College Football: Most Intriguing Top 25 Games and Predictions for Week 6
Last week, David Ash proved himself in a big way, Washington made Stanford's vaunted rush defense look penetrable and the predictions went 13-3—an uncalled Texas fumble with under 30 seconds to play kept me from 14-2.
It was a fun week but not as great as the previous week, and certainly not as entertaining as this week will be.
The Top 25 is teeming with great games, and with great games come great arguments, so let's hear 'em!
No. 24 Northwestern vs. Penn State
Northwestern finally makes it into the Top 25 for the first time since the end of 2008, as one of the more surprising undefeated teams thus far.
How long will this trip into national relevance last, though?
The biggest reason this game is highlighted is that it is in Happy Valley. In their only away game this season, the Wildcats needed overtime to beat a Syracuse team that gave up 17 points to Stony Brook and sports only one win (against Stony Brook), despite playing at home for three of four games.
Kain Colter was an animal last week, and his dual threat ability makes him a HUGE problem for the Nittany Lions.
Penn State rolls out a middling defense all the way around, ranking 47th in total defense, 46th in rush defense and 60th in pass defense. What Penn State seems to be able to do well thus far this season is keep points off the board, as they are 14th in scoring defense, albeit against competition lesser than Northwestern.
If Penn State is to knock Northwestern back out of the rankings, they'll have to do it with their pass game. The Wildcats have one of the worst pass defenses in FBS, so there is opportunity there.
Of course, Northwestern brings a defense ranked 13th in the nation against the rush—a department that Penn State already struggles with.
Northwestern has a playmaker.
Penn State does not.
Maybe the crowd at Beaver stadium can inspire some magic, but I think Northwestern keeps their ranking, as Colter goes nuts again.
Northwestern 24 Penn State 14
Arizona vs. No. 18 Stanford
Arizona plays the 18th ranked team for a third time this season, after beating Oklahoma State at home and losing to Oregon State at home.
Stanford looks to keep their loss to Washington last week from turning into a losing streak.
Nobody expected Josh Nunes to be Andrew Luck, but I think the rest of the country expected a 60 percent completion rate on a regular basis at the very least—something he failed to do against Washington last week.
Until he can do that, defenses are going to stack the box with eight or nine guys with regularity to keep Stepfan Taylor in check. This week may give him a reprieve as Arizona's defense is a far cry from Washington's.
There's nothing like a 103rd ranked pass defense to get your mojo back.
Arizona has a top-10 total offense and the ninth-ranked rush offense, though. This would seem to be good news for Stanford, who sports the third-ranked rush defense.
The key word being SEEM.
Washington's 104th-ranked rushing offense ripped off 138 yards and a YPC of 4.0, led by Bishop Sankey's 144 yards. Taking that into account, with the fact that Arizona's pass offense is still one of the top units in the Pac-12, as they put up 35 points last week against a similarly stout defense in Oregon State, I think Stanford is headed for trouble.
Even with a spectacular game from Nunes, the Cardinal could drop this one. If Nunes is the same guy that showed up against San Jose State and Washington, then they don't stand a chance.
Stanford isn't built for shootouts, but that's exactly what we'll get in Palo Alto this Saturday.
Arizona 34 Stanford 31
Iowa State vs. No. 15 TCU
This is, sadly, the best opponent that TCU has faced all season.
This one comes as one to watch simply because the Cyclones, under Paul Rhoads, have been good for one big upset a year.
Iowa State sports a stout defense, but TCU sports an even-stouter defense, allowing a mere 7.3 points per game—good for second in the nation in scoring defense behind the almighty Alabama Crimson Tide.
TCU is a better offensive team and a better defensive team, and neither team has particularly challenged themselves, though Iowa State at least played Iowa.
This one should be the opposite of last week, when the entire country forgot how to play defense. Expect a low scoring game, with Casey Pachall being the deciding factor in the game.*
If TCU isn't careful, they could lose this game, but Gary Patterson usually has his teams ready to go.
*UPDATE: Pachall was suspended indefinitely Thursday after being arrested for drunk driving in the wee hours of Wednesday night. This turns a decided offensive advantage for TCU into a toss-up. Backup Trevone Boykin will start. A redshirt freshman, Boykin's had limited experience and so I can't really tell how much the loss of Pachall will affect the offense. He is a phenomenal athlete, though, and should at the very least give the Cyclones a headache. If this game were at Iowa State, I'd call Cyclones all day, but the home field advantage keeps TCU afloat this week.
