College Football Picks: Week 5 Predictions for Every Game
Week 4 of the 2021 college football season was advertised as a weak slate by most pundits, yet I spent much of Saturday lamenting that four screens weren't enough to keep up with all the madness. No. 3 Oregon, No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 5 Iowa all had too-close-for-comfort wins at home, and for the fourth consecutive week, at least three ranked teams lost to unranked opponents.
If that's what happens in a weak slate, buckle up for wall-to-wall chaos in what looks like an incredible Week 5.
We've got three matchups on tap pitting AP top-12 teams against one another, while seven of the other eight teams ranked in the top 14 must go on the road to face an unranked opponent plenty capable of pulling off the upset. Teams outside the top 14 aren't any safer, either. It's almost a foregone conclusion that the process of filling out AP Top 25 ballots after Week 5 will cause massive headaches around the country.
Admittedly, I've been a bit cowardly with these picks thus far this season, only predicting maybe three unranked-over-ranked upsets through four weeks. But even I have four such upsets projected this week, plus half a dozen other games in which I wouldn't be surprised to see the ranked team take an L.
Accountability time: After going a respectable-but-not-great 29-24-1 against the spread on AP Top 25 and "best unranked clashes" games in Weeks 2 and 3, I might need some help paying the mortgage this month in light of my 10-21 record in Week 4. The 8-13 record in AP Top 25 games wasn't too awful, but going 2-8 in the "best unranked clashes" was brutal. (Good thing I bet on the +290 SMU moneyline and +190 Arkansas moneyline to help balance things out a little bit.)
The past is the past, though, and it's time to get back to those winning ways in Week 5. Hopefully.
Predictions for each Week 5 game are broken into three sections: Top 25 teams, best games between unranked teams and the rest of the slate. Unless otherwise noted, games are assumed to take place on Saturday.
AP Nos. 25-21
No. 25 Clemson (2-2) vs. Boston College (4-0), 7:30 p.m. ET
Since losing quarterback Phil Jurkovec to a likely season-ending hand injury, Boston College has been fairly one-dimensional on offense. Granted, it's a good dimension, as the Eagles have averaged better than 5.3 yards per carry with three rushing touchdowns in each of their four games. But establishing the run against Clemson's defense—a unit that has yet to allow a rushing touchdown this season—figures to be a different story.
They're going to need Dennis Grosel to have a solid passing performance if they want to pull off what is ultimately still a substantial upset, even though it has been a wildly disappointing season for the Tigers.
With any luck for Clemson, this will be the game D.J. Uiagalelei snaps out of one of the worst sophomore slumps ever. He had 342 passing yards and three total touchdowns last year against Boston College in the first start of his career, and the Eagles did just allow Missouri's Connor Bazelak to eclipse 300 passing yards this past week.
It's too late for Clemson to salvage a spot in the College Football Playoff, but it could still win the ACC if the offense starts to turn things around. I think they'll at least take a sizable step in the right direction in this one.
Prediction: Clemson 35, Boston College 17
No. 24 Wake Forest (4-0) vs. Louisville (3-1), 12:30 p.m. ET
If you watched the first half of the Monday night season opener and decided that 2021 Louisville was an unredeemable mess, heads up that the Cardinals have played reasonably well over their past three-and-a-half games. Malik Cunningham isn't Lamar Jackson, but the dual-threat quarterback has accounted for 13 touchdowns and could cause major problems for Wake Forest's defense.
However, I'm far from sold that Louisville's defense—which has allowed at least 200 passing and 200 rushing yards in back-to-back games against UCF (understandable) and Florida State (woof)—will be able to contain a Demon Deacons offense that has scored at least 35 points in each game this season.
Wake Forest still has November road games remaining against North Carolina, Clemson and Boston College, so we'll see how long this team can hang onto first place in the ACC Atlantic. But it'll improve to 3-0 in league play in this one.
Prediction: Wake Forest 42, Louisville 28
No. 23 North Carolina State (3-1) vs. Louisiana Tech (2-2), 6 p.m. ET
Raise your hand if one month ago you had NC State projected as the highest-ranked ACC team heading into October.
Yeah, I better not see any hands in the air, unless you're a bunch of liars. But this Wolfpack group has been mighty impressive. Even in the loss to Mississippi State, they defended well and had a solid passing game against a good defense. They just simply couldn't recover from allowing a touchdown on the game's opening kickoff and subsequently posting a minus-three in turnover margin.
