The Pac-12 holds court in Week 7 of the college football season when No. 8 Oregon heads to Seattle to take on No. 7 Washington.

It’s the 103rd meeting between the bitter rivals, but it’s remarkably the first in which both are ranked in the top 10. It’s easily the Pac-12’s game of the year so far.

But that’s not all there is to watch on Saturday, as other top games include No. 10 USC taking on No. 21 Notre Dame, and No. 25 Miami trying to bounce back against No. 12 North Carolina.

Then, of course, there is the “Big Noon Kickoff” matchup between Indiana and Michigan, in which the No. 2 Wolverines will try to make another statement that they were the best team in the country.

FOX Sports college football experts Michael Cohen, RJ Young, Bryan Fischer and Laken Litman share what they’ll be looking for in the big Week 7 games.

Indiana at No. 2 Michigan (Noon ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app) 

Michael Cohen: One of the biggest reasons why this year’s Michigan squad is a cut above the program’s back-to-back College Football Playoff qualifiers in 2021 and 2022 is depth. The blowout loss to Georgia and the narrow defeat to Texas Christian both exposed, among other things, the Wolverines‘ dearth of youthful contributors that saddled the team’s stars with unsustainable workloads and the bodily harm associated with elevated snap counts. 


This season, however, head coach Jim Harbaugh and his staff have benefited from the linear development of a 2022 recruiting class that finished ninth in the national rankings and subsequent transfer portal hauls that added a handful of starting-caliber players to the depth chart. Consider the following: 

— Michigan’s leading pass rusher in terms of quarterback pressures is true sophomore Derrick Moore with 11, according to Pro Football Focus. The player with the second-most pressures is Josaiah Stewart, a Coastal Carolina transfer in his first season with the Wolverines. Stewart also leads the team with 4½ tackles for loss. 

— The team’s third-leading tackler is Nebraska transfer Ernest Hausmann, and true sophomore Mason Graham leads all defensive linemen with four tackles for loss. 

— Five of the Wolverines’ eight leading receivers are in their first or second seasons at Michigan in tight end Colston Loveland (16 catches, 205 yards, one TD); wide receiver Semaj Morgan (six catches, 82 yards, one TD); tight end AJ Barner (eight catches, 75 yards); wide receiver Tyler Morris (four catches, 45 yards); and wideout Darrius Clemons (three catches, 33 yards). 

— The offensive line room includes seven players who’ve logged at least 100 snaps this season, nine players with at least 50 snaps, and 11 who have seen the field for at least 35 snaps. 

It’s unquestionably the deepest team Harbaugh has had since returning to Ann Arbor in 2015, and while bodies alone can’t guarantee a better result should Michigan reach the College Football Playoff for a third straight year, this is a roster that gives the Wolverines a far better chance. 

Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy talks to Joel Klatt ahead of matchup vs. Indiana

Bryan Fischer: This is one of those rare matchups where the heavy underdog might be the more intriguing of the two sides in this Big Noon Saturday meeting. We know exactly what Michigan is right now: one of the best teams in the country.

Indiana, however, is at a pivotal point in their development under Tom Allen. Walt Bell was fired as offensive coordinator and former Northern Illinois/Temple coach Rod Carey was elevated to play-caller in a move that should provide a lot more consistency for the Hoosiers. This group ranks 12th in the Big Ten in scoring and in the 110-120 range nationally in most offensive categories, so I’m not sure how much improvement is going to be on display, but some sustained marches down the field would be encouraging.

I’m also interested in seeing some more out of Jaylin Lucas and Christian Turner. Both tailbacks have shown the capability of getting to the end zone, and it will be notable if they can have any sort of impact on the game considering they’ll be up against a Wolverines defense that makes everything difficult on the ground. 

Laken Litman: Let Indiana’s coach give this game preview. Earlier in the week, Allen told reporters that Michigan, ranked No. 2 in the country, could be the top-ranked team entering this matchup had reigning national champion Georgia not blown out Kentucky.

“They’ve definitely earned that discussion, for sure,” Allen said.

The Hoosiers, who are coming off a bye, have a lot on their plate preparing for the unbeaten Wolverines, who have the best defense in the country and a quarterback in J.J. McCarthy who is completing better than 77% of his passes. He has plenty of playmakers performing at a high level, including Corum (leads the nation with 10 rushing touchdowns) as well as receivers Roman Wilson and Cornelius Johnson, who have combined to average 18.2 yards per catch).

