College Football Picks: Week 6 Predictions for Every Game

Brian Pedersen@realBJPFeatured ColumnistOctober 2, 2014

College Football Picks: Week 6 Predictions for Every Game

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    If the college football season is a full-course meal, consider the first five weeks to have been made up of appetizers and salad. That's because Week 6's slate has all the ingredients you'd find in the main dish.

    All but one team currently ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 is playing this weekend—enjoy the rest, Missouri—and six pairs of ranked teams are squaring off, five in key conference matchups. Of the 57 games set for Week 6, 49 of them are in conference play.

    Four games pit unbeaten schools against each other, and we even have a battle of winless teams trying to get on the board. The weekend has pretty much everything, including a clash of service academies.

    Check out our predictions for every Week 6 game, as well as our experts' picks for the weekend's top clashes, and then give us your thoughts in the comments section.

    Last week: 40-14 (.741)

    Season record: 261-66 (.798)

UCF at Houston

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    When: Thursday, Oct. 2; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: William Stanback ran for two touchdowns to lead UCF to a 19-14 home win over Houston last November. 

    What to watch for

    UCF (1-2) heads into its defense of its American Athletic Conference title still searching for an offensive identity. The Knights are 120th in total offense, averaging only 296.3 yards per game, and their top rusher (Stanback) has all of 137 yards on the ground in three games.

    Houston (2-2) has seen its offense wake up during the past two-plus games, with quarterback John O'Korn settling in after a slow start. Combine that with the Cougars' strong defensive unit, which kept them in the game a few weeks back at BYU and was dominant last time out against UNLV, and this team has a chance to contend for the AAC title.

    Neither school can afford to start 0-1 in league play, and with Houston playing better of late, it gets the edge.

    Prediction: Houston 27, UCF 21

    Final: UCF 17, Houston 12

Florida Atlantic at Florida International

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    When: Thursday, Oct. 2; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Jaquez Johnson threw three touchdown passes in Florida Atlantic's 21-6 home win over rival Florida International last November. 

    What to watch for

    Florida Atlantic (2-3, 1-0 Conference USA) got a big win last week over UTSA, with Johnson tossing two touchdown passes in the final four minutes and 10 seconds, including one with 20 seconds left, for the 41-37 victory. The Owls have looked much better the past three weeks after being destroyed by Nebraska and Alabama to start the season, but because of that start, they're still 114th in total offense

    Florida International (2-3, 1-0) surprisingly won with ease last week at UAB to open C-USA play, capitalizing on six turnovers and returning two interceptions for touchdowns. The Golden Panthers still have little semblance of an offense, managing 271.6 yards per game and only two rushing touchdowns. 

    This battle for second-tier supremacy in south Florida (behind Miami) has been heavily in Florida Atlantic's favor, and the Owls will take this one as well.

    Prediction: Florida Atlantic 27, Florida International 16

    Final: Florida International 38, Florida Atlantic 10

Arizona at No. 2 Oregon

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    When: Thursday, Oct. 2; 10:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Ka'Deem Carey ran for 206 yards and four touchdowns, and Arizona intercepted Marcus Mariota twice in the Wildcats' 42-16 home upset of Oregon last November.

    What to watch for

    If not for a 36-point fourth quarter and a Hail Mary pass, Arizona (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) would be coming out of a bye on a losing streak. The Wildcats rallied from 31-13 down to beat California 49-45 two weeks ago, showing resilience as well as a passing game that's among the best in the country despite being run by a redshirt freshman.

    Anu Solomon has thrown for 1,454 yards and 13 touchdowns, airing it out 175 times in four games one year after Arizona averaged fewer than 30 passing attempts per game. The absence of workhorse running back Carey was really felt last time out when true freshman Nick Wilson had only 33 yards after averaging 149.6 yards in his first three games.

    Solomon will now face a secondary that's far more accomplished than what he's seen to this point, as Oregon (4-0, 1-0) features veteran defenders like shutdown corner Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and safety Erick Dargan. But the Ducks currently sit 122nd nationally in passing defense, allowing 315.3 yards per game, after they failed to slow down prolific Washington State passer Connor Halliday last time out.

    Oregon's offense remains as potent as ever, with Mariota and his running backs putting up huge numbers despite playing behind an injury-plagued offensive line that's become very shaky of late. Andrew Greif of The Oregonian noted that Mariota rolled out more in the second half of the 38-31 win at Washington State, which enabled him to shine:

    In the second half against the Cougars on Sept. 20, Mariota was 14-of-15 passing for 164 yards and rushed three times for 42 yards, excluding sacks. Not all the yards were the result of a roll-out or scramble, but it didn't hurt that Washington State's defense couldn't all-out blitz at will, needing to monitor a moving target.

    Arizona hasn't been able to make big plays on defense this season, allowing 430.5 yards per game. And none of those offenses were as efficient as Oregon's, which has been nearly unstoppable with Mariota at full strength and moving well. He wasn't like that in Tucson last year, but on Thursday he will shine.

    Prediction: Oregon 44, Arizona 28

    Final: Arizona 31, Oregon 24

Louisville at Syracuse

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    When: Friday, Oct. 3; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Ryan Nassib threw three touchdown passes as host Syracuse downed previously unbeaten Louisville 45-26 in November 2012, when both teams were part of the Big East. 

    What to watch for

    Louisville (4-1, 2-1 ACC) has been far more polished on defense than expected, but that also means the Cardinals offense hasn't come along like the ones Bobby Petrino has had over his coaching career. Louisville is allowing only 14.0 points and 225.2 yards per game, and its run defense (58.2) is tops in the country.

    The offense has been inconsistent, though, committing 11 turnovers that have negated the 13 takeaways the defense has registered. Petrino switched quarterbacks last week, going with freshman Reggie Bonnafon, but it was the play of sophomore running back Brandon Radcliff (129 yards, two touchdowns) that stood out most in the 20-10 win over Wake Forest. 

    Syracuse (2-2) couldn't capitalize on Notre Dame's many mistakes last week, losing 31-15 a week after being beaten by two touchdowns at home by Maryland. The Orange have lacked any balance on offense, putting almost all of their stock in quarterback Terrel Hunt, who has run for six touchdowns but has only thrown one TD pass.

    If Louisville can stop giving the ball away, it will win with ease. But until it can prove that's doable, this one will be close throughout.

    Prediction: Louisville 27, Syracuse 23

    Final: Louisville 28, Syracuse 6

San Diego State at Fresno State

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    When: Friday, Oct. 3; 10 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Marteze Waller scored on a one-yard run in overtime to keep visiting Fresno State unbeaten, as it won 35-28 at San Diego State last October. 

    What to watch for

    San Diego State (2-2, 1-0 Mountain West) got four rushing touchdowns and 167 yards from Donnel Pumphrey last week to open league play with a 17-point home win over UNLV. But there weren't all positives taken from the outcome. The Aztecs lost quarterback Quinn Kaehler to a shoulder injury, leaving the job to true freshman Nick Bawden.

    Also missing for SDSU will be linebacker Derek Largent, who had his appendix removed prior to the UNLV game and will be out three weeks, according to Tod Leonard of the The San Diego Union-Tribune.

    Fresno State (2-3, 1-0) won its second straight, claiming a hard-fought 35-24 win at pesky New Mexico. Quarterback Brian Burrell has settled into the role after splitting time early with Brandon Connette, and last week he threw for 318 yards and three touchdowns while adding 63 rushing yards. 

    The Bulldogs defense remains a liability, allowing 41.2 points and 509.2 yards per game, including 231.4 rushing yards. 

    Fresno hasn't lost a conference home game since 2011, and with SDSU throwing out an untested passer, the Bulldogs have an added advantage. 

    Prediction: Fresno State 37, San Diego State 30

    Final: Fresno State 24, San Diego State 13

Utah State at No. 18 BYU

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    When: Friday, Oct. 3; 10:15 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Taysom Hill threw for 278 yards and three touchdowns in BYU's 31-14 win at Utah State last October.

    What to watch for

    Last year's in-state rivalry game took on a somber tone when Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton suffered a major knee injury and was lost for the rest of the season. Keeton returned this August, but he then injured the knee again on Sept. 13 and according to the school is likely done for the year.

    Without Keeton, Utah State played well but lost 21-14 in overtime at Arkansas State two weeks ago. Darell Garretson, who led the Aggies to the Mountain West title game last year after replacing Keeton, had 268 passing yards and two touchdowns.

    BYU (4-0) should do well no matter who is passing for Utah State, as so far this season the Cougars have managed to overcome a variety of opponents. They crushed Connecticut and Texas on the road and then outlasted Houston and Virginia in Provo, using a similar formula each time: a lot of dual-threat quarterback Hill.

