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MC&J: Alabama-Tennessee headlines Week 7’s loaded national schedule

Aside from the Crimson Tide-Volunteers tilt, there are four other games outside the Big Ten that will feature ranked teams squaring off.

Tennessee v LSU Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Last week ATS: 6-8 (3-3 B1G, 3-5 National)

Season ATS: 46-54-3 (24-28-1 B1G, 22-25-2 National)

After a few things broke favorably way the previous week, last week we just couldn’t get some things to fall our way late in games. Nebraska and Michigan couldn’t cover after slow starts, Texas Tech missed covering by a couple points after having a 31-23 lead in the third quarter. NC State was also a couple points shy of covering, and the list could go on.

At least this tells us we are on the right path when it comes to our weekly picks. If every game was a blowout it’d be one thing, but while the losses are tough to stomach, hopefully it just means we are due for a few big weeks to push the season record back over .500 before November.

National games:

(All lines courtesy of Draftkings Sportsbook.)

No. 3 Alabama (-7.5) v. No. 6 Tennessee - 3:30 p.m. - CBS

Last week we saw Alabama scrape together a 24-20 win over Texas A&M without starting quarterback Bryce Young. The status of Young is unknown for this week’s game. We have already seen Alabama hit the road to take on a team in orange that started an upstart quarterback. Last month against Texas, the Crimson Tide needed a late field goal to defeat the Longhorns.

Tennessee just went down to Baton Rouge and blew the doors off LSU. Even though LSU isn’t quite what they have been in the past, the Volunteers have cleared every hurdle they’ve faced so far this year. Hendon Hooker has been great, and a big performance on Saturday will go a long way in punching his ticket to New York City in early December.

Tennessee has lost 15-straight games to Alabama, and most of those games haven’t been close. Even if Young plays, I like Tennessee to not only cover, but to win straight up. The Crimson Tide haven’t looked quite as dominant this year as we have become accustomed to. Hooker and the Volunteers add some juice to the revival in Knoxville.

Tennessee 38, Alabama 34

No. 8 Oklahoma State v. No. 13 TCU (-4) - 3:30 p.m. - ABC

Last week both Oklahoma State and TCU earned wins against tough Big 12 foes, with the Cowboys beating Texas Tech in Stillwater, while TCU went to Lawrence and handed Kansas their first loss of the season. Oklahoma State was able to respond to a 31-23 deficit in the third quarter by scoring 18 unanswered points. Quarterback Spencer Sanders racked up over 300 total yards in the victory.

On the other side, Max Duggan and Quentin Johnston have become one of the most feared combos in the country, with the duo connecting 14 times for 206 yards and a score in last week’s 38-31 win. The TCU offense is rolling under new head coach Sonny Dykes, averaging 530 yards of offense per game.

Oklahoma State was on the edge of suffering their first loss of the season last week, needing a second half comeback against a freshman quarterback. Imagine what Duggan and company are going to do to a defense that is looking like it desperately misses defensive coordinator Jim Knowles. The Cowboys drop from the ranks of the unbeaten this week.

TCU 41, Oklahoma State 30

No. 15 NC State v. No. 16 Syracuse (-3.5) - 3:30 p.m. - ACC Network

After starting the season thinking NC State could be a darkhorse College Football Playoff candidate, now I’m wondering if they’ll be able to recover from the loss to Clemson and stay at least near the top of the ACC standings. Even though the Wolfpack won last week, they didn’t look all that impressive in a comeback 19-17 win over Florida State. It’s obvious quarterback Devin Leary is banged up, which puts a lot of pressure on a suspect running game.

While NC State is struggling to stay healthy during a tough stretch of games, Syracuse played Wagner last time out before a bye last week. Even though the competition hasn’t been that great, the Orange do have one of the best running backs in the country in Sean Tucker, along quarterback Garrett Shrader, who has been solid after transferring from Mississippi State.

Games at the Carrier Dome, or whatever they are calling it these days, always seem to be strange — just look at what happened when the Orange hosted Purdue earlier this season. NC State started the season with more hype, but right now it is Syracuse who deserves more publicity. The Orange stay undefeated, making next week’s contest at Clemson one of massive importance in the ACC.

