College football's sixth weekend of action is highlighted by two huge games in the SEC, Miami's trip to Chicago to battle undefeated Notre Dame and the West Virginia-Texas showdown in Austin.
No. 57 Pittsburgh at No. 73 Syracuse
These two future ACC members have a combined one win vs. FBS opponents — Pitt’s Week 3 win over Virginia Tech. Here’s a note that doesn’t mean much: Syracuse gave up exactly 42 points in its first two games and exactly 10 in its last two.
No. 46 Utah State at No. 52 BYU
Gary Andersen continues his fine work at Utah State. The Aggies are 4–1 overall with the only loss coming by two points at Wisconsin. His team has wins over its top two rivals in the past two years, BYU in 2010 and Utah this season. The next step? Beating BYU in Provo, something that Utah State hasn’t done since 1978.
Utah State 23-20
No. 20 Washington at No. 2 Oregon
Washington once dominated this Northwest rivalry, winning 17 of 20 from 1974-1993. The balance of power has shifted to Oregon of late. The Ducks have won eight straight — and all eight have been decided by 17 point or more. The streak will continue.
No. 3 Georgia at No. 7 South Carolina
Steve Spurrier summed it up perfectly on Sunday afternoon: “This is a huge game. We all know it.” The coach is right. They don’t get any bigger at South Carolina, a school that is ranked in the top five in the national polls for the second time ever.
No. 4 Florida State at No. 43 NC State
Florida State heads back into ACC play after improving to 5–0 with a win at South Florida last week. NC State lost its ACC opener last week, falling to Miami 44–37 on a 62-yard pass in the final minute. The Wolfpack have given up a combined 79 points in their two games against teams with a competent offense, Tennessee (35) and Miami (44). That’s a bad omen with FSU coming to town.
Florida State 38, NC State 17
No. 5 LSU at No. 9 Florida
The Gators are 4–0 and are showing signs of once again having an offense capable of scoring points with regularity. This new-look attack will face its stiffest challenge of the season (by far) on Saturday afternoon. For all its (relative) troubles, LSU is still a dominant defensive team that has been equally stingy against the run and the pass. This could be the week we realize that the Gators’ attack hasn’t quite progressed as much as we thought.
No. 36 Miami (Fla.) at No. 6 Notre Dame (in Chicago)
For the first time since 1990, Miami and Notre Dame meet in the regular season. The Fighting Irish are 4–0 with wins over three quality Big Ten teams — and yes, there are some quality Big Ten teams. The Notre Dame defense has been dominant, allowing an average of 291.3 yards and 9.0 points per game. The Irish will be challenged by a Miami team that has scored more than 40 points in each of its three ACC games (all wins).
Notre Dame 24-21
No. 12 West Virginia at No. 8 Texas
First the bad news: These two Big 12 powers gave up a combined 99 points last week. Now the good news: Both teams won, thanks to offenses that scored 70 points (West Virginia) and 41 points (Texas). They key on Saturday will be red zone defense. Both teams will move the ball up and down the field; the team that has to settle for field goals will have a difficult time winning.
No. 95 Kansas at No. 10 Kansas State
It’s been a rough start for Charlie Weis at Kansas. The Jayhawks are 0–3 vs. FBS opponents, with losses to Rice and TCU at home and Northern Illinois on the road. This in-state battle won’t be close.
Kansas State 30-7
No. 22 Nebraska at No. 11 Ohio State
Nebraska rallied from a 27–10 deficit in the third quarter to beat Wisconsin 30–27 in Lincoln in its Big Ten opener. Taylor Martinez rushed for 100-plus yards for only the second time this season. When he is a threat both through the air and on the ground, this offense can be difficult to stop. Ohio State is only allowing 17.0 points per game, but the Buckeyes have yet to face an offense that can run the ball as well as Nebraska’s.
No. 14 Oklahoma at No. 41 Texas Tech
This is a important game for Oklahoma in so many ways. After losing two weeks ago at home to Kansas State, the Sooners simply need to win a game. But they also need to play well, something they have yet to do in two games vs. FBS opponents. Landry Jones’ numbers look okay on the surface — he’s completing 63.6 percent and averaging 257.3 yards per game — but he ranks 10th in the Big 12 in passing efficiency in large part because he’s only averaging 7.2 yards per attempt.
