The 2023 college football season moves into Week 7 with a few huge games on the schedule. There are lots of moderately important games for dozens of teams across the country, but there are a few games with massive stakes involved. The central attraction is the game between the Oregon Ducks and the Washington Huskies, two top-10 teams with perfect records. USC-Notre Dame is another centerpiece games. Get the inside read on those games and a lot of others in this Week 7 preview.
Ohio State Buckeyes at Purdue Boilermakers
Odds: Ohio State -19.5
The Buckeyes beat Maryland by 20 points last week, but they were tied at halftime and did not play very well in the first two and a half quarters before finally hitting their stride midway through the third quarter and pulling away in the fourth. Ohio State’s offensive line has real problems. The skill players are very good, but the ball can’t get to the skill players if the offensive line doesn’t run block or offer pass protection.
Ohio State will face a lot of questions heading into bigger and more important games as the season moves along, but a weak Purdue team under first-year head coach Ryan Walters doesn’t figure to mount an especially vigorous challenge, even at home. This is a good year for Big Ten teams to face Purdue on the road. The Buckeyes are laying 19.5 at BetUs and they should cover three touchdowns.
Pick: Ohio State -19.5
Syracuse Orange at Florida State Seminoles
Odds: Florida State -17.5
The Florida State Seminoles got off to a quick 22-0 lead over Virginia Tech last week, but then allowed 17 straight points before stabilizing and grabbing a win over the Hokies. We do have to ask ourselves if Florida State is closer to the team which got the 22-0 lead or the team which allowed 17 straight points. That said, Florida State already owns wins over LSU and Clemson, while Syracuse was handled very easily by North Carolina in ACC play. This game might be less of a reflection on how good Florida State is, and more of an indication of Syracuse not being all that good. In the end, take Florida State minus the points.
Pick: Florida State -17.5
Arkansas Razorbacks at Alabama Crimson Tide
Odds: Alabama -19.5
The Arkansas Razorbacks have endured a miserable season. The Hogs just haven’t been able to put together a complete game on both sides of the ball. Their offense was good against LSU but their defense was not. Their defense was better against Ole Miss but their offense wasn’t able to do enough. Whatever Arkansas has tried to do this season, it has fallen short one way or another. The old saying applies: Arkansas plays just well enough to lose. Whatever the marker is, Arkansas can’t quite reach it. The Alabama Crimson Tide are going to win this game against Arkansas, but the Hogs will probably be able to make a game of it and stay moderately close, enough to cover the 19.5 spread (at BetOnline), much as they did against LSU.
Pick: Arkansas +19.5
California Golden Bears at Utah Utes
Odds: Utah -10.5
Utah quarterback Cam Rising has not yet played this season. As of Thursday afternoon, it was still not known whether Rising would play. It is very much worth noting that Utah was a 13.5-point favorite earlier in the week, obviously a reflection of a belief that Rising was likely to play. The line moving back down to 10.5 points suggests that Rising probably won’t play. At any rate, you will want to wait for information on Rising’s status before making a play on this game. If it does turn out to be the case that Rising cannot play, you won’t want Utah at a larger point spread, but at 10.5, the Utes might still be a good play against Cal, which got crushed on the road at Washington earlier this season.
Pick: Utah -10.5
Oregon Ducks at Washington Huskies
Odds: Washington -3
This is the big one. It’s Oregon quarterback Bo Nix against Washington quarterback Michael Penix in a battle of Heisman Trophy candidates. It’s Oregon coach Dan Lanning against Washington coach Kalen DeBoer in a battle of second-year head coaches who have these schools in position to do something special. Washington has high-quality veteran receivers and the home-field advantage.
Oregon has a defense which has been playing good football in recent weeks. Washington won last season on the road in Eugene. The Ducks want revenge on the road this year in Seattle. It’s not an easy game to call, but Washington at home is going to be hard to beat. The Huskies will win this game and probably cover, if only because the spread is very small.