“But,” Allen continued, “their D-line and O-line is where they’ve really established themselves. They’re physical and they’re well-coached and they’re technically sound. We’ve just got to find a way to slow down this offense and give ourselves a chance.”

RJ Young: Michigan is one of the most complete teams in the sport and the only one that has handled business like it expects to win a national title.

They ain’t played nobody, but who they have played they’ve held to 6.67 points per game. That’s the No. 1 scoring defense in the country in Ann Arbor. But it’s deeper than rap.

Max Olson unearthed this stat: UM has played 313 plays on defense over its first six games. Not once have they had to defend a first-and-goal. Nobody has managed to run a play inside their 10. 

The Wolverines are the only team that has a playmaker at quarterback (McCarthy) in the passing game (Wilson), in the run game (Corum), a championship-caliber offensive line and a championship-caliber defense.

All this and not a single player who has revealed himself to be a Heisman contender this season like Oklahoma’s Dillon Gabriel, Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison, Jr., Washington’s Michael Penix Jr., Oregon’s Bo Nix or USC’s Caleb Williams

McCarthy is for Michigan who Nix is for Oregon — a point guard who can be a playmaker. Unlike Washington, USC or even Florida State, Michigan has dudes on the numbers and 7.5 yards deep that can win the Wolverines games without the QB needing to win the Heisman each week. 

No. 8 Oregon at No. 7 Washington (3:30 p.m. ET) 

Bryan: What more could you ask for in this one? First-ever top 10 matchup between the most bitter of Pacific Northwest rivals? Check. Heisman candidates? At least two, if not more. Creatively explosive offenses that always have something up their sleeve in trying to outsmart some attacking defenses? 100% yes. 

Given the great atmosphere on Montlake for this one, momentum is going to be a real thing, and it’s up to both coaches to find a way to keep it and manage it for a full 60 minutes. Whoever gets a stop or turns a sure-fire red zone trip from a touchdown into a field goal attempt is likely to emerge with the victory as the Pac-12’s enthralling round-robin begins in the best of ways in Seattle.

Laken: This clash between Pac-12 unbeatens is hands down the spiciest matchup of the weekend. It’s the No. 1 offense in the country (Washington) vs. the No. 2 (Oregon), which means it’s a huge opportunity for two defenses that have largely gone untested so far this season. It’s also a showdown between conference rivals, and who doesn’t love that?

Most of all, this matchup pits two of the best quarterbacks in the country against each other in Nix and Penix. 

Penix is a Heisman Trophy favorite and currently averaging 400 passing yards per game. That tops the country and it’s not close. He’s completing nearly 75% of his throws through five games for 1,999 yards, with 16 touchdowns to just two interceptions. Nix, meanwhile, is a top-15 quarterback in the country. He’s averaging 291.8 passing YPG, has completed a nation’s-best 80.4% of his passes for 1,459 yards with 15 touchdowns and only one interception.

This one definitely has the makings of an epic quarterback duel.

RJ: Like OU-Texas last week, Oregon at Washington is a CFP quarterfinal game. Lose this one, and you have to run the rest of the table — including a potential Pac-12 title game — to make the CFP.

Huskies fans claim they have the Heisman winner at QB. Now is the time for him to make them right. Penix, Rome Odunze and Jalen McMillan have to stretch that Oregon defense unlike it’s been stretched all year.

Turns out that 31-24 UW win against Arizona might say more about the Wildcats than the Huskies — just ask USC, who needed 3OT to beat Arizona — and with the backup QB.

The Ducks are gonna have a chance to be ballhawks and sack masters. The ball will be turned over. It’s about who gets six from those turnovers. Oregon has given up 10 or more points just once all year — 30 on the road at Texas Tech. Meanwhile, UO has scored 38 or more in every game.

Oregon is the most complete team in the sport west of the Mississippi — they run it for 227 a game, throw it for 330 a game and average 52 a game.

What it means/close it out: The good news for Washington and Oregon is that the Pac-12 is deeper this year than the ACC and SEC. That means the Pac-12 champ is likely to get its first invitation to the CFP’s winter formal since 2016 — the only teams to ever make the CFP from the Pac-12 are Oregon and Washington. 