No. 54 Georgia Tech at No. 15 Clemson
Georgia Tech has dominated this series of late, with a 7–2 record vs. Clemson over the last eight years (the teams met twice in 2009). But things aren’t going so well for the Yellow Jackets in 2012. They dropped to 2–3 overall with a shocking 49–28 loss at home to Middle Tennessee — a team that lost to McNeese State in Week 1. The Blue Raiders rolled up over 500 yards of offense, averaging 7.6 yards per snap.
No. 49 Iowa State at No. 16 TCU
I’m still stunned that TCU managed only 156 total yards of offense in last week’s 24–16 win over SMU. The previous week, Texas A&M rolled up 605 yards vs. the same Mustang defense. Now, TCU must go to battle without quarterback Casey Pachall, who was suspended following an arrest for DUI.
No. 104 Washington State at No. 17 Oregon State
The Beavers are already 2–0 in the Pac-12 and both wins have come on the road — vs. UCLA and Arizona. Washington State, on the other hand is 0–2 in the league and both losses have come at home — vs. Colorado and Oregon (in Seattle).
Oregon State 38-17
No. 72 UConn at No. 19 Rutgers
UConn’s last four games have been decided by seven points or less. The Huskies lost to NC State (by three) and Western Michigan (by six) and beat Maryland (by three) and Buffalo (by seven). Not exactly a murderer’s row of opponents.
No. 21 UCLA at No. 55 California
Jeff Tedford’s job security will be a hot topic the rest of the season. The Golden Bears have played a tough schedule, but 1–4 is still 1–4. This team needs a quality win, but beating UCLA will be a tough task, even in Berkeley.
No. 23 Michigan at No. 39 Purdue
Purdue might be the most undervalued team in the nation through the first one-third of the season. The Boilermakers are 3–1 with their only loss coming by three points at Notre Dame. They did have some trouble with Marshall last weekend, but the final score (51–41) was a bit deceiving. Purdue led 42–14 at the half and 51–35 midway through the fourth quarter.
No. 32 Arizona at No. 24 Stanford
The Wildcats, once 3–0 under new coach Rich Rodriguez, are now 3–2 after losing at Oregon 49–0 and at home to Oregon State 38–35. Quarterback Matt Scott has thrown five interceptions in the two losses after throwing only one in the first three games. He also hasn’t been as much of a threat with his legs; he averaged 63.3 yards rushing in his first three games but only 19.0 in the last two. This is a huge swing game for both programs.
No. 105 UNLV at No. 25 Louisiana Tech
Louisiana Tech isn’t getting enough attention for its 4–0 start. The Bulldogs have scored 44 points or more in all four games and have won consecutive games on the road vs. AQ conference foes by a combined score of 96–62.
Louisiana Tech 55-17
No. 26 Michigan State at No. 102 Indiana
Michigan State has only scored more than 23 points once this season, in a 41–7 win at Central Michigan in Week 2. Indiana has given up a total of 85 points the last two games — losses to Ball State and Northwestern. Michigan State fans should really be concerned if the Spartans struggle to score vs. IU.
Michigan State 30-13
No. 27 Mississippi State at No. 79 Kentucky
Kentucky is struggling on both sides of the ball, but there is certain to be some extra energy at Commonwealth Stadium due to the debut of true freshman quarterback Patrick Towles. Mississippi State is the better team, but the Bulldogs will have to play well to win and preserve their undefeated record.
Mississippi State 30-20
No. 28 Texas A&M at No. 58 Ole Miss
Ole Miss has made tremendous progress on offense under first-year coach Hugh Freeze. One reason: The Rebels are having success on third down, leading the SEC by converting 51.5 percent of their attempts. This week, Ole Miss faces a Texas A&M defense that has been the stingiest in the SEC on third down, allowing a 26.5 percent rate of success. If the Rebels, an 11-point underdog, hope to keep pace with the potent Texas A&M offense, they need to have success on third down.
Texas A&M 38-28
No. 108 Miami (Ohio) at No. 29 Cincinnati
Cincinnati has won six straight in this series — and none of the six has been close. In the last two years, Miami has scored a total of three points.