    This is another nationally televised opportunity for Hill to boost his dark-horse Heisman hopes and improve BYU's chances to get a sniff from the College Football Playoff selection committee. The Cougars won't squander the occasion, not against a rival.

    Prediction: BYU 35, Utah State 20

    Final: Utah State 35, BYU 20

Florida at Tennessee

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; noon ET

    Last meeting: Tyler Murphy came off the bench for Florida after quarterback Jeff Driskel broke his leg, leading the Gators to a 31-17 home win over Tennessee last September. 

    What to watch for

    Florida (2-1, 1-1 SEC) wasn't expected to win at Alabama two weeks ago, but the poor performance from both its offense and defense still fell far below expectations. The hope of a revamped offense has all but disappeared, and now the Gators have also allowed 72 points over the last two games, taking away their biggest strength.

    Tennessee (2-2, 0-1) keeps showing promise in its results, even in defeat, and is about to turn a corner. The way the Volunteers fought in the second half last week at Georgia, especially after blowing an early 10-point lead, makes it seem like a breakthrough win is not far away.

    The young players are coming around slowly, but the most promising play of late has been from senior quarterback Justin Worley, who has 985 passing yards and nine touchdowns against just three interceptions. 

    Driskel hasn't shown that same improvement as expected, and without him showing command of the offense, Florida will continue to sputter. 

    Tennessee ends its nine-game skid to the Gators.

    Prediction: Tennessee 28, Florida 21

    Final: Florida 10, Tennessee 9

No. 6 Texas A&M at No. 12 Mississippi State

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; noon ET

    Last meeting: Johnny Manziel threw for 446 yards and five touchdowns in Texas A&M's 51-41 win over Mississippi State last November, Manziel's final home game. 

    What to watch for

    Texas A&M (5-0, 2-0 SEC) rallied late to beat Arkansas in overtime last week in Arlington, Texas, but while the comeback was promising, the overall performance exposed some issues with the Aggies' game. The defense struggled more than it had at any point this season, allowing 285 rushing yards while also letting an Arkansas team that doesn't have much of a passing game complete a lot of big passes.

    But the 28-14 hole also enabled A&M's young team to show its mettle by fighting back, which should bode well heading into a hostile environment similar to the one it mastered in the season-opening 52-28 win at South Carolina. That's when Kenny Hill had his coming-out party at quarterback, and he'll need to put together another big game against Mississippi State (4-0, 1-0). 

    The Bulldogs were off last week, giving them extra time to bask in the glow of their 34-29 upset win at LSU prior to the bye. They led 34-10 at one point and absolutely dominated behind Dak Prescott's mobility and arm and Josh Robinson's 197 rushing yards. 

    Prescott has been masterful all season, with 1,342 yards of total offense and 14 total touchdowns. He's a legitimate Heisman contender if he can continue this pace; Ken Bradley of Sporting News compared Prescott to past winners Johnny Manziel and Cam Newton with his combination of skills, noting, "Where there’s Prescott, there's a way for the Bulldogs."

    Mississippi State is a more complete team than Arkansas, one that's more equipped to jump on A&M's defense and keep the pedal down. Look for the Bulldogs to heed what happened at LSU—allowing 19 points in the fourth quarter—and win going away.

    Prediction: Mississippi State 34, Texas A&M 24

    Final: Mississippi State 48, Texas A&M 31

SMU at No. 22 East Carolina

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; noon ET

    Last meeting: Zach Line's one-yard touchdown run, his second of the game, gave visiting SMU a 45-38 win at East Carolina in November 2010 to clinch a spot in the Conference USA Championship Game. 

    What to watch for

    If there was ever the textbook definition of a mismatch, it's this American Athletic Conference opener between SMU (0-4) and East Carolina (3-1).

    The visiting Mustangs have been one of the most lethargic offensive teams in the country, managing just 12 points for the season and only 206.8 yards per game. SMU has gained only 175 rushing yards this year, as its quarterbacks have been sacked 29 times. 

    Oh, and SMU is on its second coach of the year, as June Jones resigned after two games and was replaced by defensive coordinator Tom Mason for the remainder of the season.

    Then there's East Carolina, an offensive juggernaut that last time out scored 70 points against North Carolina a week after winning 28-21 at Virginia Tech. The Pirates' only loss was by 10 at South Carolina, and all season it's been a mix of quarterback Shane Carden (1,469 yards and 11 touchdowns) and an improving run game led by Breon Allen, who had 211 rushing yards against North Carolina. 

    This is the kind of game where a running clock would do wonders in the second half, if not earlier. 

    Prediction: East Carolina 58, SMU 10

    Final: East Carolina 45, SMU 24

Iowa State at No. 21 Oklahoma State

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; noon ET

    Last meeting: Desmond Roland ran for 219 yards and four touchdowns in Oklahoma State's 58-27 win at Iowa State last October. 

    What to watch for

    Iowa State (1-3, 0-2 Big 12) is better than its record shows, but not by much. The Cyclones were able to upset rival Iowa on the road and nearly did the same at home against Kansas State, but they've also lost to FCS school North Dakota State and were blown out at home by Baylor last week.

    ISU did manage to score 28 points on Baylor, more than the previous three teams combined had done, but that was only because quarterback Sam B. Richardson kept working despite poor numbers. Richardson has improved this year, completing 68 percent of his passes while running when necessary, and he's had to do that with top receiver Quenton Bundrage out for the year.

    Oklahoma State (3-1, 1-0) is battling its own injury issues, but quarterback Daxx Garman has been impressive in place of starter J.W. Walsh. Garman has thrown for 929 yards and eight touchdowns and even ran for a score last week in the 45-35 win over Texas Tech. 

    The Cowboys nearly knocked off Florida State to open the year and have shown improvement each game. Opening with two straight home games in Big 12 play will do wonders for their confidence heading into the second half of the season, when five of seven are on the road. 

    Prediction: Oklahoma State 40, Iowa State 20

    Final: Oklahoma State 37, Iowa State 20

Purdue at Illinois

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; noon ET

    Last meeting: Nathan Scheelhaase threw two touchdown passes to lead Illinois to a 20-16 win at Purdue last November, ending a 20-game Big Ten losing streak. 

    What to watch for

    Purdue (2-3, 0-1 Big Ten) has twice reached 30 points this season after only doing so once in 2013, but the Boilermakers are still one of the more listless offensive teams among the power conferences. They've averaged less than 17 points per game in their three losses. All told, they are tied for 116th in the country in total offense with 312 yards per game. 

    Illinois (3-2, 0-1) hasn't had much trouble moving the ball but has struggled to prevent anyone else from doing the same thing. The Fighting Illini are giving up 35 points per game, which goes up to 39.6 when you take away the game against FCS Youngstown State.

    They've trailed in the first half of every game, and only thanks to the play of quarterback Wes Lunt (1,237 passing yards, 11 touchdowns) have they been able to rally for three wins.

    Lunt missed last week's 45-14 loss at Nebraska with a knee sprain, but he is expected to play Saturday, according to Sean Neumann of The Daily Illini. Having him available will ensure a victory. 

    Prediction: Illinois 37, Purdue 24

    Final: Purdue 38, Illinois 27

Marshall at Old Dominion

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; noon ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Marshall (4-0) heads into Conference USA play having essentially dominated the Mid-American during nonconference play, knocking off three MAC teams by an average of 25.3 points. The Thundering Herd have the No. 2 offense in the country at 596.8 yards per game and are getting production not just from senior quarterback Rakeem Cato (1,163 yards, 10 touchdowns) but also from junior running back Devon Johnson (482 yards, five TDs). 

    Old Dominion (3-2, 1-1) lost 41-28 at home to Middle Tennessee last week, playing its worst game of the season because of four turnovers. That included three interceptions by normally mistake-conscious quarterback Taylor Heinicke, who has 1,534 passing yards and 14 touchdowns this season.  

    Old Dominion has showed quick development in its move into FBS but still has growing pains. It won at defending C-USA champ Rice two weeks ago but won't be able to hang with the likely 2014 league champs. 

    Prediction: Marshall 37, Old Dominion 20

    Final: Marshall 56, Old Dominion 14

Southern Mississippi at Middle Tennessee

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; noon ET

    Last meeting: T.T. Barber and Kevin Byard each returned an interception for a touchdown to lead Middle Tennessee to a 42-21 win at Southern Mississippi last November. 

    What to watch for

    Southern Mississippi (2-3, 0-1 Conference USA) has doubled its win total from last year, but that's come by a combined seven points in victories over an FCS team and one transitioning into FBS. The Golden Eagles are 119th in rushing offense, which prevents them from being able to keep their porous defense (468 yards per game) off the field. 

