Biggest Question Facing Each Top 25 Team Heading into Week 5

Alex Callos@@alexcallosCorrespondent ISeptember 26, 2013

Biggest Question Facing Each Top 25 Team Heading into Week 5

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    No matter how good a team is, there is always going to be at least a question or two before every game.

    Heading into Week 5 of the college football season even the best teams in the country have something to be worried about.

    Whether it is a tough opponent, an injury or a coach on the hot seat, no team is perfect, not even Alabama.

    Some teams may have more than one issue to deal with, but here is the biggest question for each Top 25 team four weeks into the season.

    *Rankings are according to the AP Poll

No. 25 Fresno State Bulldogs

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    Biggest Question: Is Derek Carr a legitimate Heisman contender?

    With the way Fresno State has been playing this year, the Bulldogs have a shot to run the table.

    If that happens quarterback Derek Carr might find himself in the Heisman conversation. In three games he has already passed for 1,121 yards with 12 touchdowns and one interception.

    The Fresno State fans have launched a Heisman campaign website for Carr.

    The senior quarterback is one of the best pure passers in the country and will put up astronomical numbers this season.

No. 24 Texas Tech Red Raiders

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    Biggest Question: Who is the starting quarterback?

    It might have come as a shock to most when true freshman walk-on Baker Mayfield started the season at quarterback for Texas Tech. 

    Michael Brewer who was expected to be the starter, but suffered an injury before the season began, is getting closer to returning. 

    Mayfield has since suffered a thigh bruise, and fellow freshman Davis Webb saw meaningful snaps the past two games.

    Who will be the starter on Oct. 5 at Kansas after the bye week?

    Stay tuned to find out.

No. 23 Wisconsin Badgers

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    Biggest Question: How to slow down Ohio State?

    The talent at running back for Wisconsin is no secret, but Ohio State might have the deepest running back corps in the country.

    Wisconsin has the unenviable task of trying to slow down that running game on Saturday night in Columbus.

    The Buckeyes are averaging 52.5 points a game which ranks fourth in the country. They are also sixth in the nation at 311 rushing yards per game.

    Perhaps the best way for Wisconsin to slow down the run is to keep the ball out of Ohio State's hands. Time of possession is something Wisconsin typically dominates and 2013 is no different. The team ranks in the top 40 in that stat. It will need to continue that success against Ohio State.

    As if that wasn't enough, Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller is expected to return this week.

No. 22 Notre Dame Fighting Irish

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    Biggest Question: How to put up points on Oklahoma?

    Similar to last season, Notre Dame has struggled on the offensive side of the ball. The Fighting Irish rank 78th in the country averaging 26.5 points a game.

    They will go up against an Oklahoma defense that is only allowing nine points per contest. That is good for fifth in the country.

    The Sooners have only allowed two touchdowns all season long.

    Quarterback Tommy Rees is going to have to step up, but Notre Dame needs to be able to run the football better. The Fighting Irish rank 100th in the country averaging only 113.3 yards a game on the ground.

No. 21 Ole Miss Rebels

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    Biggest Question: How to compete with Alabama?

    Similar to last season, Ole Miss is off to a fast start. This year the schedule gets challenging a little quicker, as the Rebels travel to Alabama to take on the Crimson Tide.

    Ole Miss has some marquee wins already this season, but this could be a program-changer if the Rebels can beat Alabama.

    One key will be moving the chains and keeping the ball away from the Alabama offense.

    This is the first of a tough four-game stretch against the likes of Auburn, Texas A&M and LSU.

    The biggest question for Ole Miss is how to compete with Alabama and also how to get through that grueling stretch.

No. 20 Florida Gators

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    Biggest Question: How will the quarterback situation pan out?

    The season-ending injury to quarterback Jeff Driskel was certainly devastating news for the Florida Gators.

