10 Toughest College Football Matchups in Week 6
After an exciting Week 5 of college football, the matchups only get tougher in Week 6.
From several ranked teams squaring off with one another to those who are trying to work themselves out of slumps, this Saturday has it all. Teams will be tested and contenders will either prove their worth or be exposed as pretenders.
Either way, we’ll learn quite a bit about the college football landscape after this weekend.
Here are some of the toughest matchups from this upcoming slate of games.
No. 24 Ole Miss at Auburn
The Tigers were the laughing stock of college football in 2012. This year, the team is fighting to be the biggest surprise.
If the Rebels aren’t careful, they might get a first hand glimpse of why that is this weekend.
After a 4-0 start, Ole Miss was finally brought back down to earth by Alabama. Now, the team will be fighting to prove that its inclusion in the Top 25 is no mistake.
On the other hand, Auburn—winners of seven of the last nine in the head-to-head series—is trying to make its own case for a spot in the polls.
Surprisingly, the Tigers have been remarkably tough to beat at Jordan-Hare Stadium, going 21-6 since 2009. Five of those losses have come against ranked opponents.
It will be necessary that the Rebels jump-start a passing attack that only ranks No. 79 in the nation. Maybe quarterback Bo Wallace (807 YDS, 4 TD) should start letting his play do the talking instead of his mouth.
While Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall may not out-duel Wallace through the air—also with just four touchdowns—the team has a very good rushing attack, averaging 232.3 yards per game.
Ole Miss should have its work cut out for it on Saturday.
Notre Dame vs. No. 22 Arizona State
This year’s Irish are a shell of the 2012 squad that rode a dominating defense to an appearance in last season’s BCS title game.
However, following a 35-21 loss to Oklahoma last weekend, the team has now already lost twice. Any lingering hope Notre Dame had of returning to the national title game has disappeared to a place where unicorns, Santa Claus and Lennay Kekua live in harmony.
Played out jokes aside, the schedule doesn’t get any easier with a neutral-field showdown against the Sun Devils in Texas this weekend.
If Sooners quarterback Blake Bell had no trouble picking apart the Irish secondary—22-of-30, 232 yards, two touchdowns—then Arizona State’s Taylor Kelly may just have a field day.
Behind the team’s No. 7-ranked passing attack, Kelly has thrown for 1,370 yards and 11 touchdowns (4 INT). Two weeks ago, he helped the Sun Devils put up 32 points on a Wisconsin defense that has held three out of five opponents thus far to 10 or fewer points and ranks No. 15 in scoring defense (14.6 PPGA).
Against Notre Dame’s No. 67 pass defense (230.2 YPGA), the points should come much easier.
Minnesota at No. 19 Michigan
The Wolverines escaped into their bye week unscathed after back-to-back scares against Akron and Connecticut. The two teams have a combined record of 1-8.
Needless to say, head coach Brady Hoke probably used the time off to knock some sense into his still-undefeated squad.
That can only mean bad news for the Gophers.
Sure, the team is a surprising 4-1 to start the season. However, Minnesota has also won just one of the previous 22 meetings against Michigan.
If the Gophers hope to win, they must contain Wolverines running back Fitzgerald Toussaint (320 YDS, 5 TD) and force quarterback Devin Gardner to throw—the junior has thrown five picks and completed just a little over 50 percent of his passes over the last two games.
Unfortunately, Minnesota could ultimately be brought down by weak passing of its own by sophomore Philip Nelson (380 YDS, 50.8 CMP%, 2 TD, 4 INT).
It certainly doesn’t look promising.
Arkansas at No. 18 Florida
Following an impressive 3-0 start, the Razorbacks have now lost two in a row.
That streak stands a good chance to improve to three with a trip to The Swamp on tap.
Since 2011, the Gators have been stingy at home, going 14-2. Not only that, but Arkansas hasn’t beaten Florida since 1982. The team has lost eight straight in the series and has never beaten the Gators on the road.
In fact, the average score between the two is a whopping 41.3-19 in Florida’s favor.
Add to that, the Razorbacks will be going up against one of the country’s elite defenses. The Gators rank No. 8 in scoring defense (12.8 PPGA), No. 2 in total defense (202.5 YPGA), No. 1 against the run (53.5 YPGA), No. 6 against the pass (149.0 YPGA) and No. 1 in third-down defense (17.8 percent).
Sure, Arkansas may have talented running back Alex Collins (597 YDS, 3 TD) in the backfield. However, the freshman should get his first taste of an SEC defense from a defensive line that only concedes 2.4 yards per carry.
Although Florida may not have a powerful offense, with a stout defense and a healthy Matt Jones—28 carries, 176 yards, one touchdown last weekend—the team stands a good chance to expose a Razorbacks defense that has given up a total of 923 yards over the last two games.
Georgia Tech at No. 14 Miami
The Hurricanes are relevant in BCS conversations for the first time in a while. In fact, for the last time the team began 4-0, you’d have to go all the way back to 2004.
That can only mean bad things for the visiting Yellow Jackets.
