The Week 6 slate is highlighted by Ohio State’s trip to Northwestern and Washington’s visit to Palo Alto to play Stanford. Elsewhere, Ole Miss tries to get back on track against improved Auburn; Georgia hopes to avoid a letdown at Neyland Stadium against Tennessee; and Maryland looks to knock off ACC superpower Florida State.
No. 43 BYU at No. 57 Utah State
Gary Andersen is now the coach at Wisconsin, but Utah State is still one of the more underappreciated teams in the nation. The Aggies are 3-2, with a four-point loss at Utah and a three-point loss at USC. They also have convincing road wins over Air Force and San Jose State. This is a very good team.
Utah State 27-24
No. 77 Nevada at No. 103 San Diego State
Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo returned to the lineup last Saturday after a two-week absence due to injury. He put up Fajardo-like numbers, throwing for 389 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for 81 yards and two scores in a 45-42 win over Air Force. Expect similar numbers this week.
No. 125 Georgia State at No. 1 Alabama
Alabama steps out of SEC play for what should be little more than a scrimmage. Georgia State is 0-4, with three of the four defeats coming against teams from the FCS ranks — and all three of those games were at home. Now, the Panthers head to Tuscaloosa to play the nation’s No. 1 team. Good luck.
No. 2 Ohio State at No. 19 Northwestern
ESPN is bringing its travelling road show — better known as College GameDay — to Northwestern for the first time since 1995. That year, the Wildcats were led by an undersized linebacker named Pat Fitzgerald. Nearly 20 years later, Fitzgerald is in the eighth year at his alma mater and has the program positioned to challenge for its first Big Ten title since 2000. This week, the undefeated Cats host No. 2 Ohio State in their first true test of the season.
Ohio State 27-23
No. 3 Oregon at No. 84 Colorado
First-year Oregon coach Mark Helfrich served as the offensive coordinator at Colorado from 2006-08. It’s safe to say he has far more talent at his disposal in his current gig. The Ducks will score a ton of points. Colorado won’t score many.
No. 4 Clemson at No. 68 Syracuse
In two weeks, Clemson will host Florida State in the Game of the Year in the ACC. That game, however, won’t mean quite as much if the Tigers slip up in the next two weeks — at Syracuse on Saturday or at home vs. Boston College on Oct. 12.
No. 5 Georgia at No. 49 Tennessee
Georgia lost nine straight in this series from 1989-99 but has since won nine of the last 13, including three straight. And after looking at both teams’ performances through the first month of the season, there is no reason to believe that won’t be four straight after the Bulldogs’ trip to Neyland Stadium this weekend.
No. 13 Washington at No. 6 Stanford
Washington’s emergence as a legitimate contender in the Pac-12 North has elevated this game to must-see status. The Huskies have cruised to a 4–0 start against a solid schedule that has featured home wins over Boise State and Arizona and a road win at improved Illinois. Stanford might lack dynamic playmakers at the skill positions, but this team has few weaknesses.
No. 7 LSU at No. 48 Mississippi State
LSU proved once again last week that it might be the most improved offensive team in the nation. Unfortunately for the Tigers, they proved it in a loss — despite scoring 41 points on the road. One loss will not eliminate LSU from the national title hunt, but this team no longer has any margin for error.
No. 9 South Carolina at No. 83 Kentucky
Steve Spurrier was not pleased with his team’s start or finish last week in Orlando. The Gamecocks got the win — 28-25 over UCF — but it was not the type of performance that gave Spurrier confidence his team can compete with the powers in the SEC. He can’t, however, have many complaints about Mike Davis, his sophomore tailback. Davis leads the SEC in rushing with 127.0 yards per game and has done so on a healthy 7.2-yard average.
South Carolina 24-10
No. 10 Louisville at No. 116 Temple
Things are not going well for first-year Temple coach Matt Ruhle. The Owls are 0-4 and have lost at home to Fordham and at Idaho. Those are two really bad losses.
No. 26 Maryland at No. 11 Florida State
The same week that UConn fired his replacement, Randy Edsall is gearing up for the biggest game of his tenure as the coach at Maryland. The Terps, off to a 4–0 start, head to Tallahassee to play a loaded Florida State team that has dreams of a national title.
Florida State 34-21
No. 32 TCU at No. 12 Oklahoma
The Sooners are beginning to separate themselves in the Big 12. The defense has been better than expected, and Blake Bell, who began the year No. 2 on the depth chart, is emerging as one of the league’s top quarterbacks. He has completed 71.2 percent of his passes and has six TDs and zero INTs.
No. 45 West Virginia at No. 14 Baylor
These two teams combined to score 133 points last year in Morgantown, with West Virginia outlasting Baylor 70-63. Baylor is still scoring an obscene amount of points — the Bears lead the nation with 69.7 per game — but WVU, minus Geno Smith & Co., isn’t quite as explosive.
