College football’s Week 5 action features a key showdown in the Big Ten, West Virginia’s first-ever Big 12 game and Texas’ trip to Stillwater to battle Oklahoma State.
10 Biggest Games of Week 5
Ohio State (+3) at Michigan State
After opening the Urban Meyer era with four straight wins at home — some closer than the natives would have liked — the Buckeyes make the short trip to East Lansing for the Big Ten opener for both schools. Ohio State has struggled on defense the past two weeks, giving up 512 and 403 yards to California and UAB, respectively. The major issue has been stopping the pass; the Bucks currently rank 104th in the nation in pass defense, allowing 277.3 yards per game. Good thing for Ohio State that Michigan State has so much trouble with the forward pass. Andrew Maxwell’s numbers aren’t horrible, but MSU ranks 108th as a team in passing efficiency and doesn’t really have many proven downfield threats. Le’Veon Bell has been the primary weapon for the Spartans’ offense, but he hasn’t exactly been a model of consistency. The junior has two games with over 200 yards and two games with under 100. Slowing down Bell will be the key for the Ohio State defense.
Ohio State 17, Michigan State 13
Baylor (+12.5) at West Virginia
Baylor is proving there is life after Robert Griffin III. The Bears improved to 3–0 with a 47–42 win at ULM last Friday night. Nick Florence, RG3’s backup the past three seasons, completed 25-of-39 passes for 351 yards and four touchdowns, to lead Baylor past a solid ULM club that opened the season with an overtime win at Arkansas and an OT loss at Auburn. West Virginia, meanwhile, has cruised to a 3–0 start with home wins over Marshall, James Madison and Maryland. The Mountaineers are putting up gaudy numbers in the passing game: Quarterback Geno Smith ranks second nationally in total offense, and WVU has two players (Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey) ranked among the top 10 nationally in receiving yards per game. This is an underrated matchup on a rather ordinary slate of games.
West Virginia 44, Baylor 34
Tennessee (+13) at Georgia
Georgia looks more and more like a legitimate national championship contender with each passing week. The Bulldogs were sharp on both sides of the ball in an easier-than-expected 48-3 win over Vanderbilt on Saturday night. Aaron Murray has been spectacular at quarterback, and the Bulldogs are getting great production from true freshman tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. Tennessee is 3–1, but all is not well in the land of the Volunteers. Derek Dooley’s club struggled with Akron last weekend for the first three-plus quarters before pulling away late. The defense, under the tutelage of Nick Saban disciple Sal Sunseri, is making too many mistakes. A secondary that was exposed during the 37–20 loss to Florida two weeks ago will have a very difficult time against the balanced Georgia attack.
Georgia 38, Tennessee 17
Texas (-2.5) at Oklahoma State
Is Texas back? That has been a popular question early in the 2012 season. Our answer: We think. The Longhorns, as expected, have been very good on defense. The offense, specifically the passing attack, has been better than expected — though the competition hasn’t been great. Sophomore David Ash ranks third in the nation in passing efficiency thanks in large part to his 7-to-0 TD-to-INT ratio. Oklahoma State has sandwiched lopsided wins vs. inferior opponents (Savannah State and UL Lafayette) around a 59–38 loss at Arizona. The Pokes are allowing 438.5 yards per game vs. FBS foes. Look for the outstanding Texas defensive line to make life difficult for the Oklahoma State quarterback — either true freshman Wes Lunt (if healthy) or redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh.
Texas 31, Oklahoma State 17
Stanford (-6) at Washington (Thu)
This is an intriguing game between one program eager to prove it has staying power (Stanford) and one program attempting to climb the food chain in the Pac-12 (Washington). Stanford is 3–0 and has one of the best wins by team in college football this season, a 21–14 victory over USC in Week 2. Washington is 2–1 but played poorly in its only true test this season. The Huskies managed just 157 yards of offense in a 41–3 loss at LSU. The offense, which was a strength a year ago, has scored only 24 points in two games vs. FBS opponents. Junior Keith Price will have to be at his best to give Washington a chance to win.
Stanford 28, Washington 23
Arkansas (+13) at Texas A&M
There are so many words we can use to describe Arkansas’ season to date — debacle, train wreck, dumpster fire, nightmare, etc. One word that can’t be used? Success. Virtually nothing has gone right for the Razorbacks. They are 0–3 vs. FBS opponents, and all three losses have come in the state of Arkansas. There are many culprits, but enemy No. 1 has to the pass defense. Saturday night, Rutgers sophomore Gary Nova threw for 398 yards — 99 more than his previous career high — and five touchdowns in the Scarlet Knights’ win in Fayetteville. This week, Arkansas’ challenge will be even greater as they leave the state for the first time this season. Texas A&M redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel has emerged as one of the most exciting young quarterbacks in the nation. Manziel has rushed for 262 yards and five touchdowns and also thrown seven touchdowns without an interception in 86 attempts. This one could get ugly.
