25 Key College Football Storylines To Watch Heading into Week 5
While Week 5 of the college football season does not have nearly the plethora of games that Week 4 did, there are still some interesting storylines to pay attention to heading into this weekend.
Conference play is beginning to heat up, and there are some key conference games that could go a long way toward determining BCS berths, particularly in wide-open leagues like the Big Ten and Big 12.
With so much to talk about, it is hard to narrow it down to just 25 headlines, but here are the biggest stories to look out for as Week 5 of the college football season approaches.
Will Stanford Have a Letdown at Washington?
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If Stanford plays the rest of the season like it did against USC, the Cardinal will be a serious contender for the national championship.
After a week off, they return to the field for a Thursday night game at Washington.
While the Huskies have struggled so far this season on both sides of the ball, they have enough talent to scare a team like the Cardinal.
Will Stanford come out ready to play, or is there going to be a hangover from its big win over USC?
Can Northwestern Stay Undefeated?
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Beating one team from a BCS league in non-conference play is rare enough, but taking down three like Northwestern has is something to notice.
The Wildcats have defeated Syracuse, Boston College and Vanderbilt and now begin Big Ten play against Indiana.
With a favorable schedule in the coming weeks, it is not hard to imagine Northwestern starting 7-0 heading into its October 20th game against Nebraska.
What a shocker that would be.
Louisiana Tech Is a BCS Buster
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Many people considered Louisiana Tech to be one of the best teams from a non-BCS conference heading into the season, but the Bulldogs may be better than advertised.
They are now 3-0 after taking to the road and knocking off Illinois 52-24 over the weekend, outscoring the Illini 31-7 in the second half.
They seem to be the odds-on favorite to contend with San Jose State and Utah State for the WAC crown.
A double-digit win total is a strong possibility.
A Big Road Test for Texas
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Texas has certainly looked impressive so far this season, but it will get its first real test at Oklahoma State on Saturday night in Week 5.
The Longhorns have been nearly unstoppable on the offensive side of the ball, winning with a combination of the run and pass.
Oklahoma State has never been known for defense, but the Cowboys are prone to forcing turnovers, which could keep them in it.
This one will be back and forth, but Texas may just have too much talent in the end.
Will Montee Ball Play Against Nebraska?
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The status of Montee Ball is still uncertain heading into a huge game at Nebraska.
For Ball, it was his second concussion in the past two months. Even though he has struggled so far this season, Ball is still one of the best players in the country.
If Ball cannot go, James White will likely get most of the carries, along with Melvin Gordon. While they are admirable backs, they are not Ball.
Wisconsin may need a big game out of him to come out of Lincoln with a win.
Duke Might Be on Its Way to a Bowl Game
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Duke football has seemingly never been relevant, but this could be the year that all changes, particularly if the Blue Devils can get a road win at Wake Forest on Saturday.
They are off to a 3-1 start, with their only loss coming at Stanford.
Getting three more wins is certainly not automatic, but the Blue Devils are much more competitive than they have been in recent years.
Winning this one is a must, because the schedule does not do them any favors down the stretch.
Is Alabama Just That Much Better Than Everybody Else?
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There are good teams, there are great teams, and then there is Alabama.
The Crimson Tide are head and shoulders above everybody else in the country at this point in the season, and they appear to have it all on both sides of the ball.
While there is still a long way to go, it is hard to imagine anybody knocking them off, but stranger things have happened.
Their schedule has been very easy, and Ole Miss will be the first team they play with a winning record.
There is a chance LSU could be the only ranked team they play all year when all is said and done. It's tough to imagine a loss anywhere along the way for Nick Saban and his squad.
Can Oregon Be Slowed Down?
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There is really not much of an argument as to who has the best offense in the country. The Oregon Ducks have been explosive all season long.
Will anybody be able to slow them down?
They have averaged nearly 53 points a game. This week, Washington State gets the tall task of trying to stop them.
Good luck on that endeavor.
Can Penn State Continue the Magic?
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Penn State has won two games in a row and appears better than some may have expected.
A road game against a very beatable Illinois team is on the Week 5 horizon. If the Nittany Lions can somehow manage to win that one, there is no telling how many wins they will end the year with.
Still, the offense leaves a lot to be desired, and the competition will get more difficult with Big Ten play set to begin.
The Seminoles Try To Avoid a Letdown
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Florida State is coming off an emotional win over Clemson in a game that seemed in doubt at halftime.
The Seminoles now get right back at it with a road trip to South Florida to take on the Bulls.
That may not seem like a challenging game, but South Florida has been known to give Florida State fits in recent years, and if the 'Noles are not careful, the same thing could happen on Saturday.
Can UTSA Start 5-0?
The University of Texas at San Antonio is in its first year at the FBS level and is coached by a familiar face in Larry Coker.
Coker is better known for leading Miami to a national championship a decade ago. The Roadrunners have only played one FBS school (South Alabama), and the schedule is not that daunting.
The Roadrunners play New Mexico State on Saturday in a true road game. New Mexico State is 1-3 and very beatable for UTSA.
The Minnesota Gophers Are 4-0
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The Minnesota Gophers are off to a 4-0 start, but there are still questions as to how talented they really are.
The competition will get a little tougher on Saturday when they travel to Iowa to take on the Hawkeyes.
If they come out of there with a win, a bowl game will almost certainly be in their future. That would be a quick turnaround for a program that looked to be a long way from any sustained success.
Can Ohio Crack the Top 25?
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Ohio is 4-0, and there is no telling when it is going to be knocked off.
