Week seven kicks off with two colossal games, of earth-shattering proportions. The playoff implications are weighing heavily on everybody this time of the season, but especially on tonight’s competitors. We’ll break the implications down for each, as well as the essentials to the games.
AUBURN vs. Clemson
A difficult road challenge after a bitter loss last week has the Auburn Tigers on their heels. A loss tonight will see their grip on the number one seed and a first round bye slip out of their grasp to some degree. For drama’s sake, next week would be exceptionally entertaining, but for quarterback Griffin Jelkic, it’s not what he wants. He’d like to continue to lead this team, and tight end Michael McKenzie has come on late with some major catches. Factor in the explosiveness of receivers Cross Ferry III and Derrek Jackson? And this offense can stretch you down the field, which means tailback Robert Davis can begin his gashing runs. Defensively, linebacker Mark Calloway and the boys are going to have to really start pushing for turnovers. Guys like corner LaRoi Sanders, safeties Digger Graves, Ollie P. Peters, and Bubba Bullard. They all have got to find ways of generating turnovers, tonight especially.
Clemson’s playoff hopes are hanging on by a thread. They’re 1-2 in-conference and cannot afford to lose tonight. If they do, they fall to 1-3, with the playoffs little more than a dream. Which means the burden on young quarterback Will Slay’s shoulders is immense. He looked great on the ground last week, but through the air he tossed two picks and only completed nine of his 19 pass attempts. It was a game that went to overtime, and he had a shot, but he’s facing a more talented defense tonight, and that means receivers Keith Blazer and Jay Moe are going to have to generate separation to help him out. As for the defensive side, they ride or die by linebacker Jack Tyler. He’s the one where all eyes go when a big play is needed, be it a stop or a turnover, and he usually delivers. Still, safety Barry Allen and corner Harper Allen have to do their share tonight as well, otherwise, the playoffs will have to wait until next season.
Final: Auburn 38, Clemson 42
OREGON vs. USC
In the Big Ten, the Ducks are currently seated in the three seed, but a win tonight would elevate them into that two seed and would really put a crimp in USC’s season. In order for that to happen, quarterback Devonta Cribbs can’t turn the ball over like he did last week. Granted, halfback Jimmy Tickle went off for four touchdowns, but Cribbs threw two picks. They lost the turnover battle and still won by 10 last week. That’s rare, and difficult to duplicate. They need a clean game and Tickle may need to go off again. The larger concern is containing Kingston Fox as a defense. The Ducks don’t really generate turnovers, even though they’re certainly capable. They need some tonight, because Fox gave up three interceptions last week. Defensive end Anthony Richardson can help with that, if he can find a way to make Fox uncomfortable.
Speaking of Fox, talk about resiliency huh? The sophomore signal-caller for USC finished with three interceptions and was staring at a 21 point deficit heading into the second quarter. Fox rallied his team, with the aid of tailback Cain Robinson, to fight and claw their way back to have a shot at the end. Tonight, receivers Mason Winters, Marcus Seals, and Jace Rosser have to get back to making big plays, big time catches. Tight end Monte Jones can’t do it all. This defense, with a talented secondary, is then tasked with slowing down Dijon Swann, but they face a quarterback who has consistency issues. Corners Marcellus Burney and Johnathon Greene have to be salivating at the opportunity to win the west coast battle by snagging some interceptions tonight. Safeties Terrence Goldsberry and Aiden Berry have also been instrumental in the success of this defense, and they’ll need a major night as well. Otherwise, USC leaves the door open for Notre Dame to knock the Trojans clean out of the playoffs and the Fighting Irish would take their place, something USC has to avoid.
Final: Oregon 35, USC 38