TCU 10 Iowa State 6
No. 21 Nebraska vs. No. 12 Ohio State
Ohio State barely escaped last week in East Lansing, and their reward for that victory is a home game against Nebraska.
Both teams sport great rushing attacks (Nebraska fifth in the country, Ohio State 21st) that involve mobile quarterbacks who have had issues throwing the ball in the past. Statistically, Nebraska has the better offense, though they haven't played a defense the caliber of the Buckeyes.
On the flip side, Ohio State shouldn't have as much trouble as they did putting up points against Michigan State, because the Huskers rush defense isn't all that great.
What I saw last week from Taylor Martinez impressed me.
Whereas the Martinez of the past would have only gotten Nebraska in deeper trouble with a 20-3 deficit against Wisconsin, this Martinez calmly marched his team the length of the field for a score to make it 20-10 and then went on to lead his team to a come-from-behind victory.
I don't think anybody doubts the physical abilities of Braxton Miller, but he is only a sophomore.
A team that relies on Braxton Miller to do everything at this point in his career is a team that could collapse at any time. Nebraska has a pass defense ranked 27th in the nation, which should probably play in their favor.
Of course, their already shaky rush defense (62nd in the nation) will be stretched to the limit with Miller's rushing ability.
If this game were at Nebraska, I would probably take the Huskers. Unfortunately, it's at the Horseshoe, and we have to keep in mind that Taylor Martinez's worst start, and the only loss for the Big Red, has come away from home.
Not to mention the fact that Ohio State has one of the louder and larger stadiums in the country.
The Buckeyes will lose at some point this season, just not this Saturday.
Ohio State 27 Nebraska 20
No. 8 West Virginia vs. No. 11 Texas
Now the fun begins.
This is possibly the best game this week.
Last week, I questioned David Ash at quarterback, and he answered every one of my questions with a spectacular performance. Some may try to discredit it because it was against Oklahoma State, but for this week, that won't matter.
West Virginia is the owner of one of the worst defenses in FBS.
Of course, this can't all be blamed upon the defense. If you're going to score a point a minute, you're going to give up yards and points to opponents.
What we have here is another offensive show in the making.
Texas has a better defense than Baylor, who statistically has the worst defense in FBS, so we shouldn't expect Geno Smith to throw for eight touchdowns again. Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat should be able to pressure Smith a little bit on the edges, and the overall talent in the secondary is better at Texas than it is at Baylor, so Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin should stay south of 200 yards this Saturday.
Texas got absolutely gutted defensively by Joseph Randle and the Oklahoma State Cowboys rushing attack last week to the tune of 275 yards. This is something that shouldn't be a problem for Texas this week because, for all their offensive prowess, the Mountaineers are 70th in rushing offense.
Finally, Texas has running backs for days.
They handed the ball off to six different players last week, and playmakers like DJ Monroe and Jaxon Shipley can keep the passing offense afloat. It's not like West Virginia is running out all-stars and Texas is pushing scrubs onto the field.
This is a legitimately talented offense with a quarterback who has made the leap that Garrett Gilbert never could.
If you feel like there's a lot of Texas in this article, that's because there is. Nothing really needs to be said about West Virginia's offense, and there's not much to say about the Mountaineer's defense.
Texas in an upset...if you can call it that.
Texas 44 WVU 41
No. 4 LSU vs. No. 10 Florida
To be frank, LSU has looked downright awful in their past two games.
Sure, all the measurables are still there. There's a top-five defense and a top-20 rushing attack, both staples of previous LSU teams, but there's something different about LSU this year. Perhaps it's the escape at Auburn, or perhaps it's the fact that they gave up 22 points to Towson.
On the flip side, Florida looks great.
They've continued to get better as the season goes on. The defense that was carrying the team early on, while the offense caught up, is still there and stronger than ever. The offense is starting to find it's stride behind Mike Gillislee and an improved Jeff Driskel.
This Florida team looks awfully good.
But let's return to LSU. Wasn't this the year that LSU finally got consistent play out of their quarterback?
Zach Mettenberger hasn't been the savior he was supposed to be, and consequently, LSU's passing offense is ranked 93rd in the country. Florida's is worse, at 107th, but at least for the Gators there are signs of life against quality teams like Tennessee.
I think LSU's defensive numbers have been deflated by inferior competition.
Their defense is still a good one, make no mistake about it, they're just not the number four defense in the country right now. The talent is there, but the results aren't.
