pittsburgh at Syracuse (-1), noon: Three of Syracuse’s four wins have come against Akron, Maine and Colgate. Last week’s win over South Florida was a good one, but Syracuse managed just 13 points. Syracuse is 15th in the country in total defense. Pittsburgh has lost to Utah, Miami (Fla.) and Notre Dame. The Panthers’ defense has been banged up this season. But the offense appears to be coming around with quarterback Tino Sunseri settling in and Dion Lewis and Ray Graham forming a 1-2 punch on the ground. Pittsburgh was picked to win the Big East in the preseason and they’re 0-0 in conference play. Let’s not count the Panthers out just yet. Pittsburgh 23, Syracuse 17

Texas at No. 5 Nebraska (-9.5), 3:30 p.m.: The Cornhuskers have been waiting for this game since last December, when Texas beat Nebraska on a controversial field goal in the final seconds of the Big 12 title game. Nebraska would like nothing better than to depart the Big 12 with a convincing win over the Longhorns. The Cornhuskers, with their highest ranking since 2001, may just get it. Texas, however, has a history of being the underdog and upsetting the Cornhuskers in this series. The Longhorns have won eight of nine over the Cornhuskers. But expect Nebraska’s stout defense to shut down the Texas offense. Garrett Gilbert has struggled this season and he’ll face the best defense he’s seen all season on Saturday. The key for Texas is not to have its defense on the field all day. If that’s the case, good luck trying to stop Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez in the second half. Nebraska 34, Texas 13

No. 12 Arkansas at No. 7 Auburn (-3.5), 3:30 p.m.: Get ready for Cameron Newton vs. Ryan Mallett. Auburn (6-0) has been impressive this season. Newton has been equally impressive and is very much in the Heisman Trophy race. But the Tigers have had four very close wins this season, including last week’s 37-34 at Kentucky. Auburn has to slip up at some point this season, right? The Tigers have a key two-game stretch with Arkansas and LSU, both at home. Auburn only has two road games the rest of the way. So we all know Auburn is very well aware of what’s at stake this week. The Razorbacks are battle-tested after nearly beating then-No. 1 Alabama earlier this season. But I want to zero in on Auburn’s defense, which is capable of allowing a ton of points in games. Auburn is giving up 21 points a game this season. The Tigers can certainly outscore teams with the dynamic Newton. Arkansas’ defense has been pretty good this season. Mallett should have success against a shaky Auburn secondary. I think Auburn’s unbeaten run ends this week. Arkansas 31, Auburn 30

No. 15 Iowa at Michigan (+3.5), 3:30 p.m.: Is this the point of the season when the wheels start to come off for the Wolverines? Michigan started 4-0 last season and won only one more the game the rest of the way. The Wolverine started 5-0 this season before losing at home last week to rival Michigan State. Denard Robinson, who was dazzling through the first five games, had his worst game of the season against the Spartans, throwing three interceptions and rushing for under 100 yards. The problem for Robinson and the Wolverines is that Iowa’s defense is better than Michigan State’s group. I just can’t see Robinson running wild on Iowa with Adrian Clayborn and Co. on the field. Michigan’s defense has struggled mightily all season. So expect to see Ricky Stanzi have a big game with Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and Marvin McNutt getting loose in the secondary. Iowa 31, Michigan 24

No. 20 Oklahoma State at Texas Tech (-3.5), 3:30 p.m.: Expect a high-scoring game. Oklahoma State is averaging 53 points per game and Texas Tech is averaging 37. Both defenses are giving up around 30 points a game. Keep an eye on Oklahoma State’s passing attack. Brandon Weeden has thrown for over 1,600 yards and 18 touchdowns thus far, but will be missing three receivers on Saturday, who are injured. That could slow down the Cowboys. But with Kendall Hunter running the ball, I still like what Oklahoma State can do against Texas Tech’s defense. The Cowboys haven’t won at Texas Tech since 1944. The streak ends this season. Oklahoma State 44, Texas Tech 34

California at USC (-2.5), 3:30 p.m.: Cal’s two losses have come against ranked teams. The Bears got blown out at Nevada (52-31), but played Arizona very tough, losing 10-9. Cal has been dominant in its three wins, including a 35-7 win over UCLA. So what can we deduce from this? I think Cal is a good team that got beat by better teams. I’ve never been a fan of Kevin Riley at quarterback for the Bears. Cal is averaging only 192 passing yards a game. But the Bears are rolling up 212 yards on the ground per game, led by Shane Vereen’s 577 yards and eight touchdowns. USC’s offense has been very good this season. The Trojans are 13th nationally in total offense (476 yards a game). Matt Barkley has been solid (65 completion percentage, 1,517 yards, 15 TDs, 4 INTs). But here’s the key stat: Cal’s defense is eighth nationally. USC is 100th. Cal’s defense will come up with the key stop. California 24, USC 20

No. 10 South Carolina at Kentucky (+5), 6 p.m.: Should Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks be worried about a letdown after upsetting No. 1 Alabama last weekend? Yes. The Wildcats rallied and almost beat Auburn last week. Kentucky also has a pretty potent offense, averaging 36 points per game with quarterback Mike Hartline leading the way. Leading rusher Derrick Locke may not play due to an injury. So that will impact what Kentucky can do. On the flip side, quarterback Stephen Garcia played one of his best games in the upset of Alabama. Wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey will be a concern for the Wildcats. True freshman running back Marcus Lattimore should be able to pile up yards against one of the country’s worst run defenses. South Carolina will likely be in a fight throughout this game. But the Gamecocks are for real and they will win this one. Plus, Steve Spurrier has never lost to Kentucky in his coaching career. South Carolina 34, Kentucky 23

No. 19 Nevada at Hawaii (+7), 11:30 p.m.: If you stay up for this one, make sure you stay awake because there’s going to be a lot of scoring. Nevada is second in the country in total offense (545 a game) and Hawaii is sixth (497 a game). Nevada averages 43 points a game, Hawaii averages 39 points a game. Nevada likes to run it (fifth in the country, averaging 314 yards a game) and Hawaii likes to throw it (first in the country, averaging 422 yards a game). Bryant Moniz of Hawaii has already thrown for over 2,200 yards with 18 touchdowns. Nevada has two players – quarterback Colin Kaepernick and running back Vai Taua – averaging over 100 rushing yards a game. Both defenses are roughly the same. Nevada is 69th nationally and Hawaii is 72nd. Nevada can’t stop the pass and Hawaii can’t stop the run. So which team has the advantage? Hawaii is +4 in turnover margin. I’ll say Hawaii gets a key turnover late and pulls the upset. Hawaii 44, Nevada 42
 

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