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West Virginia headlines Week 7 of NCAA takeaways

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Stephen M. Dowell
Baylor running back Johnny Jefferson (5) runs an 80-yard touchdown during the Russell Athletic Bowl on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015, at the Orlando Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS)

No major shakeups this week as we highlight week seven of college football:

They’ll be coming round the mountain when they come

For a conference that thought they had lost all hope of having a playoff team, the Big 12 Conference appears to have something to smile about. 

After last weekend’s slate of games, Baylor and West Virginia are now ranked No. 9 and No. 12, respectively, and have a chance of entering this year’s College Football Playoff. Each team took different roads entering this season: Baylor notably dealt with off-the-field issues regarding misconduct of several football players and dismissal of their head coach Art Briles. 

In the mountain state, critics of head coach Dana Holgorsen came out of the woodwork expressing their disapproval at the programs sudden mediocrity since joining the Big 12 six years ago. 

Yet, this has all fallen on deaf ears as both schools find themselves, surprisingly, in contention for their first playoff appearance. Baylor is among the top-scoring teams in college football, averaging 43.7 points a game, while allowing their opponents to score over 14 points on only two occasions this season. 

The Mountaineers have relied on quarterback Skyler Howard, who has out-thrown every opposing quarterback he has faced. The senior averages an eyebrow-raising 318 passing yards per game. The degree of difficultly in the coming weeks will test these playoff hopefuls with West Virginia facing potentially their toughest game of season in a matchup with TCU this weekend before encountering the Big 12’s traditional powers, Texas and Oklahoma. 

A brutal three-game stretch involving Texas, TCU and Oklahoma awaits Baylor as well. Knowing if they can make it through these games is the lone remaining obstacle that stands in their way. It will be a showdown during the first week of December among the two teams in a game that could have more on the line than just a conference title.

Really rolling now

At the midway point in the season, many wouldn’t be surprised that the defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide would remain among college football’s undefeated teams. Their performances, however, have showcased the shear dominance this team has put forth since an early season scare against Ole Miss. 

Led by a freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts, who has commanded the offense with such ease and perfection, was toppled by a defense that is playing possibly the best that defense ever has under head coach Nick Saban. 

The Tide are rolling and could keep up the momentum going right into Tampa, Flordia, for the national championship in January. Tennessee became the latest victim of an Alabama thrashing. 

The Vols allowed Bama to score in every phase of the game from pick six’s to punt return touchdowns; there truly wasn’t a way the Crimson Tide didn’t find the end zone. Hurts had three rushing touchdowns to go along with his 132 rushing yards, and that was nearly the amount of total yards Tennessee, as a team, produced in this game. 

Up next is a trip to college station where they will square off with No. 6 Texas A&M, who currently sits just outside of the top four. Beyond this matchup, few teams left on the Tide’s schedule will really test them, so sit back and watch Saban march what could be the best team he has ever had towards his sixth national championship, a feat that would tie him with fellow school legend Bear Bryant.

Boy was that close

Playoff front runners Ohio State and Clemson received harder tests then they were expecting, as both needed overtime to best teams they were huge favorites over entering the weekend. 

Luck was among the fans that attended Clemson’s overtime thriller against stubborn North Carolina State, who missed what would have been a game-winning field goal as time expired. It was kicker Kyle Bambard’s third miss of the game, despite the fact he entered the game having only missed one field goal all year. Heisman trophy hopeful Deshaun Watson threw his first pick-six as a college quarterback, and adding that to the offense’s other three turnovers, this clearly was a game Clemson would like to forget. 

A bye this week will help the Tigers get back on track as they travel to Tallahassee in two weeks for a game against a Florida State team who will do everything in their power to knock Clemson out of the playoff race. 

The No. 2 team in the country, Ohio State, found themselves trailing an energized Wisconsin for a large portion of the game. After JT Barrett was silent for the first half, the experienced quarterback woke up and engineered his team’s comeback, providing three touchdowns in the second half, keeping the Buckeyes national title hopes alive. 

The Big 10 powerhouse saw itself tested for the first time this season and begins an interesting set of games, featuring unranked rivalries Penn State and Michigan State, compiled with matchups against fellow playoff hopefuls No. 8 Nebraska and No. 3 Michigan. 

All could get the best of the Buckeyes or show that, yet again, Ohio State is the class of the conference and could be rewarded with a berth in this year’s playoff.


Follow Noah Sonnet on Twitter.


West Virginia video courtesy of Big 12 Digital Network via Youtube.

Alabama video courtesy of Reed Sellers via Youtube.

Ohio State-Wisconsin video courtesy of Big Ten Network via Youtube.


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