Most teams will begin conference play this week, and with it comes the start of a whole new season. The fun is about to start.
Week Five brings a handful of games that will test teams who have gotten off to fast starts but haven't yet proved their worth yet.
Minnesota is 4-0 but hasn't played anyone of note. Ohio State in Columbus will be a true test and should prove whether the Gophers are golden.
Clemson has rebounded after the opening day blowout loss to Alabama but hasn't faced a team that has the ability to test them. Maryland could be that team.
Penn State has looked like world beaters in the first four weeks, but that's been against teams with a combined record of 5-10. Illinois should give the Nits their first test of the season.
As I gaze into my crystal ball, this is how I see Week Five unfolding.
Minnesota at No. 14 Ohio State (-17)
Ohio State's quarterback of the future has become the quarterback of now, as freshman Terrelle Pryor has taken over the starting position from sixth-year senior Todd Boeckman. The Buckeyes still have plenty of questions on offense, including whether Brian Robiskie is 100 percent healthy and what happened to Ray Small.
Jim Tressel announced on Tuesday that Beanie Wells is "probable" for the game, and that has fans in Columbus salivating at the thought of having Wells and Pryor together in the backfield.
Minnesota is 4-0 and one of only three teams still undefeated in the Big Ten. But the Gophers are still a big question mark. Are they really as good as their record indicates, or did Tim Brewster's team benefit from an easy schedule?
No matter, the Gophers are riding high and brimming with confidence. The trash talk has already started pouring out of Minneapolis. A defensive player was quoted as saying, "They're just regular. We're not worried. Number Two (Terrelle Pryor), he's just regular too. The only one we're worried about is 28 (Chris Wells)."
Prediction: Ohio State, 31-14
North Carolina at Miami (-7.5)
With the uncertainty on offense, the Heels will lean even harder on a young defense that’s playing well in September.
Led by an instinctive set of linebackers and a ball-hawking secondary, Carolina has allowed just 32 points to Rutgers and Virginia Tech and has five more picks than touchdown passes allowed. Linebackers Mark Paschal and Quan Sturdivant have been particularly stout in run defense.
If the Hurricanes can keep special teams ace Brandon Tate from changing the complexion of the game, the defense will hold a sizable edge over the Tar Heel offense.
Neither Mike Paulus nor Cam Sexton can be counted on to move the ball consistently through the air, putting pressure on tailback Greg Little. He’s good, but he'll be slowed by an athletic Miami front seven that gets to the ball very quickly and can intimidate an inexperienced quarterback.
Prediction: Miami, 24-13
Maryland at No. 20 Clemson (-12)
Over the last two games, the Terp offense has shown the flashes of greatness that offensive coordinator James Franklin promised to bring when he was hired. Maryland has piled up 86 points in the last two games, getting improved play from quarterback Chris Turner and outstanding production from a deep group of runners.
Maryland’s defense has allowed at least 24 points in each of the last three games and has been especially suspect in pass defense. This could be the game where Clemson quarterback Cullen Harper taps back into his 2007 form, teaming up with Aaron Kelly and Jacoby Ford for a handful of big plays in the passing game.
With the Terps unable to press up in run defense, James Davis and C.J. Spiller will have more room to make plays on the ground.
Prediction: Clemson, 34-20
Ole Miss at No. 4 Florida (-24)
Despite a setback against Vanderbilt, the Rebel offense continues to put up daunting numbers through the first four games of the season. Ole Miss ranks fourth in the SEC with 401.8 yards of total offense while standing fifth in the league with 30.0 points per game. Quarterback Jevan Snead is tied for the league lead with six touchdown passes and is third in the SEC with an average of 211.0 passing yards per game.
The Rebs have had a problem turning the ball over though and will need to hang on to the ball if they have any hope of beating the Gators.
Florida enters the weekend following a thrashing of rival Tennessee in its conference opener. Gator quarterback Tim Tebow threw for two touchdown passes, and the Florida defense held the Vols scoreless for the first three quarters en route to its fourth straight win over UT.
The Gators have yet to fully hit their stride offensively, but that time will come.
Prediction: Florida, 42-16
No. 9 Wisconsin (-5.5) at Michigan
Wisconsin, coming off a bye week, will be fresh and eager to get back on the field. The Badgers have a physical, active defense that will most definitely wreak havoc on Michigan's floundering offense.
The offense looked solid in wins over Akron and Marshall but struggled when it faced a talented defense in Fresno State. The Badgers will need to get a good, solid performance out of quarterback Allan Evridge.
Michigan, also coming off a bye, will look to start fresh after an embarrassing performance at Notre Dame. The key for the Wolverines will be to stay in the game by playing good solid defense, pressuring the quarterback, and stopping super tailback P.J. Hill. If the Wolverines can play solid defense, they may have a chance.
Prediction: Wisconsin, 28-21
Tennessee at No. 15 Auburn (-6.5)
The Volunteers were outmatched by another ranked SEC foe last week in Knoxville when they were blown out for the second straight year and lost their fourth in a row to rival Florida. They also suffered a season-opening loss to a UCLA team that has lost its other two games by a combined 90-10 score.
What gives Phil Fulmer hope for the rest of the season is that Tennessee stood at 1-2 last year after a blowout loss to the Gators but won eight of its next nine to reach the SEC title game.
