Mallett and Newton’s Heisman hopeful battle leads Week 7 action

AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 25: Quarterback Cameron Newton  of the Auburn Tigers reacts after rushing in a touchdown against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Jordan-Hare Stadium on September 25, 2010 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Two of the best quarterbacks in the nation will square off today when unbeaten Auburn plays host to Arkansas. Auburn’s Cam Newton is a big, physical dual threat, while Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett is a big-armed gun-slinger who can make all the throws.

Both are dynamic players in their own right, and with the success of their respective teams, they’re also right in the middle of the Heisman Trophy conversation. Today’s game could push even further up the chart, and perhaps even to the top.

Both should be able to put on a show, as well, as neither defense is overpowering. Arkansas is improved on that side of the ball from last year, but not by a ton. Auburn, meanwhile, just allowed 34 points to Kentucky. So expect some serious fireworks.

It’s one of — if not the — biggest games of a weekend that isn’t exactly as strong as the last couple have been. But there’s still plenty to take in.

Last week, I went 3-2, and I should probably give myself a third loss for doubting Stephen Garcia. Then again, his coach doubts him on a regular basis, so maybe I should give myself a free pass. I’m still searching for that perfect weekend, so let’s see if I can make it happen.

Texas at No. 5 Nebraska, 3:30 p.m.: The Longhorns, despite copious amounts of talent, aren’t a very good football team this year. I understand they lost Colt McCoy to graduation (hey, Colt, good luck in Pittsburgh this weekend. My guess is you’ll be wishing you were getting tossed around by Ndamukong Suh as opposed to what’s about to happen), but Garrett Gilbert is a very talented quarterback who played most of a national title game last year. A drop off there is still somewhat acceptable, I suppose, but what’s happening to that defense is pretty scary. Giving up 34 points to a UCLA team that has struggled since isn’t a good sign, especially with Taylor Martinez coming to town. UCLA ran for 264 yards in that game, so I’d imagine the Cornhuskers will be over 300. And the Huskers’ defense is light years ahead of UCLA’s. Pick: Nebraska 27-14.

No. 12 Arkansas at No. 7 Auburn, 3:30 p.m.: I think Newton is great, and I have a soft spot in my heart for Auburn since it was screwed out of a title shot in 2004, but I’m still not sold on this group. Auburn squeaked out victories over Mississippi State, Clemson and Kentucky. Sure, it beat South Carolina, but that had as much to do with Steve Spurrier giving up on Stephen Garcia as it did with Auburn being better. I’m not in love with Arkansas either, but I think they have more potential because of the weapons Mallett has around him. Pick: Arkansas 31-28.

No. 15 Iowa at Michigan, 3:30 p.m.: It looks like Michigan State has provided a blue print for stopping — or at least slowing down — Denard Robinson. The Spartans got pretty good penetration to stop him behind the line a few times, but mostly decided they weren’t going to give up the big play, which is what Michigan relies on. Iowa has a defense that can pull off the first part of that equation more often than not, as it boasts one of the nation’s top defensive lines. I don’t really like Ricky Stanzi, and I think he might make a play or three that keeps Michigan in this game. But he, Adam Robinson and the Hawkeyes offensive line will be more than enough to put up points against Michigan’s “defense.” Pick: Iowa 31-21.

No. 20 Oklahoma State at Texas Tech, 3:30 p.m.: The Cowboys have benefited from a weak early-season schedule and Jerrod Johnson’s penchant for arm punting. Even at No. 20, they’re one of the country’s most overrated teams. Texas Tech is in a bit of a transition in Tommy Tuberville’s first year, but it can still put up a lot of points. The defense is still a long way from Tuberville approved, but it only will need a few stops today, as Oklahoma State gives away points like Discover Rewards (that’s my first credit card joke. How did it work?). Pick: Texas Tech 38-31.

No. 1 Ohio State at No. 18 Wisconsin, 7 p.m.: Speaking of overrated teams, Wisconsin is still riding the positive wave of preseason expectations and a fairly weak early-season schedule. The Badgers lost by 10 to Michigan State on the road, and have struggled with any other real opponent they’ve played. Maybe that’s why Bret Bielema went for two last week, because he was trying to make his team look better to scoreboard watchers. Or maybe he’s just a prick. Either way, Ohio State is much better than Wisconsin. The Buckeyes aren’t perfect, and Terrelle Pryor still has his issues at times, but the Badgers aren’t the team to knock them off. Did I say pretty much the same thing last week about Alabama/South Carolina? Maybe. But just try and trust me this week. Pick: OSU 24-20.

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