Massachusetts is its next opponent, and that should not be a problem. There is a good chance that Ohio will be favored in all of its remaining games, and it is not out of the realm of possibilities to see the Bobcats run the table.
While they are not as good as some MAC teams of the past, the Top 25 seems almost inevitable in the coming weeks for this team.
West Virginia Begins Big 12 Play
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The highly anticipated Big 12 opener for the West Virginia Mountaineers is only a few days away, and they appear ready to join the fun.
With the conference wide open, West Virginia has as good a shot as anybody to win the league. The Mountaineers have one of the most explosive offenses in the country and perhaps a front runner for the Heisman Trophy in Geno Smith.
They take on Baylor in what will be a challenge for a team that has yet to play anybody of real significance.
Is Oregon State the Real Deal?
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After knocking off Wisconsin at home and UCLA on the road, Oregon State vaulted into the top 20.
The Beavers make another road trip to Arizona this week. The Wildcats are coming off a 49-0 loss to Oregon and will be looking to let out some frustration.
If Oregon State is the sleeper some think they are, it should have no problem beating Arizona, even if it is on the road.
Arkansas Is a Sinking Ship
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There is no question that the biggest disappointment this season has been the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Nearly every prognosticator had them in the top 10 of all preseason polls, and for good reason.
They have lost three games, fallen flat on their faces and appear to be one of the worst teams in the SEC.
Even with Tyler Wilson on the field, they were no match for Rutgers over the weekend.
It is going to be a long season for John L. Smith and company in Fayetteville.
Ohio State and Michigan State Battle for Big Ten Supremacy
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In what has been one of the worst years in recent memory for the Big Ten, Ohio State and Michigan State appear to be the top two teams in the league so far.
The Buckeyes travel to East Lansing to take on the Spartans Saturday in what is one of the premier games of the week.
As the only game featuring two top 20 teams, the entire country will be watching.
Will the Big Ten fall flat on its face once again this week?
Can Notre Dame Make a BCS Bowl Game?
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With both Michigan and Michigan State looking overrated, the challenging schedule Notre Dame thought it had may not be too difficult after all.
Now, the big question is whether or not the Fighting Irish can win 10 games and qualify for a BCS bowl game.
The remaining games on the schedule that could pose a threat are road contests against Oklahoma and USC, along with a home date against Stanford.
With six weeks between road games, now is the easy part of Notre Dame's schedule.
Teddy Bridgewater Is a Heisman Sleeper
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There is obviously not much of a chance for Teddy Bridgewater to be a legitimate Heisman threat, being that he plays in the Big East, but the kid is extremely talented.
He has already passed for over 1,000 yards with seven touchdowns and only two picks for the 4-0 Cardinals.
Look for Louisville to be knocking on the door of the top 10 by the end of the year and for Bridgewater to stir up some Heisman talk along the way.
South Carolina Is a Serious National Title Contender
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The future is very bright for South Carolina.
While the Gamecocks still have some tough opponents remaining on the schedule, they seemingly continue to get better every night.
Georgia is going to pose a major threat as far as the SEC East is concerned, but the Gamecocks may be ready for it.
In a 15-day stretch beginning on October 6, South Carolina takes on Georgia, followed by road games at LSU and Florida.
Not exactly a walk in the park.
Denard Robinson and Michigan Are in Real Trouble
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Losing to Alabama is one thing, but turning the ball over six times and getting manhandled by Notre Dame is a whole different story.
After dominating Notre Dame the previous two seasons, Denard Robinson was stifled by a very talented Fighting Irish defense, leaving Michigan with a lot of questions that need to be answered before conference play starts.
If there are any plans of contending for a Big Ten title, Robinson must find a way not to throw the ball to the other team.
That does not appear very likely to happen, so it could be a long year in Ann Arbor.
The Health of James Franklin
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James Franklin has been battling a shoulder injury, and it does not appear that he is going to be anywhere close to healthy for the remainder of the season.
He has been playing through the pain, but things aren't looking good for the Tigers as they head deeper into SEC play.
What seemed like such a promising first season in the conference a few weeks ago has turned into what might be a long two months for the Tigers.
A Big 12 Battle of Unbeatens
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West Virginia and Baylor may be one Big 12 game featuring two undefeated teams, but there is another on the slate as Texas Tech travels to Iowa State in a battle of 3-0 teams.
While neither of these squads is expected to be a serious contender for the conference title, both are very talented and have been impressive in the early part of the season.
The Red Raiders rank sixth in the country in both points scored (50.3 ppg) and points allowed (10.0 ppg).
Iowa State has been equally stingy on defense, allowing only 10.7 points per game and holding two of its three opponents under seven points.
Cincinnati Battles Virginia Tech at FedEx Field
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In one of the more interesting non-conference games of the week, two teams who are on the brink of the Top 25 meet at FedEx Field.
Virginia Tech would be in the top 10 had it not suffered a disappointing loss to Pittsburgh two weeks ago.
Cincinnati comes into the game 2-0 after easily beating Pittsburgh in its season opener.
A win here could go a long way towards boosting one of these teams into the Top 25 and the season they want to have.
Is There Any Conference More Wide Open Than the Big Ten?
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As mentioned earlier, Michigan State and Ohio State appear to be the top two teams in the Big Ten, but Ohio State is not eligible for the postseason.
All bets are off if the Buckeyes knock off the Spartans.
A team like Nebraska certainly has the talent to win the league, as does Michigan if it can get Denard Robinson straightened out.
What about teams like Northwestern and Minnesota? Are they just pretenders?
Could a team like Wisconsin return to its old form?
Stay tuned, as this race is one of the more intriguing in the country.