That win over Clemson was no joke, though. The Tigers clearly aren't as good on offense as we've grown accustomed to seeing, but holding that offense to 184 total yards in regulation is right on par with what Georgia's elite defense did to Clemson.
But watch out for Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs held a 20-point fourth quarter lead over Mississippi State before letting that one slip away, and they would've beaten SMU were it not for a successful Tanner Mordecai Hail Mary on the last play of the fourth quarter. This is a solid Conference USA foe, and it surely wouldn't be the first time we've watched a team jump into the rankings after an emotional win and then suffer a letdown loss. I like NC State to win, but this nearly three-touchdown spread is absurd.
Prediction: NC State 35, Louisiana Tech 27
No. 22 Auburn (3-1) at LSU (3-1), 9 p.m. ET
Someone could put together an entire documentary on how Auburn managed to allow 247 rushing yards against Georgia State after holding its first three opponents (including No. 4 Penn State) to a combined total of 97 carries for 150 yards and it still wouldn't make any sense.
The good news for the Tigers is that the Tigers they are facing this week haven't been able to run worth a darn since Clyde Edwards-Helaire left for the NFL after the 2019 team won the national championship.
LSU is barely averaging 80 rushing yards per game—less than three yards per carry—so Auburn should focus the vast majority of its defensive attention on trying to slow down the Max Johnson-to-Kayshon Boutte connection, which has accounted for 724 yards and 12 touchdowns in the six games since Johnson became the full-time starter late last fall.
At this point, though, it's unclear if Auburn's secondary is any good.
In its only game against a Power Five opponent, Auburn allowed Penn State to complete 29-of-33 pass attempts for 302 yards and two touchdowns, though the Tigers did snag an interception. Small sample size, but not a good one. LSU's defense looks good enough to hold Auburn in check, especially with Bryan Harsin unwilling to announce who will even start at quarterback following Bo Nix's dreadful play against Georgia State.
Prediction: LSU 31, Auburn 24
No. 21 Baylor (4-0) at No. 19 Oklahoma State (4-0), 7 p.m. ET
See No. 19 Oklahoma State for prediction.
AP Nos. 20-16
No. 20 UCLA (3-1) vs. Arizona State (3-1), 10:30 p.m. ET
Preseason Pac-12 South favorite USC has already suffered two conference losses, and Utah has a pair of nonconference losses while not looking anywhere near as good as expected.
It's still way too early to declare this the de facto Pac-12 South championship, but it does feel like that.
And I cannot wait to see what kind of #Pac12AfterDark madness unfolds in such a big game.
Both Arizona State and UCLA have been fantastic on the ground and good enough through the air. The Bruins have averaged 200 rushing yards and 2.8 rushing touchdowns per game while the Sun Devils are sitting at 210 and 3.8, respectively. They have also both done a solid job of defending the run, though UCLA's numbers (2.4 YPC, 64.0 YPG) have been considerably more impressive than Arizona State's (3.5 YPC, 123.3 YPG).
Where Arizona State could have a huge advantage, however, is with its passing game.
The Sun Devils haven't thrown a ton, but Jayden Daniels is completing nearly 73 percent of his pass attempts when he does drop back to pass. UCLA's secondary (330.3 passing yards allowed per game) ranks among the worst in the nation while Arizona State (124.3 yards per game) has been darn near impenetrable.
Maybe Dorian Thompson-Robinson works some magic for a few home-run plays, but I like Arizona State in a slight upset on the road.
Prediction: Arizona State 34, UCLA 30
No. 19 Oklahoma State (4-0) vs. No. 21 Baylor (4-0), 7 p.m. ET
What should we expect with two newly ranked and undefeated Big 12 teams—both fresh off a win over a ranked foe—squaring off in Stillwater?
For starters, those Week 4 wins were quite different. Baylor just barely held on to knock off Iowa State despite allowing nearly 200 more yards than it gained; Oklahoma State out-gained Kansas State by more than 200 yards and, with the exception of one KSU kick return for a touchdown, seemed to be in complete control throughout.
At least Oklahoma State entered Week 4 with a noteworthy road win over Boise State and a decent home win over Tulsa, too. Baylor was facing its first legitimate test of the season, and, again, wasn't all that impressive in victory.
