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Sark, Helf, Fitz, Mack, Pirates and the Circus: 10 things we're watching in Week 7

1. Big Pac-12 North Battle, Take 2 - Washington put up an effort that, at most, 15 other teams could've shown at Stanford last Saturday night. But it wasn't enough. Now Sark's next best chance at his first top five win since Game No. 3 at Washington back in 2009 against a No. 2 Oregon team that owns a nine-game winning streak over the Huskies by scores of 52-21, 34-17, 53-16, 43-19, 44-10, 55-34, 34-14, 45-21 and 31-6. An optimist would look at that and say Washington is due.

2. Is this a big SEC game that actually plays like a big SEC game? - If you want to see the petri dish on which SEC football has evolved, look at LSU. The Tigers scored 180 points in their eight SEC games last year, and are already 75 percent of the way to that total through just three games this season. The first three games of LSU's 2012 SEC slate had final scores of 12-10, 14-6 and 23-21. This year's finals have been 35-21, 44-41 and 59-26. Facing the SEC's No. 1 total, scoring, rushing, passing and pass efficiency defense, LSU attempts to become the first SEC team since Georgia on October 29, 2011 to top the 21-point barrier on the Florida defense.

3. Mizzou's big chance - Face it, if you ask the average fan to list all 14 SEC teams, Missouri is team No. 14. While fellow newcomer Texas A&M drew the spotlight, Missouri stood around the back, puttering its way to a 5-7 debut season. Now, Gary Pinkel's team has a chance to effectively take control of the SEC East with home games against Florida and South Carolina coming. Three weeks from now, the Tigers could be 8-0 and inside the top five, or they could be 5-3 and yearning for a Music City Bowl berth. What will the team from the Show Me State show us?

4. Red River Redemption? (Maybe?) - I wrote extensively about what Mack Brown is facing yesterday, but here are the Cliff's Notes: Brown would become the first coach in the history of the Texas-Oklahoma series to post 10 losses, and the first coach to own a five and four-game losing streak. He's 4-4 against Bob Stoops alone, but 1-5 against the combination of Bob and Mike Stoops. And in a game that's described as a three-hour fist fight, five straight years Texas has won the toss, deferred and allowed Oklahoma to score on the opening drive. That about sums it up.

5. A trap game if there ever was one - I'm not offering a prediction on the game here, just pointing out that Stanford steps into what experts would define as the perfect definition of a trap game. One week after a hard-fought win over Washington and one week before an emotional game against UCLA, Stanford goes on the road to face Utah. 

6. If not now, when? - The two groups of people most encouraged by USC's performance last night not wearing cardinal and gold had to be the Connecticut and Miami (Ohio) football teams. Playing their first games after firing their respective head coaches, each group has a winnable game on Saturday - possibly the most winnable they'll have all year. Connecticut hosts South Florida, while Miami (Ohio) travels to Massachusetts.

7. The circus finally leaves town - If there's one thing that can slow down Baylor's chainsaw offense and underrated defense, perhaps it's the open road. The Bears have won their last three neutral site games, but have struggled in opposing stadiums. They're 1-8 in their last nine Big 12 road games, and the one win was a 31-30 overtime squeaker against Kansas in 2011. Baylor's last Big 12 road victory in regulation came all the way back on October 30, 2010, when Baylor won in Austin, 30-22.

8. The Pirate bombs away (again) - I set the bar at 115 pass attempts for last week's Washington State-Cal game, and Mike Leach and Sonny Dykes delivered. The Cougars and Bears combined for 130 passes and 1,042 yards (oddly enough, each team threw for exactly 521 yards) in Washington State's 44-22 win. Washington State still leads the nation in pass attempts (326 in six games) and Oregon State ranks seventh (248 in five games). The guess here is that Oregon State and Washington State combine for less total attempts but more yards than last week's Passapalooza. 

9. The most critical SEC game is not in Athens or Baton Rouge - Mississippi State may very well be 4-3 entering November, and then not win again the rest of the season. Simply put, Dan Mullen can not afford to lose to Bowling Green on Saturday.

10. Baseball won't have the only playoff game on Saturday - Despite the loss to Ohio State on Saturday, Northwestern has still led every single game it's played well into the fourth quarter since the beginning of the 2012 season. That effort aside, Fitz's team could effectively be out of the Big Ten title race two games into conference play with a loss to Wisconsin on Saturday, if we safely assume one of (if not all three) Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska will be 2-0 and two games ahead of Northwestern in the Legends Division. Meanwhile, Wisconsin's grip on its fourth straight Big Ten title slips forever away if it doesn't beat Northwestern, as the Badgers would need to win out and have Ohio State lose three games between now and the end of November to keep its streak alive. 

 

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