Texas A&M 41, Arkansas 20
Oregon State (+3) at Arizona
Expectations were low at Oregon State this season. So naturally, Mike Riley has the Beavers off to a 2–0 start that includes wins against Wisconsin and UCLA. The Beavers are getting it done by passing the football and playing outstanding defense. Sean Mannion, the strong-armed sophomore, has completed 53-of-82 passes for 655 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. The defense, a weakness a year ago, held Wisconsin to seven points (the Badgers’ lowest total since October 2008) — and UCLA to 20 (20.7 below its average heading into the game). Arizona suffered its first defeat of the Rich Rodriguez era on Saturday night, a humbling 49–0 shutout at Oregon. The Wildcats hung around into the second half — they only trailed 13–0 midway through the third — but gave up five touchdowns in the final 22 minutes of the game. Matt Scott, who had played so well in his first three games under RichRod, completed only 50 percent of his passes and was intercepted three times.
Oregon State 23, Arizona 17
Wisconsin (+12) at Nebraska
Wisconsin has been one of the most disappointing teams in the nation through the early part of the season. Yes, the Badgers are 3–1, but they beat Northern Iowa by five, Utah State by two (when USU missed a 37-yard field goal in the final seconds) and UTEP by 11. But there is still plenty of time to turn things around. Wisconsin is 0–0 in the Big Ten and plays in a division (the Leaders) in which two teams are ineligible for the Big Ten Championship Game. Bottom line: Wisconsin doesn’t need to be very good to reach the league title game; the Badgers just need to be better than Illinois and Purdue. We still don’t know much about Nebraska. The Huskers have defeated three overmatched teams in Lincoln and lost to UCLA in their only game vs. a school from an AQ conference. Even against this soft schedule, Nebraska is having trouble stopping the run. The Huskers have given up 185 yards on the ground to Southern Miss, 355 to UCLA and 148 to Arkansas State. Wisconsin hasn’t been productive on the ground to date, but this a team that is still capable of running the ball well (we think).
Nebraska 27, Wisconsin 20
Virginia Tech (-7) vs. Cincinnati (Landover, Md.)
We are four weeks into the college football season, yet Cincinnati has only played two games — and only one vs. an FBS opponent. The Bearcats did well in that one game, beating Pittsburgh 34¬–10, but this team is still a mystery. George Winn has stepped in for Isaiah Pead at tailback and has 242 yards in two games. Munchie Legaux has been a playmaker at quarterback (142 yards rushing, 413 yards passing), but he threw two interceptions against Delaware State two weeks ago. Virginia Tech bounced back from its troubling loss at Pittsburgh to beat a decent Bowling Green team 37–0 in Blacksburg. Logan Thomas wasn’t sharp at quarterback (he completed only 11-of-26 attempts), but the Hokies ran the ball well, with 246 yards on 43 carries. It’s tempting to compare these teams’ common opponent (Cincinnati beat Pitt by 24 points and Pitt beat Virginia Tech by 18 points), but applying the transitive property in college football can be dangerous.
Virginia Tech 27, Cincinnati 24
NC State (+2.5) at Miami (Fla.)
The first thing that comes to mind about Miami football in 2012 is the Canes’ no-show in a 52–13 loss at Kansas State in Week 2. But that’s far from the complete story. Al Golden’s team is 3–1 overall and 2–0 in the ACC with both wins coming on the road. The Canes showed tremendous resolve at Georgia Tech last weekend, rallying from a 36–19 deficit in the second half to defeat the Yellow Jackets in overtime. NC State has won three straight after opening the season with a 35–21 loss to Tennessee in Atlanta. The schedule, however, hasn’t been too taxing. The Wolfpack won at UConn, which is mildly impressive, before beating South Alabama and The Citadel with ease. Mike Glennon has looked good at times — he was brilliant for a stretch vs. Tennessee — but needs to play well on a consistent basis to give this team a chance at being relevant in the ACC Coastal race.
Miami (Fla.) 27, NC State 20
Last week: 6–4 overall (5–5 against the spread)
Season: 27–13 overall (21–19 against the spread)
By Mitch Light