Meanwhile, Florida's numbers are a little higher than their talent suggests.
LSU-Florida is always a good game. Florida is a much better team than Auburn, and 12 points won't cut it in the Swamp.
Florida 23 LSU 14
No. 5 Georgia vs. No. 6 South Carolina
Playing South Carolina at home is a scary thing.
Playing South Carolina at home with a phenomenal defense is downright terrifying.
This is Georgia's task on Saturday.
Georgia went tit-for-tat with Tennessee last week, and Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, who shall here-to-forth be referred to as the Freshman Express, went crazier than a four-year-old the day after Halloween.
Oh yeah, and Aaron Murray wasn't too bad himself.
Opposing the Freshman Express is Marcus Lattimore, who knows a thing or two about being a freshman phenom. Oh yeah, and Connor Shaw is healthy and playing pretty well, too.
Defense will be the difference in this game.
Georgia was supposed to have one of the top units in the country this year. Instead, they're hovering around 56th nationally in total defense, rushing defense and passing defense. Luckily for them, the Gamecocks' offense is doing about the same.
Unlucky for them, South Carolina's defense may have the best defensive line I've ever seen, and a secondary that's not too bad either.
Last week's first half hiccup against Kentucky can be forgiven. A hiccup this week could be deadly.
South Carolina is going to want to keep this game moving slowly. Steve Spurrier has said that he likes to keep his offense on the field to let his defense stay a little fresh, hence the lack of an up-tempo offense in Columbia.
Similarly, Georgia can't allow 44 points this week, because there's a near guarantee that they don't hit 45.
South Carolina has only lost three home games in the past three seasons.
I don't think this will be the one they lose this year.
South Carolina 28 Georgia 17
No. 23 Washington vs. No. 2 Oregon
Washington is not a bad team, but Oregon is a really, really good team.
This one is at home for the Ducks, and it looks like it's going to take a team with a heap of offensive talent (ahem, USC) to knock off Oregon, especially in Autzen Stadium.
Washington's defense should keep it around a little longer than Washington State hung around last week, and if they can get their offense going (something they've failed to do with regularity this season, hitting triple digits with their rankings for total offense (107) and rushing offense (104), and just missing with passing offense (98)), this game could be closer than most experts think.
This should be an easier defense to move the ball on than Stanford, if for no other reason than Oregon's fast-paced offense is going to give them plenty of opportunities to do so.
Keith Price is the x-factor here.
We know what he's capable of after seeing him match RG3 in their bowl game last year, and if he can bring a performance like that, the Huskies might just have enough defense to pull off the upset.
What do I say about Oregon?
Chip Kelly has had a wonderful system with elite athletes for the past few years. He has gone from Dennis Dixon, to Darron Thomas to Marcus Mariota, with almost seamless results.
He's able to do this because he has surrounded his quarterback with options.
Not only does the offensive scheme present options, but the talent around the quarterback presents options. Kenjon Barner is a stud in the backfield, and Heisman candidate DeAnthony Thomas might be the most electric player to step on a football field since...ever.
Normally, starting a freshman quarterback would be cause for concern, especially against a pretty good defense like Washington's, but the talent surrounding Mariota, plus the fact that this one is at home, makes it a non-factor.
Washington may keep it close, but Oregon wins this one.
Oregon 31 Washington 21
The Rest of Them
No. 3 Florida State 34 N.C. State 13: FSU runs wild in a game that's never as close as the score indicates.
Kansas 10 No. 7 Kansas State 28 : A shutout for the better part of three quarters, Charlie Weis' crew picks up 10 points in garbage time.
Miami (FL) 13 No. 9 Notre Dame 38 : This is a mismatch, plain and simple. Irish are much better.
No. 13 USC 41 Utah 9: Trojans shouldn't struggle in this one.
Washington State 19 No. 14 Oregon State 24 : Cougars make a bid at an upset, but fall short.
Georgia Tech 21 No. 15 Clemson 38 : Yellow Jackets aren't as good as previously thought, but neither is Clemson's defense.
No. 17 Oklahoma 27 Texas Tech 6: Red Raiders miss Mike Leach at this one.
No. 20 Mississippi State 24 Kentucky 3: Last week's game was a fluke. Kentucky gets bombed.
Connecticut 17 No. 22 Rutgers 21 : Another one that barely missed out on its own slide. UConn makes it a good one.
No. 25 UCLA 24 California 21: A late field goal keeps the Bruins in the rankings in a game that shouldn't be nearly this close.