For what it's worth, though, ESPN's SP+ rating has Baylor at No. 26 and Oklahoma State at No. 35, and No. 26 at No. 35 is the type of game that has "overtime potential" written all over it. My gut says Oklahoma State should win comfortably, but between Spencer Sanders' inconsistency at quarterback for the Cowboys and how good Baylor looked in those early games against Texas Southern and Kansas, this is a classic "stay away" game for betting purposes.
Prediction: Oklahoma State 27, Baylor 23
No. 18 Fresno State (4-1) at Hawai'i (2-3), 11 p.m. ET
Fresno State games are officially appointment television, even the ones that aren't going to end until well after 2 a.m. on the East Coast. The Bulldogs' game against Oregon was all tied up with three minutes remaining. Against UNLV, they trailed with five minutes remaining before winning by eight. And the Fresno-UCLA game was an instant classic with two lead-changing touchdowns in the final minute.
Against a decent Hawai'i offense, we could be treated to another high-scoring affair with some late drama.
It's more likely, however, that Jake Haener and Co. simply outscore the Rainbow Warriors. The Heisman hopeful is averaging 3.6 touchdowns per game, and Hawai'i is going to have a hard time keeping up with that aerial assault.
Prediction: Fresno State 45, Hawai'i 27
No. 17 Michigan State (4-0) vs. Western Kentucky (1-2), 7:30 p.m. ET
Can the undefeated Spartans defense shut down one of the most potent passing attacks in the country?
Houston Baptist transfer Bailey Zappe has been dynamite for Western Kentucky, completing at least 70 percent of his pass attempts and throwing for at least 365 yards and three touchdowns in each game this season. It wasn't quite enough for come-from-behind wins over Army or Indiana, but perhaps it will be against a Michigan State secondary that hasn't been anything special.
The problem for the Hilltoppers is that their run defense has been repeatedly gashed to the tune of 4.8 yards per carry and 224.7 yards and 3.0 touchdowns per game. And that especially looks like a problem against the nation's leading rusher, Kenneth Walker III (138.5 yards per game; 7.3 yards per carry).
What's more dangerous, though? A quarterback averaging over 400 yards per game or a running back averaging roughly one-third of that? Even with the latter, Michigan State was unable to manage a single first down in the entire second half of its overtime victory over Nebraska.
Western Kentucky hasn't beaten a ranked opponent since a 67-66 game for the ages against No. 19 Marshall in November 2014, but give me the Hilltoppers in a bit of a shocker.
Prediction: Western Kentucky 38, Michigan State 35
No. 16 Coastal Carolina (4-0) vs. Louisiana-Monroe (2-1), 2:30 p.m. ET
Regardless of what happens here, three cheers to Louisiana-Monroe for already winning two games after an 0-10 2020 campaign in which nine of those losses were by a margin of at least 18 points. The Warhawks were arguably the worst team in the nation last year, but they come into this game fresh off an impressive win over Troy.
But now they have to try to either contain or outscore a Coastal Carolina offense averaging 45.5 points and well over 500 total yards per game. Best of luck with that one, considering ULM has allowed almost twice as many yards (1,227) as it has gained (628).
Prediction: Coastal Carolina 49, Louisiana-Monroe 13
AP Nos. 15-11
No. 15 Texas A&M (3-1) vs. Mississippi State (2-2), 7 p.m. ET
Texas A&M's offense is hard to watch. Even with Isaiah Spiller breaking loose for a 67-yard touchdown run, the Aggies managed just 272 yards of total offense in a 20-10 loss to Arkansas. That poor showing came just two weeks after a 10-7 win over Colorado in which they didn't score a touchdown until late in the fourth quarter.
For those keeping track at home, that's two games against Power Five opponents and two games in which they scored 10 points.
Against a Mississippi State defense which has been pretty darn good against the run this season, that seems more than a little problematic.
On the flip side, A&M's secondary has been excellent, despite a pair of major lapses in that loss to Arkansas. The Aggies have held opposing quarterbacks to a 47.4 completion percentage this season, and they suffocated MSU's air raid offense last year, holding the Bulldogs to 217 total yards and 14 points.
But for a team that has yet to score more than 10 points against a competent defense, allowing 14 might still be too much.
