25 Key Storylines to Watch Heading into Week 5

Alex SimsCorrespondent IIISeptember 23, 2013

25 Key Storylines to Watch Heading into Week 5

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    College football's Week 4 was a bit of a disappointment but as the season turns to the next chapter, that is sure to change with a number of attractive storylines filling the Week 5 bill.

    A Top-10 battle between Georgia and LSU highlights the week as the Tigers will head to Athens and battle the Bulldogs with BCS and SEC title aspirations on the line.

    Ohio State will also wager its BCS hopes when Wisconsin brings its powerful rushing offense to the Horseshoe.

    Meanwhile, Ole Miss will test its mettle against top-ranked Alabama as Oklahoma does the same against Notre Dame.

    Finally, the Pac-12 Conference will jump into full swing with a number of enticing West Coast battles filling the Week 5 docket.

    Note: All rankings based on the Week 5 AP Top 25, unless otherwise noted.

LSU Looks to Prove BCS Worth Against Georgia

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    No. 6 LSU has looked like a BCS-caliber team so far in the early season, but will face its first major test on the road against fellow BCS hopeful No. 9 Georgia this week.

    The Tigers have five ranked opponents left on their schedule, including the Bulldogs. 

    A win will earn them legitimate contender status despite their daunting schedule. A loss won't completely cripple LSU's BCS hopes, but will shorten its leash dramatically. 

    Zach Mettenberger and the LSU running backs will have to be at their best to keep up with Aaron Murray and Todd Gurley in Athens.

UGA Aims to Break 5-Year Drought vs. LSU

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    Georgia hasn't beaten LSU since 2008 and hasn't notched a win over the Tigers in Athens since 2004.

    The two teams are only rotational SEC opponents, but when they meet there is always plenty on the line.

    This time around, both teams will lay their SEC and BCS title hopes down on the table when they do battle between the hedges. A loss will likely knock UGA out of the BCS title picture, though an SEC championship will still be in the cards.

    The Bulldogs have faced as tough of a schedule than any team in the country thus far and may see their toughest challenger yet in LSU.

    Will the Dawgs have enough from Aaron Murray and Todd Gurley to top the Tigers?

Braxton Miller's Return?

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    Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer told the media this week he is 90 percent confident quarterback Braxton Miller will make his return this week against Wisconsin and expects that number to be 100 percent by gameday, as tweeted by Bill Rabinowitz of the Columbus Dispatch.

    After missing nearly three full games, the timing isn't great for his return to action, as the No. 4 Buckeyes will take on one of the toughest teams on their schedule in No. 23 Wisconsin.

    It also may be a bit of an awkward situation, since Miller's backup, senior Kenny Guiton, has been tearing it up in his stead. Guiton has thrown 13 touchdown passes and amassed 850 total yards this season.

    If Miller does return, he will have to be at full form for OSU avoid an upset by UW.

Wisconsin Rushing Offense vs. Ohio State Run Defense

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    One of the best strategical matchups of the week will be the Wisconsin running backs against the Ohio State front seven.

    OSU ranks No. 9 in the nation in rush defense, allowing just shy of 80 yards per game on the ground.

    Meanwhile the UW rush offense has been unstoppable, amassing just shy of 350 yards per game and 15 rushing touchdowns, both good for No. 3 in the nation.

    Each part of Wisconsin's three-headed monster at running back—Melvin Gordon, James White and Corey Clement—has gained more than 300 rushing yards this season. Gordon, the nation's No. 1 rusher, has led the way with 624 yards and seven touchdowns.

    He'll be key as the Badgers look to lacerate the Buckeyes' national title hopes.

Which Alabama Team Will Show Up This Weekend?

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    Alabama looked like the unquestioned No. 1 team in its thrilling win over Texas A&M.

    However, the Crimson Tide were otherwise unimpressive in wins over Virginia Tech and Colorado State.

    The two-time defending national champions have been pedestrian offensively, particularly on the ground. The Tide currently rank No. 85 in total offense and No. 91 in rushing offense after finishing No. 16 in the nation on the ground in each of the last two seasons.

    If the lethargic Alabama offense shows up against Ole Miss, the Rebels might actually pull off the upset. Mississippi has looked better and better as the season has gone on and is coming off a 44-23 drubbing of Texas.