Two weeks ago Auburn won with a baseball-like score. That less-than-convincing victory and mediocre offensive performance did not provide a big confidence boost for the Tigers heading into their showdown last Saturday with LSU, and they ended up in another close game—this one in Auburn. Unlike the previous week, however, Auburn wasted an 11-point halftime lead and ended up losing late in the game.
The Tigers are eager to prove they are one of the teams to beat in the SEC.
Prediction: Auburn, 27-16
Colorado at Florida State (-6)
Colorado's defense has been outstanding this season. Last week the Buffs held West Virginia to 14 points and have allowed just two touchdown passes all season. On the inside, George Hypolite and Brandon Nicolas are a couple of future pros who'll dominate that suspect ‘Nole front wall.
We saw last week what happens when Florida State can’t run the ball and must put the offense in the hands of quarterbacks Christian Ponder and D’Vontrey Richardson.
The Florida State offense is in shambles and has been marked by turnovers, penalties, and a lack of depth on the offensive line. Lost in last week’s debacle was the play of the defense, which kept the Demon Deacons out of the end zone despite those seven turnovers.
Linebacker Derek Nicholson was a force of nature, and the return of defensive tackle Budd Thacker helped ease the congestion for defensive end Everette Brown and the rest of the defensive linemen. For all the problems facing Florida State, the defense isn’t one of them, giving up just one touchdown through the first three quarters.
Prediction: Colorado, 13-10
Purdue at Notre Dame (-3)
Purdue, following a heartbreaking loss to Oregon and a closer than expected game against Central Michigan, is looking to end the streak of bad luck they've had at Notre Dame Stadium. The Boilermaker passing game hasn't been quite as explosive as it was in years past, but the emergence of Kory Sheets has fans in West Lafayette buzzing.
Notre Dame followed their blowout win against Michigan by laying an egg against Michigan State. The Irish have struggled mightily at stopping the run and will have their hands full against Purdue. Kory Sheets is great in space, and tackling has been a problem area for Notre Dame.
Prediction: Purdue, 34-17
No. 22 Illinois at No. 12 Penn State (-13.5)
Illinois is coming off two sluggish wins over Louisiana-Lafayette and Eastern Illinois, followed by a bye week, and Ron Zook says his team is refreshed and feel like they are starting a new season.
Illini fans are hoping that's true and that the defense will show improvement against a Penn State offense that is putting up gaudy numbers, and that the offense will show the consistency that it has lacked in the last two games.
Penn State looks like the team to beat in the Big Ten, and the team is overflowing with confidence. But is it premature?
The Nittany Lions have faced four teams that have a combined record of 5-10, and two of those five wins were over FCS schools. Not the toughest of competition. The Nits have yet to be tested, and how they react to adversity remains to be seen.
Prediction: Penn State, 45-31
Virginia Tech at Nebraska (-7)
The one constant for the Hokies this fall has been the play of the defense, which has gotten better with each passing week. In last week’s win over North Carolina, the unit had four sacks and created an equal number of turnovers. The pressure is coming from multiple sources across the line, including speedy ends Orion Martin and Jason Worilds.
It’s already evident Bo Pelini is having a positive impact on the defensive side of the ball. Since having some breakdowns versus Western Michigan, the Huskers have gone more than eight quarters without allowing a touchdown pass and have been particularly stingy in the red zone. Led by lineman Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska already has nine sacks.
The way the Hokies are sputtering on offense, ranking 112th nationally, their problems moving the ball figure to continue this weekend.
Prediction: Nebraska, 24-17
Game of the Week
No. 8 Alabama at No. 3 Georgia (-7.5)
The biggest reason for the Crimson Tide’s rise was its opening victory over preseason No. 9 Clemson. After a sloppy win over Tulane the following week, Alabama has been impressive in its past two victories, routing Western Kentucky and then Arkansas last Saturday behind Glen Coffee’s 162 yards rushing and two scores.
The Dawgs traveled to Tempe last Saturday to face an Arizona State team that was licking its wounds after a heartbreaking loss to UNLV the week before. The Sun Devils dropped out of the AP Top 25 due to the loss but still figured to give Georgia a tough test. That wasn’t the case at all.
Knowshon Moreno ran for 149 yards and two touchdowns, and Matthew Stafford threw for 285 yards and a score in the Bulldogs’ 27-10 victory.
Prediction: Georgia, 27-23
No. 24 TCU at No. 2 Oklahoma (-17.5)
Three players combined for four touchdowns on the ground last week for TCU, which is tied for fifth in the country in total points. The Horned Frogs have been even better defensively, holding opponents to 30.5 rushing yards and 183.0 total yards per game—both tops in the FBS.
The Horned Frogs have won their last two games in Norman, most recently a 17-10 victory over the then-No. 7 Sooners in the teams’ 2005 season opener. That was Stoops’ only previous game against TCU.
The second-ranked Sooners face their toughest test of the young season on Saturday night in a matchup of two of college football’s most overpowering teams thus far.
Oklahoma pounded Chattanooga in its season opener before routing Cincinnati the following week. After another romp over Washington in their last game, the Sooners have outscored opponents 164-42 and are second in the Football Bowl Subdivision with a 40.7 average margin of victory.
Prediction: TCU, 37-34