25 Key College Football Storylines to Watch Heading into Week 6

Carl StineCorrespondent IOctober 1, 2012

25 Key College Football Storylines to Watch Heading into Week 6

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    If you love offense, Week 5 was for you.

    Miami's quarterback, Stephen Morris, set an ACC record for passing yards. Baylor's Nick Florence tossed five touchdown passes. West Virginia's Geno Smith solidified his status as the Heisman front-runner with a 656-yard passing performance, while scoring eight touchdowns.

    It was a wild week, especially for defensive coordinators trying to figure out how to slow things down.

    Week 6 might not be as defenseless, but it still offers us plenty to watch, including WVU's first trip to Austin as a member of the Big 12, and a highly anticipated matchup between SEC East front-runners.

    Read on for the top 25 storylines heading into Week 6.

25. Arizona State, Really?

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    Here is another Pac-12 surprise for you: It's not USC or Utah that leads the Pac-12 South.

    Arizona State holds that spot for the time being, with a 4-1 record. Their only loss came on the road to Missouri, and this team has showed far more offensive life this season under Todd Graham than we have seen for some time.

    Rose Bowl favorites, they are not, but there is no arguing that this team is much better than expected.

24. Is Rutgers Legit?

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    So there is this team that's 4-0, with wins against two out-of-conference foes from BCS conferences, including one on the road against Arkansas.

    It's Rutgers.

    Greg Schiano built this team and program into what it is today, but new head coach Kyle Flood has done an excellent job of perpetuating the success.

    Rutgers is tops in the nation in rush defense, and near the top in just about every other defensive category.

    Should they continue to play at such a high level, a Big East title is a very real possibility.

23. What's Up with Wisconsin?

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    We all expected a drop-off in production from the defending Big Ten champs' offense, but not this much.

    After finishing each of the past two seasons near the top of the nation in total offense and rushing yards, the Badgers are near the bottom on both categories.

    Montee Ball can't get loose, the quarterback situation is not resolved between Joel Stave and Danny O'Brien, and this team is looking ready to lose more games this season than it has in its last three combined.

    The offensive line is not getting the push to which we have become accustomed, and the play-calling this season has been sorry, at best.

    Thanks to Ohio State and Penn State being banned from postseason play, the Badgers are still the favorite to play in the Big Ten title game.

    However, if they are sitting at 7-5 at the end of the season, don't let it surprise you.

22. Why Is Duke Not Ranked?

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    I kid, I kid, but David Cutcliffe's squad is sitting pretty at 4-1, and 1-0 in the conference.

    Duke does not have the ability to recruit at the same level as many of their counterparts, so a 4-1 start is always impressive.

    So far, the Blue Devils' only loss was to Stanford. However, the schedule gets rough going forward for this squad, and we will likely see a major skid.

21. Munchie's Heroics

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    Some people just get everything.

    Not only is the guy's name Munchie, he is the quarterback for a currently undefeated team that just pulled off one of the most underrated wins of the college football season.

    The Cincinnati Bearcats scored the game-winning touchdown with only 13 seconds left on the clock against Virginia Tech, pulling out the improbable win (video at left).

    Munchie Legaux, as you can see, was prominently featured in this play and has been solid so far this season.

20. How Deep Is the Pac-12?

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    In spite of their loss to Stanford, USC is still a Top 10 team.

    Oregon is top two, Stanford is Top 15, UCLA and Oregon State have been pleasant surprises, and the Arizona schools are better than expected.

    The Pac-12 has had a great year so far, knocking off several Top 25 teams in out-of-conference play, and seven of the 12 schools have one or no losses on the season.

    This is one conference race that I will be watching closely as the season progresses, to see which team takes the next step and separates itself alongside Oregon.

19. Nebraska vs. Ohio State

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    Nebraska's offense has been very good but can be slowed, as demonstrated by Wisconsin for three out of four quarters Saturday.

    Ohio State features an offense that lives and dies by the performance of the super-talented Braxton Miller.