    All might not be lost as redshirt junior Tyler Murphy will take over the starting role. He did not play badly on Saturday when Driskel went down, completing 8-of-14 passes for 134 yards and a touchdown. Murphy can also be a threat on the ground. He rushed for 84 yards and a score in the 31-17 victory over Tennessee.

    Head coach Will Muschamp will have to ride it out this season with Murphy.

    Wait and see to find out if it pans out.


No. 19 Baylor Bears

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    Biggest Question: Can the defense hold up?

    There is very little doubt about the Baylor offense. The Bears lead the nation at 69.7 points a game. Baylor also ranks first in the country in passing yards at 444.3 a game.

    While the defense has held up so far, the big question is whether or not that is going to last. The offense scores points so fast that the defense finds itself on the field more often than most teams. The Bears rank 104th in the country in time of possession.

    So far the group is second in the nation allowing only 7.7 points a game.

    If the defense can hold up, this could be a team with a chance to run the table.  

No. 18 Michigan Wolverines

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    Biggest Question: Will Devin Gardner be able to limit the turnovers?

    After not playing badly the first two games of the season, Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner has been downright awful the past two weeks. 

    In a 28-24 victory over Akron he threw three interceptions and nearly cost his team the game. 

    Last week was more of the same. Gardner only finished with 97 yards passing and two interceptions. The Wolverines nearly lost to Connecticut on the road.

    Those are not performances that are going to win games against good teams. 

    Gardner needs to improve if Michigan wants any shot at contending in the Big Ten.

No. 17 Northwestern Wildcats

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    Biggest Question: The health of running back Venric Mark 

    Star running back Venric Mark has not played a snap in the past three games due to an injury.

    The Wildcats have still been able to run the football in his absence, but have struggled at times on offense. Last season he rushed for 1,366 yards with 12 touchdowns while averaging six yards a carry.

    He is expected to return after the bye week on Oct. 5 against Ohio State.

    No question the Wildcats are going to need him to knock off the Buckeyes.

No. 16 Washington Huskies

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    Biggest Question: How to manage a challenging schedule?

    Not many teams in the country play more tough opponents than the Washington Huskies. They took on Boise State in the season opener outside of the conference and are now preparing for the grueling part of the schedule.

    After taking on Arizona Saturday, the Huskies face Stanford on the road, followed by Oregon at home and a road contest against Arizona State.

    Throw in a road trip at UCLA and this is a gauntlet of a Pac-12 schedule.

    Head coach Steve Sarkisian has to find a way to keep his team focused to navigate through that.

No. 15 Miami Hurricanes

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    Biggest Question: How to maintain focus?

    With a relatively easy schedule, Miami only has one game remaining against a ranked opponent. 

    That comes on Nov. 2 at Florida State. Between now and then the Hurricanes are going to need to stay focused and take it one game at a time. 

    The next few opponents on the schedule are South Florida, Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Wake Forest. Those are certainly not pushovers, but games Miami should definitely win.

    If this group can stay focused they have a chance to be in the ACC title conversation.


No. 14 Oklahoma Sooners

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    Biggest Question: Who will be the quarterback down the stretch?

    Freshman Trevor Knight won the starting quarterback job for the Sooners out of summer camp, but he went down with an injury against West Virginia.

    Junior Blake Bell stepped in and was excellent in a 51-20 win over Tulsa.

    Head coach Bob Stoops has named Bell the starter for Saturday's game against Notre Dame. How long that lasts remains to be seen, but with the talent Oklahoma possesses on the defensive side of the ball, this team could go a long way with excellent quarterback play.


No. 13 UCLA Bruins

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    Biggest Question: Can Jordon James continue his excellent play?

    Losing a player like Johnathan Franklin was certainly not easy, but UCLA might have found an adequate replacement in junior Jordon James.

    James has already rushed for 424 yards and four touchdowns on 62 carries.

    If he can continue to play that way, there is a chance UCLA could find itself playing in the Pac-12 title game. So far it seems like that might be the case. James has excellent vision and hits the hole with plenty of power and force.

