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MC&J: Week 7 nationally has Oregon-Washington, USC-Notre Dame, and more

Picks for Ducks-Huskies, Trojans-Fighting Irish, and five other important games outside the Big Ten.

Washington v Arizona Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Last week ATS: 5-6 (1-8 National, 4-1 B1G)

Season ATS: 52-58 (20-36 National, 32-22 B1G)

I honestly wouldn’t blame anyone if they just went ahead and skipped my national picks and only kept an eye for my Big Ten picks, since I have been dreadful outside the B1G over the last few weeks.

Last week was extremely tough to swallow, especially early on Saturday when LSU got a pick-six late in the game against Missouri. Then Texas A&M had a fourth quarter touchdown overturned after Ainias Smith’s toe dragged out of bounds a couple yards outside the goal line and the Aggies ended up settling for three. Even with the losses, I’ll keep plugging away and try to learn from the setbacks.

National games

No. 8 Oregon v. No. 7 Washington (-2.5) - 3:30 p.m. ET - ABC

One of the best rivalries in college football is between Oregon and Washington. Even though there was a stretch where the Ducks won 12 in a row, lately the Huskies have provided a little more resistance, as the teams have split the last six meetings. The last four games between the rivals have been hotly contested, with each of those meetings being decided by 10 points or less.

This year figures to be no different. Both Oregon and Washington have College Football Playoff hopes. Who knows, this might not be the only time these two schools meet before the playoff competitors are announced, since they could end up squaring off in the final Pac-12 Championship Game in early December.

Saturday’s contest is going to feature some great quarterback play. Both Michael Penix Jr. and Bo Nix have already stated their case to be Heisman Trophy contenders with their play so far this season. The two quarterbacks have combined to throw 31 touchdowns and just three interceptions through 10 total games this year.

This game is so tough to call, and the point spread shows it is pretty much a coin flip since the only reason Washington is favored is because of their home-field advantage. I know Oregon has a more balanced offense, I’m just not sure they’ll be able to slow down Penix and the Washington passing attack in Seattle. The Huskies win a back-and-forth game and make it two in a row over the Ducks.

Washington 41, Oregon 34

Texas A&M v. No. 19 Tennessee (-3.5) - 3:30 p.m. ET - CBS

Last week the Aggies had a great shot at pulling the upset on Alabama. Instead Texas A&M decided they had no interest in covering Jermaine Burton, which allowed the Crimson Tide to escape College Station with a 26-20 victory. Max Johnson did everything he could stepping in for an injured Connor Weigman at quarterback, the issue was his offensive line didn’t give him nearly enough time to match what Jalen Milroe did for Alabama.

Unlike Texas A&M, Tennessee was able to sit back last weekend and relax. Last time we saw the Vols they were beating up on South Carolina 41-20 in Knoxville. Josh Heupel’s team might not be as explosive as last year’s team, but it feels like they are coming together a little more on offense lately. After throwing the ball all over the yard last year, this year Tennessee is a little more balanced, with their passing and rushing numbers nearly identical.

We’ve seen it plenty of times before how after teams take Ohio State to the limit then they are ripe for a letdown the next week. I see Texas A&M being in that same situation after giving everything they had last week at home against Alabama. Now they have to head to Knoxville and take on a Tennessee team coming off a bye. I’m still not a huge believer in Joe Milton, I just think the Vols are the better team, and they will be well rested for this game.

Tennessee 31, Texas A&M 21

No. 23 Kansas (-3.5) v. Oklahoma State - 3:30 p.m. ET - FS1

If this was the Kansas of old, the Jayhawks would have let the 39-14 loss to Texas a couple weeks ago spiral into even more losses. Instead, last week Kansas destroyed UCF 51-22, rolling up 399 yards on the ground. The rushing attack was so dominant it didn’t matter that quarterback Jalon Daniels wasn’t available to play as he struggles with a back injury.

Oklahoma State has had their own quarterback issues this year, as there have been three players who have seen some time behind center. Alan Bowman looks to be the starter for now after a solid performance in the upset of Kansas State last week. The Jayhawks will have to keep close tabs on running back OIlie Gordon II, who has run for at least 100 yards in each of the last two games.

