There’s nothing predictable about a weekend in the wild world of college football. There can be unexpected and shocking disappointments and unexpected positive performances on fall Saturdays across the country.
The unknown is where they come from because even though everyone knows they will happen, it is hard to guess when and where they will happen.
That’s why we’re here to make sense of things. USA TODAY Sports college football staff – Scooby Axson, Jace Evans, Paul Myerberg, Erick Smith, Eddie Timanus and Dan Wolken – weigh in with their bold predictions for Week 7 of the college football season:
While the rest of the country may not be paying much attention to Syracuse, the Orange quietly got off to a 5-0 start and are dragging Dino Babers into the hot seat…for now. Wins over Connecticut, Virginia and Wagner may not inspire confidence with the masses, but Syracuse have set themselves up to make some noise in the ACC Atlantic, especially the next three weeks when they face off against North Carolina State, Clemson and Notre Dame. The Orange, which has the best scoring and all-around defense in the conference, picked up one of those wins at home this week against the Wolfpack before crashing to Earth at the end of the month. -Scooby Axson
Follow every game: NCAA College Football Live Scores
WHAT TO WATCH:SEC and Big Ten matchups lead biggest games of Week 7
CHOICE OF EXPERTS:Tennessee-Alabama crash highlights best games of Week 7
COLLEGE FOOTBALL FIX:Rhule back in college, Ohio State is No. 1?
BOWL PROJECTIONS:Alabama is barely hanging on to the playoffs
Tennessee hasn’t beaten Alabama since 2006, with the Volunteers’ 15-game losing streak in the series coinciding with Nick Saban’s arrival in Tuscaloosa. They haven’t even really hooked up with the Tide lately, losing every game since 2015 by multiple scores. But Saturday presents a monster opportunity for the Vols. At home at Neyland Stadium, Tennessee takes the field with its best team in years against an Alabama team that faces its most number of questions in years, despite its No. 1 ranking. With QB Hendon Hooker in the lead – and the health of Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young remains a question mark on the other side – the Vols finally seem to have what it takes to ride out the tide. If not now when? -Jace Evans
Utah tramples Southern California to create a veritable traffic jam atop the Pac-12. USC have gone undefeated since the start of the conference, but could have a long night in Salt Lake City as the Utes try to rally from a 4-2 start and factor into New Year’s Run Six. An. Utah had been outstanding defending the pass before a disappointment last week against UCLA, while Caleb Williams and the Trojans were hit or miss through the air for much of the month. Look for the Utes to establish a running game and wear down a USC defense that has faced more than 62 plays in a game just once this season. –Paul Myerberg
A Tigers loss is ahead even though they managed to weather a tough two-game stretch against Wake Forest and North Carolina State before managing Boston College on the road. The road wins against the Demon Deacons and the Eagles were different. Clemson struggled to stop Wake’s powerful offense and BC’s defense held it in check for most of the first three quarters. There are issues below the surface regarding how the Tigers will fare in a road game at night against a talented opponent who can match them physically. Florida State has those elements, even with its disappointing losses to Wake Forest and North Carolina State marring the . Both of those games were close, just like this one on Saturday night. Something says the Seminoles finally broke through with a signature win for coach Mike Norvell.
There’s a pretty big game in the Big Ten this week in the noon ET timeslot. No, not that one, another one. Of course, the city of Ann Arbor between Michigan and Penn State will attract attention. But keep an eye out for the key showdown in the other division between Illinois and Minnesota happening simultaneously on Big Ten Network.
This contest in Champaign features – hopefully – the two best running backs in the Big Ten. Chase Brown does the heavy lifting for the Fighting Illini, averaging 146.5 rushing yards per game, good for second place in the nation. Minnesota will counter with Mo Ibrahim, who missed the Golden Gophers’ loss to Purdue with an ankle injury but is expected to be ready after the team’s timely opener. He’s passed the 100-yard mark in all four games he’s played and currently ranks fourth nationally with 142 yards per outing.
Who wins? Assuming Ibrahim is at full speed, we’ll go with the Gophers. Minnesota’s offense clearly wasn’t the same without him, but when available, quarterback Tanner Morgan can provide the unit with better balance than Illinois. The Illini managed to keep Iowa out of the end zone entirely last week, but that won’t be the case on Saturday. — Eddie Timanus
It is extremely rare to go 0-12 in major college football. No matter how bad the team is, you’ll be lucky to get a win at some point. That’s the only logic I can apply to this prediction, but Colorado may only have one chance to win a game this year. And it will be Saturday at home against California. The Bears struggle just enough offensively to make that plausible. They only scored 20 points against UNLV, 17 against Notre Dame and 9 points in their last game against Washington State. Let’s face it, Colorado is no good. But they showed signs of life in their game last week against Arizona. If the Buffs build on this, they’ll cash in their one big chance to win this year – Dan Wolken