B/R Experts Answer Biggest CFB Questions for Week 5

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystSeptember 27, 2019

B/R Experts Answer Biggest CFB Questions for Week 5

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    USC's Clay Helton and Matt Fink
    USC's Clay Helton and Matt FinkMarcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Thus far in the 2019 college football season, we have oscillated between weeks with can't-miss, playoff-projection-altering showdowns and weeks in which all of the "important" teams seem to either be idle or favored by at least two touchdowns.

    Unfortunately, this is one of the latter weeks.

    But a dearth of Top 10 battles doesn't mean it will be a boring slate. In fact, the absence of those games will mean more attention on the likes of Minnesota, Wake Forest, SMU, Kansas State and Baylor, each of which is undefeated and could start to get a lot of praise with continued success.

    Also, though several of the top Heisman Trophy candidates (Joe Burrow, Sam Ehlinger and Justin Herbert) have the weekend off, Tua Tagovailoa, Jalen Hurts and Justin Fields should put on a clinic against subpar defenses. And the lone running back legitimately in the mix (Jonathan Taylor) could have a big day against Northwestern.

    And there's always the possibility of a colossal upset or two, right?

    To help you figure out what to expect, Bleacher Report's college football experts—David Kenyon, Kerry Miller, Brad Shepard and Ian Wharton—joined forces to offer up predictions on the hottest burning questions, such as:

    • Will Notre Dame bounce back from last week's loss to Georgia?
    • Can USC be trusted to win a road game against Washington?
    • What type of performances will Taylor and Fields have?
    • And what will Anthony "Mr. Nine Touchdowns" Gordon do for an encore against Utah?

    Our experts are on the case.

No. 21 USC at No. 17 Washington: Who You Got?

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    Washington QB Jacob Eason
    Washington QB Jacob EasonTed S. Warren/Associated Press

    David Kenyon

    I jumped aboard the Kedon Slovis bandwagon immediately, and then USC proceeded to lose at BYU. I'm not making the same mistake twice. Matt Fink played a tremendous game off the bench while stunning Utah, but Washington's pass defense is outstanding. I'll take the Huskies in spite of their slightly underwhelming pass rush.

                  

    Kerry Miller

    Got to go with Washington at home. The Huskies have scored at least 45 points in three of their four games, pouncing on each of those opponents with 21 first-quarter points. They have also held all four of their opponents to 20 points or fewer and appear to be well-equipped to slow USC's passing attack. Jacob Eason will have another great performance in a 34-23 UW victory.

            

    Brad Shepard

    We've seen over the past few weeks that Clay Helton has recruited the quarterback position well at Southern Cal. No matter who the Trojans put in, he seems to play well. But Washington has its own star quarterback in Eason, and he was back in all-conference form last weekend against BYU. Eason is the steadier play here, and though the Huskies are young, they're a bit deeper than the Trojans. They also have the home-field advantage. U-Dub wins 30-24.

                  

    Ian Wharton

    Washington. Eason's play over the last two weeks has been a promising development for the rest of the Huskies' season. If only he had performed as impressively against Cal, then the Huskies might still be in the playoff hunt.

Will No. 10 Notre Dame End No. 18 Virginia's Undefeated Season?

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    Virginia CB Bryce Hall
    Virginia CB Bryce HallAndrew Shurtleff/Associated Press

    David Kenyon

    Notre Dame will top Virginia—and relatively easily. It'll be a while before I buy any Cavaliers hype. Given the status of its Coastal Division competition, UVA will probably appear in the ACC title game against Clemson. But the inefficiency this offense has shown (81st in yards per play) while facing four uninspiring opponents is not a great sign.

                        

    Kerry Miller

    Notre Dame gets the win, but this will be an ugly game. Both teams are significantly better on defense than they are on offense, but at least the Fighting Irish have big-play potential.