Michael: For the first time since 2004, two Pac-12 schools with records of 5-0 or better will face each other in a showdown that will begin to untangle the deepest conference in college football. The impending quarterback duel between Penix and Nix should be viewed through the same elite lens as earlier marquee matchups that pitted USC’s Caleb Williams against Colorado’s Shedeur Sanders two weeks ago and Oklahoma’s Gabriel against Texas’ Quinn Ewers in an unforgettable Red River Rivalry game last weekend. Penix leads the nation with a stunning average of 399.8 passing yards per game and is tied for third in passing touchdowns with 16, trailing only Williams (22) and LSU’s Jayden Daniels (19). Nix is in the tier below with 291.8 yards per game, which is good enough for 14th nationally, and is tied for eighth with 15 touchdown passes. Together, Penix and Nix oversee the Nos. 1 and 2 offenses in the country, respectively, in terms of total yards per game. So while last year’s meeting was a 37-34 shootout that favored the Huskies, the scores on Saturday might be even higher.

Caleb Williams, Michael Penix Jr. in Joel Klatt’s Heisman contenders

Iowa at Wisconsin (4 p.m. ET on FOX)

Laken: How long can Iowa go on like this? The Hawkeyes‘ offense isn’t in great shape after losing quarterback Cade McNamara to a season-ending ACL injury. And yet somehow, this team is 5-1 heading into Madison. In last week’s 20-14 win over Purdue, backup-turned-starting quarterback Deacon Hill completed just six passes on 21 attempts. Not a single catch was made by a receiver. Instead, tight end Erick All had five receptions for 97 yards and a touchdown, while running back Kaleb Johnson had one for 13 yards. Johnson, who returned from an ankle injury, also rushed for 134 yards in the win. 

Will this be how Iowa’s offense, led by coordinator Brian Ferentz, is going to be the rest of the year? The fortunate thing for the Hawkeyes is that they don’t have to play Michigan or Ohio State. They already lost 31-0 to Penn State a few weeks ago, but with the remaining opponents on their schedule, they just might be able to sneak into the Big Ten title game if they can get past the Badgers

RJ: The Iowa offense was bad before McNamara arrived. Without him, it feels like the Hawkeyes are going to be dependent on their defense like they have been for the last two years. Still, Iowa is one game away from bowl eligibility and still has a great chance to represent the Big Ten West in the Big Ten title game.

However, Luke Fickell’s Wisconsin looks like it’s finding its form since suffering its only loss to a 4-1 Washington State program. With Braelon Allen firmly positioned as the bell cow back in the offense, and Tanner Mordecai finding rhythm in Phil Longo’s offense, the Badgers might have what it takes to beat one of the two best defenses it will face all season — with Ohio State in the wings just two weeks from Saturday.

Michael: Is there anything more Iowa than reaching the midway point of the season with a 5-1 record despite an offense that has the worst third-down conversion rate in the Big Ten (26.9%) and is averaging both the fewest yards per game (249.8) and yards per play (4.5) in the league? The biggest question entering Week 7 is whether the Hawkeyes’ offense can muster anything against a Wisconsin defense that appears less dominant than in recent years. Led by first-year coordinator Mike Tressel, the Badgers rank outside the top 50 in total defense and outside the top 25 in scoring defense. But they’ve flipped the field with some opportunistic takeaways and rank sixth in the country with eight interceptions this season. 

Bryan: We still have half the season to go, but it sure has set up nicely for this to essentially be the Big Ten West title decider. I’m just not sure these two teams are worthy of that.

Iowa’s woes under Brian Ferentz have been well-established, and it doesn’t help that new QB Hill just doesn’t seem up for the task. Every pass appears like a wounded duck and, of all the unimaginable stats being put up by this team, completing just 35.4% of your passes and none of them going to a receiver last week against Purdue might be the most damning. Badgers signal-caller Mordecai is a much better passer but still has a penchant for turnovers and is sure to face some clogged passing lanes against Phil Parker’s defense. 

It won’t be pretty for either side, but it will perfectly encapsulate the division this year.

No. 10 USC at No. 21 Notre Dame (7:30 p.m. ET)

RJ: USC is the only program in FBS to put up 40 in every game it has played.

However, USC’s defense has given up 421 yards a game against some of the lowest-scoring teams in the sport. USC also ranks 76th in scoring defense and 109th in total defense. USC has given up 41, 41 and 28 to Arizona, Colorado and Arizona State. No matter what you think of those three teams, you think Notre Dame is better than all three. That’s a strike against USC.