    Middle Tennessee (3-2, 2-0) has started off C-USA play by taking down two of its biggest challengers for the East Division, including beating Western Kentucky in triple overtime. The Blue Raiders have a balanced offense behind quarterback Austin Grammer and a pair of efficient runners, Jordan Parker and Reggie Whatley.

    MTSU also has some big playmakers on defense in Barber and Byard as well as a defense that has picked off seven passes this season. 

    Prediction: Middle Tennessee 44, Southern Mississippi 21

    Final: Middle Tennessee 37, Southern Mississippi 31

No. 20 Ohio State at Maryland

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; noon ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Ohio State (3-1) heads into its Big Ten opener coming off a pair of high-scoring wins, as many of the early offensive issues relating to the run game and blocking up front are getting better. Quarterback J.T. Barrett has completed 49 of 66 passes for 642 yards and 10 touchdowns in those two games and is no longer the Buckeyes' leading rusher now that Ezekiel Elliott has stepped up to take the lead role in the backfield.

    OSU's defensive issues are still there, though, with Cincinnati's Gunner Kiel throwing all over its secondary last week. Earlier this season it was a matter of defending the run, as the Buckeyes gave up 370 rushing yards to Navy. 

    Maryland (4-1, 1-0) has quietly put together a great start to the season, winning all three of its road games by an average of 14.3 points. The Terrapins had mostly avoided last year's injury issues to this point, but then quarterback C.J. Brown sprained his wrist in the first half of the 37-15 win at Indiana and will be a game-time decision. 

    Backup Caleb Rowe managed to slide right in and play great, though, throwing for 198 yards and two second-half touchdown passes. 

    The Terps' only loss was a 40-37 home setback to West Virginia, trailing 28-6 at one point and losing on a field goal at the buzzer. Maryland is showing a lot of confidence, and there's no better way to make a splash in its first season in the Big Ten than to knock off a traditional power.

    Prediction: Maryland 33, Ohio State 25

    Final: Ohio State 52, Maryland 24

Ball State at Army

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; noon ET

    Last meeting: Keith Wenning threw for 325 yards and two touchdowns in Ball State's 40-14 home win over Army last September. 

    What to watch for

    The similarities between Ball State (1-3) and Army (1-3) are uncanny when it comes to how they've gotten to this point. Both have lost three in a row, including losses to FCS teams, and desperately need a win in a game like this to have a better chance to get to bowl eligibility.

    But how the Cardinals and Black Knights perform is completely different. Ball State has struggled to move the ball this season, with quarterback Ozzie Mann unable to replicate the production Wenning had during last year's 10-win campaign. 

    Army moves the ball just fine out of its triple-option offense, which is ninth in the country in rushing at 316.5 yards per game. It just hasn't been able to parlay that into any sort of defensive pressure, as the Black Knights allow 36.8 points (including 49 to FCS Yale in an overtime loss last week) and 483.0 yards per game. 

    Army's run game isn't easy to prepare for, and with Ball State likely spending just as much time trying to fix its own offense, this will be a defense-optional game. 

    Prediction: Army 33, Ball State 27

    Final: Army 33, Ball State 24

Virginia Tech at North Carolina

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; 12:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Logan Thomas threw three touchdown passes to lead Virginia Tech to a 27-17 win over visiting North Carolina last October. 

    What to watch for

    Virginia Tech (3-2, 0-1 ACC) has been its own worst enemy this season. A solid defense that's allowing 325.6 yards per game has been negated by 13 turnovers, including 10 interceptions by quarterback Michael Brewer. The Texas Tech transfer has also thrown for 1,223 yards and nine touchdowns, but the Hokies need more run production from Shai McKenzie and Marshawn Williams to minimize the need to throw as much. 

    North Carolina (2-2, 0-1) hasn't figured out how to play defense yet, allowing 120 points in its past two games and 543 yards per game. The Tar Heels offense is moving the ball, with Marquise Williams throwing eight touchdown passes and running for two more, but the 44 points allowed per game is third worst in FBS. 

    The loser of this game isn't out of the ACC Coastal race, as last year no team had fewer than two losses in the division, but it will be an uphill climb all the same. 

    Prediction: North Carolina 31, Virginia Tech 27

    Final: Virginia Tech 34, North Carolina 17

Eastern Michigan at Akron

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; 2 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Dominique White had three rushing touchdowns to lead Eastern Michigan to a 31-23 home win over Akron in October 2011. 

    What to watch for

    Eastern Michigan (1-3) enters Mid-American play on a three-game losing streak during which it's been outscored 155-17. Former Penn State and LSU quarterback Rob Bolden hasn't found any success at his latest stop, completing just 15 of 41 passes for 135 yards for an Eagles team that's dead last in passing offense at 82.8 yards per game. 

    Akron (2-2) is coming off one of the biggest wins for the long-struggling program in years, a 21-10 upset at Pittsburgh. The Zips not only stifled one of the nation's top running backs in James Conner but got unexpected rushing production from junior Conor Hundley (148 yards) and have reached league play at .500 despite scoring only 41 points in their last three games. 

    Akron looks to be turning a corner under coach Terry Bowden, and with plenty of winnable games left on the schedule, the program figures to be headed to its first bowl game since 2005.

    Prediction: Akron 31, Eastern Michigan 20

    Final: Akron 31, Eastern Michigan 6

North Texas at Indiana

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; 2:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Lance Dunbar had 279 all-purpose yards in North Texas' 24-21 home win over Indiana in September 2011. 

    What to watch for

    North Texas (2-2) has won two games by an average of 55.5 points and lost two by 31 and 21 points. The Mean Green have the 17th-best defense, allowing 307.3 yards per game, but without much of a pass offense, it hasn't been able to move the ball on a consistent basis. 

    Indiana (2-2) laid a major egg at home to Maryland, losing 37-15 in its Big Ten opener a week after pulling off a shocking victory at Missouri. The Hoosiers have been paced by all-purpose stud Tevin Coleman, who averages 196 yards per game and is ranked first overall in rushing yards at 172.8 yards per game on the ground. 

    The clash of Indiana's solid run game with North Texas' stout run defense will force the Hoosiers to spread the ball around more, but quarterback Nate Sudfeld will come through after completing just 14 of 37 passes last week. 

    Prediction: Indiana 34, North Texas 24

    Final: Indiana 49, North Texas 24

Massachusetts at Miami (Ohio)

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; 2:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: A.J. Doyle threw two touchdown passes to give Massachusetts a 17-10 home win over Miami last October, its second win in two seasons of FBS play. 

    What to watch for

    Someone has to win, right?

    Massachusetts (0-5, 0-1 Mid-American) comes in on an 11-game losing streak, with its last win coming against this opponent last season. The Minutemen are 2-27 since moving into FBS in 2012, but this year they have been far more competitive and held a lead in four of five games. Quarterback Blake Frohnapfel, a Marshall transfer, threw for 589 yards and five touchdowns in last week's 47-42 loss to Bowling Green. 

    Miami (0-5, 0-1) has lost 21 straight games but, like UMass, is playing a lot better this season under first-year coach Chuck Martin. The RedHawks lost their last two games by a combined 15 points, both on the road, but are still making too many mistakes to win. Notre Dame transfer quarterback Andrew Hendrix has thrown 10 TD passes, but he's completing just 45 percent of his passes. 

    Miami will earn its first victory since October 2012, but it won't be easy. 

    Prediction: Miami 40, Massachusetts 34

    Final: Miami 41, Massachusetts 41

Tulsa at Colorado State

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; 3 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Cody Green threw three touchdown passes in Tulsa's 30-27 home win over Colorado State last September. 

    What to watch for

    Tulsa (1-3) has dropped three straight since opening with a double-overtime win over Tulane, and the problem has been twofold. Quarterback Dane Evans has been intercepted seven times, negating his eight touchdown passes, while the Golden Hurricane are giving up 7.02 yards per play and 42.5 points per game. 

    Colorado State (3-1) has wins over Colorado and Boston College, with the last coming thanks to a late touchdown pass from quarterback Garrett Grayson to win 24-21 on the road. He has thrown for 1,261 yards and 10 TDs, while Alabama transfer Dee Hart has a pair of 100-yard rushing games. 

    Colorado State's only loss came at Boise State in Mountain West play, but the Rams' performance outside of their conference indicates they should contend for that league's title and will win handily here. 

    Prediction: Colorado State 41, Tulsa 21

    Final: Colorado State 42, Tulsa 17

North Carolina State at Clemson

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Tajh Boyd threw three touchdown passes in Clemson's 26-14 win at North Carolina State last September. 