Prediction: Mississippi State 21, Texas A&M 16
No. 14 Michigan (4-0) at Wisconsin (1-2), Noon ET
When Michigan has the ball, it'll be an offense averaging a fifth-best mark of 290.8 rushing yards per game against a run defense allowing a nation-best 23.0 rushing yards per game. Considering the Wolverines just had a lot of trouble running the ball at home against Rutgers, there's plenty of reason to believe they'll have their work cut out for them in Camp Randall Stadium.
But when Wisconsin has the ball, it'll be a defense that has held all four opponents to 14 points or fewer against an offense that simply cannot stop shooting itself in the foot. The Badgers outgained Penn State and Notre Dame by a combined 134 yards, but they lost both of those games because of a negative-7 turnover margin and a propensity for getting the ball inside the opponent's 35—if not inside the opponent's 10—before failing to score.
In what is all but certain to be a classic Big Ten war of attrition and field position, those turnover woes will be Wisconsin's downfall. Michigan has yet to commit a single turnover through four games, and punter Brad Robbins will be able to flip the field after the drives that go nowhere fast. Force Graham Mertz (one TD; six interceptions) and this Wisconsin offense to try to go 80 yards on a regular basis and you'll win more often than not.
Prediction: Michigan 17, Wisconsin 13
No. 13 BYU (4-0) at Utah State (3-1), 9 p.m. ET (Friday)
BYU quarterback Jaren Hall suffered an injury late in the fourth quarter of the Week 3 win over Arizona State and subsequently missed this past week's matchup with South Florida. But with Baylor Romney playing in his stead, the Cougars had their best offensive output of the season. Romney is nowhere near near the rushing threat that Hall is, but he threw for 305 yards and three touchdowns while Tyler Allgeier took care of business on the ground.
I'm not ready to declare that BYU is better with Romney at quarterback, as it was just one game against South Florida, after all. But I do believe that regardless of who gets the start Friday night, the Cougars will be more than capable of taking advantage of a Utah State defense allowing more than 460 total yards per game.
The Aggies were fantastic on offense in wins over North Dakota and Air Force, but not so much against Boise State and Washington State, averaging 14.5 points in those latter two games. Expect similar issues against a respectable BYU D.
Prediction: BYU 31, Utah State 17
No. 12 Ole Miss (3-0) at No. 1 Alabama (4-0), 3:30 p.m. ET
See No. 1 Alabama for prediction.
No. 11 Ohio State (3-1) at Rutgers (3-1), 3:30 p.m. ET
Though Michigan won the game, Rutgers showed a lot of promise in a 20-13 Week 4 loss in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines scored touchdowns on their first two possessions, but never made it back into the end zone against a Rutgers defense which has now held all four of its opponents to 275 total yards or fewer.
Doing that against Ohio State would be a miracle, though, and would fly in the face of everything we've seen since Rutgers joined the Big Ten. The Scarlet Knights are 0-7 against the Buckeyes, and all seven losses were by at least three touchdowns. Maybe they keep this one a little bit closer since they appear to be better than usual. But it's hard to see this upset happening.
Look for TreVeyon Henderson to find holes in the Scarlet Knights defense that Michigan could not.
Prediction: Ohio State 42, Rutgers 20
AP Nos. 10-6
No. 10 Florida (3-1) at Kentucky (4-0), 6 p.m. ET
Last week, I pointed out that Georgia was 24-0 with 23 wins by double digits when ranked in the top 14, and the Bulldogs summarily went out and annihilated Vanderbilt. Thus, I feel obligated to point out that Florida is a perfect 26-0 with 19 wins by double digits in its past 26 games against Kentucky while ranked in the AP top 14.
But let's also be sure to point out that Kentucky and Vanderbilt are in significantly different weight classes this year. The Wildcats are 4-0 and already have wins over Missouri and South Carolina in which they dominated with their ground game. Factor in a defense that has allowed a top-10 mark of 4.11 yards per play this season, and Kentucky could give the Gators a real scare in Lexington.
Florida's QB-led run game has been better than Kentucky's, though, and by nearly 120 yards per game. And if the Gators could out-rush Alabama 246-91—in a game where they trailed 21-3 at the end of the first quarter, no less—they should be able to beat Kentucky's rushing attack.