No. 30 Northwestern at No. 53 Penn State
Northwestern is one win away from bowl-eligibility. Penn State, of course, won’t be going to a bowl game this year — or any time soon. But credit Bill O’Brien. The Nittany Lions have won three straight and looked very good in last week’s 35–7 win at Illinois.
Penn State 17-13
No. 112 Wyoming at No. 31 Nevada
Nevada is home to the nation’s leading rusher. Junior Stefphon Jefferson is averaging 175.4 yards per game for Chris Ault’s club. Jefferson has rushed for at least 135 yards in all five games.
No. 70 Vanderbilt at No. 34 Missouri
The first part of the season has been a struggle for the Vanderbilt offense. The Commodores averaged 30.6 points in their final eight games in ’11, but are scoring at a much lower clip this fall. They are averaging 21.8 points in four games, but that number dips down to 9.7 when you remove the 58–0 win over Presbyterian in Week 3.
No. 37 Boise State at No. 101 Southern Miss
The Ellis Johnson era at Southern Miss is not going well. The Golden Eagles are 0–4 and have been alarmingly unproductive on offense. The natives, who are used to winning at a high level, aren’t happy with their first-year head coach.
Boise State 27-7
No. 42 Virginia Tech at No. 56 North Carolina
Looking for a positive spin on Virginia Tech’s season to date? The Hokies are 1–0 in the ACC. Looking for a realistic spin? The Hokies are struggling. They are 0–2 vs. Big East teams and needed overtime to win their only league game, a 20–17 decision over Georgia Tech.
Virginia Tech 27-20
No. 88 Arkansas at No. 44 Auburn
Arkansas’ pass defense has been horrendous in 2012 — and that is being kind. The Razorbacks, who are still searching for a win over an FBS opponent, have allowed 349.4 passing yards per game to rank 121st in the nation. They have given up 14 touchdowns through the air and have intercepted only one pass.
No. 76 Illinois at No. 45 Wisconsin
Wisconsin has been a disappointment in 2012. Illinois has been a train wreck. The Fighting Illini opened with a solid 24–7 win over Western Michigan but have lost three straight against FBS foes. Last week, Illinois was drilled at home by Penn State 35–7. That shouldn’t happen.
No. 47 ULM at No. 85 Middle Tennessee
Middle Tennessee threw for 246 yards and rushed for 264 last week in a surprisingly easy 48–28 win at Georgia Tech. ULM, too, has a win over an AQ conference opponent. The Warhawks beat Arkansas in overtime in their opener before losing to Auburn (in overtime) and Baylor (by five). This is a very good team.
ULM 34, Middle Tennessee 24
No. 113 Buffalo at No. 50 Ohio
Ohio’s run at perfection nearly took a catastrophic (relatively speaking) turn last week. The Bobcats had to rally from seven down late in the third quarter to beat FBS newcomer UMass. Was this simply a speed bump, or is Ohio not quite as good as we thought? Go with the former.
Ohio 41, Buffalo 13
No. 66 Virginia at No. 60 Duke
Not many people have noticed, but Duke is 4–1 and needs only two wins to become bowl-eligible for the first time since 1994. The Blue Devils have a great opportunity to pick up No. 5 this Saturday vs. Virginia.
No. 61 South Florida at No. 83 Temple
South Florida won two straight to open the season but has since lost three in a row, including two at home. They now hit the road for four of the next six. If the Bulls want to be a factor in the Big East, they cannot afford to lose to Temple.
South Florida 21-20
No. 64 Wake Forest at No. 82 Maryland
It’s not a good sign for Wake Forest that the Demon Deacons are a 5.5-point dog to a Maryland team that hasn’t won a league game since the 2011 opener.
No. 65 Northern Illinois at No. 81 Ball State
Ball State’s last three games have been decided by a total of eight points. The Cardinals beat Indiana by two and South Florida by four before losing at Kent State by two. Northern Illinois has won four straight after opening with a one-point loss to Iowa. These are two solid MAC teams.