    What to watch for

    North Carolina State (4-1, 0-1 ACC) had defending national champion Florida State on the ropes after one quarter, leading 24-7, but couldn't slow the Seminoles down and lost 56-41. The Wolfpack offense has been very potent this season, averaging 40.4 points per game behind the heady play of Florida transfer Jacoby Brissett. He has thrown for 1,364 yards and 13 touchdowns.

    Clemson (2-2, 1-1) also had a shot to knock off FSU, losing in overtime on the road two weeks ago. The Tigers rebounded by rolling past North Carolina last week. With freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson (school-record six touchdown passes, 435 yards last week) now running the offense, the hopes are high for a good run the rest of the way. 

    Watson was amazing in his first career start and figures to only get better. Getting another soft defense to play against will boost his confidence.

    Prediction: Clemson 45, North Carolina State 24

    Final: Clemson 41, North Carolina State 0

Wake Forest at No. 1 Florida State

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Florida State intercepted six passes, returning one for a touchdown, and led 42-0 at halftime of a 59-3 win at Wake Forest last November. 

    What to watch for

    Under first-year coach Dave Clawson, Wake Forest (2-3, 0-1 ACC) has been a defense-driven team that's allowed 21 or fewer points in four of five games. But as good as that effort has been, it's been while the Demon Deacons' own attack has managed only 18.2 points per game and is averaging 230.2 yards per contest, which is third worst in FBS

    Florida State (4-0, 2-0) has had to survive its past two games under difficult circumstances, first overcoming the suspension of Jameis Winston to rally late and win 23-17 in overtime against Clemson and then bouncing back from a 24-7 hole to win 56-41 at North Carolina State.

    The Seminoles haven't played like a defending champion with 20 straight wins, but the comebacks have shown resiliency and a lack of complacency. There's hunger there, but FSU needs to avoid falling into holes and be forced to come from behind.

    That won't be an issue here.

    Prediction: Florida State 40, Wake Forest 13

    Final: Florida State 43, Wake Forest 3

No. 7 Baylor at Texas

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Bryce Petty threw for 287 yards and two touchdowns as host Baylor beat Texas 30-10 last December to clinch its first Big 12 title. 

    What to watch for

    Baylor (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) had another dominant performance last week against Iowa State, but the Bears allowed 28 points. They have been able to withstand injury issues by churning out big yards and lots of points no matter the opponent or lineup, however, as they lead FBS in total offense with 641 yards per game.  

    Texas (2-2, 1-0) recorded its first shutout win since September 2012, winning 23-0 at Kansas to help drive the final nail in Charlie Weis' coaching coffin. Tyrone Swoopes threw for 218 yards and two touchdowns and is starting to look more comfortable as the Longhorns quarterback from here on out. 

    Texas is ranked eighth nationally in pass defense, allowing 140.5 yards per game, but Baylor's passing game is more lethal than anything else it has dealt with this year. The Longhorns will keep it close, but Baylor will get its second straight win over Texas.

    Prediction: Baylor 33, Texas 19

    Final: Baylor 28, Texas 7

Ohio at Central Michigan

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Cooper Rush threw his third touchdown pass of the game with 22 seconds left to give Central Michigan a 26-23 win at Ohio last October. 

    What to watch for

    Ohio (3-2, 1-0 Mid-American) has been forced to shuffle between two quarterbacks because of ineffectiveness and injury. Derrius Vick missed last week's win over FCS Eastern Illinois with a knee injury, which moved JD Sprague into the starting job. Neither has been particularly strong, combining to throw just five touchdown passes. 

    Central Michigan (2-3, 0-1) has lost three straight after a 21-point win at Purdue, with its defense being the biggest contributing factor. The Chippewas have allowed 35.3 points per game during the skid, and Cooper Rush and the offense have been unable to keep up.

    This is basically a toss-up game, which goes to the home team by default. 

    Prediction: Central Michigan 29, Ohio 26

    Final: Central Michigan 28, Ohio 10

Buffalo at Bowling Green

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Travis Greene ran for 129 yards and a touchdown to give Bowling Green a 24-7 win at Buffalo last November, clinching the Mid-American's East Division title. 

    What to watch for

    Buffalo (3-2, 1-0 MAC) got its first win over an FBS team this season last week, but it wasn't easy, outlasting winless Miami (Ohio) thanks to 222 rushing yards and three touchdowns from Anthone Taylor. He has rushed for 579 yards this year, while Joe Licata has 14 touchdown passes. 

    Bowling Green (3-2, 1-0) has accepted its new identity as a team that will need to outscore opponents instead of win low-scoring games like last season. The Falcons have managed to weather the loss of quarterback Matt Johnson to injury, as James Knapke has averaged 309.5 passing yards and is coming off a 443-yard, three-touchdown performance in a 47-42 win at Massachusetts. 

    With neither team looking particularly strong on defense—Bowling Green is allowing an FBS-worst 620.4 yards per game—it may be a last-team-with-the-ball-wins kind of game. 

    Prediction: Bowling Green 48, Buffalo 43

    Final: Bowling Green 36, Buffalo 35

No. 4 Oklahoma at No. 25 TCU

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Brennan Clay's 76-yard run late in the fourth quarter helped Oklahoma pull out a 20-17 home win over TCU last October. 

    What to watch for

    Oklahoma (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) looked impressive during the second half of its 45-33 win at West Virginia last time out, imposing its will behind a powerful run game led by strong freshman Samaje Perine. He ran for 242 yards and scored all three of the Sooners' second-half touchdowns (four overall), helping fill the hole left by an injury to Keith Ford.

    Ford, who suffered a broken bone in his leg Sept. 13, isn't expected to play Saturday, which means Perine and Alex Ross will share the carries again. But Oklahoma will also need Trevor Knight to step up after he was just 16-of-29 for 205 yards and an interception against West Virginia. 

    TCU (3-0) has cruised past three weak opponents to this point, with its best win being a 30-7 victory over an outmatched Minnesota team. The Horned Frogs are allowing only 218.7 yards per game, which ranks second nationally, and have yielded only one rushing touchdown. 

    A big question mark, still, is how TCU's revamped offense will fare against a real defense. Trevone Boykin has shined so far at quarterback, with 1,041 yards of total offense and 11 total touchdowns, but he hasn't been challenged yet. 

    TCU gets its first real test, and while it will get good grades, it won't pass the scoreboard test. 

    Prediction: Oklahoma 29, TCU 21

    Final: TCU 37, Oklahoma 33

New Mexico at UTSA

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Eric Soza threw two touchdown passes in a 21-13 win at New Mexico to open the 2013 season. 

    What to watch for

    New Mexico (1-3) continues to rely heavily on a triple-option run game that produces big yardage numbers—the Lobos rank fifth in the country with 335.5 rushing yards per game—but not that many points, averaging 23.7 points in the three losses. Lamar Jordan has settled in as the quarterback, but the passing aspect is still lacking, and the defense remains a major liability by allowing 6.9 yards per play. 

    UTSA (1-3) has lost three straight since opening with a surprising 27-7 win at Houston, with last week's loss being the most painful. The Roadrunners allowed a touchdown in the final minute at Florida Atlantic, putting them in an 0-1 hole in Conference USA play. Despite a senior-laden team, UTSA is ranked 119th in total offense

    Facing New Mexico is a great way to help establish offensive momentum.

    Prediction: UTSA 40, New Mexico 17

    Final: New Mexico 21, UTSA 9

No. 17 Wisconsin at Northwestern

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Joel Stave threw for 241 yards and three touchdowns in Wisconsin's 35-6 home win over Northwestern last October. 

    What to watch for

    Wisconsin (3-1) has gotten back to basics heading into Big Ten play, which means running the ball as often as possible. Melvin Gordon has come alive the last two weeks, rushing for 434 yards and seven touchdowns during that span. Quarterback Tanner McEvoy is settling into a dual-threat approach that has seen him contribute 453 yards of total offense the last two games. 

    Northwestern (2-2, 1-0) pulled off a huge shocker last week, winning 29-6 at Penn State. Quarterback Trevor Siemian, who had a leg injury earlier this year, ran for three short touchdowns, while the defense got constant pressure on PSU quarterback Christian Hackenberg. 

    The Wildcats suddenly looked like a bowl-worthy team after struggling in their first three games but may return back to a more somber reality if they can't shut down Gordon and Wisconsin's run game. 

    Prediction: Wisconsin 31, Northwestern 21

    Final: Northwestern 20, Wisconsin 14

No. 14 Stanford at No. 9 Notre Dame

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Tyler Gaffney ran for 189 yards and a touchdown in Stanford's 27-20 home win over Notre Dame last November. It was the Cardinal's fourth win in the last five games with the Fighting Irish.