Syracuse 31, NC State 24

LSU v. Florida (-3) - 7:00 p.m. - ESPN

The annual contest between LSU and Florida is usually filled with comedy. Just look back to 2020 when Marco Wilson threw the shoe of an LSU player, allowing the Tigers to eventually beat Florida, who was ranked sixth in the country at the time. The Tigers have won seven of the last nine meetings against the Gators.

LSU enters this game coming off a 40-13 loss to Tennessee, while the Gators beat Missouri 24-17. After beating Utah to start the season, Florida has been less than impressive. Anthony Richardson is struggling at quarterback, throwing just five touchdowns against seven interceptions. The Gators are also vulnerable on defense, allowing 25 points per game and over 400 yards per contest to opponents.

Prior to last week’s blowout loss, LSU had looked like it had its act together after falling to Florida State in the season opener. The Tigers have a more stable quarterback in Jayden Daniels, along with a better defense. LSU rebounds from their ugly loss last week with their fourth straight win over Florida.

LSU 27, Florida 20

No. 4 Clemson (-3.5) v. Florida State - 7:30 p.m. - ABC

Following a double overtime win over Wake Forest, Clemson has handled their business over the last two weeks, beating NC State and Boston College. The offense of the Tigers isn’t flashy, but it looks to be in good hands with quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei and running back Will Shipley. Uiagalelei has thrown 14 touchdowns and just two interceptions this year after an inconsistent 2021.

Florida State is sorta back, I guess. After a 4-0 start to the season, the Seminoles have lost the last two games. At least Florida State is losing to respectable ACC teams and not Jacksonville State. Who knows if Mike Norvell is the man for the job in Tallahassee, but he is buying himself some more time at least by exceeding this year’s expectations.

Clemson has won the last six meetings in this rivalry, and there’s no reason to think they won’t make it seven in a row. It feels like the Seminoles have already peaked this year, while Clemson is getting better with each game. Saturday night’s game won’t be a blowout, but the Tigers should win by double digits.

Clemson 28, Florida State 17

No. 16 Mississippi State (-7) v. No. 22 Kentucky - 7:30 p.m. - SEC Network

These two teams have been heading in different directions lately. Mississippi State is coming off wins over Texas A&M and Arkansas, while Kentucky has lost to Ole Miss and South Carolina over the last two weeks. Last week the Wildcats fell at home to South Carolina with quarterback Will Levis out for the game after suffering a foot injury. Indications are Levis will play on Saturday night, but who knows how long he’ll last in the game.

Quarterback isn’t a concern for the Bulldogs, as Will Rogers is putting together a phenomenal season, throwing for 2,110 yards and 22 touchdowns so far. Along with what Rogers has been able to do, Mike Leach’s team can run the ball when needed, and plays tough on defense.

I’m not exactly sure what happened to Mississippi State against LSU. Had the Bulldogs beaten the Tigers, it’d be interesting to see where they would be ranked right now. With Alabama on deck, I’m banking on the Bulldogs taking care of business against a wounded Levis and a struggling Kentucky team.

Mississippi State 31, Kentucky 20

No. 7 USC v. No. 20 Utah (-3.5) - 8:00 p.m. - FOX

It feels like the Pac-12 has started to cannibalize itself. Last week UCLA beat Utah. Now we have unbeaten USC traveling to Utah. Next week UCLA squares off against Oregon. Somehow by the end of the regular season we are going to end up with every team in the conference having suffered at least two losses.

Last week I was thinking that Utah would have asserted their will against UCLA. Instead, the Bruins showed how tough they are, beating the Utes 42-32. This sorta feels like what Utah does though — drops some games early in the season before turning things around and rolling through their schedule the rest of the year. With returning starters like Cam Rising and Tavion Thomas, it’s hard to not see that happening again this year.

Saturday’s game feels like the first real test for USC this year. Sure, the Trojans went up to Corvallis and beat Oregon State 17-14 a few weeks ago. Going to Salt Lake City and beating the Utes is a whole different animal. It also doesn’t help that the Trojans have struggled at Rice-Eccles Stadium, dropping three straight there before winning in 2020. Even though Caleb Williams has been good this year, he is going to feeling the wrath of Utah after last week’s loss to the Bruins.

Utah 34, USC 27

Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See for details.