College Football Week 5: Nitty-Gritty Showdowns
It's the nitty-gritty stage of the season. No more smashing pumpkins.
B/R's College Football Top 25 Poll was released Monday and several teams are discovering their stride as the elite begin to separate themselves from the pretenders.
Top-dog Alabama followed by Oregon, LSU, Florida State and Georgia, all look invincible heading into Week 5 action this weekend.
And how about those Florida State Seminoles? They overpowered Clemson, 49-37. The swagger is back in Tallahassee and the "war chant" is more obnoxious than ever.
And what about No. 8 Notre Dame? The resurgent Fighting Irish moved into the Top Ten for the first time since 2006 after defeating Michigan, 13-6. They have a bye this week before playing the Miami Hurricanes Oct. 6.
What happened to Oklahoma? The Sooners lost to Kansas State, 24-19. They plummet to No. 16 and have a week to recover before Oct. 6 meeting with Texas Tech.
Enough of last week.
This week serves up four intriguing match-ups—reality check, gut check, revenge and conference debut—as eight teams battle for validation.
Check out these made-for-television games.
No. 10 Stanford at Washington
Stanford RB Stepfan Taylor
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Kickoff: Thursday, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Nobody will be sleeping in Seattle on Thursday.
Both teams are coming off a bye week. Stanford (3-0) shocked the USC Trojans, 21-14 and Washington (2-1) whipped Portland State, 52-13 on Sept. 15.
The Cardinal began the season ranked No. 21, but proved it's a major force despite the graduation loss of QB Andrew Luck.
Last year, Stanford destroyed Washington 65-21 in a home contest. RB Stepfan Taylor jetted for 138 yards and two TDs on just 10 carries.
The 5'11", 211-pound Taylor has rushed for 338 yards and three TDs this season.
Junior QB Josh Nunes has stepped in nicely with 615 passing yards and six TDs with three interceptions.
The Cardinal has piled up four-straight wins against the Huskies, including six of the past seven meetings.
This Washington team is lead by the terrific tandem of QB Keith Price and WR Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
Price has completed 56-of-90 passes for 560 yards and four TDs. A huge target at 6'6", Seferian-Jenkins has registered 20 receptions for 211 yards and one score.
The Stanford offense is productive, but not nearly as explosive as last year. However, the defense is solid and ranks third in the country in run defense.
Washington will have to rely heavily on Price's arm because the Huskies have no ground attack, averaging 3.3 yards per carry.
Prediction: Stanford survives gut check in Seattle.
Baylor at No. 6 West Virginia
West Virginia WR Tavon Austin
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
Kickoff: Saturday, Noon ET (FX)
Fasten your seat-belts. This game promises to be a high-flying, high-scoring affair between two explosive spread offenses.
Opposing quarterbacks Nick Florence and Geno Smith rank 1-2 in the nation in total offense, averaging 387.7 and 379.7 yards per game, respectively.
West Virginia (3-0) makes its Big 12 debut against a dangerous Baylor (3-0) team. It will be the first-ever meeting between these two teams on the gridiron.
Last week, the Mountaineers defeated Maryland, 31-21. Geno Smith was Heisman-like, completing 30-of-43 passes for 338 yards and three TDs.
WR Tavon Austin was electrifying. The 5'9" senior caught three passes for 179 yards and three TDs. Talk about great gas mileage.
In all, six WVU receivers have double-digit receptions on the young season.
The Bears counter with Florence. The senior gunslinger is capable of going toe-to-toe with any quarterback in the country and has proved his value, passing for over 1,000 yards and 11 TDs.
Both defenses will be tested.
Prediction: Hello Big 12! West Virginia delivers message in Morgantown.
No. 17 Ohio State at No. 19 Michigan State
Ohio State QB Braxton Miller
Kirk Irwin/Getty Images
Kickoff: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET (ABC)
Expect a rugger B1G battle with a dash of Braxton Miller and a heavy dose of Le'Veon Bell.
After a soft early schedule with four-straight home games, this showdown will be Ohio State's (4-0) first real test on the road against Michigan State (3-1).
The Spartans beat Boise State, 17-13 in the season-opener and lost to Notre Dame in Week 3, 20-3.
The Irish confused QB Andrew Maxwell, who is 81-of-143 for 869 yards and three TDs with three interceptions on the season.
Last week, MSU beat Eastern Michigan, 23-7. The defense held the Eagles to 183 yards of total offense.
Bell is a punishing back with 610 yards on 117 carries and five TDs. This workhorse can wear defenses down in the late going.
The Buckeyes have sophomore quarterback sensation Miller. He has passed for 754 yards and rushed for 441 yards and 14 total TDs.
RB Jordan Hall is regaining his form after an early season injury. He has 192 yards and will be relied upon this week.
The Spartan defense and the running attack of Bell, figures to make this game a low-scoring affair.
The big question for the Buckeyes—which offense shows up—Jekyll or Hyde?
Prediction: No escape from reality in East Lansing for Ohio State.
No. 12 Texas at Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State RB Joseph Randle
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Kickoff: Saturday, 7:50 p.m. ET (FOX)
Which unheralded quarterback will stand tall and deliver?
This game is an early season Big 12 match-up between two teams coming off a bye week after dominating their Week 3 opponents.
Texas (3-0) pounded Ole Miss, 66-31 and Oklahoma State beat Louisiana-Lafayette, 65-24.
The Cowboys have won two straight against the Longhorns and will be gunning for a third. However, the status of freshman QB Wes Lunt is unknown. If Lunt doesn't start, backup freshman QB J.W. Walsh is more than capable.
Both have shared playing time this season. Lunt has passed for 588 yards and four TDs, while Walsh has thrown for 496 yards and six TDs and rushed for 102 yards and a score.
The difference-maker could be RB Joseph Randle. The 6'1", 194-pounder has scooted for 335 yards (6.7 avg.) and four TDs.
Texas is averaging 49.3 ppg. and the defense has allowed 16 ppg.
This pro-set offense is balanced. The Longhorns average 258.7 yards rushing and 255.7 yards passing.
Sophomore QB David Ash is stepping up big time. He has completed 76.4 percent of his passes for 703 yards and seven TDs with no interceptions.
RBs Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron share the load with 445 yards and six TDs combined.
Marquise Goodwin is the playmaker at receiver with 25 yards per catch.
This game could be decided by special teams and field position. Cowboy punter Quinn Sharp averages 46.2 yards and Texas punter Alex King is averaging 51.8 yards.
Prediction: No revenge for Texas in Stillwater.