Mitch Light predicts the biggest games in Week 5.
Florida (+7.5) at Alabama
Alabama survived its first scare of the season last Saturday, rallying for an impressive 24–20 win at Arkansas. The Tide showed their championship mettle by outscoring the Hogs 10–0 in the fourth quarter on the strength of some dominant running by Mark Ingram. Florida is coming off by far its best offensive effort of the season. With Wildcat quarterback Trey Burton leading the way with six touchdowns, the Gators rolled to a 48–14 win over Kentucky. This is still not a great offensive team, but it’s getting better each week, and Burton’s increased role will give Nick Saban and Alabama something to worry about this week.
Alabama 24, Florida 20
Texas (+3.5) vs. Oklahoma (in Dallas)
When is the last time there has been so little buzz nationally for the Red River Shootout? Well, that’s what happens when one team is coming off a 34–12 loss at home to UCLA and the other team has defeated Utah State, Air Force and Cincinnati by an average of four points per game. Texas’ struggles are very surprising. The Longhorns continue to have difficulty running the football, and Garrett Gilbert has been average at best in his first season as the starting quarterback. The big issue last week, however, was the run defense; UCLA ripped UT apart for 264 yards on 56 carries. Oklahoma, too, has been mediocre on both sides of the ball. The Sooners rank 97th in the nation in total defense and have been equally bad against the run (93rd) and the pass (90th). Texas, however, might not be good enough to expose the Sooners’ deficiencies.
Oklahoma 28, Texas 21
Miami (-3.5) at Clemson
We’ve been teased by Miami in the past — remember last year’s 2–0 start that feature wins over Florida State and Georgia Tech — but the Hurricanes looked very good in their 31–3 win at Pittsburgh last Thursday night. Clemson had a week off after its emotional overtime loss at Auburn. Quarterback Kyle Parker, who labored through the Auburn game with a bad back, should be good to go. The Tigers are a tough to team to get a read on; they lost to the only good team they have played (Auburn) and beat two teams bad teams (North Texas and Presbyterian). This is the week Clemson proves it will be a legitimate contender in the ACC.
Clemson 24, Miami 21
Penn State (+7) at Iowa
Penn State’s last trip to Iowa City in 2008 did not go very well. The 9–0 Nittany Lions, ranked No. 3 in the nation, had their sights set on the BCS national title game, but the 5–4 Hawkeyes, fresh off a loss to Illinois, stunned Penn State 24–23 on a last-second field goal. Neither team is in the national title hunt this year, but this is still a very important game for a couple teams that figure to be jockeying for position at the top of the Big Ten standings. Penn State has a ‘better’ loss on its resume — at No. 1 Alabama (Iowa lost at Arizona) — but the Hawkeyes have been the more impressive team.
Iowa 28, Penn State 14
Wisconsin (-2) at Michigan State
Both teams are 4–0 and ranked in the national polls, but Wisconsin is still a bit of a mystery. The Badgers struggled in the first half before pulling away from UNLV in the opener, and then beat a bad San Jose State team by only 13 in Madison and held on to defeat Arizona State by only one point the following week. This is a good team that hasn’t played its best football yet. Michigan State is also 4–0, and the Spartans have been getting it done on the ground. With Larry Caper slowed by injury, sophomore Edwin Baker (112.3 ypg) and true freshman Le’Veon Bell (99.0 ypg) have been leading the charge.
Michigan State 27, Wisconsin 21
Stanford (+7) at Oregon
Two of the most explosive offenses in the nation will meet Saturday night in a nationally televised showdown that will go a long way in determining the winner of the Pac-10 title. Oregon continues to put up gaudy offensive numbers — the Ducks lead the nation in scoring (57.8 ppg) — but there are some concerns on defense. Arizona State torched Oregon for 590 yards last weekend but only scored 31 points thanks in large part to its seven turnovers. Last year, Stanford rolled up over 500 yards of offense en route to a 51–42 win over Oregon. And the Cardinal, despite the loss of Toby Gerhart, appear to be a better offensive team in 2010. Take Stanford in the upset.
Stanford 38, Oregon 34
Washington (+10) at USC
Steve Sarkisian’s rebuilding efforts at Washington received a huge boost with the Huskies’ 16–13 win over USC in Seattle last fall. While UW failed to reach a bowl game in ’09, its 4–5 record in league play was a four-game improvement from the previous season. Expectations were high entering 2010, but the Huskies have been a bit of a disappointment. They are 1–2 with a win over Syracuse and losses to BYU and Nebraska. Jake Locker, touted as a potential top-five NFL Draft pick, has struggled, and the defense has been bad. USC is 4–0, but this is not a vintage Trojan team. The offense has been inconsistent and the defense, at times, has really struggled. USC should improve to 5–0 without too much trouble, but the schedule will take a difficult turn in the near future.
USC 27, Washington 14
Virginia Tech (-4) at NC State
It’s taken longer than expected, but it appears as though Tom O’Brien’s program finally has some positive momentum. The Pack improved to 4–0 with a dominating 45–28 win at Georgia Tech. Russell Wilson has been tremendous at quarterback (368 yards passing, three TDs vs. Tech), and the running game has received a boost from true freshman Mustafa Greene. Virginia Tech played its best game of the season last weekend, shutting out Boston College, 19–0, on the road. This week, however, they will face a far more potent offensive attack.
NC State 24, Virginia Tech 20
Navy (+10) at Air Force
Navy has won the last seven games in this series, but it hasn’t been easy. Six of the seven games have been decided by seven points or less, including four by exactly three points. This year, however, Air Force appears to be the better team. The Falcons are 3–1, with wins over Northwestern State, BYU and Wyoming and a loss, by three points, at Oklahoma. The running game, as usual, has been devastating; AFA leads the nation with 394.0 rushing yards per game and has three players averaging over 70 yards per game. Navy, too, knows a little bit about running the ball, but the Midshipmen’s option attack hasn’t been quite as potent this season. They rank ninth in the nation in rushing — not bad but not up to Navy’s standards — and are only averaging 21.3 points per game.
Air Force 30, Navy 24
Last week: 9–1 overall (6-4 against the spread)
Season: 33–7 overall (23–14–3 against the spread)