Week 5 College Football Preview

A titanic Week 5 slate sets up what should be the best week yet.

The Fighting Irish kicked off their biggest stretch of games with an electric victory at Soldier Field (credit to Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Last Week

Week 4 certainly lived up to the billing with a lot of great games including the mid week showdown in Boone between App State and Marshall, Arkansas’ triumph over Texas A&M in Jerry World, NCSU’s 2OT victory vs Clemson at Carter-Finley, Nebraska taking Michigan State to the brink in East Lansing, or Oklahoma’s last second win over the Mountaineers of West Virginia in Norman. But this amazing start to the season doesn’t get much easier for those teams and many more as this week is setting up another great set of games including four massive Top 25 showdowns.

Top 25 Matchups

After last week’s 20-10 win over hated rival Texas A&M, Arkansas and their fans are on top of the world but this amazing season so far doesn’t get easier. With College Gameday in attendance #8 Arkansas and #2 Georgia will face off between the hedges at 12 noon on ESPN. Despite the high of victory against the Aggies the Razorbacks were left with an uneasy feeling regarding the health of QB1 KJ Jefferson and budding star WR Treylon Burks but per Head Coach Sam Pittman both will be available to play vs the Dawgs which is huge for the hogs as both players were huge components in the victory last week. Those two will particularly be needed as the Razorback air game will face off against the devilishly good Georgia Secondary which could potentially get reinforcements as All American CB Tykee Smith is working his way back. As for the rest of the Razorback Offense the stout run game will look to get things going against a front seven that allows only 66 YPG on the ground led by Jordan Davis on the Defensive Line who has been unbelievably good. Georgia’s Offense also has some injury news as Tight End Darnell Washington could return which would be big for JT Daniels and company as 2 TE sets with him and Brock Bowers could pave the way for the always bruising Dawg ground attack but also open things up in the passing game against a Razorback Defense that has given opponents fits all season. This should be a fantastic showdown and anyone who believes in a blowout victory (like Vegas) for any side is foolish. KJ Jefferson and the Razorbacks will be up to the test but the Bulldog Defense and JT Daniels will pull it out in front of a raucous Sanford Stadium crowd. Prediction: Georgia 21 Arkansas 14

During the battle in Athens a little over 730 miles to the north in South Bend, Indiana another massive game will be kicking off. #7 Cincinnati takes on #9 Notre Dame at 2:30 on NBC in the biggest game of the season for both teams. The Bearcats had a week off before this game but in their last outing they came back late to escape and put away the Indiana Hoosiers in Bloomington. Wins like that and games like this are huge for a Group of 5 team who is aspiring for a playoff spot as the more high profile wins you can scrap together the better and what could be a bigger win for a small program than one of the biggest names in the sport who has 2 of your former coaches. Brian Kelly left Cincy for the Irish after the 2009 season and Marcus Freeman left for the DC job after the most recent season which just adds to the narratives circling this game. Desmond Ridder is the signal caller for the Cincinnati Offense and he has been great for them albeit with a little bit of a struggle vs Indiana before leading his team to victory. Out wide catching passes from Ridder is a solid group of WRs including the experienced leadership of Tyler Scott and Alec Pierce and former Notre Dame wideout Michael Young! On the ground the Bearcats are more of a one man show but Jerome Ford has performed great getting the vast majority of carries with Desmond Ridder being a threat with his legs as well. Marcus Freeman is likely chomping at the bit to get back at his old players with his Irish Defense that has been getting better and better every week culminating in the outstanding performance last week vs Wisconsin. The Fighting Irish held the Badgers to 2.8 YPC and forced 5 turnovers proving why Freeman was the highly sought after hire of the offseason for ND after a somewhat rocky start laced with big plays and being gashed by the run game. On the other side of the ball we have ourselves a QB controversy under the golden dome. Jack Coan left the Wisconsin game with a leg injury after the not very good Irish OL gave up yet another sack and with backup QB Tyler Buchner also sidelined with a hamstring injury in stepped the 5’11 third string Drew Pyne (who wears #10 because of his love for Brady Quinn who was in attendance because of FOX broadcasting the game). Pyne ended up leading the Irish the rest of the way and to the subsequent victory but with Coan’s injury not being as bad as previously thought he will start this Saturday for the Irish but the questions are there. What if Coan gets hurt again? What if the offense sputters without Pyne? Pyne’s mobility helped mitigate the poor pass blocking the Irish OL exhibited vs Wisconsin and opened up the run game which the Irish will have to do if they want to beat the very experienced Cincinnati Defense which has limited opponents both through the air and on the ground quite well. This game has all the makings of an instant classic with ND holding a green out for the crowd looking to extend their home win streak to 27, the importance of this game nationally, and the quality of the opponent. Despite the tough environment and fierce Irish Defense I think Cincinnati pulls this one out at the final moment thanks in part to a turnover caused by the poor ND OL play late. Prediction: Cincinnati 27 ND 24