Not only has Miami proven dominance over Georgia Tech recently—winners of four straight—but the team is also backed by one of its best defenses in years. The unit ranks No. 7 in scoring defense (12.5 PPGA), No. 10 in total defense (283.5 YPGA) and No. 5 in turnovers gained with 13 (6 FUM REC, 7 INT).
It’s no secret the Yellow Jackets will try to run the ball, as the team ranks No. 10 in the category and has no passing game whatsoever.
However, expect the Hurricanes’ to use Georgia Tech’s recent loss to Virginia Tech as a blueprint to stopping the run—the Hokies limited the Yellow Jackets to just 129 yards on 42 carries (3.1 YPC).
This one has the potential of getting out of hand fast.
TCU at No. 11 Oklahoma
Playing at Norman is never an easy task for opponents. Especially under head coach Bob Stoops’ tenure.
Since 1999, the Sooners are an incredible 84-5 at home. That includes an unprecedented 14-2 against ranked opponents. At one point, the team had won an unfathomable 39 straight games in front of the Oklahoma faithful.
That doesn’t bode well for a Horned Frogs squad missing its starting quarterback.
The fact that the team ranks No. 76 against the pass doesn’t help either. Especially against quarterback Blake Bell (683 YDS, 71.2 CMP%, 6 TDS) who has the Sooners offense rolling again ever since taking over the starting duties in Week 3.
But life may be even more difficult for TCU’s offense, which has to go up against a surprisingly good Oklahoma defensive unit.
This one might not be close.
No. 12 UCLA at Utah
Over the years, the Thursday night road game has been the undoing of plenty of ranked teams. This season, No. 24 TCU has already fallen and No. 3 Clemson struggled against a weaker North Carolina State.
The Bruins should be put on alert.
While the team itself has made headlines for its offense—No. 2 in nation, averaging 614.3 yards per game with 20 touchdowns—the Utes have also put together a pretty good one. The team ranks No. 16 in the category, averaging 504.8 yards per game and also with 20 touchdowns
Utah quarterback Travis Wilson is a large reason for that.
Thus far, the sophomore has thrown for 1,118 yards and nine touchdowns. But he’s been most impressive with his legs, rushing for 251 yards and another five scores on 32 carries (7.8 YPC).
That could be a recipe for disaster for a UCLA run defense that has been gashed for 167 yards per game on the ground.
No. 25 Maryland at No. 8 Florida State
The Terrapins have rolled their way into the Top 25. Furthermore, the team is 4-0 for the first time since 2001.
However, the Seminoles might have something to say about that.
In the head-to-head series between the two teams, Florida State holes a 21-2 advantage. That includes a flawless 12-0 record in games played at Doak Campbell Stadium.
Maryland will come into the weekend with the nation’s No. 6-ranked defense, but they’re yet to face an offense that averages more than 21 points per game. That changes against the Seminoles’ No. 9 overall offense and 51.3 PPG average.
But while redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston (1,159 TOT YDS, 73.6 CMP#, 14 TD) will get all the attention, the Terrapins should focus on Florida State’s rushing attack. The backfield has quietly produced three players with over 150 rushing yards on the year.
Maryland may be hoping to catch the Seminoles looking ahead to their Oct. 19 showdown with No. 3 Clemson, but with a bye week up next, that’s not very likely.
No. 15 Washington at No. 5 Stanford
The Huskies will roll into Stanford Stadium at 4-0 for the first time since 2001. More impressively, the team hasn’t trailed once all year.
However, a road showdown against a Top-Five Cardinal team presents Washington with its first real test of 2013.
Since 2009, Stanford is an incredible 21-1 at home. That includes victories over eight ranked teams with only a loss to then-No. 7 Oregon in 2011.
Furthermore, the Cardinal also boast a run defense—No. 21 in the nation (105.0 YPGA)—that may be able to slow down the Huskies’ outstanding running back Bishop Sankey.
Through four games, the junior has rushed for 607 yards and five touchdowns on 104 carries. Furthermore, his 151.8 yards per game on the ground is tops in all of college football. However, with a unit that has only conceded two rushing touchdowns all years, yards may come at a premium for Sankey.
Unless Washington quarterback Keith Price can take advantage of a weak Stanford secondary, the team may fall to its first defeat of the year.
No. 4 Ohio State at No. 16 Northwestern
The Buckeyes are the holders of the nation’s longest active winning streak at 17 games.
However, this weekend’s road matchup against the Wildcats could be head coach Urban Meyer’s toughest hurdle yet.
Excitement and crowd noise should be at an all-time high at Ryan Field with the game scheduled for a prime-time kickoff. Not to mention, ESPN’s College GameDay will be on campus for the first time since 1995.
But other than the environment, Northwestern’s football team is a worthy adversary for Ohio State.
At 4-0 for the second-straight year, the Wildcats boast the No. 18 rushing attack in the nation (249.5 YPG). The return of team’s leading rusher from last season, Venrick Mark (1,366 YDS, 12 TD), should only help the cause.
Did we mention that Northwestern has won five straight and nine out of 10 at home?
Sure, the Buckeyes are 27-1 against the Wildcats over the last 28 meetings. However, these two haven’t faced off since 2008.
Better get your popcorn ready.
All stats and rankings are courtesy of NCAA.com
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