Upsetting weekend for Alabama, Clemson, USC? Our bold predictions for college football’s Week 7

There’s nothing predictable about a weekend in the wild world of college football. There can be unexpected and shocking disappointments and unanticipated positive performances on fall Saturdays throughout the country. 

The unknown is where they are coming from because even if everyone knows they will happen guessing when and where they will happen is difficult. 

That’s why we’re here to make sense of things. The USA TODAY Sports college football staff — Scooby Axson, Jace Evans, Paul Myerberg, Erick Smith, Eddie Timanus and Dan Wolken — weigh in with its bold predictions for Week 7 of the college football season:

Syracuse stays hot with defeat of North Carolina State

While the rest of the country may not be paying much attention to Syracuse, the Orange have quietly gotten off to a 5-0 start and coach Dino Babers off the hot seat…for now. Victories over the likes of Connecticut, Virginia and Wagner may not inspire confidence among the masses, but Syracuse has put itself in a position to make some real noise in the ACC Atlantic, especially the next three weeks when they face North Carolina State, Clemson and Notre Dame.  The Orange, who have the conference’s top scoring and total defense, get one of those victories at home this week against the Wolfpack before they crash down to Earth at the end of the month. — Scooby Axson

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Tennessee ends long losing streak to Alabama

Tennessee has not beaten Alabama since 2006, the Volunteers’ 15-game losing streak in the series coinciding with Nick Saban’s arrival in Tuscaloosa. They haven’t even really hung close with the Tide recently, dropping every game since 2015 by multiple scores. But Saturday presents a monster opportunity for the Vols. At home at Neyland Stadium, Tennessee takes the field with its best team in years against an Alabama team that faces its most questions in years, despite its No. 1 ranking. With QB Hendon Hooker leading the way – and Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young’s health still a question mark on the other side – the Vols appear to finally have what it takes to take down the Tide. If not now, when? — Jace Evans

Utah puts end to USC’s fast start under Lincoln Riley

Utah stomps on Southern California to create a real logjam at the top of the Pac-12. USC has remained unbeaten through the start of conference play but could be in for a long night in Salt Lake City as the Utes try to rally from a 4-2 start and factor into the New Year’s Six race. Utah had been outstanding defending the pass before a letdown last week against UCLA, while Caleb Williams and the Trojans have been hit or miss through the air for the better part of a month. Look for the Utes to establish a running game and wear down a USC defense that has faced more than 62 plays in a game just once this season. — Paul Myerberg

Florida State pulls big surprise on Clemson

A loss by the Tigers has been coming even though they managed to navigate a tough two-game stretch against Wake Forest and North Carolina State before handling Boston College on the road. The road wins against the Demon Deacons and Eagles were different in Clemson struggled to stop Wake’s powerful offense and BC’s defense kept it in check for much of the first three quarters. There are issues percolating underneath the surface regarding how the Tigers will fare in a road game at night against a talent opponent that can match them physically. Florida State has those elements, even with its disappointing losses to Wake Forest and North Carolina State that spoiled the . Both those games were close as will be this one Saturday night. Something says the Seminoles finally break through with a signature win for coach Mike Norvell.

— Erick Smith

Minnesota takes big step in Big Ten with Illinois win

There’s a rather important game in the Big Ten this week in the noon ET time slot. No, not that one, another one. Of course the in Ann Arbor between Michigan and Penn State will get most of the attention. But keep an eye on the key showdown in the other division between Illinois and Minnesota happening simultaneously over on Big Ten Network.

That contest in Champaign features – hopefully – the top two running backs in the Big Ten. Chase Brown does the heavy lifting for the Fighting Illini, averaging 146.5 rushing yards a game good for second in the country. Minnesota will counter with Mo Ibrahim, who missed the Golden Gophers’ loss to Purdue with an ankle injury but is expected to be ready following the team’s well-timed open date. He has surpassed the 100-yard mark in the four games in which he’s played and currently stands fourth nationally at 142 yards per outing.

Who wins? Assuming Ibrahim is at full speed, we’ll go with the Gophers. The Minnesota offense was clearly not the same without him, but when he’s available, quarterback Tanner Morgan can provide the unit with better balance than Illinois. The Illini were able to keep Iowa out of the end zone entirely last week, but that won’t be the case on Saturday. — Eddie Timanus

Colorado finally gets first win by beating California

It is extremely rare to go 0-12 in major college football. No matter how bad the team is, you’re going to luck into one win at some point. That’s the only logic I can apply to this prediction, but Colorado may only have one chance to win a game this year. And that will be Saturday at home against California. The Bears struggle just enough offensively to make this plausible. They scored only 20 points against UNLV, 17 against Notre Dame and 9 points in their last game against Washington State. Let’s face it, Colorado isn’t good at anything. But they did show some signs of life in their running game last week against Arizona. If the Buffs build on that, they’ll cash in their one big chance at a win this year — Dan Wolken

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