Also worth mentioning: Kentucky's minus-9 turnover margin is the worst in the nation. Florida's defense hasn't forced a turnover in its past 158 minutes of game time, but if the Wildcats are just giving the ball away, the Gators will run away with this one.
Prediction: Florida 31, Kentucky 20
No. 9 Notre Dame (4-0) vs. No. 7 Cincinnati (3-0), 2:30 p.m. ET
See No. 7 Cincinnati for prediction.
No. 8 Arkansas (4-0) at No. 2 Georgia (4-0), Noon ET
See No. 2 Georgia for prediction.
No. 7 Cincinnati (3-0) at No. 9 Notre Dame (4-0), 2:30 p.m. ET
Which turnover-forcing defense reigns supreme in this clash of top-10 College Football Playoff hopefuls?
For the third time already this season, Notre Dame won a game in which it allowed more yards than it gained. That is, of course, unless you count the 96-yard kickoff return and the 146 yards worth of interception returns as yards gained, in which case Notre Dame's total yardage for the 41-13 win over Wisconsin doubles from 242 to 484.
But if the Irish couldn't run the ball (three yards on 32 carries) or keep quarterback Jack Coan from getting injured against Wisconsin, why should we believe their offensive line will fare any better against a Cincinnati defense that has held 13 of its past 14 opponents below 380 yards of total offense?
As far as we know at this early stage in the week, Coan should be available for this game. He limped off after a sack midway through the third quarter and didn't return, but it didn't look or sound too serious. But they desperately need to do a better job of protecting him if they want to win this one, as the Irish have already allowed 20 sacks this season.
In fairness, Cincinnati's defense only has four sacks and 19 total tackles for loss through three games. However, I have to believe defensive coordinator Mike Tressel is going to smell blood in the water and dial up the blitz packages in this game. That pressure in Notre Dame's backfield coupled with Desmond Ridder's ability to create something out of nothing if and when the Irish break through the line will be just enough for the Bearcats to remain the trendy pick for the No. 4 seed in the CFP.
Prediction: Cincinnati 24, Notre Dame 21
No. 6 Oklahoma (4-0) at Kansas State (3-1), 3:30 p.m. ET
So, is anyone else getting MAJOR 2014 Florida State vibes from Oklahoma?
That was when redshirt sophomore quarterback Jameis Winston entered the season as the Heisman favorite, but he never quite looked like he did the previous year and ended up finishing outside the top five of the Heisman vote. And because that star quarterback routinely underperformed, more than half of the team's victories were by a one-possession margin. Florida State made it through the season undefeated and secured the No. 2 seed in the College Football Playoff, but it got destroyed when it finally had to face a legitimate top-10 opponent.
Maybe it's just a slow start and Oklahoma will eventually prove itself worthy of that No. 2 spot in the preseason AP poll, but the Sooners barely beat Tulane, barely beat Nebraska, barely beat West Virginia and Vegas suggests they will barely beat Kansas State in Manhattan.
The Wildcats have been a thorn in OU's side lately, winning each of the past two and four of the past nine games in this Big 12 rivalry. Recent history has shown the rankings don't matter. Oklahoma was No. 3 last year and No. 5 in 2019, and Kansas State was unranked for both of those upsets.
But I think Oklahoma's defense (in a good way, for a change) will be the difference in another nail-biting victory for the CFP hopefuls.
The Sooners have held all four of their opponents to 100 rushing yards or fewer, and Kansas State—in addition to being held below 200 passing yards in every game thus far—was just limited to 62 rushing yards in its loss to Oklahoma State. Deuce Vaughn will be held in check for a second successive week and Oklahoma will win another ugly one.
Prediction: Oklahoma 24, Kansas State 20
AP Nos. 5-1
No. 5 Iowa (4-0) at Maryland (4-0), 8 p.m. ET (Friday)
At this point, it's pretty clear that Iowa's offense is lackluster, at best. The Hawkeyes are averaging below 300 yards of total offense per game, and their rushing attack has now been held to 1.7 yards per carry in two of their past three games.
But what appears to be even more clear is that this Iowa defense is exceptionally good. All four of the Hawkeyes' opponents have been held below 100 rushing yards and to 17 points or fewer, and that's going to be a substantial uptick in difficulty level for an undefeated Maryland offense that has faced a favorable schedule thus far.