Pick: Washington -3
Texas A&M Aggies at Tennessee Volunteers
Odds: Tennessee -3
This is a very tough game to assess. Tennessee has struggled on offense for a good portion of the season. The Vols don’t have nearly the same amount of offensive firepower as they did a year ago when Hendon Hooker was their quarterback. Joe Milton has not been as nearly as dynamic or effective this season for Tennessee, though it has to be said that the Vols’ offensive line is also not nearly as good as it was in 2022, which is a partial explanation for why Milton hasn’t been able to stuff the stat sheet. Texas A&M gave Alabama a good battle last week, but the Aggies made key mistakes and could not finish drives. Neither team here should be trusted, to be quite honest. If you have to make a play here, lean ever so slightly to Texas A&M.
Pick: Texas A&M +3
Iowa Hawkeyes at Wisconsin Badgers
Odds: Wisconsin -9.5
This is a huge game in the Big Ten West. The winner gets the inside track to the Big Ten West Division championship and a path to the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis. The Iowa defense should contain the Wisconsin offense, but the problem for the Hawkeyes is that their offense will find it very hard to score against Wisconsin’s defense. The over-under for this game is 34 points, which means the expectation is that the score will be very low. If the score is low and the spread is almost 10 points, it makes sense to think that the underdog will cover the large spread. That team is Iowa.
Pick: Iowa +9.5
Louisville Cardinals at Pittsburgh Panthers
Odds: Louisville -7.5
This is one of the developing stories of the season. Louisville is a shocking 6-0 after upsetting the Notre Dame Fighting Irish last week. Louisville is playing physical defense and is preventing opponents from scoring in bunches. The Cardinals don’t have an elite offense, but they are getting good line play and are receiving balanced contributions throughout the roster. Louisville’s first-year head coach, Jeff Brohm, is doing a spectacular job.
Going on the road against Pittsburgh figures to be a difficult assignment for Louisville. The Cardinals have not dominated their road games this season. Pitt will probably cover the spread, but Louisville will probably do just enough to win (by a field goal).
Pick: Pittsburgh +7.5
Arizona Wildcats at Washington State Cougars
Odds: Washington State -7.5
This is a very intriguing Pac-12 game. Arizona barely lost to Washington (seven points) and USC (two points in overtime). If the Wildcats keep playing very competitively against the Pac-12’s better teams, they’re going to win before too long. Freshman Arizona quarterback Noah Fifita has been special in relief of injured quarterback Jayden de Laura. If Fifita keeps playing well, Arizona will be a threat.
However, Washington State is coming off a bad performance in a loss at UCLA. The odds of WSU playing two straight bad games are low. Chances are the Cougars will regain focus and precision and will solidly defeat Arizona, which might be mentally exhausted after the draining triple-OT loss to USC.
Pick: Washington State -7.5
Auburn Tigers at LSU Tigers
Odds: LSU -11.5
This is a game between Auburn’s horrible offense and LSU’s horrible defense. LSU has had all sorts of problems stopping opposing offenses this season, but Auburn’s passing game is one of the worst in college football, not just the SEC. Auburn just isn’t built to exploit LSU’s weaknesses. LSU should win this game very comfortably.
Pick: LSU -11.5
USC Trojans at Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Odds: Notre Dame -2.5
This is another big showcase game. Much like LSU-Auburn, one team (USC) has a horrible defense and another team (Notre Dame) has a bad offense. The thought process here is that USC quarterback Caleb Williams will do enough against Notre Dame’s defense to make it hard for Notre Dame’s offense to win the game. Notre Dame’s offense will have to be spectacular, not just good, in order to outscore USC. The Trojans should beat the Irish on the road.
Pick: USC +2.5
Miami Hurricanes at North Carolina Tar Heels
Odds: North Carolina -3.5
This is a weirdly small point spread, given that Miami just lost at home to lowly Georgia Tech while Carolina pounded Syracuse by a large margin. Miami will also be deflated after blowing that Georgia Tech game with very dumb and late mistakes. North Carolina will roll here.
Pick: North Carolina -3.5
UCLA Bruins at Oregon State Beavers
Odds: Oregon State -3.5
This is a game in which Oregon State’s home-field advantage will be central to the outcome. Oregon State shut down Utah at home and has played well at home this year in Corvallis. Oregon State has played poorly away from Corvallis. This game is in Corvallis, so that’s the natural and obvious reason to go with the Beavers against a struggling UCLA offense.