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College football Week 7 preview: Weekend of the Pac-12

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College football Week 7 preview: Weekend of the Pac-12

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The summer of college football revolved around conference realignment as the landscape of the sport changed in a matter of weeks. 

And it all revolved around the Pac-12 as the storied conference disintegrated in front of our eyes. 

The Pac-12 conference logo

The Pac-12 conference logo on the field while the Arizona Wildcats huddle during a game against the UTEP Miners at Arizona Stadium Sept. 16, 2023, in Tucson, Ariz. (Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

In late July, Colorado announced its move to the Big 12 roughly one year after USC and UCLA made the move to the Big Ten in 2024 official. 

Shortly after the Buffaloes’ announcement, Arizona, Arizona State and Utah also made their move to the Big 12 while Oregon and Washington jumped to the Big Ten. 

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On Sept. 1, the ACC voted to admit Stanford, Cal and SMU, putting the schools committed to the Pac-12 after the 2023-24 seasons at just two — Washington State and Oregon State. 

It’s the end of the Pac-12 as fans know it, and yet the conference is the deepest in college football in 2023. 

The Pac-12 takes center stage in Week 7 as the top three Heisman favorites play in games with massive College Football Playoff implications. 

Let’s take a look at the games to be aware of in Week 7. 

No. 7 Washington vs. No. 8 Oregon – 3:30 p.m. ET

It’s a massive matchup in the Pacific Northwest with ESPN’s “College Gameday” on site as the two schools face of for the first time as top 10 teams. 

“I think every one of our players know exactly what this game means to them personally in that room, and then also just to everybody that’s a Duck fan,” Oregon coach Dan Lanning said. “And they want to win.”

Washington and Oregon boast the top two offenses in the country with the Huskies averaging 569.4 yards and 46 points per game and Oregon averaging 557.8 yards and 51.6 points per game. 

Washington Huskies helmets

Washington Huskies helmets during a game against the Stanford Cardinal at Husky Stadium Dec. 5, 2020, in Seattle.  (Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

The quarterbacks are electric with Washington’s Michael Penix Jr., the current favorite to win the Heisman, and Oregon QB Bo Nix, who has the third-best odds at +420. 

“We’re playing for the people before us and the people that come after us,” Penix Jr. said. “We understand that, and we understand that they’re one of our rivals. You always want to beat your rivals.”

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Despite having the week off in Week 6, Penix Jr. is second in the country in passing yards (1,199) and is tied for second in the country with 16 passing touchdowns.

Nix has thrown for 1,459 yards, 15 touchdowns and just one interception in five games. 

Bo Nix warms up before Stanford

Bo Nix of the Oregon Ducks warms up before a game against the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium Sept. 30, 2023, in Stanford, Calif.  (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Turnovers and which defense can get a few late stops will likely decide the winner as the Pac-12 looks to break a six-year CFP drought. 

Oregon’s defense is sixth in the country in yards (255.6) and points allowed per game (11.8). 

No. 21 Notre Dame vs. No. 10 USC – 7:30 p.m. ET

Notre Dame’s schedule reaches the end of a brutal four-game stretch, and USC begins its tough stretch of the season. 

The Trojans have not looked the part in the last three quarters of play after allowing Colorado to get within one score in Week 5 and needing three overtimes to beat unranked Arizona. 

It’s all on Caleb Williams’ shoulders, and the question becomes how many times can Williams be the hero? 

Caleb Williams looks on field

Caleb Williams of the USC Trojans during warmups prior to a game against the Arizona Wildcats at United Airlines Field at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Oct. 7, 2023, in Los Angeles, Calif. (Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

While he missed some throws against Arizona and threw for his fewest yards and touchdowns of the season, Williams still got it done when it mattered most, rushing for 41 yards, three touchdowns and the game-winning two-point conversation in the third overtime.

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For the Irish, a loss at home against a rival would be a disaster for second-year head coach Marcus Freeman. Notre Dame has lost two of its last three games as it heads back to South Bend. 

“The best thing about this week is we have to get back to work and get prepared for a great opponent in USC coming in here Saturday night,” Freeman said. “We expect it to be an electric atmosphere, a great environment and a great opportunity for this program to use the adversity we faced this past week and to use it as energy and motivation.”