    Both teams feature defenses that have been porous at times but seem to stiffen up when absolutely necessary.

    Ohio State is playing for respect, while the Huskers are actually in the running for a Big Ten title. The key to this one? Whichever quarterback makes the fewer mistakes.

18. Stefphon Jefferson

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    Stefphon Jefferson currently leads the nation in rushing yards, with 877 on the season.

    That's 120 more than the next guy.

    If you haven't been following him, it's not too late to start, especially since if the averages hold up, he will hit the 1,000-yard mark versus Wyoming in the Wolf Pack's next contest.

17. Can Washington Upend Another Top 10 Team?

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    Keith Price and Washington started off Week 5 with an upset of sixth-ranked Stanford.

    In the upcoming week, they face a much tougher test—a trip to Autzen Stadium to take on the No. 2 team in the nation, the Oregon Ducks.

    Oregon is a far different animal than Stanford, and Price and Co. will have to be near the top of their game to even come close to hanging with the Ducks.

    Don't expect any upsets in Eugene this weekend.

16. Kansas State

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    When do we begin to give this team the attention they deserve? The Wildcats have already knocked off Oklahoma and are one of two Big 12 teams ranked in the Top 10.

    The difference between them and West Virginia? The Wildcats play defense, very well.

    Bill Snyder continues to show us why he is one of the greatest coaches in Big 12 history, while quarterback Collin Klein continues to prove he is more than just a short-yardage touchdown guy.

15. Northwestern Big Ten's Best?

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    Don't look now, but Northwestern is at the top of the Big Ten's Legends division.

    The Wildcats are 5-0, with wins over Syracuse, Vanderbilt, Boston College, Indiana and South Dakota.

    Are they the best team in the conference?

    Head coach Pat Fitzgerald might say so, but let's wait until they get into the thick of conference play before anointing them as Rose Bowl favorites.

14. Florida's Resurgence

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    It's not time to give up on the Will Muschamp experiment just yet, Gator fans.

    Florida has an unblemished record, quarterback Jeff Driskel has demonstrated consistency and the ability to make good reads, while the defense has started to gel and come together into the dominant unit we expected it to be.

    While a BCS title is probably still just a pipe dream at this point, the Gators have as good a shot at the SEC title as any other in the SEC East. They have already gone through three road games and sit at 4-0.

13. La. Tech, BCS Buster?

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    Louisiana Tech has one of the most potent offenses in football and has already posted victories over Illinois and Virginia.

    The biggest obstacle to an unbeaten season will be Texas A&M, rescheduled to October 13 after the Hurricane Isaac postponement.

    If the Bulldogs get past the Aggies, they have a legit shot at finishing the season without a blemish, especially if running back Tevin King gets and stays healthy.

12. Can SEC East Compete with the West?

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    The SEC boasts six undefeated teams, three in the West division and three in the East.

    Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, Mississippi State, LSU and Alabama are all without a loss, and it's almost a guarantee one of them will play in the BCS title game come season's end.

    The real question is this: Can the SEC East win the conference title? That means Georgia, Florida or South Carolina would have to beat LSU or Alabama (most likely)

    The West has been the dominant division, winning three consecutive titles and four out of five. Is this the season that the East turns it around?

11. The Big Ten's Struggles

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    Not to pile on here, but the Big Ten has been about as effective as the New York Jets offense this season.

    And no disrespect meant for Northwestern, but when the Wildcats are tied for the best record in the conference, there is a major problem.

    The ineptitude of the Big Ten has been well documented, but due to the conference's history and nationwide fanbases, it's worth mentioning that this season has really sucked for Delany's Dozen.

10. Oregon State

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    These guys have really surprised a ton of people this season. The Beavers have yet to lose a game, and they have already upended two then-Top 25 teams—Wisconsin and UCLA.

    Mike Riley's squad is healthier than they've been, and quarterback Sean Mannion has proved to be an able leader.

    If you are not a Pac-12 fan, it's time to start paying attention to the Beavs—they are going to have an impact on both the Heisman race and the BCS title picture before the year is over.

