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College Football 2018 Week 7 Preview
Saturday, 2018 October 13 - 12:07 pm
Michigan faces a test against Wisconsin; N.C. State has a bye; Penn State plays an important game against Michigan State.

Michigan vs. Wisconsin, 7:30 PM ABC.
Right off the bat I'm calling this the Game of the Week despite some other marquee matchups on the schedule, partly because I am a shameless homer, but also because ESPN is having GameDay in Ann Arbor and ABC has this as their prime-time night game.

It's a key game in the Big Ten for both teams' Big Ten championship ambitions, and it figures to be an elimination game for the CFP. And for Michigan, it's the start of a grueling stretch of games, with Michigan State and Penn State on the path ahead.

Michigan is undoubtedly playing well, but the level of competition has not been high since the opener. Meanwhile Wisconsin looks like their same-old behemoth-y selves, but their best win has come against a middling Iowa squad and they have a baffling loss to BYU in there too.

Mostly to blame is the Wisconsin defense, which has been thinned by graduation and injuries this year, to the point where they're cobbling together walk-ons and underclassmen at DL and corner. They have a pair of thumping inside linebackers to lean on for their run defense, but their ability to cover receivers or generate a pass rush is very suspect. I'll be happy if we see a heavy dose of passing plays early in the game, with some play-action and counter run plays to punish their linebackers if they overreact.

The Wisconsin offense should be sound, led by experienced junior quarterback Alex Hornibrook and a very talented sophomore tailback in Jonathan Taylor. This will be the Michigan defense's biggest test to date, particular with Michigan's injuries at the defensive tackle position. Bryan Mone's ability to hold up against Wisconsin's enormous offensive line, and to avoid exhaustion over the course of the day, will be key.

So unlike the 10-7 type of slugfest we've seen in past years, this year's game could feature some explosive offensive plays on both sides. Don't be surprised if Jonathan Taylor breaks a long run, or if Shea Patterson finds Donovan Peoples-Jones on a deep post route. But then also don't be surprised if both teams try to grind out 15-play drives four yards at a time on the ground.

Prediction: Michigan 27, Wisconsin 19.

N.C. State: Bye
State prepares for its monster game against Clemson next week.

Penn State vs. Michigan State, 3:30 PM BTN
Look, Michigan State is not a bad team. But they're not a good team either. This more looks like the bad-Sparty team we've known over the years, where offensive inconsistency proves to be ruinous instead of just mildly demoralizing.

Michigan State has the country's #1 rushing defense, but this has come versus teams like Utah State (who scored 31 points despite rushing for only 25 yards) and Central Michigan (who is averaging just 120 yards per game rushing anyway). True, Northwestern only managed to rush for eight yards on 20 attempts, so it's not all smoke and mirrors. But I think the Spartans will be severely tested by both Miles Sanders and Trace McSorley on the ground; Penn State is averaging 261 yards per game rushing and that's not for nothing.

The rest of MSU, meanwhile, has been pretty sad. The pass defense has been woeful. Look for McSorley to beat up on the MSU secondary with passes to KJ Hamler, who's averaging 23.7 yards per reception. Penn State has already had two 90-yard touchdown passes this season. State is near dead-bottom in rushing offense. (Remember when I said CMU only averages 120 YPG? MSU is averaging 123.) And Brian Lewerke has thrown for six interceptions on the year, against six touchdowns.

MSU always has given PSU a good game, and they'll certainly be emotionally up for the game. But PSU will have a chip on its shoulder and something to prove after the loss to OSU. If this game goes PSU's way early, it could turn into a rout.

Prediction: Penn State 44, Michigan State 12.

Games to Watch on TV
At noon... uh, go buy beer and wings? Not many compelling games in the early slate. I suppose you can watch Ohio State murder Minnesota on FS1, or see if Nebraska remains winless playing at Northwestern on ABC.

At 3:30, Michigan State plays #8 Penn State on BTN. Plus, the almost-Game-of-the-Week is #2 Georgia at #13 LSU on CBS. LSU just lost to Florida and Georgia is undefeated, but this is game at The Swamp, and LSU has a much more impressive list of opponents to date that Georgia does. This could be entertaining. Meanwhile #7 Washington plays #17 Oregon on ABC/ESPN2, and a decent Baylor team plays #9 Texas on ESPN. So keep that remote control handy.

At 7:30, you've got your #12 Michigan vs #15 Wisconsin game on ABC.

There's a good late game as #19 Colorado will try to stay undefeated against USC. That's at 10:30 on FS1.
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