    So far this season, James is making UCLA fans forget about Franklin.


No. 12 South Carolina Gamecocks

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    Biggest Question: The health of Jadeveon Clowney

    South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney has not played the way most thought he would heading into the season.

    Part of the reason is bone spurs in his right foot. Clowney has decided to put off surgery until the end of the season. Instead he will play through the injury.

    The Gamecocks need him on the field if at all possible.

    His health is a big concern for head coach Steve Spurrier.

No. 11 Oklahoma State Cowboys

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    Biggest Question: Can the defense continue playing the way it has so far?

    Since the arrival of head coach Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State has been a team known for its offensive firepower.

    The 2013 season has been no different. So far the Cowboys are averaging 45.3 points a game through three contests. That is good for 11th in the nation.

    The defense has been solid as well. The group ranks 17th in the country, allowing only 13.7 points a game. One reason the defense has been so solid is new defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer. He has added some new schemes and has helped develop the senior leadership of this squad led by Calvin Barnett, Shaun Lewis, Caleb Lavey, Justin Gilbert and Daytawion Lowe.

    With Big 12 play starting up this weekend at West Virginia, time will tell whether or not the defense is for real.

    If it is, this team could be a national title contender.

No. 10 Texas A&M Aggies

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    Biggest Question: Will the defense be able to hold up during SEC play?

    The Texas A&M offense is clearly one the best in the nation. The group averages 50.3 points a game. That is good for sixth in the country. Defense on the other hand has been a completely different story.

    The group has allowed 30.3 points a game so far. That ranks 90th in the nation and SEC play has not even completely kicked in.

    That is going to change this week as the first road trip of the season looms against Arkansas.

    After giving up 49 points to Alabama, there are a lot of question marks surrounding this defense. They continue to get pushed around up front and are on the field for extended periods of time because of how fast the offense puts up points.

    If the group can shore up a few things, it could easily go undefeated the rest of the way.



No. 9 Louisville Cardinals

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    Biggest Question: Will the schedule strength be enough to warrant national title consideration?

    It is easy to see just how talented Louisville is on both sides of the ball. The Cardinals are first in the nation, allowing only 6.8 points a game.The offense is not far behind, ranking seventh in the country at 48 points a game. While other teams are going to face the challenges of conference play, that will not necessarily be the case for Louisville.

    Playing in its only season in the American Athletic Conference, the Cardinals have only a few games where losing is even a possibility. A home game against Central Florida and a road contest with Cincinnati in the season finale seem to be the biggest challenges remaining.

    Will that weak schedule strength be enough to propel Louisville over a one-loss SEC team in the BCS Standings?

No. 8 Georgia Bulldogs

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    Biggest Question: How to slow down the LSU rushing attack?

    The Georgia defense has not lived up to its expectations so far this season. The group is allowing 29.7 points a game which ranks 85th in the country. That is not good news with a LSU offense averaging over 43 points a game coming into town.

    If the Georgia defense continues to struggle, this team could be a huge disappointment this season. The talent is certainly there, but this team needs to put it all together and do so quickly.

    The schedule is not very tough the rest of the way after LSU, but the defense will need to improve if this team has any hopes of winning the SEC.

    No question the talent is there, it is just a matter of putting it all together.


No. 7 Florida State Seminoles

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    Biggest Question: How to stay focused for every game?

    Looking at Florida State there are not a lot of weaknesses on either side of the ball. A little focus and this team could be playing for the national title.

    There are a few challenging games remaining against Clemson, Miami and Florida, but the Seminoles always seem to slip up somewhere along the line against a lesser opponent.

    With the talent they have on both sides of the ball, that cannot happen. Head coach Jimbo Fisher has an excellent chance with the remaining schedule to have enough marquee wins to be right in the middle of the national title conversation.

    For that to happen they need to stay focused and beat the teams they are supposed to beat.