Arguably the biggest Top 25 vs Top 25 game of Week 5 gets the SEC on CBS treatment as #12 Ole Miss heads to Tuscaloosa to face #1 Alabama at 3:30. Lane Kiffin has turned the Rebels into one of the most exciting teams in the land over the last few years, even managing to get under Saban’s skin last year, but the difference this year is that electric Offense seems to have a half decent Defense to lean on as well. The obvious highlight of Ole Miss is QB Matt Corral who has quite simply been putting up video game numbers so far both through the air and with his legs. His supporting cast out wide have benefited from this explosive passing attack as Dontario Drummond, Jonathan Mingo, and Braylon Sanders have all played quite well. Although the high flying Rebels don’t pound the rock like your typical SEC team the RB duo of Jerrion Ealy and Henry Parrish Jr are more than serviceable and look to rip off some big runs against an Alabama run Defense that was torn up by the Florida Gators two weeks ago. This isn’t your Alabama Defense of the early 2010s by any stretch of the imagination and Ole Miss will really look to take advantage of these shortcomings but do not be fooled this is still an insanely talented and well coached Crimson Tide D that won’t just lie down and let the Rebels walk all over them. It could however be argued that Ole Miss has the superior Defense in this matchup but they’ll have a similarly tall task against Bryce Young and the Alabama Offense. The first year starting QB Young has been almost perfect through four games with Alabama and he is showing no signs of slowing down. The stable of running backs and WRs highlighted by future NFL players like Brian Robinson Jr and John Metchie III are all up to the Alabama standard as well as an Offense that lost so much from last year really hasn’t missed a single beat except for up front where the Offensive Line has been an area of concern so far in Tuscaloosa. There is a blue print to handle the Alabama Offense however and it was put on display in Gainesville where Florida’s Defense held the Crimson Tide to three straight three and outs for the first time in over four years which allowed the Gator Offense to get back into the game and take the game down to the wire. If Ole Miss can have that sort of success it would be huge for Lane and the Rebels. I think this game is going to be an absolute barn burner and I cannot wait for it to console me after Notre Dame breaks my heart. I honestly believe Matt Corral and Lane Kiffin get the best of Alabama through some huge plays that just prove how chaotic this season is. Prediction: Ole Miss 47 Alabama 42

The Bears and the Cowboys finish off our ranked matchups for this week with a huge Big 12 showdown in Stillwater (credit to Smiley Pool / The Dallas Morning News)