9. Can West Virgina's Offense Be Stopped?

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    Week 5's offensive outburst was only the latest in what has been a season filled with fireworks for the Mountaineers.

    Geno Smith threw eight TDs to bring his season total to 20.

    To put that in perspective, David Ash at Texas and Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M have 20 between them, and both are having excellent seasons.

    WVU is not going to be easy to stop, or even slow down, with weapons such as Smith and wide receivers Tavon Austin. Though it's still early, it's easy to see why many think this team can compete for the Big 12 title.

8. SEC Dominance

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    It's gotten more than old for everyone else, but this conference is on another level.

    Alabama, LSU, South Carolina and Georgia are all in the top six of both polls, and Florida is at No. 10 in the AP and No. 11 in the USA Today coaches' poll.

    While all four teams in the top six looked vulnerable this week, the SEC remains the best in the nation, until proven otherwise.

7. Heisman Race

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    Correct me if I'm wrong, but the Heisman race currently sits with Geno Smith way ahead, and everybody else trying to catch up.

    He is followed by Collin Klein, EJ Manuel and De'Anthony Thomas. Let's be honest, though—as of right now, nobody is even close enough to hold Geno's jock strap.

    We've just hit October, though, and it goes without saying, a lot can happen between now and December.

6. LSU vs. Florida

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    This is one of two SEC matchups this weekend that will feature Top 10 teams.

    LSU looked incredibly underwhelming over the weekend against Towson, while Florida had a week to rest up and prepare for the Tigers.

    Is there an upset brewing?

    That depends on how well Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel does with protecting the ball and making good decisions.

5. West Virginia vs. Texas

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    The best offense and potent passing attack in the nation trying to outscore an incredibly explosive rushing game.

    A young coach, new to the program, and an old one, seeking a return to past glory.

    The conference newcomer against its flagship program, in a battle for the top of the heap.

    The storylines heading into this one are many, and will likely keep us entertained right up until the final whistle.

4. Florida State Is Back

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    It's time to quit dancing around this subject and just flat out admit that the Seminoles are back.

    With a relatively easy schedule ahead of them until they meet Florida in the season finale, it's time to start talking about undefeated and BCS possibilities.

    The 'Noles defense is fantastic, allowing only 11.4 points per game, while the offense continues to produce at a high clip, scoring over 50 per contest.

    EJ Manuel is finally beginning to live up to the hype, making mostly good decisions and helping the offense not get too one-dimensional with the run game.

    Barring a major upset, the path to the ACC title game and beyond is wide open for Jimbo Fisher and company.

3. Can West Virginia's Defense Stop Anyone?

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    Going into Week 5, West Virginia was 108th in total defense, and that was before Baylor hung 63 points and 700 yards on them.

    That's a problem.

    We have yet to see a team ever win the BCS title with little to no defense, so there is little reason to believe—in spite of the changing landscape of college football—that WVU will be the first.

    Maryland gave teams some insight into how the Mountaineers attack might be slowed, and with some pretty stout defenses coming up on the schedule, West Virginia is going to have a tough time without any help from the D.

2. Notre Dame: BCS Team?

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    The Irish actually appear to be legit this season.

    Their schedule seemed to be insurmountable at first blush, but after their 4-0 start, and seeing Stanford, Oklahoma and USC all look very beatable in their losses, it's safe to start talking BCS for this team.

    Despite some injuries to the secondary, the defense has been extremely stout, led by All-American linebacker Manti Te'o.

    The Irish have cut down on turnovers, made fewer mistakes and are executing at a high level. For those of you still doubting the Irish, it's time to stop.

1. South Carolina vs. Georgia

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    This week, ESPN's College Gameday will be coming at you from Columbia.

    These two teams are bitter foes, and the rivalry is underrated.

    With both teams in the top six, each boasting a stout defense, and offenses that have been surprisingly consistent, this is one worth watching—and watching closely.

    Although Florida fans would beg to differ, the winner of this game has the inside track to the SEC title game.