    What to watch for

    Stanford (3-1) brings its No. 1 overall defense to South Bend looking to strut its stuff against another potent attack. The Cardinal have allowed 26 points this season and are giving up 198 yards per game, while opponents are averaging only 74 passing yards and have thrown for one touchdown all year.

    Even with significant losses on defense from a year ago, this unit may be better than last year's. The depth is astounding, as noted by the fact that backup linebacker Peter Kalambayi had three sacks against Washington last weekend.

    But Notre Dame's Everett Golson has been nearly unstoppable, throwing for 1,142 yards and 11 touchdowns while completing 69.6 percent of his passes. That includes a school-record 25 straight completions last Saturday in the 31-15 win over Syracuse.

    Golson also threw two interceptions in that game, including one pick-six, and Notre Dame turned it over five times in what was arguably its worst performance of the season.'s Matt Fortuna believes the Irish will be more focused for Stanford after its lackluster effort last time out:

    Football teams play bad games, even the best ones. Especially at the college level. That Notre Dame got its stinker out of the way against a Syracuse team seemingly with zero interest in taking advantage of Irish miscues is a tremendous burden off the program's shoulders, and one it can waste little time thinking about this week.

    When these teams met two years ago at Notre Dame, the situation was very similar. Stanford's defense was loaded, and Notre Dame was unbeaten. The Irish won in overtime, 20-13, despite Golson getting knocked out with a concussion during the game.

    Golson is far more polished now. He's a more complete quarterback than he was in 2012, and he provides the deciding factor in what should be a one-score game throughout.

    Prediction: Notre Dame 20, Stanford 17

    Final: Notre Dame 17, Stanford 14

No. 3 Alabama at No. 11 Ole Miss

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake combined for 220 rushing yards and two touchdowns, and Alabama held visiting Ole Miss to 205 total yards in a 25-0 win last September.

    What to watch for

    Oxford's Vaught-Hemingway Stadium is hosting arguably its biggest game ever—so important to the college landscape that ESPN's College GameDay has come to town for the first time. It's the chance for Ole Miss (4-0) to not only open SEC play on a high note but to assert itself as a true player in the ultra-deep West Division against perennial power Alabama (4-0, 1-0).

    Ole Miss defensive back Cody Prewitt helped stir up the pot for an already bubbly brew over the weekend when he told Fox Sports' Brandon Speck that "we don't really think Bama is as good as they have been. And we're better than we have been."

    Alabama was off last week, resting and preparing for its first true road game of the year after three relatively easy home wins and a victory over West Virginia in Atlanta. The Crimson Tide haven't been perfect, but what they have done is get better each time out, especially in their 42-21 win over Florida that served as a breakout game for senior quarterback Blake Sims.

    Sims has fully distanced himself from Jake Coker in the battle for Alabama's starting job, completing 71 of 97 passes for 1,091 yards and eight touchdowns. He's benefited greatly from coordinator Lane Kiffin's offense, as well as from the availability of a big-play receiver like Amari Cooper.

    Ole Miss has been far less impressive in its wins, which have come against teams that are a combined 7-11. The Rebels' toughest test came last week against Memphis, whom they only led 7-3 before adding 17 fourth-quarter points, as they couldn't overcome their own mistakes.

    The Rebels have allowed 29 tackles for loss, with quarterback Bo Wallace getting sacked seven times. Wallace has been both great and frustrating, tempering his 1,271 passing yards, 11 touchdowns and 71 percent completion rate with six interceptions.

    Alabama's pass defense is its weakest link, but since giving up 365 yards to West Virginia's Clint Trickett, it has yielded 388 yards with just one touchdown. Wallace is better than the last few passers the Tide have faced, but he is mistake-prone.

    Ole Miss' secondary has been great in its own right, with nine interceptions in four games. But Sims just tore up Florida's well-regarded pass defense for 445 yards and four TDs two weeks ago.

    It wouldn't be a shock to see Ole Miss win this one, but it hasn't shown the ability to dominate in a big situation yet. Alabama has more experience in these scenarios and will pull it out.

    Prediction: Alabama 30, Ole Miss 23

    Final: Ole Miss 23, Alabama 17

Navy at Air Force

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Keenan Reynolds ran for three touchdowns in Navy's 28-10 home win over Air Force last October. 

    What to watch for

    Navy (2-3) has dropped two straight despite having its usual effective run game, which is second nationally at 358.4 yards per outing out of the option. Keenan Reynolds remains the focal point, with seven rushing touchdowns, but he's had to throw more at times. He has completed just 21 of 48 passes and had an interception returned for a touchdown late in the 36-27 home loss to Western Kentucky. 

    Air Force (3-1) is sixth in rushing, at 323 yards per game, but quarterback Kale Pearson has been a much more effective passer than expected. He's thrown for 517 yards and three touchdowns, and he's minimizing his hits taken as a runner.

    The Falcons also have shown an impressive defense, which last week forced seven turnovers in a 28-14 win over Boise State in Mountain West play. Weston Steelhammer had three of those picks.

    Air Force has its best chance to win the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy since 2011, and beating Navy is the first step. 

    Prediction: Air Force 34, Navy 28

    Final: Air Force 30, Navy 21

Oregon State at Colorado

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; 4 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Sean Mannion threw for 414 yards and six touchdowns in Oregon State's 44-17 home win over Colorado last September. 

    What to watch for

    Oregon State (3-1, 0-1 Pac-12) was dominated at USC last week, managing only a field goal on offense while seeing quarterback Sean Mannion get shut down for the first time this season. The Beavers are 89th in total offense, at 380.3 yards per game, with Mannion (1,026 passing yards, four touchdowns) trending far below last season's pace. 

    Colorado (2-3, 0-2) lost a heartbreaker at California last week, falling 59-56 in double overtime despite 449 passing yards and seven touchdowns from Sefo Liufau. He and receiver Nelson Spruce—who leads the nation in receptions (56), yards (694) and touchdowns (10)—have been a great tandem, but the Buffaloes need more to get over the hump. 

    Oregon State hasn't had a very impressive result yet, while Colorado has shown some flashes. Give this one to the home team.

    Prediction: Colorado 36, Oregon State 33

    Final: Oregon State 36, Colorado 31

Vanderbilt at No. 13 Georgia

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; 4 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Vanderbilt scored 17 points in the final 10:38 of the fourth quarter to beat visiting Georgia 31-27 last October, earning its first win over a ranked team since 2008.  

    What to watch for

    Vanderbilt (1-4, 0-3 SEC) doesn't have the results to show for it, but its last few games have been far better than the early blowout losses to Temple and Ole Miss. The Commodores can't put a complete game together, though, particularly on the offensive end, where they're averaging 254.6 yards per game to rank 124th in the nation.

    Vandy's quarterbacks have thrown three touchdown passes and nine interceptions, with Wade Freebeck throwing for just 85 yards and three picks on 8-of-25 passing last week in a 17-7 loss at Kentucky.    

    Georgia (3-1, 1-1) has only managed to have one stress-free game, a walkover against Troy, while the rest have been back-and-forth affairs. Last week the Bulldogs needed a fumble recovery in the end zone to help offset shoddy pass defense in the fourth quarter of its 35-32 home win over Tennessee. For the year, that supposedly improved unit has allowed 424 yards per game in SEC play.   

    This should be a confidence-boosting game for Georgia's defense, while Todd Gurley and his fellow runners are likely to run wild on Vanderbilt. 

    Prediction: Georgia 43, Vanderbilt 24

    Final: Georgia 44, Vanderbilt 17

Kansas at West Virginia

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; 4 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: James Sims ran for 211 yards and three touchdowns in Kansas' 31-19 home win over West Virginia last November, ending a 27-game Big 12 losing streak. 

    What to watch for

    Kansas (2-2, 0-1 Big 12) is under new leadership after the school fired Charlie Weis on Sunday. Clint Bowen takes over as interim coach of a team that has lost 25 straight road games and is coming off a 23-0 home loss to Texas. The Jayhawks are playing decent defense, but they're averaging only 359 yards per game.

    West Virginia (2-2, 0-1) has the No. 11 offense in the country at 551.5 yards per game, but the Mountaineers haven't produced results on defense to allow the work of quarterback Clint Trickett (1,600 yards, nine touchdowns) and receiver Kevin White (633 yards) to produce better results. The defense has only forced three takeaways, putting West Virginia at minus-five in turnover margin.

    A visit from Kansas often cures what ails.

    Prediction: West Virginia 55, Kansas 13

    Final: West Virginia 33, Kansas 14

Kent State at Northern Illinois

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; 5 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Cameron Stingily ran for 266 yards and two touchdowns in Northern Illinois' 38-24 win at Kent State last October. 