The only Top 25 matchup kicking off at night features two relatively surprising teams as #21 Baylor and #19 Oklahoma State face off at 7PM on ESPN 2. Both these teams are coming off surprising upset wins against other Big 12 opponents as Baylor downed the Cyclones after holding off a late ISU rally and OKST kept the foot on the gas to defeat Kansas State rather comfortably. Mike Gundy’s Cowboys have really come onto the scene behind Spencer Sanders at QB and, stop me if you’ve heard this before, an electric OKST Running Back in Jaylen Warren after Chuba Hubbard finally departed for the NFL. The Cowboys will always have some talent out wide and it is no different this year with Tay Martin and Brennan Presley. They’ll look to fare better than the star studded Iowa State Offense did against Baylor’s Defense which has been stout all year long under the direction of HC, former DC, Dave Aranda and DC Ron Roberts. OKST’s biggest weakness on Offense is actually the most important part which is scoring points and unfortunately for them Baylor has been quite stingy in that department. But the matchups don’t stop there as we look on the other side of the ball where Baylor really loves to pound the rock with four RBs that have over 100 Yards Rushing most impressively their top two rushers have a combined 761. 413 come from Abram Smith and 343 from Trestan Ebner who both average over 7 YPC as well. They will face a Cowboy Run Defense that gives up only 87 Rushing YPG and notably bottled up the fantastic K-State run game last week. The real X Factor of this game will be if Baylor QB Gerry Bohanon can get the ball to his two favorite targets RJ Sneed and Tyquan Thornton out wide to open up the electric running game against the punishing Oklahoma State Defense. I am excited for this game and it really reminds me of those great mid 2010s matchups between these teams that shaped the Big 12 race then and I think the winner of this game has a great shot at ending up in Dallas. Prediction: Baylor 23 OKST 17

More Interesting Matchups

Every week there are a few games that aren’t Top 25 vs Top 25 that are still great! Here’s a few to keep an eye out for this week. (all times Eastern):

#5 Iowa @ Maryland 8PM FS1 (Friday): Taulia Tagovailoa leads the 4-0 Terps to defend their home against the highly ranked Iowa Hawkeyes. Iowa hasn’t impressed much over the last few weeks while the Terps have really put on a show offensively. Can Iowa continue their winning ways or will Maryland pull the upset in front of a black out crowd? Prediction: Iowa 31 Maryland 28

#14 Michigan @ Wisconsin 12PM FOX: The Wolverines have one of the most prolific run games in all of College Football even rivaling the service academies meanwhile Wisconsin has a vicious Defensive front that held Notre Dame to just 3 yards on 34(!!!) attempts. Can Graham Mertz play better than he has this season for Wisconsin to attempt to spring the home upset of the Wolverines or will Jim Harbaugh continue his redemption tour in Madison? Prediction: Michigan 17 Wisconsin 13

Louisville @ #24 Wake Forest 12:30PM ESPN 3: The Demon Deacons could conceivably be one of the best teams in the entire ACC led by a great coaching staff with a host of experienced leaders paving the way including QB Sam Hartman at the helm of the Offense. Louisville has looked better week after week after getting torched in Atlanta by Ole Miss on Labor Day. The Cards had an electric first half last week before some injuries derailed their momentum but they held on for the win. Can Sam Hartman and the Deacs move to 5-0 or can Malik Cunningham and the Cardinals throw another wrench into the ACC race? Prediction: Wake Forest 34 Louisville 23

#6 Oklahoma @ Kansas State 3:30PM FOX: The Wildcats have had the Sooners’ number the last two seasons pulling off monumental upsets behind the arm and leg of QB Skylar Thompson who unfortunately is sidelined with a knee injury and will miss this contest. Jaren Lewis will be making his second start of the year after last week’s debut in Stillwater didn’t go so well but the rest of this KSU team can help him out especially RB Deuce Vaughn. The Sooners on the other hand are limping into Manhattan after surviving WVU 13-10 last week on a last second FG. Preseason Heisman candidate Spencer Rattler has failed to impress the Sooner faithful leading to chants in Memorial Stadium for the backup to take over during last week’s game. Can Jaren Lewis channel the spirit of the injured Thompson and guide K-State to another upset over OU or can Spencer Rattler get the Sooners back on track? Prediction: Oklahoma 27 KSU 21