I know taking a ranked road favorite over an unranked team is always risky business. I just trust Kansas a lot more than I trust Mike Gundy and Oklahoma State. Last week’s win for the Cowboys was more because of Kansas State beating themselves and not so much about Oklahoma State beating the Wildcats. Lance Leipold won’t let his team have a mental lapse against a team they should beat.

Kansas 34, Oklahoma State 23

Auburn v. No. 22 LSU (-11.5) - 7:00 p.m. ET - ESPN

A week after beating Missouri, LSU is trying to become the Tiger Kings by beating another group of Tigers. Brian Kelly’s team was on their way to a second consecutive loss early on when they trailed Missouri 22-7. Then the LSU offense found their rhythm, and took the lead for good when Jayden Daniels found Malik Nabers with just under three minutes left in the game.

Auburn has had a rough go of it in Hugh Freeze’s first season as head coach, losing their last two games. Prior to their bye week, the Tigers actually did play pretty well against Georgia before Brock Bowers went crazy in the second half and essentially won the game for the Bulldogs. Michigan State transfer Peyton Thorne is Auburn’s starting quarterback, he just doesn’t inspire much confidence.

LSU has an awful defense, I’m just not convinced Auburn has the firepower to take advantage of the weakness. After two games on the road, LSU enjoys some home cooking and pulls away from Auburn in this one.

LSU 37, Auburn 21

No. 25 Miami (FL) v. No. 12 North Carolina (-3.5) - 7:30 p.m. ET - ABC

Can anyone really trust Miami head coach Mario Cristobal after what we saw at the end of the game from the Hurricanes last week? The crazy thing is that wasn’t the first time that has happened to a Cristobal team! Somehow the same situation happened a few years ago when Oregon fumbled against Stanford, leading to a win by the Cardinal in overtime.

I wrongly backed Syracuse last week against North Carolina. Apparently Mack Brown and the Tar Heels heard me talking junk, as they rolled the Orange 40-7 in Chapel Hill. Now I’m just hoping Florida State, Louisville, and North Carolina all finish the regular season undefeated since they don’t play each other and I just want to see how the ACC would deal with that mess. Because I’m rooting for that scenario, I have to pick North Carolina this week. Also, Mack Brown won’t pull a Cristobal if his team is up late.

North Carolina 38, Miami (FL) 27

No. 10 USC v. No. 21 Notre Dame (-2.5) - 7:30 p.m. ET - NBC

This game feels like it is going to end up being hilarious to everyone watching that isn’t a USC or Notre Dame fan. After throwing three interceptions last week in the loss to Louisville, Sam Hartman has to be licking his chops while watching film of the USC defense. The problem is Notre Dame doesn’t have great receivers, and it doesn’t help that it sounds like conditions in South Bend could be rainy on Saturday night.

On the other side, USC has plenty of skill position threats at the disposal of reigning Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams. If the Trojans had pretty much anyone other than Alex Grinch coaching the defense, then you could pretty much already write USC in pen in the CFP this year. Instead, you have teams like Arizona pushing the Trojans to the limit.

This is Notre Dame’s fourth consecutive primetime game. The pressure of the spotlight games seems to have really gotten to Marcus Freeman and the Fighting Irish. Had it not been for a late TD against Duke, Notre Dame would be riding a three-game losing streak entering this game. I don’t like how the Fighting Irish are entering this game. In a tight game I could see Williams add a signature moment to his argument to be named the second-ever back-to-back Heisman winner.

USC 31, Notre Dame 28

No. 18 UCLA v. No. 15 Oregon State (-3.5) - 8:00 p.m. ET - FOX

UCLA showed me a lot when they rallied from a 17-12 deficit to put away Washington State in the fourth quarter last week. Freshman quarterback Dante Moore still has to work on his consistency, but it’s obvious why he was one of the top recruits coming out of high school. It also didn’t hurt that the defense of the Bruins was very tough for Washington State quarterback Cam Ward to crack.

In a way I feel like UCLA is Oregon State Lite. The Beavers have a quarterback that can make some plays, but hang their hat on running the football and playing tough defense. Dante Moore has more upside than D.J. Uiagalelei, I just trust the Clemson transfer a little more since he has so much experience under his belt. Corvallis is such a tough place for the visitor to leave with a win. Just ask Utah. Oregon State grinds out a win over UCLA on Saturday night.

Oregon State 33, UCLA 24