    What to watch for

    Kent State (0-4, 0-1 Mid-American) has managed just 40 points this season and no more than 14 in a single game. The Golden Flashes are third worst in FBS in rushing, gaining just 44 yards per game, while in their last two games they've allowed 111 points in losses at Ohio State and Virginia. 

    Northern Illinois (3-1) is the crown jewel of the MAC, coming in on a 23-game win streak against conference foes during the regular season. The Huskies have also won 27 straight games at Huskie Stadium, though this season they've played only once at home and not since Aug. 28.

    Gone is dual-threat quarterback Jordan Lynch, but his production has been replaced well by quarterback Drew Hare (673 passing yards, eight touchdowns) and a run game that's 14th in the country at 274.8 yards per game. 

    This should be the start of a dominating run for Northern Illinois, whose next five opponents have a combined three victories.

    Prediction: Northern Illinois 58, Kent State 14

    Final: Northern Illinois 17, Kent State 14

South Alabama at Appalachian State

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; 6 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    South Alabama (2-2, 1-1 Sun Belt) has won both of its road games and lost badly at home twice, making the Jaguars one of the hardest teams in FBS to figure out this season. A 105-yard, one-touchdown performance by running back Jay Jones in the 34-10 win at Idaho last week could be the turning point, though.

    Appalachian State (1-3, 0-1) is playing its first home game against an FBS team, having beaten FCS Campbell in Kidd Brewer Stadium earlier this season. The Mountaineers haven't gotten the rushing output from Marcus Cox (319 yards, five touchdowns) they expected, which has limited the offense as a whole. 

    Getting a chance to knock off an FBS team in front of the home crowd will spark Appalachian State to victory. 

    Prediction: Appalachian State 27, South Alabama 21

    Final: South Alabama 47, Appalachian State 21

Louisiana-Monroe at Arkansas State

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Michael Gordon ran for three touchdowns in Arkansas State's 42-14 win at Louisiana-Monroe last November. 

    What to watch for

    Louisiana-Monroe (3-1, 2-0 Sun Belt) has been outscored 92-77 this season, but take away the 31-0 loss at LSU, and the Warhawks have allowed just 20.3 points per game in their victories. They were all one-score wins, though, as ULM's offense ranks only 110th and is putting a lot of pressure on a 22nd-ranked defense

    Arkansas State (2-2) is still settling into the way that new coach Blake Anderson runs things, but its 21-14 overtime win over Utah State last time out was a move in the right direction. The Red Wolves have been battle-tested by playing at Tennessee and Miami (Florida) and, combined with defending league champion Louisiana-Lafayette's early struggles, should be a top contender for the Sun Belt title.

    Knocking off current front-runner ULM is the first step toward that goal.

    Prediction: Arkansas State 28, Louisiana-Monroe 20

    Final: Arkansas State 28, Louisiana-Monroe 14

Georgia State at Louisiana-Lafayette

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Terrance Broadway threw four touchdown passes in Louisiana-Lafayette's 35-21 win at Georgia State last November. 

    What to watch for

    Georgia State (1-3, 0-1 Sun Belt) has dropped three straight since earning its first-ever win as an FBS program, but the Panthers have been in every game they've played. Last time out they led 14-0 at halftime at Washington, only to lose by 31, with quarterback Nick Arbuckle (1,315 yards, nine touchdowns) providing the main offensive spark.

    Louisiana-Lafayette (1-3) has also lost three in a row and looked very bad doing so. The Ragin' Cajuns have a minus-nine turnover margin, with Terrance Broadway throwing seven interceptions against just four touchdowns. ULL has won at least nine games each of the past three seasons, but to make that happen again, it will need to ramp it up in Sun Belt play.

    Getting Georgia State as its opener is a good way to start that rebound.

    Prediction: Louisiana-Lafayette 40, Georgia State 20

    Final: Louisiana-Lafayette 34, Georgia State 31

No. 15 LSU at No. 5 Auburn

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Jeremy Hill ran for 184 yards and three touchdowns in LSU's 35-21 home win over Auburn last September; LSU was the only team to beat Auburn during the regular season.

    What to watch for

    LSU (4-1, 0-1 SEC) begins the Brandon Harris era in a very daunting environment, giving the true freshman his first career start after a pair of stellar performances in relief of struggling quarterback Anthony Jennings. Harris has completed 17 of 23 passes for 318 yards and five touchdowns in the last two games, nearly leading LSU back in the loss to Mississippi State and then engineering seven TDs in as many drives last week against New Mexico State.

    Harris is one of several young players who are starting to break through for LSU, along with running back Leonard Fournette and wide receiver Malachi Dupre. The youth movement is helping to pick up the slack for LSU's annual NFL attrition, which this year has seemed to lead to a much slower start than in past seasons.

    The quarterback situation has had a big impact on that, but now with Harris in the starting role, a lot could change based on his recent results.

    But LSU's defense was exposed two weeks ago by a run-oriented offense led by a mobile quarterback. And Auburn's version of that approach is more proven than the Mississippi State one that ran for 302 yards and gained 570.

    LSU handled Nick Marshall and Auburn a year ago before anyone was paying attention to that team. Auburn only averaged 4.1 yards per carry in that game, and Marshall was forced to throw 33 times and was intercepted twice.

    Marshall has become more accomplished as a passer since then, though, and he's shown that the past two weeks with teams getting better at shutting down Auburn's running game. Against Kansas State, he threw for 231 yards and two TDs, and last week against Louisiana Tech he had three TD passes on just 17 attempts.

    Quan Bray caught two of those TDs on deep balls, giving Auburn a new element to its offense from a guy who was already known as a great punt returner. Bray also brought back a punt for a score against Louisiana Tech, and his 36.8 yards-per-return average is No. 1 in the nation.

    "He's one of the better punt returners in all of college football right now, and he established himself as a big-play guy in the passing game," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said on his Monday radio show, according to's Brandon Marcello. "That will really help us as an offense moving forward."

    This will be a wide-open, high-scoring game, and Auburn has shown more capability to overcome adversity of late.

    Prediction: Auburn 37, LSU 31

    Final: Auburn 41, LSU 7

Hawaii at Rice

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Rice beat Hawaii 41-29 in September 2004. 

    What to watch for

    Hawaii (1-3) has lost its three games to FBS foes by 18 points, playing much better defense than expected but failing to produce much on offense. Quarterback Ikaika Woolsey has thrown only one touchdown pass—a far cry from the past Warriors teams that were passing juggernauts. 

    Rice (1-3) ended a four-game losing streak by winning at Southern Mississippi last week, and the Owls are starting to find their rhythm on offense by scoring 83 points in the last two games. Quarterback Driphus Jackson and running back Jowan Davis are the focal points, and as both improve, Rice will have a good shot to defend its Conference USA title.

    First, though, comes another confidence-boosting win over an overmatched Hawaii team that hasn't won on the mainland since October 2011. 

    Prediction: Rice 33, Hawaii 17

    Final: Rice 28, Hawaii 14

Idaho at Texas State

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Tyler Jones threw two touchdown passes in Texas State's 37-21 win at Idaho last November. 

    What to watch for

    Idaho (0-4, 0-2 Sun Belt) is riding an 11-game losing streak, and in last week's 34-10 home loss to South Alabama, it saw its normally solid offense disappear. The Vandals are 117th in total defense and can't afford to fail to put points on the board. 

    Texas State (2-2) won in triple overtime at Tulsa last week, bouncing back from blowing a lead at Illinois the previous game. The Bobcats have gotten solid quarterback play from sophomore Tyler Jones, who has thrown 11 touchdown passes against just two interceptions.

    The Bobcats could vie for a high spot in Sun Belt play, and taking down the bottom-feeder opponents will help that cause.

    Prediction: Texas State 39, Idaho 21

    Final: Texas State 35, Idaho 30

Toledo at Western Michigan

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: David Fluellen ran for four touchdowns in a 47-20 win for Toledo over visiting Western Michigan last October. 

    What to watch for

    Toledo (3-2, 2-0 Mid-American) has picked up the pace on offense to help offset a defense that's rather soft, enabling the Rockets to jump out to a quick start in conference play. They had to outlast Central Michigan 42-28 last week without top running back Kareem Hunt, who injured his ankle and is a question mark for Saturday. 

    Western Michigan (2-2) is among the more balanced teams in the country, offensively, but in last week's 35-17 loss at Virginia Tech, running back Jarvion Franklin was slowed and couldn't help quarterback Zach Terrell. The Broncos still got two rushing touchdowns from Franklin, who has run for 618 yards and leads FBS with 11 TDs.

    Assuming Hunt isn't able to go, Western Michigan has the edge.