Against West Virginia, Howard, Illinois and Kent State, Taulia Tagovailoa has averaged 335.0 passing yards with a 75.5 completion percentage and 10 touchdowns against just one interception. If he can come anywhere close to those numbers against Iowa, Maryland wins convincingly. But my guess is this game is going to play out more like Maryland's next-to-last game of the 2020 season, in which Tagovailoa threw three picks in a 27-11 road loss to an excellent foe (then-No. 12 Indiana).
Prediction: Iowa 23, Maryland 14
No. 4 Penn State (4-0) vs. Indiana (2-2), 7:30 p.m. ET
Indiana has had a lot of trouble this season against good, opportunistic defenses. The Hoosiers threw two pick-sixes in their Week 1 loss to Iowa, and they committed four turnovers in a Week 3 loss to Cincinnati.
Now they need to go on the road to face a Penn State squad that already has impressive wins over Wisconsin and Auburn. The Nittany Lions forced three turnovers against the Badgers, and it wasn't until the fourth quarter of a Week 4 blowout win over Villanova that they allowed their first passing touchdown of 2021. They should clamp down on Michael Penix Jr. and Co. in a relatively convincing home win.
Prediction: Penn State 34, Indiana 17
No. 3 Oregon (4-0) at Stanford (2-2), 3:30 p.m. ET
If you went to bed early on Saturday and woke up to find that Oregon beat Arizona by 22 points, believe me, that game was way closer than the final score. Wildcats quarterback Jordan McCloud threw two interceptions in the end zone, as well as a pick-six, and that series of bad decisions was effectively the difference in what was otherwise a neck-and-neck game.
So now we're left to wonder whether "won at Ohio State" or "barely won a home game against a team now on a 16-game losing streak" is the real Oregon.
Key pieces of the Ducks' defensive front seven have been dropping like flies because of injury, and there's little question that played a major role in their inability to win the battle in the trenches against Arizona. It didn't bury them against the Wildcats, but it could be their downfall at Stanford.
The saving grace for the Ducks is that Stanford's run defense has been quite bad. Both USC and Vanderbilt averaged 5.6 yards per carry against the Cardinal, and those offenses have otherwise had a lot of trouble getting going on the ground this season. If Mario Cristobal does the wise thing and leans heavily on CJ Verdell and the rushing attack that spurred them to victory over the Buckeyes, the Ducks should be able to get out of Palo Alto with a W.
Prediction: Oregon 38, Stanford 31
No. 2 Georgia (4-0) vs. No. 8 Arkansas (4-0), Noon ET
Buckle up for an incredible two-week run of SEC football showdowns. In addition to this week's massive Arkansas-Georgia and Ole Miss-Alabama clashes, we're also going to get Arkansas-Ole Miss, Alabama-Texas A&M and Georgia-Auburn in Week 6. By October 10, we'll have a much better idea of how likely it is for two teams in this conference to reach the CFP.
Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves, though, because this right here is easily one of the five most intriguing games thus far this season.
Arkansas' ability to win with defense was perhaps the most surprising development of September. The Hogs were frequently helpless on D last season, particularly late in the year when three of their final four opponents scored at least 50 points. But this year, Arkansas shut down Texas and Texas A&M, and they've only allowed one passing touchdown to date.
The Razorbacks have darn near rushed for as many yards (1,049) as the total number of combined passing and rushing yards its defense has allowed (1,069).
However, there's no question that Georgia has the better defense in this one, having held opponents to 185.3 total yards per game. This Bulldogs D has forced nine turnovers while allowing only one touchdown.
And if either quarterback is going to carve up the opposing secondary, it almost has to be Georgia's JT Daniels, right? Even before Arkansas' KJ Jefferson missed most of the second half against Texas A&M with a lower body injury, this was shaping up to be a considerable mismatch at the QB position.
Arkansas is looking like a very good team, and this game should be way closer than we would have expected it to be a month ago. But Georgia might be the best, most complete team in the country and it has home-field advantage. I just can't pick against the Dawgs in this one.
Prediction: Georgia 30, Arkansas 17
No. 1 Alabama (4-0) vs. No. 12 Ole Miss (3-0), 3:30 p.m. ET
Last year's Alabama-Ole Miss game was arguably the most entertaining of the entire season. Two elite offenses went back and forth and back again for 111 points and nearly 1,400 total yards of offense. They were tied at 7, 14, 21, 28, 35 and 42 before Alabama finally pulled ahead for a 63-48 victory.