Caleb Williams makes USC a top-10 team. But he’s a Heisman winner. That’s his job. And he ain’t always perfect. Against Arizona, he got outplayed by Wildcat backup Noah Fifita, who threw for three Benjamins and posted a full Lincoln in TDs. It’s too late to get your money back. You’re on the CW — like LIV Golf, Inside the NFL and reruns of The Flash. That’s strike two.

Add to this ND has won four of the last five games played against USC in Notre Dame, Indiana. Strike three.

This is the game Sam Hartman was brought in to win. Go get your bedazzled shillelagh back.

Michael: How will USC defensive coordinator Alex Grinch and his players respond to scathing criticism after surrendering 41 points in consecutive games against Colorado and Arizona? It was the Trojans‘ defense that nearly blew a 34-7 lead at Folsom Field two weeks ago. And it was the Trojans’ defense that failed to protect a fourth-quarter lead in last week’s win over Arizona that required three overtimes to settle. Riley made the controversial and risky decision to retain Grinch as defensive coordinator after the Trojans ranked 106th overall last season by allowing 423.9 yards per game. Early signs of improvement in lopsided wins over Nevada (66-14) and Stanford (56-10) have all but evaporated now that USC has allowed 40-plus points and 500-plus yards in each of its last two games — all while missing 34 combined tackles. The Trojans’ record might be 6-0, but they’ve gotten there in spite of a defense that ranks 112th overall and has allowed more plays of 20-plus yards (38) than any Power 5 program. Riley should consider a change if Grinch’s unit gets torched by Notre Dame this weekend. 

Bryan: It’s hard to top the greatest intersectional rivalry in college football taking place under the lights and watchful eye of Touchdown Jesus, but it kind of feels like even more of a must-win game for both teams than it normally would be.

The Irish have been put through the emotional ringer the past few weeks. I’m sure Sam Hartman will be up for this kind of moment to help Notre Dame bounce back, but it’s still asking for a lot for this group to have their ‘A’ game for another big-time opponent.

It’s also notable how USC has really leaned into the criticism of their defense the past few weeks, with many around the program taking it quite personally and responding in kind to the growing narrative. This game marks a big opportunity to change some minds about their kind of effort — even if I’m not convinced they’re able to hold up physically against the likes of Audric Estime and company.

Laken: The good thing for USC defensive coordinator Alex Grinch is that even though his unit has been underperforming, it’s facing a stagnant offense in Notre Dame this week. Hartman struggled mightily in an upset loss to Louisville last weekend. The veteran QB went 22-of-38 for 254 yards with two touchdowns. But he also threw three interceptions and was sacked five times in the 33-20 defeat. Can the Trojan’s 112th-ranked defense get the best of him or will this be an opportunity for Hartman to redeem himself at home?

USC, which arguably has the toughest remaining schedule with games against five ranked opponents (Notre Dame, Utah, Washington, Oregon and UCLA), has a super-charged offense led by defending Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams. Given the number of points they’re scoring each week (50.8 PPG), the Trojans shouldn’t have had to worry about opponents (most recently Colorado and Arizona, which forced them into three overtimes) getting close on the scoreboard. But the defense is allowing 421.3 yards and 27 points per game and is a problem that needs to be fixed if USC is going to be a legitimate CFP and national title contender this year.

No. 25 Miami at No. 12 North Carolina (7:30 p.m. ET)

Michael: The most intense of microscopes will be hovering over Miami head coach Mario Cristobal following last week’s horrendous gaffe that cost his team a win over Georgia Tech for the Hurricanes’ first loss of the season. Cristobal’s decision to eschew a kneel-down in the final seconds of what should have been a 20-17 victory for Miami proved as disastrous as it was inexplicable following a fumble by running back Don Chaney Jr. that gave the Yellow Jackets an extra possession. The ensuing drive produced a game-winning touchdown for Georgia Tech that placed Cristobal squarely in the crosshairs of seemingly every fan, booster, analyst and talk radio host in the country. It’s far from the ideal backdrop for this week’s trip to North Carolina, where the Tar Heels and standout quarterback Drake Maye are 5-0 for the first time since 1997. The UNC student section will have no shortage of material to poke fun at Cristobal and his team. 

Bryan: It’s natural to focus on Miami’s mental state after what happened against Georgia Tech last week, but that inexplicable loss at Hard Rock had all the makings of a team looking ahead to this game. There’s no better way to make fans forget your mistakes than getting a big win over a top-15 team and this perfectly aligns for them to do just that.