    Alabama got away with looking past VT and CSU, but that may not work against a highly motivated and confident conference foe.

Young Rebels Face Their Biggest Test Yet

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    The Ole Miss youngsters are talented, there is no question about that. The Rebels also have some skilled veterans in running back Jeff Scott and quarterback Bo Wallace.

    The cast of new and old has come together quickly and the Rebels are 3-0 and ranked No. 21 in the nation as a result. 

    However, the road ahead is extremely difficult, as they will take on No. 1 Alabama, Auburn, No. 10 Texas A&M and No. 6 LSU in its next four games.

    The Rebels are still a bit of a mystery and their legitimacy will be put to the test against the Crimson Tide.

Blake Bell's Sooners

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    The Oklahoma offense looked lost in its first two games with freshman quarterback Trevor Knight at the helm.

    Then Bob Stoops tabbed Blake Bell as the starter and the No. 14 Sooners regained the offensive explosiveness that makes them a contender in the Big 12.

    Bell will have his second start against No. 22 Notre Dame, which will be a much more strenuous test than his debut against Tulsa.

    If the junior continues his strong play, OU looks as good as any team in the Big 12 and shouldn't have too much problem disposing of Notre Dame.

Will the Luck of the Irish Run Out?

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    Notre Dame hasn't been impressive in its last two wins over Purdue and Michigan State.

    ND needed a 21-point fourth-quarter rally to notch a comeback win over the Boilermakers. The next week the Fighting Irish managed a victory over Michigan State despite netting just 220 yards of offense.

    Oklahoma will present a much tougher challenge than MSU and Purdue did, especially with its offense, so the Irish can't rely on the same blueprint this week.

    Tommy Rees will need to have a strong game and play relatively mistake free. Meanwhile, the ND running game must pick up. The Irish rank No. 100 in the nation on the ground.

Arizona Looks to Enter Pac-12 South Title Conversation

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    All has gone well for Arizona so far in 2013, but its first major test comes this week on the road against No. 16 Washington.

    The Wildcats boast one of the best rushing attacks in the country and will have to continue their ground dominance to keep up with Keith Price and Bishop Sankey of Washington.

    A win will put Arizona alongside UCLA and Arizona State as a legitimate contender in the Pac-12 South division. And another great performance could slide Ka'Deem Carey up in the Heisman Trophy conversation.

    Carey has averaged just shy of 150 yards per game in two appearances this season.

    If he and quarterback B.J. Denker run free against the Huskies, it will be one of the weekend's can't-miss games.

Will Washington Look Past Arizona?

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    Led by one of the most exciting backfield duos in the nation in quarterback Keith Price and running back Bishop Sankey, Washington is knocking on the door of becoming a legitimate Pac-12 title contender.

    The Huskies are entering the most crucial stretch of their season, as they'll take on Arizona this week before facing No. 5 Stanford and No. 2 Oregon in the two following weeks.

    With two contests with the two Pac-12 favorites looming, UW faces a major trap game against a dangerous Arizona squad.

    If the Huskies flip on cruise control and are caught looking down the road against the Wildcats, they can kiss their conference title hopes goodbye.

Arizona State Rebounding from Stanford Loss

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    Arizona State showed it isn't quite up to par with Stanford in its 42-28 loss over the weekend. At the same time, the Sun Devils showed they aren't all that behind either.

    An early blowout turned into a close contest, as the Devils cut a 32-point deficit down to just 11 points in the fourth quarter and left the Cardinal disappointed in their overall effort.

    While that isn't exactly a moral victory, ASU can still draw some confidence into the remainder of its season. The Sun Devils should feel like the superior team heading into their tilt at home with USC this weekend.

    Arizona State can still make the Pac-12 title game and will start that process against the Trojans.

Where Is Marqise Lee and the USC Offense?

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    The 2013 season has been an ugly one so far for USC.

    Just one season after amassing 1,721 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns, USC's star receiver Marqise Lee has fallen drastically off pace. After four games this season, the defending Biletnikoff Award winner is now on pace for 1,172 yards and just four scores. 

    Much of that is due to USC's dreadful quarterback play. 