    Prediction: Western Michigan 37, Toledo 31

    Final: Toledo 20, Western Michigan 19 (OT)

Michigan at Rutgers

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Michigan (2-3, 0-1 Big Ten) is at the center of the country's collective attention for both the way it's played this season—scoring 24 points in three games against power programs—and for the controversy surrounding quarterback Shane Morris' health (concussion) at the end of last week's 30-14 home loss to Minnesota.

    Coach Brady Hoke's seat is as hot as ever, and with the Wolverines going back to Devin Gardner at quarterback, the Wolverines need to get something going soon. 

    Rutgers (4-1, 0-1) could be unbeaten if it hadn't blown a 10-0 lead at home against Penn State in its Big Ten debut a few weeks ago. Other than that, the Scarlet Knights have looked pretty good and continue to do so even with the loss of running back Paul James to a season-ending knee injury.

    Senior quarterback Gary Nova threw four touchdown passes last week against Tulane, and he's completed 25 of 35 passes with only one interception since getting picked off five times against Penn State. 

    The momentum that each team has right now is taking them in different directions. If Hoke has any shot to hold onto his job, he must win this game, but that's not going to happen. 

    Prediction: Rutgers 27, Michigan 20

    Final: Rutgers 26, Michigan 24

UAB at Western Kentucky

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: UAB beat Western Kentucky 20-16 in 1997. 

    What to watch for

    UAB (2-2, 0-1 Conference USA) took a major step back in its rebuilding project last week, losing by 14 points at home to Florida International. Six turnovers (including two interceptions returned for touchdowns) sapped any offensive pace, and with a defense that doesn't make a lot of stops, the Blazers can ill afford to give the ball away. 

    Western Kentucky (2-2, 0-1) notched an impressive win at Navy last week and continues to have one of the best passing attacks in the country. Quarterback Brandon Doughty has thrown for 1,846 yards and 14 touchdowns, enabling the Hilltoppers to average 44 points per game. 

    The Hilltoppers haven't been home since Aug. 29, when they scored 59 in a win over Bowling Green. They could top that by the end of the third quarter. 

    Prediction: Western Kentucky 60, UAB 24

    Final: UAB 42, Western Kentucky 39

UTEP at Louisiana Tech

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Kenneth Dixon ran for 200 yards and a touchdown in Louisiana Tech's 38-35 win at UTEP last October. 

    What to watch for

    UTEP (2-2) heads into Conference USA play following a 30-point loss at Kansas State, but the rest of the Miners' results this season have been promising. Hard-running Aaron Jones (596 yards, seven touchdowns) has been their top weapon, but he was stifled last week, and UTEP doesn't have a defense to handle such setbacks. 

    Louisiana Tech (2-3, 1-0) has had a very up-and-down start to the season, pulling off surprising wins at North Texas and Louisiana-Lafayette but also losing at home to FCS Northwestern State. Kenneth Dixon has rushed for seven touchdowns, while Cody Sokol has thrown 10 TD passes.

    The host Bulldogs will right the ship in a high-scoring game. 

    Prediction: Louisiana Tech 41, UTEP 31

    Final: Louisiana Tech 55, UTEP 3

Texas Tech at No. 23 Kansas State

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Jake Waters threw a touchdown pass and ran for two scores in Kansas State's 49-26 win at Texas Tech last November. 

    What to watch for

    Texas Tech (2-2, 0-1 Big 12) has been beaten down pretty badly on the defensive end all season, and the situation was not helped by the sudden resignation of coordinator Matt Wallerstedt last month. The Red Raiders are allowing 455 yards per game and have yielded 261.3 yards per game and 15 touchdowns on the ground.

    With the defense constantly worn down, extra pressure has been put on the offense, but turnovers continue to be a problem for Texas Tech. It has lost the turnover battle in 12 straight games and has a minus-five turnover margin this season.

    Quarterback Davis Webb separated his left (non-throwing) shoulder late in the 45-35 loss Sept. 25 at Oklahoma State and will be a game-time decision, according to Daniel Paulling of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.

    Kansas State (3-1, 1-0) cleaned up some of its own mistakes last week in an easy nonconference win over UTEP, with quarterback Jake Waters getting some help from his running backs. Charles Jones only has 228 yards but has scored eight times, with Waters adding five more rushing TDs.

    The Wildcats blew a chance to upset Auburn two weeks ago, but if they can continue to fix their mistakes, they'll be a contender in Big 12 play. Knocking off the struggling Red Raiders is imperative to that goal.

    Prediction: Kansas State 34, Texas Tech 20

    Final: Kansas State 45, Texas Tech 13

Memphis at Cincinnati

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Brendon Kay threw for 321 yards and a touchdown in Cincinnati's 34-21 win at Memphis last October. 

    What to watch for

    Memphis (2-2) comes into American Athletic Conference play having competed hard in losses at UCLA and Ole Miss while downing an FCS team and rival Middle Tennessee at home. The Tigers are much improved from a year ago but still need to do more than just hang with tough opponents, which means getting more consistent on offense. 

    Cincinnati (2-1) has been a prolific passing team under Notre Dame transfer Gunner Kiel, who has thrown for 1,041 yards and 14 touchdowns in three games. But the Bearcats don't have a run game to balance out their offense, and they've allowed 36 points per game and are fourth worst nationally in total defense at 545.7 yards given up per game. 

    A good defense against a great offense leads to an intriguing matchup, but Kiel hasn't been slowed yet and will continue to pass Cincinnati down the field. 

    Prediction: Cincinnati 34, Memphis 21

    Final: Memphis 41, Cincinnati 14

Miami (Florida) at Georgia Tech

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; 7:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Duke Johnson ran for 184 yards in Miami's 45-30 home win over Georgia Tech last October. 

    What to watch for

    Miami (3-2, 1-1 ACC) put together a solid defensive effort in its 22-10 win over Duke last week, while its offense continues to improve behind freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya. But the big development was Duke Johnson's first breakout rushing performance since missing the second half of last year due to injury, as the junior ran for 155 yards and a touchdown. 

    Georgia Tech (4-0, 1-0) has gotten a great performance to date from quarterback Justin Thomas. In addition to pacing the Yellow Jackets' option run game, he has thrown for 610 yards and seven touchdowns. Tech rallied late to win at Virginia Tech two weeks ago and also had a close call against Georgia Southern, but the program has managed to hold strong and is playing with plenty of confidence. 

    The up-for-grabs ACC Coastal Division will have a clear leader after this one in the form of Georgia Tech.

    Prediction: Georgia Tech 31, Miami 24

    Final: Georgia Tech 28, Miami 17

Pittsburgh at Virginia

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; 7:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Pittsburgh used two first-quarter touchdowns and solid defense to hold on in a 14-3 home win over Virginia last September. 

    What to watch for

    Pittsburgh (3-2, 1-0 ACC) has dropped two straight at home, with last week's 21-10 loss to Akron representing a low point that featured an absence of the power run game that has paced the Panthers this season. James Conner remains one of the leading rushers in the country, with 791 yards and nine touchdowns, but he can't do it all. 

    Virginia (3-2, 1-0) has been carried by its defense, which helped it upset Louisville three weeks ago and also slowed down UCLA in the season opener. The Cavaliers offense is coming along slowly, and despite Greyson Lambert missing last week's win over Kent State with an ankle injury, the team was in good hands with quarterback Matt Johns, amassing 292 yards of total offense and three touchdowns. 

    The ACC's Coastal Division is wide-open, with every game seemingly a toss-up. Advantage goes to the home team in such games, and Virginia has played well in Scott Stadium this season. 

    Prediction: Virgina 27, Pittsburgh 17

    Final: Virginia 24, Pittsburgh 19

Arizona State at No. 16 USC

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; 7:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Marion Grice ran for two touchdowns and caught two more TD passes in Arizona State's 62-41 home win over USC last September, a game that led to USC firing coach Lane Kiffin afterward. 

    What to watch for

    Arizona State (3-1, 0-1 Pac-12) was blown out at home Sept. 25, losing 62-27 to UCLA in a game where the loss of quarterback Taylor Kelly was felt both in the mistakes from backup Mike Bercovici and in how the defense overplayed while trying to pick up the slack. Kelly is considered doubtful for this game with a foot injury, according to Tyler Lockman of Fox Sports

    The Sun Devils aren't a one-dimensional team, but without Kelly they need running back D.J. Foster to contribute like he did in their first three games. He was shut down by UCLA and didn't factor into the pass game much, while ASU's defense blew tackles and allowed too many big plays.

