CFB: Defense reigns supreme during Week 7

South Carolina, Kentucky and others found the win column over the weekend

Dylan Tynes, Staff Writer

Week 7 of the college football season felt unusually quiet. This was the last week before the return of football in the Big Ten, and a healthy dose of teams had byes, including all but four Big 12 teams, among others. But, this year is unlike any other, so the already-meager schedule of games shrunk further with six postponements due to COVID-19 complications, including three contests involving ranked teams.

With that being said, there was indeed football on Saturday, and it was indeed odd. On the surface, there was the usual couple of upsets, some close calls and a few blowouts to even the balance. In reality, however, almost nothing about this week was normal.

The SEC experienced a plague of interceptions on Saturday. Tennessee’s quarterback, Jarrett Guarantano, opened the scoring for Kentucky by throwing two early pick-sixes en route to an emphatic 34-7 Kentucky victory. It was the Wildcats’ three interceptions allowed them to win so decisively despite having only seven more yards of offense than the Volunteers. 

Fifteenth-ranked Auburn fell to unranked South Carolina 30-22 after the Tigers’ quarterback, Bo Nix, tossed three interceptions of his own. But it was Matt Corral of the Ole Miss Rebels who took home the award for most interceptions, with six in his losing effort against Arkansas (33-21).

The biggest game of the week, an SEC match up between second-ranked Alabama and third-ranked Georgia, of course began with two interceptions in the first four plays. Mac Jones and the Crimson Tide eventually overcame a 24-20 halftime deficit to win 41-24 over the Bulldogs. The Alabama defense looked like an early-2010s iteration of the squad in the second half, picking off Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennet IV twice and preventing any scoring in the second half.

The ACC showed that its middle-tier of teams is completely unpredictable. Unranked Florida State gained their first conference win of the year over fifth-ranked North Carolina, a statement that would completely mystify any college football observer from before 2019. The Seminoles dominated out of the gate and led 31-7 at halftime, only to barely hang on and win 31-24 after a blight of dropped passes by the Tar Heels. Louisville nearly managed to beat fourth-ranked Notre Dame; they lost 12-7 in a contest that featured few offensive fireworks from either side. The Fighting Irish will need a whole lot more offensive-spark if they wish to challenge Clemson for the ACC title. 

NC State managed to overcome a heart-wrenching injury to their starting quarterback, Devin Leary, and defeated Duke, 31-20. The Blue Devils have now turned the ball over 22 times this year, six more times than any other team. In Atlanta, top-ranked Clemson erased any doubts about its status within the ACC on Saturday with its 73-7 drubbing of Georgia Tech, scoring 35 points in the second quarter alone. The Tigers’ punter even attempted a few passes toward the end of the game, and 17 different players had at least one reception in the blowout.

A few minor-conference games commanded attention this week. The Coastal Carolina Chanticleers defended their perfect record with a 30-27 victory over the No. 21 Ragin’ Cajuns of Louisiana-Lafayette. 

All eyes were on Jonesboro, Arkansas, Thursday night as the Red Wolves of Arkansas State defeated Georgia State in a wild 59-52 game with very little defensive action. And UCF quarterback Dillon Gabriel accounted for an eye-popping 650 yards of offense in a 50-49 loss to Memphis in which the teams combined for 1501 total yards.

Week 7 proved that even with fewer games, college football can provide enough exciting moments in one Saturday to hold even the most casual fan’s attention. With the Big Ten leading the wave of returning conferences, the chaos will only increase. The next week of college football action will feature highly touted squads such as No. 5 Ohio State, No. 8 Penn State, and No. 21 Minnesota.