    Through four games, Virginia has had just five plays that went for at least 30 yards and has not yet had one go for more than 40. And Notre Dame did a great job of defending Georgia's patented dink-and-dunk offense last weekend, so I doubt Virginia will have any better luck with less-gifted playmakers. Meanwhile, Notre Dame has had four plays of 50-plus yards in just three games, and the next such strike will blow this game open a bit. Notre Dame wins 27-14.

                

    Brad Shepard

    Yes. The Fighting Irish made me a believer last weekend against Georgia. Before that game, I didn't think they had the talent or speed on defense. Though they couldn't quite beat UGA, they will upend the Cavaliers. Virginia quarterback Bryce Perkins will make his share of plays, and head coach Bronco Mendenhall will have a quality game plan. Still, Notre Dame is going to get a close, hard-earned win.

            

    Ian Wharton

    Yes. I like this Virginia team, and it should be a terrific battle, but Notre Dame showed it belongs as a Top 10 squad in the loss to Georgia. The Irish can't afford a C-level effort and expect to win, though. They'll bring something close to their A-game and take the W.

Will There Be Any Unranked-over-Ranked Upsets This Weekend?

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    Kansas State QB Skylar Thompson
    Kansas State QB Skylar ThompsonVasha Hunt/Associated Press

    David Kenyon

    No. 12 Penn State's trip to Maryland is intriguing because it checks off three important upset boxes: non-Saturday, ranked team on the road, in-conference. Penn State will survive, though. The game I'm watching closely is No. 24 Kansas State at Oklahoma State. While I'm siding with OSU's explosive offense, this is a great opportunity for new K-State coach Chris Klieman and his Wildcats to rise a tier in the Big 12 hierarchy.

                      

    Kerry Miller

    The obvious pick is Oklahoma State at home against No. 24 Kansas State. Even Vegas doesn't have faith in the Wildcats in that game. I could also see a little carnage in the Pac-12 in the form of Arizona State upsetting No. 15 California on Friday night and/or Washington State clipping No. 19 Utah late on Saturday. I'm not picking either of those Pac-12 upsets, though. Nor am I picking Mississippi State to knock off No. 7 Auburn, but I will say that's the most likely candidate if we're destined for a major shake-up this weekend.

                        

    Brad Shepard

    Yes, two. Like most, I have no idea what happened to Washington State last weekend against UCLA. That was just one of those games that got going in one direction and snowballed into a disaster for Mike Leach. He'll have the Cougars ready for a rebound against a strong Utah team this week. Also, Kansas State is perhaps the best early-season story you don't know much about with long-time North Dakota state coach Chris Klieman now at the helm, but Oklahoma State has too much firepower and will snap the Wildcats' three-game streak this weekend.

                           

    Ian Wharton

    There definitely will be some upsets. Maryland over No. 12 Penn State, and Oklahoma State over No. 24 Kansas State look advantageous for the unranked team. Both the Terrapins and Cowboys have the offensive firepower to come out strong at home.

How Many Combined Rushing/Receiving Yards for Jonathan Taylor vs. Northwestern?

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    Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor
    Wisconsin RB Jonathan TaylorAndy Manis/Associated Press

    David Kenyon

    Northwestern's defense is fine, but it's difficult to compete when the offense stinks like this. The Wildcats mustered 475 yards on 141 combined snaps against Stanford and Michigan State, scoring just 17 total points. Wisconsin merely has the best defense in the nation statistically, so expecting the trend to change is foolish. Give me 170 yards for Taylor on 20-25 touches.

                   

    Kerry Miller

    It feels ridiculous to put a cap on what this man can do, especially after he rushed for 203 yards last week against Michigan. But Northwestern has been one of the few teams capable of slowing him.

    Taylor had at least 100 yards in all but one of his 13 games last year, and the exception was a 46-yard dud against the Wildcats. They limited him to 4.2 yards per carry in each of the previous two seasons, and Northwestern has held each of its opponents to 365 total yards or fewer this season. I hope I'm extremely low because it's fun to watch this guy do his thing, but I'm going with 98 total yards for Taylor.