And that's hardly the first time we've seen this SEC West rivalry turn into a fireworks display. In 2015, Ole Miss won 43-37. The following year, Alabama won 48-43. And though the games while Matt Luke was the Rebels' head coach got out of hand in a hurry, these teams have played six consecutive games with at least 69 combined points.
Considering the two current favorites to win the Heisman Trophy—Alabama's Bryce Young and Mississippi's Matt Corral—will be running these offenses, why should we expect this game to be any different from what has become their norm?
Ole Miss is leading the nation in scoring at 52.7 points per game. The Rebels are also averaging 638.3 total yards per game—79 more than the closest runner-up. Granted, they've faced Louisville, Austin Peay and Tulane. But it's no surprise at all that they've been moving the ball so effortlessly, given their potency on offense last year and Lane Kiffin's pedigree as an offensive guru.
Is the Ole Miss defense good enough to stop Alabama, though? How much of a factor will special teams be, where Alabama already has three touchdowns in 2021? And how concerned should we be that Ole Miss ranks last in the nation in penalty yards per game (106.7)?
Young and Corral will both put up huge numbers to remain the Heisman favorites, but if and when there's a key fourth-down stop, turnover, penalty or kick/punt return, my assumption is that Alabama will be the beneficiary more often than not. That plus home-field advantage will be the difference in this barn burner.
Prediction: Alabama 49, Ole Miss 36
Best Unranked Clashes
While Week 4 contained a cornucopia of quality matchups between unranked teams, Week 5 is decidedly less intriguing for those looking to venture outside the AP Top 25. Nevertheless, we've ranked the five best "other" games to keep an eye on this weekend.
Fifth-Best: Duke (3-1) at North Carolina (2-2), Noon ET: It's nowhere near the relentlessly hyped up rivalry that it is in men's basketball, but the annual Duke-UNC game has been decided by eight points or fewer in 12 of the past 19 seasons. And given the mutual badness on defense, this might be the highest scoring game of the week. Prediction: North Carolina 49, Duke 38
Fourth-Best: USC (2-2) at Colorado (1-3), 2 p.m. ET: USC's first game without Clay Helton was a convincing win at Washington State, but the Trojans were considerably less successful this past weekend (notably without freshman quarterback Jaxson Dart) in a 45-27 home loss to Oregon State. This game is probably already irrelevant as far as crowning a Pac-12 South champion is concerned, but it will be interesting to see which version of USC shows up this time. Prediction: USC 35, Colorado 27
Third-Best: Louisiana (3-1) at South Alabama (3-0), 8 p.m. ET: Twenty percent (26 of 130) of FBS college football teams are still undefeated, and we would be remiss if we didn't highlight the lone case of an unranked undefeated team facing a .500 or better unranked foe. South Alabama's schedule thus far (vs. Southern Miss, at Bowling Green, vs. Alcorn State) leaves much to be desired, and the Jaguars just barely won two of those games. But they have former South Carolina and former Utah quarterback Jake Bentley plus a great under-the-national-radar wide receiver in Jalen Tolbert. They might be able to knock off Louisiana, which hasn't been nearly as impressive as was expected when it opened the season in AP Top 25. Prediction: South Alabama 27, Louisiana 24.
Second-Best: Nevada (2-1) at Boise State (2-2), 3:30 p.m. ET: Nevada won at Cal and lost at Kansas State. Boise State's losses both came in painstaking fashion to UCF and Oklahoma State. Both of these teams put together solid nonconference schedules to help them prepare for a Mountain West championship run, but the loser of this one could be in early dire straits. Boise State's defense hasn't been great, but the Broncos have been solid against the pass—seven picks against five touchdowns allowed. At home on that blue turf, they'll do just enough against Carson Strong to get the win. Prediction: Boise State 30, Nevada 21.
