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Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press
After a brutal afternoon for the SEC saw Auburn and Tennessee both upended by unranked foes, Saturday’s slate ended with a heavyweight showdown between title contenders Alabama and Georgia.
Following a shaky performance against Ole Miss last week, when they allowed 48 points, the Crimson Tide reasserted itself as one of the nation’s elite with a convincing 41-24 victory over the Bulldogs.
Meanwhile, Clemson flexed its muscles in the ACC with a staggering 73-7 victory over Georgia Tech, then watched North Carolina suffer its first loss of the season in a 31-28 shocker against a previously floundering Florida State team.
Those losses mean that Group of Five standouts Cincinnati, BYU and SMU should continue to climb the rankings, while still-undefeated Coastal Carolina, Marshall and Liberty have an increasingly compelling case for national attention.
Our five-man panel of B/R experts—David Kenyon, Adam Kramer, Kerry Miller, Joel Reuter and Brad Shepard—was tasked with sorting through the weekend’s action and submitting a Top 25 ballot for Week 7. A first-place vote is worth 25 points, a second-place vote is worth 24 points, etc.
B/R Week 7 Top 25
1. Clemson (Last Week: 1)
2. Alabama (3)
3. Ohio State (4)
4. Georgia (2)
5. Notre Dame (5)
6. Penn State (7)
T-7. Oklahoma State (9)
T-7. Oregon (8)
9. Texas A&M (T-11)
10. Miami (14)
11. BYU (15)
T-12. Cincinnati (10)
T-12. Wisconsin (T-11)
14. Florida (13)
15. North Carolina (6)
16. SMU (16)
17. Minnesota (T-19)
18. Michigan (T-19)
19. Iowa State (22)
20. West Virginia (23)
21. Coastal Carolina (NR)
22. Virginia Tech (NR)
23. Marshall (NR)
24. Arkansas (NR)
25. USC (25)
Others receiving votes: UAB, Liberty, NC State, Memphis, Kansas State
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Malik WillisJames Kenney/Associated Press
In just their third year as an FBS independent, Liberty is off to a 5-0 start after a 38-21 victory over Syracuse on Saturday.
So what do we know about the Flames?
With former Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze piloting the ship, they went 8-5 last season and knocked off Georgia Southern in the AutoNation Cure Bowl.
Quarterback Stephen Calvert graduated after throwing for 3,663 yards and 28 touchdowns, leaving behind big shoes to fill, and Auburn grad transfer Malik Willis has proven up to the task.
The dual-threat signal caller has been efficient in the passing game, completing 64 percent of his throws with three touchdowns and one interception, and he has added another 398 yards and five touchdowns on the ground.
Starting running back Joshua Mack was inactive on Saturday, but the rushing attack didn’t miss a beat. Shedro Louis (10 carries, 170 yards, 2 TD) and Peytton Pickett (23 carries, 115 yards, 1 TD) both moved the ball well against Syracuse, showcasing the team’s offensive depth.
They scored 21 straight points to break a 14-14 tie, and the defense had a solid day across the board, allowing 5.3 yards per pass and 3.6 yards per carry.
A matchup with Virginia Tech on Nov. 7 will be a solid gauge of just how good this team is, and they also have tough games against NC State (Nov. 21) and Coastal Carolina (Dec. 5) left on the calendar.
For now, they’ve been one of the more surprising stories of a unique 2020 season, and are a team to watch moving forward.
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Bo NixSean Rayford/Associated Press
As a 5-star recruit who took his lumps while showing plenty of flashes during a productive true freshman season, Bo Nix entered 2020 with lofty expectations.
He threw for a career-high 272 yards against South Carolina on Saturday, but he was also picked off three times while completing just 51 percent of his 47 pass attempts in a 30-22 loss.
If anything, it looks like he’s taken a step backward here in 2020.
“When you look at it, the stat sheet, you know — as far as the stat sheet, we played pretty good football, but the three turnovers, obviously, were big,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn told reporters.
With a 2-2 record on the year, Auburn has already seen its College Football Playoff hopes evaporate after starting the year at No. 11 in the AP Poll.
Beyond his poor play on the field, Nix was also seen clashing with wide receiver Seth Williams on the sidelines after one of his many missed throws.
Meanwhile, freshman running back Tank Bigsby had his second straight 100-yard game on the ground with 111 yards and a touchdown, but he was given just 16 touches on the day.
The Auburn defense is good enough to keep them in most games, so it’s up to the offense to come with a better game plan and limit turnovers if they are going to right the ship and salvage the season.
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Trevor LawrenceGerald Herbert/Associated Press
The Clemson offense showed no mercy against Georgia Tech en route to a 73-7 victory on Saturday, scoring 66 unanswered points to close out the game.
That stands as the largest margin of victory ever in an ACC game, according to Andrea Adelson of ESPN, and much of the damage came during the first half when the Tigers built a staggering 52-7 lead.
Heisman Trophy favorite Trevor Lawrence exited the game after the opening drive of the second half with a career-high 404 passing yards and five touchdowns.
“It’s the highest level of football I’ve seen out of him, but it’s what I think he expects and what everybody in our building expects out of him,” offensive coordinator Tony Elliott told reporters.
However, he did have one miscue when he was picked off by Zamari Walton in the first quarter.
That snapped a streak of 366 straight passes without an interception, leaving Lawrence just shy of the record of 379 set by Russell Wilson during his time at NC State.
Freshman Hunter Helms completed 5-of-7 passes for 74 yards and two touchdowns in relief of Lawrence and the Tigers finished with 500 passing yards and 671 total yards on the day.
Best of luck to the rest of the ACC this year.
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Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields will finally be back in action next Saturday.Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press
Who’s ready for some Big Ten football?
Ohio State (vs. Nebraska), Penn State (vs. Indiana) and Wisconsin (vs. Illinois) all jump straight into the conference slate as they look to prove they belong in the CFP conversation, while Michigan vs. Minnesota looks like the matchup of the week on paper.
The Mountain West also kicks off its season next weekend, with nationally relevant Boise State taking on Utah State at home in its opener. The Broncos have two weeks to round into form before a big matchup with BYU.
As for teams already in the thick of things, Iowa State travels to Stillwater to take on Oklahoma State in a surprising showdown for Big 12 supremacy after Oklahoma and Texas both suffered a pair of early losses. The Cowboys won 34-27 in a back-and-forth game last year and the two teams match up well once again in 2020.
In one of the biggest Group of Five matchups of the year, Cincinnati and SMU will both look to stay undefeated, provided the Bearcats are ready to go after a positive COVID-19 test led to this weekend’s game against Tulsa being postponed.
The SEC slate is a bit quieter next week, but there are still some heavy hitting matchups. Tennessee will look to bounce back against Alabama, while Kentucky tries to build off the momentum of their win over the Vols in a tough home game against Georgia.
All stats courtesy of Sports Reference.
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