Northern Illinois 47-41
No. 67 Tulsa at No. 86 Marshall
Marshall has scored 95 points in its last two games but only has a 1–1 record to show for it. The Herd beat Rice 54–51 in overtime two weeks ago before losing to Purdue 51–41. Tulsa is 2–0 in the league after winning at UAB last week. The Golden Hurricane sacked UAB quarterback Austin Brown seven times for a loss of 68 yards.
No. 100 Central Michigan at No. 68 Toledo
The good times didn’t last long at Central Michigan. One week after beating Iowa 32–31 on a last-second field goal, the Chips were pounded 55–24 at Northern Illinois.
No. 69 Boston College at No. 122 Army
Army lost at home to Stony Brook 23-3 and allowed someone named Miguel Maysonet to rush for 220 yards. Things aren’t going well for the Black Knights.
Boston College 37-10
No. 120 UMass at No. 71 Western Michigan
UMass climbed from 124 (last) to 120 in the weekly Athlon Sports 124 thanks to its three-point loss at Ohio. That’s progress for a team that had lost its first four games by an average of 34.3 points.
Western Michigan 34-17
No. 124 Tulane at No. 74 UL Lafayette
There’s not other way to say it: Tulane is awful. The Green Wave are 0–4 and rank last in the nation in scoring offense (8.0 ppg) and 118th in scoring defense (42.8 ppg). And three of their four games have been at home. This will be ugly.
UL Lafayette 48-13
No. 75 Fresno State at No. 116 Colorado State
It’s a battle of first-year coaches in the Mountain West — Tim DeRuyter at Fresno State vs. Jim McElwain at Colorado State. DeRuyter, the defensive coordinator at Texas A&M last season, inherited significantly more talent than McElwain, the offensive coordinator at Alabama from 2008-11.
Fresno State 38-10
No. 80 Kent State at No. 114 Eastern Michigan
Kent State is 3–1 for the first time since 1987 when Glen Mason was roaming the sidelines. The Golden Flashes haven’t been 4–1 since ’77 when Dennis Fitzgerald was the boss at Kent State.
Kent State 30-20
No. 97 SMU at No. 89 UTEP
Garrett Gilbert, once considered the nation’s top prep quarterback, had one of the worst games possible for a quarterback last week. The former Texas Longhorn completed 15-of-40 attempts for 190 yards with one touchdown and five interceptions. It’s a minor miracle that SMU only lost 24–16 to TCU.
No. 115 Hawaii at No. 90 San Diego State
San Diego State is scoring a ton of points (34 or more in four straight) but also giving up a ton (38 or more in three straight). Good thing Hawaii is next up. The Warriors have been outscored 165–34 in three games vs. FBS opponents.
San Diego State 41-14
No. 91 Navy at No. 106 Air Force
These proud military schools have fallen on hard times in 2012. Combined, they have one win vs. FBS competition, and that was Air Force’s 42–21 victory over Colorado State last weekend.
Air Force 24-21
No. 92 Texas State at No. 109 New Mexico
New Mexico has made the leap from dumpster fire (during the Mike Locksley) to potentially decent Mountain West team. The Lobos flirted with a huge upset last week before falling to Boise State 32–29 in Albuquerque.
New Mexico 28-20
No. 107 North Texas at No. 93 Houston
Houston, a colossal disappointment through the first three weeks of the season, broke through with its first win last week, a 35–14 victory over Rice. The Cougars should make it two straight with North Texas coming to town. The Mean Green have been solid on defense, but they will struggle to score enough to win this game.
No. 94 Rice at No. 123 Memphis
Rice expects quarterback Taylor McHargue to return to action after missing last week’s loss to Houston with a shoulder injury. It might not matter. Memphis is still really bad at football.
No. 96 Bowling Green at No. 110 Akron
Akron has only one win — and it came against FCS member Morgan State — but there is no doubt that the Zips have made significant improvements in the first season of the Terry Bowden era.
Southeastern Louisiana at No. 98 UAB
UAB is searching for its first win of the Garrick McGee era. It should happen this week against Southeastern Louisiana. The Lions lost to Missouri 62–10 in Week 1 in their only game vs. an FBS opponent.
No. 117 New Mexico State at No. 118 Idaho
These two future FBS Independents will meet twice next year, once in Las Cruces and once in Moscow.
Last week: 44–11