No. 6 LSU Tigers

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    Biggest Question: Can they navigate a tough SEC schedule?

    It does not get much tougher than the schedule LSU has the rest of the way in conference play. The Tigers take on Georgia this week in Athens and that is followed up with games against Mississippi State, Florida and Ole Miss. After a game against Furman, the Tigers then battle Alabama and Texas A&M before closing out the season against Arkansas.

    There is no question that LSU has the talent to win all of those games, but navigating through a schedule like that is no easy task for anybody.

    If the Tigers go undefeated they will certainly have earned a spot in the national title game.

No. 5 Stanford Cardinal

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    Biggest Question: How to come up with a game plan to slow down Oregon?

     It appears Stanford and Oregon are on a collision course for a huge showdown on Nov. 7. Both are currently ranked in the top five and the Pac-12 title, as well as a possible national championship game participant will likely come down to that Thursday night matchup.

    Last season, Stanford got the best of Oregon on the road. The Cardinal ruined the Ducks' national title aspirations and also their conference championship hopes.

    This year Stanford is at home, but the Oregon offense might be even better than it was a year ago. The Ducks are currently second in the country, averaging 61.3 points a game.

    No doubt head coach David Shaw and his staff have been thinking about that game for quite some time now.

No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes

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    Biggest Question: Who is the starting quarterback?

    Braxton Miller appears healthy and will get the start Saturday in a huge conference clash with Wisconsin. The Heisman hopeful has missed the past two games with an injury, but that has not slowed the Buckeyes' offensive attack, led by senior backup quarterback Kenny Guiton.

    In less than three games he has passed for 664 yards and 13 touchdowns with only two interceptions. He has also rushed for 186 yards on 25 attempts with another score.

    Those numbers have helped Ohio State average 52.5 points a game through four wins. That is good for fourth in the country.

    Miller was the unquestioned starter when the season began, but it is hard to completely sit down a guy like Guiton. Odds are he gets some action in every game the rest of the way.

No. 3 Clemson Tigers

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    Biggest Question: Can the run game continue to improve?

    We all know what Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd can do with the ball in his hands, but for Clemson to win the ACC it is going to need to get continued improvement from its running game.

    The Tigers lost starter Andre Ellington from last year's team to the NFL. Senior Roderick McDowell has filled in nicely. McDowell has rushed for 243 yards on 44 carries in three games. He has yet to reach the end zone, however.

    Clemson currently ranks 62nd in the nation at 183.7 rushing yards a game. With some challenging matchups coming up, it is not going to get any easier.

    To beat teams like Florida State and South Carolina the running game must improve to provide some balance on offense.

No. 2 Oregon Ducks

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    Biggest Question: How to get over the hump against Stanford?

    Oregon dominated its opponents last season with the exception of Stanford. The Ducks did not have a game closer than 11 points with the exception of the 17-14 overtime loss against the Cardinal.

    This year Oregon will be looking to enact a little revenge on its conference rival.

    Stanford appears to be the only thing separating Oregon from playing in the national title game. It seems highly unlikely with the way Oregon is moving the ball that anybody else could slow it down. Stranger things have happened, but Stanford is the only real challenge remaining.

    If Oregon can get over that hump, it might find itself playing for the national title.


No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide

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    Biggest Question: Can the offensive line continue to improve?

    On a team like Alabama there are not a lot of weaknesses. The Crimson Tide have depth and talent all over the field.

    One position that has struggled a little bit so far this season is the offensive line. The group lost some serious talent from last year’s squad, including D.J. Fluker, Chance Warmack and Barrett Jones, but returned All-American candidates like Cyrus Kouandijo at tackle and Anthony Steen at guard.

    Still, the group has not performed nearly as well as it did last season. That could be a problem down the stretch, particularly when it goes against some of those talented defensive lines the SEC has to offer.

    The talent is certainly there, but the unit must continue to get better down the stretch.