No. 59 Minnesota at No. 15 Michigan
Minnesota’s Big Ten opener was a disaster. The Golden Gophers, who went 4-0 against a soft non-conference schedule, managed only 165 total yards in a disheartening 23-7 loss at home to Iowa. That does not bode well for the rest of the season.
No. 29 Georgia Tech at No. 16 Miami (Fla.)
This was shaping up to be the Game of the Year in the ACC Coastal Division … until Georgia Tech lost at home to Virginia Tech last Thursday. Still, this is a big game for both teams. Miami has only been challenged once, and the Canes passed the test in impressive fashion, beating Florida 21–16 in Week 2.
No. 50 Arkansas at No. 17 Florida
So far so good for Tyler Murphy. One week after coming off the bench to lead Florida past Tennessee in Gainesville, Murphy completed 15-of-18 passes for 156 yards with one touchdown and one interception in the Gators’ 24-7 win at Kentucky. Those numbers won’t get you in the discussion for All-SEC honors, but it’s probably more than most Florida fans expected from the former 2-star recruit.
No. 20 Fresno State at No. 115 Idaho
Fresno State is undefeated, but the Bulldogs are living dangerously. They have won three games by five points or less, including last week’s too-close-for-comfort 42-37 win over a bad Hawaii team. The Bulldogs’ defense must improve.
Fresno State 48-10
No. 21 Ole Miss at No. 35 Auburn
We learned last Saturday night that Ole Miss isn’t quite ready to contend for the SEC West title. But one loss — especially when that loss is at Alabama — should not derail the momentum the Rebels grabbed with their 3-0 start. This is still a very good team.
Ole Miss 31-21
No. 22 Arizona State vs. No. 28 Notre Dame (Arlington, Texas)
Notre Dame rushed for 220 yards (on a 7.6-yard average) at home last week yet still lost by 14 points to Oklahoma. The reason? Tommy Rees completed only 9-of-24 and was intercepted three times. The Irish will need more balance to beat a solid Arizona State team at Cowboys Stadium.
Arizona State 28-20
No. 55 Kansas State at No. 23 Oklahoma State
Those of us who picked Oklahoma State to win the Big 12 title weren’t envisioning a loss at West Virginia in the Pokes’ league opener. But that’s what happened, thanks in part to a subpar day from quarterback J.W Walsh, who threw 27 incomplete passes (including two picks). The Pokes will have to play much better to stay in the race throughout the season.
Oklahoma State 27-20
No. 58 North Carolina at No. 24 Virginia Tech
It’s hard to decide what stat was the most disappointing last week for North Carolina. Was it the 603 total yards rolled up by East Carolina in the Pirates’ 42-24 win? Was it the 186 rushing yards accumulated by ECU tailback Vintavious Cooper? Or was it the fact that UNC only averaged 2.1 yards per carry against a C-USA defense?
Virginia Tech 24-20
No. 27 Texas Tech at No. 93 Kansas
The schedule hasn’t been too taxing, but the Red Raiders are thriving under first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury. Tech is 4-0, with wins over four teams from Texas — SMU (on the road), Stephen F. Austin, TCU and Texas State. This week, the Raiders leave the Lone Star State for the first time, but their perfect record should remain intact.
Texas Tech 51-17
No. 31 Michigan State at No. 53 Iowa
Iowa opened the season with a loss at home to Northern Illinois but has since won four straight, several in very impressive fashion. Last week, the Hawkeyes limited Minnesota to 165 yards in a 23-7 win in Minneapolis. This week, offensively challenged Michigan State visits Iowa City. Don’t expect a lot of points.
No. 33 Northern Illinois at No. 104 Kent State
The Huskies are 4-0, with two wins coming against teams from the Big Ten (Iowa and Purdue). Jordan Lynch is completing nearly two-thirds of his passes with 10 TDs and two INTs and has added 439 yards and three scores on the ground. It would be a surprise if NIU does not win the MAC.
Northern Illinois 43-18
No. 60 Illinois at No. 34 Nebraska
Illinois hasn’t won a Big Ten road game in almost two calendar years. They won’t win this week, either — but don’t be surprised if this game isn’t decided until the fourth quarter. It’s tough to trust the Nebraska defense. Plus, the Huskers could be playing without quarterback Taylor Martinez.
No. 36 Missouri at No. 37 Vanderbilt
Missouri has cruised to a 4-0 start against a relatively soft non-conference schedule. Now the fun begins for the Tigers, who play eight SEC games over the next nine weeks. On Saturday, Mizzou makes its first trip to Vanderbilt since 1957. Last year, the Tigers outgained the Dores by 100 yards but dropped a 19-15 decision in Columbia.
No. 38 UCF at No. 94 Memphis
Memphis is clearly on the right track under second-year coach Justin Fuente, but the Tigers aren’t quite ready to beat a team as talented as UCF. Blake Bortles is one of the nation’s most underrated players.