Marcus Freeman looks on against Louisville

Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Marcus Freeman after a play during a game against the Louisville Cardinals Oct. 7, 2023, at L&N Federal Credit Union Stadium in Louisville, Ky.  (Joseph Weiser/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The key for the Irish will be keeping the ball away from Williams and the electric USC offense

Running back Audric Estime is third in the nation in rushing yards (692) and will be going up against a USC defense allowing 157 yards on the ground per game, second to last in the Pac-12. 

No. 12 North Carolina vs. No. 25 Miami – 7:30 p.m. ET

This would be a matchup between undefeated teams if not for one of the all-time coaching blunders in Week 6. 

Instead of kneeling in the final seconds of the game against Georgia Tech, which would have run out the clock and made Miami 5-0, the Hurricanes decided to hand the ball off to running back Don Chaney, who fumbled. 

Georgia Tech took over with 26 seconds left, and quarterback Haynes King needed only a few plays to help the Yellow Jackets score a touchdown to steal the win.

Mario Cristobal prior to the Georgia Tech game

Miami head coach Mario Cristobal encourages his players prior to a game against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Oct. 7, 2023, at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.  (Samuel Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

“I made the wrong call,” Miami head coach Mario Cristobal said.

Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said he was the one who actually made the decision to run the ball instead of taking a knee.

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“What we did at the end was the wrong decision,” Dawson said. “I called it. It is what it is. I wished we would have done something different, but we didn’t. Got to live with it. … I’m not going to sit here and go through the process with you guys. What’s said on the headsets is between us, and, ultimately, I called the play. And I can live with it. It was the wrong thing to do.”

Whoever was to blame, the Hurricanes now face an undefeated North Carolina team led by Heisman hopeful Drake Maye. 

Drake Maye looks to pass against Syracuse

Drake Maye of the North Carolina Tar Heels looks to pass against the Syracuse Orange during a game at Kenan Memorial Stadium Oct. 7, 2023, in Chapel Hill, N.C. The Tar Heels won 40-7. (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

How will Miami respond to the disappointing loss?

Maye threw for 442 yards and three touchdowns against Syracuse last week and is leading an offense that’s second in the ACC in yards (500) and third in points per game (36.6). 

Miami’s defense is stellar, ninth in the country in yards allowed (268.4) and 12th in points allowed (14.6). 

No. 15 Oregon State vs. No. 18 UCLA – 8 p.m. ET

It’s a sneaky-good matchup in Corvallis, Oregon, between one dominant defense and one really good defense.

The Bruins are coming off an upset of Washington State, while the Beavers put up a season-high 52 points against Cal. 

UCLA’s defense is fifth in the country in yards per game (254.2), eighth in points per game (12.2) and is tied with Oregon for first in yards allowed per play. 

Against Washington State, an offense that averaged 45.7 points per game through the first four games, UCLA allowed just 216 yards and 17 points. 

“We know it’s going to be a tough game, but we’ve just got to come in and execute, do what we do, play our brand of football, and I think it’ll take care of itself,” Oregon State wide receiver Anthony Gould said, according to The Oregonian. 

“I mean, that’s why we’re here playing football. You want to play against the best of the best every weekend. If you don’t want to do that, you’re playing at the wrong level. So, I mean, we embrace that. We look forward to it. We’re going to have to bring our A game. They’re going to be bringing their A game. We’re ready for it.”

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Quarterback DJ Uiagalelei plays against SDSU

Quarterback DJ Uiagalelei of the Oregon State Beavers stands on the field against the San Diego State Aztecs during the second half at Reser Stadium Sept. 16, 2023, in Corvallis, Ore.  (Tom Hauck/Getty Images)

Oregon State’s defense allowed 40 points against Cal in Week 6, but quarterback DJ Uiagalelei had his best performance of the year. 

Uiagalelei threw for 275 yards and five touchdowns in a 52-40 win. 

The Beavers defense, which entered the game fifth in the country against the run, allowed 241 yards on the ground to Cal. 

UCLA is fourth in the Pac-12 in rushing yards per game (200.2).

Fox News’ Ryan Gaydos and The Associated Press contributed to this report 

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