    The Trojans currently rank No. 110 in the nation in passing. They are also last in the Pac-12 in scoring by a large margin. USC has averaged just 22.3 points per game, leaving it nearly nine points per game behind Washington State, which is No. 11 in the league with 31 points per game.

    This weekend, the Trojans will take their tribulations to Tempe, where they will face an Arizona State offense that has averaged almost 40 points per contest.

Clemson Aims to Regain Top-5 Form

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    In its Thursday night win over North Carolina State, Clemson didn't look like the fast-paced explosive team that topped Georgia earlier in the season.

    The Tigers edged out a 26-14 victory after leaving a number of drives short, particularly early in the game. CU didn't reach the end zone until just before halftime and trailed 7-6 at one point on the road in Raleigh.

    Clemson will be back at home, hosting Wake Forest this weekend.

    The Demon Deacons should provide a great opportunity for the Tigers to solidify their place as a serious national title contender.

Will Jameis Winston Put Up More Heisman Numbers?

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    Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston emphatically put himself into the Heisman conversation in his collegiate debut against Pitt. 

    In his two games since, the electric redshirt freshman has taken it easy in blowout wins over Nevada and Bethune Cookman.

    His production in his second two games combined was almost identical to that in his first game alone.

    After completing 25-of-27 passes for 356 yards and five total touchdowns (four passing, one rushing) in Week 1, he has completed 25-of-37 passes for 362 yards and five total touchdowns (four passing, one rushing) in the next two games.

    He still ranks No. 1 in the nation with a completion percentage of 78.1 and is No. 2 with a quarterback rating of 210.49. 

    Now as FSU heads back into ACC play, he should be on the field a bit longer to see his numbers closer to where they were in his debut.

    The Seminoles travel to Boston College this Saturday.

Virginia Tech Looks for Turnaround in ACC Play

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    Virginia Tech had to fight back from a second-half deficit to beat East Carolina and Marshall in consecutive weeks, which isn't the kind of play that is expected from an ACC title contender.

    The Hokies are No. 104 in the nation in total offense after Week 4 but can turn that trend around as they begin league play.

    VT starts its conference slate on the road against Georgia Tech, which has had one of the most potent offenses in the nation thus far this season.

    While the Hokies have relied on a strong defense so far this season, they'll likely need some improved offensive production to start conference play off on the right foot.

Duke Johnson Rebuilds Heisman Campaign

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    After exploding for 186 yards in his season opener, Miami's sophomore running back Duke Johnson failed to go over 100 yards in each of his next two games.

    He ran into a Florida defense that was intent on stopping the run in Week 2 then saw his carries limited in a Week 4 blowout win over Savannah State.

    The Hurricanes may notch another blowout this week against South Florida, but should also benefit from a huge day from Johnson.

    USF has allowed 34 points per game this season and was gashed by FCS foe McNeese State for 180 rushing yards in Week 1.

    Johnson will be the best running back the Bulls face all season and he'll show why this weekend.

How Many Points Will Oregon and Cal Rack Up?

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    Two of the most potent offenses in the nation will square off when California heads to Oregon.

    If both squads meet their season averages, they'll combine for 1,228 total yards in Eugene.

    The Bears will bring the No. 2 passing offense to play against the No. 2 rushing offense of the Ducks.

    At the same time, the Oregon defense does rank No. 5 in points allowed, giving up just nine points per contest. Cal will likely change that, though, as the Ducks haven't faced an offense as explosive as the one from Berkeley all season.

    A combined 100-plus points isn't out of the question in this one.

Can Kentucky End 26-Year Losing Streak to Florida?

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    Kentucky hasn't beaten Florida in football since 1986.

    The Wildcats will host the No. 20 Gators this weekend looking to finally pull off the upset. UK fell short of its upset bid a week ago against Louisville but did show promise against its in-state rival.

    Now UF will head to Lexington in its first full game without quarterback Jeff Driskel, who broke his right leg in last week's 31-17 win over Tennessee.

    Florida shut Kentucky out 38-0 in Gainesville last season, but this is a much different UK team.

    The Wildcats brought in some talent in their recent recruiting class and is out to play the role of giant killer this season.

    The Gators will still be the heavy favorite, but if they falter, the Wildcats have the ability to end the streak.