Indiana @ #4 Penn State 7:30PM ABC: The Hoosiers follow up to their story book 2020 season has not been quite what they thought it would be but there is no better opportunity to right the ship than this. Michael Penix Jr and the rest of IU look to prove that last year’s controversial win over the Nittany Lions was no fluke in Happy Valley against this great Penn State team led by Sean Clifford and company. Can Indiana stun the PSU faithful for a second year in a row or will Penn State continue on their rampage towards Indianapolis? Prediction: Penn State 38 Indiana 21

Boston College @ #25 Clemson 7:30 ACCN: The Tigers are reeling after a disastrous loss vs NCSU in Raleigh, that could’ve been a lot worse if not for dropped TDs and missed FGs by the Pack, and sit at their lowest ranking since Cole Stoudt was at QB in 2014. The problems on Offense are well documented but a rash of injuries on Defense has a very uneasy feeling surrounding everything as the 4-0 Boston College Eagles come to Death Valley this Saturday Night. Despite their starting QB Phil Jurkovec getting knocked out for the season with an injury BC hasn’t skipped a beat including an exciting OT win vs Mizzou last week. Can Clemson right the ship against an ACC foe or will BC kick the Tigers into a total tail spin? Prediction: Clemson 24 BC 21

Arizona State @ #20 UCLA 10:30PM FS1: In a game that could very well decide who wins the Pac-12 South Jayden Daniels and the Sun Devils head to the Rose Bowl to take on DTR and the Bruins. UCLA bounced back after their upset loss to Fresno State with a solid win over Stanford while Arizona State followed up their loss in Provo to BYU with a comfortable victory over Colorado at home. A win would do wonders for Chip Kelly in his quest for his first Pac-12 Championship appearance at UCLA. Can UCLA take a huge lead in the Pac-12 South race or can Herm Edwards and ASU pick up a big win on the road? Prediction: UCLA 38 Arizona State 34

Upset Alert?

As we move into the thick of conference play I’m going to be adjusting the Upset Alert section to include some conference games where a highly ranked team could get caught flat flooted in a dangerous environment or vs a bitey underdog team. DISCLAIMER: Upset Alert does not mean I think that the highly ranked team will lose but that the game could very well be a closely fought contest that puts the fear of God into them.

UVA @ Miami 7:30PM ESPN (Thursday): The Hurricanes are in a really bad spot right now despite last week’s shellacking of Central Connecticut State and could be ripe to fall flat on a Thursday night vs a UVA team that has issues of its own but are significantly better coached. (This was written before the game happened Thursday night and not published until Friday evening)

#13 BYU @ Utah State 9PM CBSSN (Friday): The Cougars have looked good so far but showed some holes last week against a not very good USF team. The Aggies of Utah State are no strangers to upsets as they took down Wazzu 26-23 in Pullman to kickoff the season and their only loss so far is against Boise State who are always a MWC contender.

Charlotte @ Illinois 12PM BTN: The 49ers have been a very exciting team so far this year only falling to Georgia State (who just took Auburn down to the wire last week) in a close game with wins over Duke and Middle Tennessee State. The Illini have cratered after their Week 0 victory over Nebraska in Lincoln dropping four straight games in really unimpressive fashion.

#11 Ohio State @ Rutgers 3:30 BTN: Yes I know how funny this would’ve looked a couple years ago but under Greg Schiano in his return to Piscataway Rutgers has impressed and even almost completed a comeback in the big house vs Michigan last week! Ohio State has some very serious Defensive issues that could be exploited by the Scarlet Knights to really put the pressure on CJ Stroud, if he even plays, and the Ohio State Offense in what could very well be a tough environment.

#3 Oregon @ Stanford 3:30 ABC: Stanford is not what it was in the early to mid 2010s anymore but don’t tell David Shaw that. Two tough losses to KSU and UCLA have people counting out the Cardinal but Oregon has always struggled in Palo Alto and the Ducks did not look great vs a horrible Arizona team last week in Eugene.

This is the best week of football on paper this year and it has the chance to really be something special. I can’t wait!