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College Football 2013: 5 Big Questions for Week 7

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It should be another fun week of college football, with some big rivalry games and exciting shootouts between ranked opponents. Here are some of the big questions going into Week 7:

What’s Wrong With Jadeveon Clowney?

When the season started, South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was a Heisman favorite and the early front-runner to be the No. 1 pick in next spring’s NFL draft. While his draft status hasn’t changed much, six weeks later his play (or lack thereof) is raising eyebrows. Through four games, his production is way down as compared with this time last year: 12 tackles, 3 tackles for loss and just 2 sacks in 2013, compared with 17, 7 and 4.5, respectively, at this same point a year ago. And after sitting out last week’s win over Kentucky, Clowney was faced with questions about whether he’s sitting out instead of playing through pain to protect his draft status and whether he gets special treatment from coaches to decide when he wants to play. Clowney has played through pain before—he’s suffered from bone spurs in his foot since high school—and these new concerns likely won’t impact his draft status significantly. But the longer he sits out, the more questions are likely to mount about his long-term impact.

Is This Mack Brown’s Last Stand?

With Lane Kiffin fired at USC, Texas’s Mack Brown now faces the hottest of the coaching hot seats. This week may be his last chance to save his job in the shootout with archrival Oklahoma. The Longhorns have lost three straight to the Sooners, the last two by a combined score of 118-38. Moreover, ever since falling to Alabama in the 2010 national championship game, Texas has been in a decline, going just 13-15 in Big 12 play. The voices calling for Brown’s ouster have been growing louder each week, and, barring a signature win over the Sooners this week and continued improvement the rest of the season, it’s difficult to imagine Brown will be on the Longhorns sideline in 2014.

With Injuries Mounting, Is Georgia Still a Title Contender?

Georgia escaped with an overtime win over Tennessee last week, but they may be losing the battle of attrition. Running back Keith Marshall and wide receiver Justin Scott-Wesley both left the game with torn ACLs that will end each of their seasons. Receiver Michael Bennett also had knee surgery this week, but could be back later this season. Add in starting running back Todd Gurley (ankle) and safety Tray Matthews (hamstring), who are doubtful for this week’s game, and the Bulldogs will definitely be undermanned as they face a difficult three-game stretch at home against No. 25 Missouri, then at Vanderbilt and No. 17 Florida. On paper, the Bulldogs are still very much in the title hunt. But as injuries continue to take a toll on team depth, Georgia’s margin for error is getting very slim.

Can Florida’s Defense Save the Season?

Florida quarterback Tyler Murphy has done a nice job managing games for the Gators since starter Jeff Driskel’s injury, throwing for five touchdowns and just one interception in three starts. But make no mistake: Florida will go only as far as its defense will take it. The Gators rank fourth nationally in scoring defense and have held all but one opponent to 17 or fewer points. But they’re about to face a much tougher test in a brutal five-game stretch that includes road matchups at No. 10 LSU, No. 25 Missouri and No. 14 South Carolina and the annual neutral-site showdown with No. 7 Georgia. Florida’s defense is awfully good, but even the most rabid Gator fan would likely admit that they’ll need to get a good deal of help from the offense to survive that stretch.

Can Washington Hang With the Ducks?

If you like offensive shootouts, No. 2 Oregon vs No. 16 Washington should be the game for you this week. Both teams rank in the top five in total offense and they combine for nearly 97 points per game. Oregon’s offense has simply been unstoppable, averaging over 630 yards and 59 points per game. Washington, meanwhile, isn’t far behind, averaging almost 40 points per game in its four wins and scoring a solid 28 in last week’s loss to No. 5 Stanford, the most the Cardinal had given up this season. The wild card in this game may well be defense: both teams have underrated defensive units that rank in the top 11 nationally in scoring defense. The Huskies will need to get a few stops against the Ducks—something nobody else has been able to do this season—to pull off the upset and avoid a 10th straight loss to Oregon.

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