That said, I’m excited to keep watching Maye throw the football around, and he’ll have a fun chess match with the ‘Canes All-American safety Kam Kinchens roaming around the back end. I would guess that Maye’s connection with Tez Walker improves upon the six catches for 43 yards he had last week in the wideout’s first game back, which will make an offense scoring 30-plus in every game this year all the more dangerous. 

Laken: How does Miami bounce back after last week’s humiliating disaster? Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory is never good, but to do it like that? Not great. 

How will the players respond against a top-15 opponent on the road? Led by Maye, North Carolina is quietly 5-0 and looking like a legitimate CFP contender at this point. 

RJ: Has Cristobal lost his team? The Hurricanes certainly need a win in this one with games left against Florida State and Louisville and whatever Clemson is going to be in a week.

Is Carolina just playing with Tar Heel fans’ emotions? Getting past Miami means the Heels have just one more ranked opponent on the schedule in Duke and that game is at Carolina. And nobody likes stomping out Duke more than Carolina.

RJ Young reacts to Mario Cristobal’s blunder

No. 18 UCLA at No. 15 Oregon State (8 p.m. on FOX)

Bryan: I’m not sure we really know how good these two teams really are, making this meeting in Corvallis that much more interesting. I’ve been extremely impressed by what the Bruins have done defensively, not only holding every opponent under 18 points and making you grind out every snap, but really getting after the opposing quarterback with a front seven that has exceeded expectations. OSU’s defense is no slouch, which means this one will be overly reliant on both signal-callers playing within the system and not turning the ball over.

D.J. Uiagalelei has finally started to look 100 percent comfortable leading the Beavers, and they’re going to need both his arm and his legs in this one (expect some heavy doses of the Philadelphia Eagles’ tush push play in short yardage). The flip side is young UCLA QB Dante Moore will have to continue to hit some of those deep balls to keep pace, while also understanding that the checkdown can be your friend. Night games at Reser tend to have something wild and unexpected happen.

Laken: Uiagalelei is coming off the best performance of his career. The Clemson transfer completed 19 of 25 passes for 275 yards with five touchdowns in the Beavers’ 52-40 win over Cal last week.

In UCLA, Uiagalelei will face the best pass defense he’s seen this season. The Bruins are holding teams to 189.6 passing YPG, second-best in the Pac 12 behind only Oregon, and have tallied eight interceptions, tied for best in the league. Uiagalelei has 13 touchdowns to just four picks through six games, so this will be a good test to see where the Beavers really stand in an uber-competitive Pac-12.

RJ: The Beavers were explosive against Cal — eight plays of 20 yards or more. And they have been stout at home, winning 14 of their last 15 games in Corvallis. 

Damien Martinez averages damn near 98 rushing yards per game but hasn’t topped 100 in nearly a month — Week 3 against San Diego State. Martinez needs to get back to clocking off century games. But if he doesn’t Deshaun Fenwick had better. He had 76 rush yards against Cal and 101 against Wazzu.

Michael: UCLA’s first-year defensive coordinator D’Anton Lynn is someone fans should get to know as his reclamation of the Bruins continues to be one of the most impressive coaching jobs this season. Lynn, 33, joined head coach Chip Kelly’s staff in February following nearly a decade as an NFL assistant, including most recently, two years as the safeties coach for the Baltimore Ravens. All Lynn has done since arriving in Los Angeles is transform a unit that ranked 87th in total defense in 2022 into a top-five defense in the country.

In Lynn, the Bruins found themselves a potential candidate for the Broyles Award.

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Michael Cohen covers college football and basketball for FOX Sports with an emphasis on the Big Ten. Follow him on Twitter at @Michael_Cohen13.

Laken Litman covers college football, college basketball and soccer for FOX Sports. She previously wrote for Sports Illustrated, USA Today and The Indianapolis Star. She is the author of “Strong Like a Woman,” published in spring 2022 to mark the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Follow her on Twitter @LakenLitman.

RJ Young is a national college football writer and analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the podcast “The Number One College Football Show.” Follow him on Twitter at @RJ_Young and subscribe to “The RJ Young Show” on YouTube.

Bryan Fischer is a college football writer for FOX Sports. He has been covering college athletics for nearly two decades at outlets such as NBC Sports, CBS Sports, Yahoo! Sports and among others. Follow him on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.

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