Oklahoma State Begins Big 12 Title Run

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    Oklahoma State is through its nonconference slate at 3-0 and stands as the highest ranked Big 12 team at No. 11.

    The Cowboys will head to Morgantown to take on a reeling West Virginia team that will be coming off a ghastly 37-0 loss to Maryland.

    OSU remains the team to beat in the Big 12 and will be heavily favored over WVU. 

    However, before their dreadful loss to Maryland, the Mountaineers played a tough game on the road against Oklahoma, which looks to be OSU's biggest challenger for the Big 12 crown.

    There is a chance that the WVU team that challenged OU in Norman could show up and give the Cowboys a fight.

    The two will kickoff at 12 p.m. EDT on ESPN from Morgantown.

TCU Needs Turnaround vs. SMU

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    TCU was expected to compete for the Big 12 title this season, but things haven't gone to plan in Fort Worth.

    Sitting at 1-2 without their starting quarterback, the Horned Frogs need to make a definitive turnaround in Week 5 against SMU.

    Coming off an extended bye week after a 20-10 loss to Texas Tech last Thursday, the Frogs are in great position to bounce back at home against the Mustangs.

    TCU needs to generate some offensive momentum against an SMU defense that ranks No. 115 in the nation with 37.7 points per game allowed. SMU's strength—passing offense—also plays into TCU's strength, which is in the secondary.

    The Horned Frogs resume their Big 12 slate next week on the road against No. 14 Oklahoma.

Iowa vs. Minnesota: Which Rival Is the Real Deal?

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    Iowa and Minnesota will play this weekend for a big bronze pig called the Floyd of Rosedale.

    But even more important than the alloy swine is that the two border rivals are both looking to prove their legitimacy as they begin Big Ten play.

    The Hawkeyes stand at 3-1 and have looked improved since a rivalry win over Iowa State in Week 3.

    The Golden Gophers are a mark better at 4-0 but haven't played a BCS foe yet this season.

    The win will be very important for the bowl hopes of both teams, as tough league schedules loom for each.

How Will Washington State Measure Up Against Stanford?

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    Washington State is on a bit of a hot streak as it plays host to No. 5 Stanford.

    The Cougars are winners of three straight, a run that started with a 10-7 win over USC. Since then, their offense has picked up in blowouts of Southern Utah and Idaho.

    One more win and WSU will have matched its highest win total since 2007.

    While the Cougars likely won't take down Stanford, their performance against one of the nation's best teams will be a great litmus test to see just how much Wazzu has improved thus far under Mike Leach.

The Nation's Top Two Receivers Square off in Corvallis

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    When Oregon State hosts Colorado, the game will feature the two most productive receivers in the nation thus far.

    Colorado's Paul Richardson will head to Corvallis averaging 208.5 receiving yards and two touchdowns per game, though the Buffaloes have played just twice.

    OSU will boast Brandin Cooks, who has averaged of 159.8 receiving yards while bringing in seven total touchdowns in four games.

    Neither team is particularly good at defending the pass, either. Colorado is No. 76 in the nation, giving up 240.5 passing yards per game, while Oregon State is No. 109, allowing 287 yards per contest through the air.

Chuckie Keeton vs. David Fales

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    Two of the best non-BCS conference quarterbacks will do battle on Friday night when Utah State takes on San Jose State.

    Behind David Fales, San Jose State ranks No. 24 in the nation in passing offense, while Utah State is No. 25 in passing with Chuckie Keeton at the helm.

    Both programs took a pair of tough losses to BCS foes early in the season and will be looking to start racking up wins in Mountain West Conference play.

    Since there's no early week "MACtion" this week, USU and SJSU will do just fine.

Fresno State Continues BCS Quest

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    After a thrilling win over Boise State on Friday night, Fresno State moved into the Top 25 and is poised to make a run to a BCS berth at season's end.

    The Bulldogs are ranked for the first time since 2008 and will carry on through Mountain West play with a target on their back. 

    FSU will head to Hawaii to take on the 0-3 Rainbow Warriors on Sunday.

    The Bulldogs have to like their chances heading into that contest, as quarterback Derek Carr ranks No. 3 in the nation in passing, while Hawaii is No. 104 in passing defense.