    (Wisconsin still wins comfortably, though, since the Badgers are elite on defense and since Northwestern's offense is a dumpster fire.)

                       

    Brad Shepard

    Taylor has just six receptions this year and has never been known as a receiving back, but he's working on that part of his game as a complement to his NFL-ready rushing attack. With the Wildcats keying on the run, Taylor will have three or four more catches this weekend for 30-plus yards. He's proved it doesn't matter if teams stack the box against him, so he'll get his rushing yardage. He'll wind up with around 160 total yards with two touchdowns.

                  

    Ian Wharton

    It'll be an absurd amount again—something like 234 total yards. Taylor is unstoppable, so long as his offensive line can hold its own. Against Northwestern, that won't be a problem.

Will Justin Fields Maintain His Streak of Games with at Least 4 Touchdowns?

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    Ohio State QB Justin Fields
    Ohio State QB Justin FieldsJay LaPrete/Associated Press

    David Kenyon

    Justin Fields will run his streak of games with four touchdowns to five straight. While I'm not predicting an upset, Nebraska will score a few touchdowns. The Huskers have put up 31-plus points in every game, after all. Even if Ohio State seems in control for most of the nightwhich I anticipate will happenFields probably won't leave the field early in Week 5. As a bonus, he'll throw and run for at least two scores each.

            

    Kerry Miller

    I mean, the dude accounted for six touchdowns in one quarter last weekend, and Nebraska's defense isn't exactly great. The Buckeyes will score at least five offensive touchdowns in this game. It's just a question of whether J.K. Dobbins takes a few of them from Fields. But he'll finish with three passing touchdowns and one rushing score in yet another convincing win that bolsters his Heisman candidacy.

                         

    Brad Shepard

    Absolutely. Nebraska was over-hyped in the preseason. The defensive backs were supposed to be a strength, but they haven't been yet. Head coach Scott Frost is facing a longer rebuild in Lincoln than many hoped, and while the Huskers will go to a bowl this year, they aren't ready for what they'll see this weekend. Fields is one of the five best players in college football, and skill sets like his don't take weeks off.

                

    Ian Wharton

    No, he won't get four touchdowns. But the Buckeyes will win big regardless. Dobbins has been playing with much more aggressiveness since the opener against Florida Atlantic, and this team has plenty of scoring options aside from Fields that can blow the score wide open.

Will Both Unranked 4-0 Teams (Wake Forest and SMU) Improve to 5-0?

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    Wake Forest WR Sage Surratt
    Wake Forest WR Sage SurrattGrant Halverson/Getty Images

    David Kenyon

    SMU will stay undefeated. South Florida demolished an FCS team last week, but the offense scored 10 total points against Wisconsin and Georgia Tech. I can't see the Bulls keeping up with the Mustangs. I'll take Boston College over Wake Forest, though. The Demon Deacons face a massive test in the Eagles' aggressive defense, which ranks 16th nationally in tackles for loss. Throw in BC's home-field advantage, and an upset is possible.

                 

    Kerry Miller

    Affirmative. SMU should have minimal difficulty against a South Florida team that's a disaster on offense, and quarterback Jamie Newman and Co. ought to put up at least 40 points in a win over Boston College.

    The real question is: When will these teams lose? After this weekend, SMU just has Tulsa, Temple and Houston to deal with in October, and Wake Forest doesn't have a likely loss on its docket until it travels to Clemson on Nov. 16. It would be amazing if both the Mustangs and Demon Deacons get to at least 8-0, forcing us to contemplate the playoff potential of teams that have not won eight games during a regular season in more than a decade.

                   

    Brad Shepard

    This may not be pre-death-penalty SMU, but coach Chad Morris (now at Arkansas) left the Mustangs with plenty of mid-major talent. They'll show out again in a major way against South Florida. It won't even be close.