Best: Texas (3-1) at TCU (2-1), Noon ET: Arkansas-Georgia is the obvious "main screen game" in the early window, but Texas-TCU might be the top secondary option. Now, don't misinterpret that as "top secondaries," because that's not what we have here. Each of Texas' four opponents has completed at least 70 percent of its pass attempts, and TCU just allowed nearly 600 total yards in a home loss to SMU. But this should be an entertaining, high-scoring affair. The running back battle between Bijan Robinson and Zach Evans will be especially fun to watch, though Texas' Casey Thompson will almost certainly out-sling TCU's Max Duggan. Prediction: Texas 42, TCU 35
The Sicko Special: Connecticut (0-5) at Vanderbilt (1-3), 7:30 p.m. ET: Undecided on whether the Sicko Special will become a weekly staple, but file UConn at Vanderbilt away under "car crash so awful you can't look away." There are so many better games to watch in the early evening slate, but you just know there are going to be multiple prominent college football analysts tweeting about this mess on ESPNU. It says an awful lot about the Huskies that the Commodores are a two-touchdown favorite just one week after gaining 77 total yards in a 62-0 loss. With any luck, though, this game will go into multiple overtimes for maximum nausea. Prediction: Vanderbilt 31, Connecticut 23
The Rest of the Slate
Virginia (2-2) at Miami (2-2), 7:30 p.m. ET (Thursday): Miami 31-27
Houston (3-1) at Tulsa (1-3), 7:30 p.m. ET (Friday): Houston 28-25
Memphis (3-1) at Temple (1-3), Noon ET: Memphis 38-21
Pittsburgh (3-1) at Georgia Tech (2-2), Noon ET: Georgia Tech 28-27
Tennessee (2-2) at Missouri (2-2), Noon ET: Missouri 34-28
Western Michigan (3-1) at Buffalo (2-2), Noon ET: Western Michigan 31-23
Charlotte (3-1) at Illinois (1-4), Noon ET: Illinois 27-20
Minnesota (2-2) at Purdue (3-1), Noon ET: Purdue 24-21
Toledo (2-2) at Massachusetts (0-4), Noon ET: Toledo 41-17
Appalachian State (3-1) at Georgia State (1-3), 2 p.m. ET: Appalachian State 30-21
Eastern Michigan (3-1) at Northern Illinois (2-2), 2:30 p.m. ET: Northern Illinois 35-31
Texas Tech (3-1) at West Virginia (2-2), 3:30 p.m. ET: West Virginia 28-24
Syracuse (3-1) at Florida State (0-4), 3:30 p.m. ET: Syracuse 27-20
UCF (2-1) at Navy (0-3), 3:30 p.m. ET: UCF 45-20
Bowling Green (2-2) at Kent State (1-3), 3:30 p.m. ET: Kent State 35-24
Central Michigan (2-2) at Miami-Ohio (1-3), 3:30 p.m. ET: Miami-Ohio 27-24
Florida International (1-3) at Florida Atlantic (2-2), 3:30 p.m. ET: Florida Atlantic 35-20
Ohio (0-4) at Akron (1-3), 3:30 p.m. ET: Ohio 23-21
Tulane (1-3) at East Carolina (2-2), 3:30 p.m. ET: Tulane 31-27
Troy (2-2) at South Carolina (2-2), 3:30 p.m. ET: South Carolina 24-14
Arkansas State (1-3) at Georgia Southern (1-3), 4 p.m. ET: Georgia Southern 34-28
South Florida (1-3) at SMU (4-0), 4 p.m. ET: SMU 52-21
Army (4-0) at Ball State (1-3), 5 p.m. ET: Army 27-21
Washington State (1-3) at California (1-3), 5:30 p.m. ET: California 28-24
UNLV (0-4) at UTSA (4-0), 6 p.m. ET: UTSA 35-13
Southern Miss (1-3) at Rice (1-3), 6:30 p.m. ET: Southern Miss 24-20
Air Force (3-1) at New Mexico (2-2), 6:30 p.m. ET: Air Force 28-17
Liberty (3-1) at UAB (3-1), 7 p.m. ET: Liberty 27-23
Marshall (2-2) at Middle Tennessee (1-3), 7 p.m. ET: Marshall 38-21
Kansas (1-3) at Iowa State (2-2), 7 p.m. ET: Iowa State 49-14
Northwestern (2-2) at Nebraska (2-3), 7:30 p.m. ET: Nebraska 31-24
Old Dominion (1-3) at UTEP (3-1), 9 p.m. ET: UTEP 31-16
Washington (2-2) at Oregon State (3-1), 9 p.m. ET: Washington 27-20
New Mexico State (1-4) at San Jose State (2-2), 10:30 p.m. ET: San Jose State 42-10