    USC (3-1, 2-0) dominated Oregon State last week, and though its offensive numbers weren't stellar, the Trojans were efficient and mistake-free. Quarterback Cody Kessler has remained the most consistent part of that attack, with 1,107 passing yards, 10 touchdowns and a 72 percent completion rate without throwing an interception.

    The defense was superb last week, shutting down OSU quarterback Sean Mannion and converting an interception into a touchdown. ASU will still score, regardless of who plays quarterback—Bercovici still threw for 488 yards last week, despite his struggles—but as long as USC avoids giving up big plays, it should win comfortably. 

    Prediction: USC 40, Arizona State 27

    Final: Arizona State 38, USC 34

South Carolina at Kentucky

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; 7:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Mike Davis ran for two touchdowns in a 35-28 home win for South Carolina over Kentucky last October. 

    What to watch for

    South Carolina (3-2, 2-2 SEC) continues to be one of the most perplexing teams in the country, knocking off hot East Carolina and East Division rival Georgia but falling to Texas A&M and Missouri. Last week's 21-20 loss to Missouri was particularly troubling, as the Gamecocks played great defense for three-plus quarters and then fell apart by allowing two late touchdowns. 

    Dylan Thompson has mostly carried South Carolina's offense, throwing for 1,359 yards and 12 touchdowns, but he needs more balance from the run game beyond the occasional decent game from Mike Davis. 

    Kentucky (3-1, 1-1) ended its 17-game conference losing streak last week against Vanderbilt, and while the victory wasn't pretty, it provided plenty of momentum for this game. The Wildcats have beaten South Carolina once since 2000, but with Patrick Towles playing well at quarterback and Mark Stoops' defense allowing just 15 points per game, the time is now. 

    Knocking off a subpar South Carolina team shouldn't be storm-the-field-worthy, but that's likely to be an occurrence here. 

    Prediction: Kentucky 28, South Carolina 23

    Final: Kentucky 45, South Carolina 38

Georgia Southern at New Mexico State

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    Mike Stewart/Associated Press

    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Georgia Southern (3-2, 2-0 Sun Belt) is in its first season of FBS play but may just end up winning the conference thanks to its effective option run game. The Eagles very easily could be 5-0, having lost at North Carolina and Georgia Tech (who are a combined 8-1) by five points, and they're leading the nation in rushing at 367.2 yards per game. 

    New Mexico State (2-3, 1-0) has dropped three in a row since a surprising 2-0 start, as it has allowed 143 points in the last three games. The Aggies have a decent quarterback in Tyler Rogers, a sophomore who has thrown for nine touchdowns but has also been picked off eight times. Those mistakes have been costly when paired with a defense that is last in the country against the run. 

    Look for both teams to remain at the top and bottom of the respective rushing rankings, with the visiting Eagles running all over the Aggies. 

    Prediction: Georgia Southern 45, New Mexico State 30

    Final: Georgia Southern 36, New Mexico State 28

UNLV at San Jose State

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Jarrod Lawson had 187 rushing yards and a touchdown in San Jose State's 34-24 win at UNLV last November. 

    What to watch for

    UNLV (1-4, 0-1 Mountain West) has fallen on hard times after reaching a bowl game last season, with just a one-point win over an FCS team to its credit in 2013. The Rebels are allowing 46.8 points per game against FBS teams and have given up 546 yards per game all told. 

    San Jose State (1-3, 0-1) has dropped three in a row, falling at home last week to Nevada in its conference opener after blowout losses at Minnesota and Auburn. The Spartans were 6-6 a year ago but haven't found their rhythm yet this season with new starters all over the offense. 

    San Jose gets on track, at least for this game. 

    Prediction: San Jose State 33, UNLV 21

    Final: San Jose State 33, UNLV 10

No. 19 Nebraska at No. 10 Michigan State

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Jeremy Langford ran for 151 yards and three touchdowns in Michigan State's 41-28 home win over Nebraska last November.

    What to watch for

    There hasn't been a lot to be unhappy about with Nebraska's start (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten), other than possibly the competition the Cornhuskers have faced to this point. That all changes with a trip to East Lansing, where Michigan State (3-1) has spent the past few weeks pounding on similarly weak opponents but doing so without having to use its starters much.

    Nebraska is averaging 45.4 points per game, and it's not doing it just with its normal run approach. While Ameer Abdullah has been nearly unstoppable, rushing for an FBS-leading 833 yards along with eight touchdowns, it's been the dual-threat ability of quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. that's been the X-factor so far. He has thrown for 1,052 yards and 10 touchdowns while adding 420 rushing yards (on 8.4 yards per carry) and two TDs.

    "I'm getting more physical when it comes to running," Armstrong said during Nebraska's weekly press conference. "I'm trying to make smarter decisions and stuff like that, just putting my offense in the right position."

    Michigan State struggled with a mobile quarterback who had good ball-carriers behind him earlier this season, blowing a 27-18 lead at Oregon to lose 46-27. Since then, the Spartans have demolished Eastern Michigan and Wyoming by a combined score of 129-28 but haven't had the chance to face another offense that matches what will be on the other side of the field Saturday.

    What Michigan State has been able to do these past few games, though, is tinker with its offense to ensure that both quarterback Connor Cook and running back Jeremy Langford are getting opportunities to contribute. And since the games have been blowouts, they and other starters have sat early and will be fresh for this big game.

    Nebraska will put up a good fight, but Michigan State is the better team and playing at home.

    Prediction: Michigan State 34, Nebraska 23

    Final: Michigan State 27, Nebraska 22

Boise State at Nevada

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; 10:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Jay Ajayi ran for 222 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-17 home win over Nevada last October. 

    What to watch for

    Boise State (3-2, 1-1 Mountain West) trailed 28-0 at Air Force last week before ultimately losing by 14 points, as the Broncos turned it over seven times. Grant Hedrick was intercepted four times, and for the year he has thrown nine picks. Running back Jay Ajayi has 557 rushing yards and five touchdowns but has individual outputs ranging from 39 to 219 yards. 

    Nevada (3-1, 1-0) earned a solid win at San Jose State last week to continue its trend of being able to win low-scoring games. The Wolf Pack's offense isn't as prolific as in the past, but quarterback Cody Fajardo has been efficient and has avoided making mistakes.

    The Mountain West is a wide-open league, and Boise's vulnerability is going to be exploited regularly on the road. 

    Prediction: Nevada 30, Boise State 20

    Final: Boise State 51, Nevada 46

Utah at No. 8 UCLA

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; 10:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Brett Hundley's 36-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter provided the final margin in UCLA's 34-27 win at Utah last October. 

    What to watch for

    Utah (3-1, 0-1 Pac-12) fell apart in the second half of its 28-27 home loss to Washington State, blowing a 24-7 lead as its offense just disappeared. Being able to move the ball effectively has been an issue for the Utes the past two games, even in the upset win at Michigan, as they averaged only 4.47 yards per play and 321.5 yards per game during that stretch.

    UCLA had its best game of the season last time out, crushing Arizona State 62-27 on the road as Brett Hundley showed no ill effects from the left (non-throwing) elbow injury that knocked him out of the previous game. With Hundley executing the offense to perfection, the Bruins are nearly unstoppable. Having big plays from defense and special teams only makes them that much harder to stop.

    Ishmael Adams returned both an interception and a kickoff for touchdowns against ASU, and for the year UCLA's defense and special teams have provided five TDs.

    Utah squandered all of the momentum it had built from a 3-0 start with the loss to Washington State and now hits the road against a very confident opponent. Not a good combination for the Utes. 

    Prediction: UCLA 38, Utah 17

    Final: Utah 30, UCLA 28

California at Washington State

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 4; 10:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Connor Halliday threw for 521 yards and three touchdowns in Washington State's 44-22 win at California last October. 

    What to watch for

    The over/under on this defense-optional late-night game, according to Odds Shark, is 78.5 points.

    California (3-1, 1-1 Pac-12) is coming off a 59-56 double-overtime home win over Colorado, a week after losing 49-45 at Arizona on a Hail Mary pass. The Golden Bears are much improved offensively this season, with quarterback Jared Goff already throwing for 17 touchdowns. But that defense, which was bad last year, is just as soft this year and is allowing 478 yards per game. 

    Washington State (2-3, 1-1) is executing the Mike Leach Air Raid offense with its usual efficiency, which means a whole lot of Connor Halliday passing and very little running. He has 2,318 passing yards and 20 touchdowns, and he's hit seven different receivers for at least 16 receptions. The Cougars defense isn't great, but it's not horrible, and last week the team held Utah to three second-half points to enable a 28-27 comeback road win. 

    Late games out West tend to be wild and wacky, and this could be the craziest of them all.

    Prediction: Washington State 51, California 49

    Final: California 60, Washington State 59

    All statistical information courtesy of

    Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.


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