    As far as Wake Forest goes, the Demon Deacons let head coach Dave Clawson build his program, and it has produced a bona fide star in Newman. He won't get any Heisman attention, but he has thrown for 1,278 yards, 12 touchdowns and just two interceptions while running for 160 yards and three more scores. Steve Addazio is in trouble at Boston College, and this loss will increase the temperature on his hot seat.

                  

    Ian Wharton

    Yes. Both SMU and Wake Forest are riding high with good quarterback play from Shane Buechele and Newman, respectively. That's enough to be the difference, even in tough road battles. Boston College is the more likely upset pick against Wake, but I love how Newman has the Demon Deacons playing.

The Most Entertaining Game Not Involving a Ranked Team Will Be...?

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    Arizona QB Khalil Tate
    Arizona QB Khalil TateChristian Petersen/Getty Images

    David Kenyon

    Do you trust UCLA's offense? After three straight 14-point games to begin the season, the Bruins somehow put up 67 on Washington State. Perhaps the Bruins can turn a trip to Arizona into prime #Pac12AfterDark material. If that doesn't happen, Wake Forest at Boston College gets my vote, with a nod to Florida Atlantic at Charlotte as the potential box-score special.

                          

    Kerry Miller

    I neither use this adjective often nor lightly, but I am giddy about the possibility of UCLA playing another 130-point barn burner into the middle of the night. After they beat Washington State 67-63, the Bruins get to face Arizona, which is equally proficient on offense and equally subpar on defense.

    UCLA was one of the teams Khalil Tate annihilated during his 2017 breakout, rushing for 230 yards and accounting for three touchdowns. And given what Washington State quarterback Anthony Gordon just did to the Bruins (570 yards passing, nine TDs), there's no good reason to expect Tate to be any less incredible in this one.

            

    Brad Shepard

    I'll roll with the game between Wake Forest and Boston College. It has the potential to produce a ton of points. Newman is the best player in the ACC you've probably never heard of, and BC has its own offensive weapons in AJ Dillon and Anthony Brown. There could be some fireworks.

            

    Ian Wharton

    Cincinnati at Marshall. Both programs have untapped explosive offensive potential and fun systems that could lead to big plays. Another game of note is Colorado State at Utah State, again due to the offensive playmaking you're likely to enjoy.

Repeat from Last Week: Over/Under 474.5 Passing Yards for Anthony Gordon?

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    Washington State's Mike Leach and Anthony Gordon
    Washington State's Mike Leach and Anthony GordonYoung Kwak/Associated Press

    David Kenyon

    Gordon won't hit 475 passing yards. But, as always when choosing the under, I hope I'm wrong. Although Gordon is still likely headed for 400-plus yards, Utah uses a methodical offensive approach. Plus, the secondary should be particularly motivated after it gave up 368 yards at USC. Before that loss, Utah had only surrendered six yards per attempt. The trend should normalize a bit, even as Gordon's high volume leads to big production.

                           

    Kerry Miller

    I nailed the over here last week; however, give me the under this time. That's not because Washington State will all of a sudden become a run-first team against an excellent Utah front seven, but rather because I expect Utah to burn through a lot of clock with its run-heavy approach, limiting how many passing attempts Gordon can accumulate. Then again, Gardner Minshew II did tear up the Utes secondary to the tune of 445 yards in a 28-24 game last season, so anything is possible.

                     

    Brad Shepard

    At this point, you really can't bet against that number for Gordon, can you? The Cougars know they can't run the ball for any real yardage against the Utes, so they'll take to the air again and again. If Gordon stays upright, he is a virtual lock to hit 475 yards in this game. I will take the under on 8.5 touchdowns, though.

              

    Ian Wharton

    I went under last week and was nowhere close, but I'll go under again. Utah's defense is the toughest Gordon has faced all year, and that should mean more Max Borghi touches than passing volume. 

                

    Odds via Caesars.

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