Week 7 of the 2022 college football season has arrived and so has our weekly look at Anxiety Games across the country. For those new here, we’re keeping tabs on games where the fans and/or coaching staffs of specific programs may feel a bit uneasy about the possibility of things going downhill with a bad outing.
We’re at the midway point of the regular season and the number of these games will only increase as certain programs find themselves in precarious positions. Let’s dive into this week’s set of matchups. Note, I won’t talk about Auburn and Bryan Harsin heading to Ole Miss on Saturday. If you’ve been reading these all season, then you already know the deal with that situation.
Kansas at Oklahoma, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Jeez Oklahoma, what the hell was that last week? OU suffered their worst loss in the history of the Red River Shootout, getting blasted 49-0 by arch rival Texas in Dallas. The Sooners somehow managed to top the debacle against TCU the week prior and has now lost three straight games for the first time since 1998.
Oklahoma will try to get off the mat against Kansas this week and will possibly get a break with Jayhawks starting quarterback Jalon Daniels expected to miss the game. However, if the Sooners lose this game, their season is officially in free fall and burgeoning questions over the Brent Venables tenure will only grow louder.
Penn State at Michigan, 12 p.m. ET, Fox
The Big Noon Saturday game this week will feature a matchup between two Big Ten powerhouses at the Big House. How’s that for big?
Michigan is the No. 5 team in the nation and has been cruising with rising Heisman Trophy candidate Blake Corum at running back. However, the Wolverines are already being hit with the “ain’t played nobody” critiques due to their week schedule to start the season. How they perform against Penn State will determine if they should be taken seriously as a College Football Playoff contender for a second year in a row.
As for Penn State, it finds itself at 5-0 and ranked No. 10 after early-season questions over its offense a month ago. There’s still a question over whether James Franklin can keep up with division rivals Michigan and Ohio State and a win here could potentially elevate PSU back into that elite tier. A loss would be deflating.
Miami at Virginia Tech, 12:30 p.m. ET, ACC Regional Networks/ESPN3
Turns out, Miami football isn’t back. Far from it. A bye week didn’t fix the Hurricanes’ problems as fell to North Carolina in a 27-24 setback last Saturday, their third straight loss. It’s clear that first-year head coach Mario Cristobal still has some work to do to elevate the ‘U’ back to elite status and will have to figure out a way to right the ship in the second half of the season. A road loss to a rebuilding Virginia Tech is a result that could throw their season off even further.
Alabama at Tennessee, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
The eyes of the college football world will be on the Third Saturday in October this weekend as Alabama heads up to Knoxville to face Tennessee. For the Tennessee, this will be the most anticipated game for the program in 15 years. The Vols have been one of the surprise stories in college football this season, boasting a 5-0 record with a Heisman Trophy candidate in quarterback Hendon Hooker.
However, their biggest mental hurdle will be toppling a rival in Alabama that they’ve lost 15 straight games against. That’s right. The Volunteers have never beaten Nick Saban during his time in Tuscaloosa and in fact, have only beaten a Saban team once going back to his days at LSU.
Everyone rocking orange at Neyland Stadium will be filled with excitement and anxiety as Tennessee tries to get the Alabama monkey off its back. A victory would serve as a major psychological boost for a fan base been desperate for a moment like this while a loss could be soul crushing.
Tulane at USF, 4 p.m. ET, ESPNU
We continue to monitor the situation at South Florida as the Bulls host Tulane for homecoming on Saturday. USF gave a nice fighting effort against Cincinnati, but still came up short in a 28-24 loss. That dropped head coach Jeff Scott to 1-23 against FBS opponents throughout his tenure and the vultures are starting to circle in Tampa. An embarrassing home loss against the Green Wave before a bye week could potentially force a major change.
Rice at FAU, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN+
Things are getting a bit hairy for Willie Taggart and FAU. The Owls have dropped three straight games with two of them being blowouts. On Saturday, they will host a Rice team that has been one of the early surprises in Conference USA with a 3-2 record heading into this week’s showdown. Losing this game would put FAU’s bowl hopes and potentially Taggart’s job in serious jeopardy in Boca Raton, FL.
LSU at Florida, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
LSU-Florida is annually one of the weirdest rivalries in the entire country and this year’s Saturday night showdown in the Swamp could be the latest addition to the series’ lore.
This year, you have a pair of 4-2 teams with first-year head coaches that could use a boost from a big rivalry victory. Both teams have handled business in some games and suffered humbling defeats in others. Even with the circumstances of new coaching staffs undergoing psuedo-rebuilds, a third loss before Halloween is territory neither fan base wants to be in. There will be restlessness and chaffing for whoever comes up short in this one.
Memphis at East Carolina, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU
Memphis suffered an embarrassing collapse against Houston last Friday, giving up 26 points in the fourth quarter to lose 33-32. Even with a 4-1 record heading into that matchup, there were already questions over Ryan Silverfield’s tenure with the Tigers and that loss only put a magnifying glass to their problems. A road loss at ECU on Saturday night would not ease any of those tensions for Memphis fans.