No. 39 Penn State at No. 62 Indiana
Indiana closes its season-opening, five-game home stand with a visit from Penn State. The Hoosiers, who have already lost two games, will have a tough time reaching bowl-eligibility unless they win on Saturday.
No. 46 Rutgers at No. 97 SMU
There’s no shame in losing to Texas Tech, Texas A&M and TCU — as SMU has done — but the Mustangs haven’t been competitive in any of the three losses. Also, their only win came against Montana State, by one point. It’s fair to say this team has been a disappointment in 2013.
No. 51 NC State at No. 91 Wake Forest
NC State plays on the road for the first time this year, making the short trip from Raleigh to Winston-Salem. The Wolfpack are 3-1 but don’t have anything resembling a quality win.
NC State 34-24
No. 52 East Carolina at No. 87 Middle Tennessee
East Carolina must avoid a letdown after last week’s shockingly easy 55-31 win at North Carolina. The Pirates rolled up 603 yards of offense and only committed one turnover on 101 offensive plays.
East Carolina 47-24
No. 54 Washington State at No. 69 California
Washington State (-1.5) is favored in a league road game for the first time since late in the 2006 season, when the Bill Doba-led Cougars were a one-point favorite at Arizona State. They lost 47-14.
No. 98 Air Force at No. 61 Navy
After a few days of uncertainty, the Air Force-Navy game will be played despite the government shutdown. Air Force has lost four in a row for the first time since the end of the 2006 season. The Falcons haven’t lost five straight since 1993.
No. 63 Cincinnati at No. 110 South Florida
There’s still a lot of football to be played, but South Florida — 0-4 with a 53-21 loss to McNeese State on its resume — has a chance to be remembered among the worst AQ conference teams in the BCS era.
No. 123 UMass at No. 64 Bowling Green
Last year, Bowling Green limited UMass to 118 total yards, including only 33 passing, in a 24-0 win over the Minutemen. The Falcons should dominate again.
Bowling Green 34-10
No. 79 Ball State at No. 65 Virginia
Ball State stubbed its toe in a surprising Week 3 loss at North Texas (by three points), but Pete Lembo once again has a very good team. The Cardinals are already 2-0 in the MAC, highlighted by a nice win over MAC West rival Toledo. This will be a struggle for Virginia.
No. 111 Army at No. 66 Boston College
This game, like Air Force-Navy, was in jeopardy due to the government shutdown. But it will be played — and that’s a good thing for a Boston College program that is trying to piece together six wins to get to a bowl game under first-year coach Steve Addazio.
Boston College 34-13
No. 81 Texas State at No. 72 UL Lafayette
Dennis Franchione is quietly doing a solid job at Texas State. The Bobcats are 3-1 after beating a decent Wyoming team by 21 points last weekend in San Marcos.
Texas State 34-30
No. 73 Ohio at No. 112 Akron
Ohio has rebounded from a 49-7 loss in Week 1 at Louisville by winning three straight — highlighted by a 34-31 victory over Marshall on Sept. 14. Akron made headlines in Week 3 with its near-miss at Michigan, but the Zips are 1-4, and the only win came by two points against James Madison.
No. 102 UTSA at No. 74 Marshall
Marshall is just a few plays away from a perfect 4-0 record. The Thundering Herd lost by three at Ohio in Week 3 and by eight in triple-overtime at Virginia Tech in Week 4. This team is good enough to challenge East Carolina for the C-USA East title.
No. 76 Rice at No. 86 Tulsa
Tulsa appears to be in the midst of a slow decline under third-year coach Bill Blankenship. None of the Golden Hurricane’s three losses — at Bowling Green, at Oklahoma and vs. Iowa State — is a particularly bad loss, but it’s pretty clear the talent level isn’t the same as previous Tulsa teams.
No. 78 North Texas at No. 89 Tulane
With two roads on the season — at Louisiana Tech and at ULM — Tulane is making solid progress in Curtis Johnson’s second year. Beating North Texas, however, could be a challenge. The Mean Green beat a good Ball State team in Week 3 and made Georgia sweat into the second half last week in Athens.
North Texas 27-17
No. 121 Western Michigan at No. 80 Toledo
The schedule hasn’t been easy, but Western Michigan has been one of the worst teams in the nation over the first month of the season. There’s nothing wrong with losing to Michigan State, Northwestern or Iowa. There is, however, something wrong with losing at home to Nichols State.
No. 85 San Jose State at No. 118 Hawaii
It’s a bit too soon to declare the first year of the Ron Cargher era a disappointment — after all, there are a lot of teams that would lose to Stanford, Minnesota and Utah State — but the Spartans really need to beat Hawaii this week.
San Jose State 41-34
No. 88 South Alabama at No. 101 Troy
This has the makings of a solid regional rivalry. Troy has proven it can win on a consistent basis, and Joey Jones is doing an outstanding job building the program from scratch at South Alabama.
South Alabama 34-30
No. 120 Eastern Michigan at No. 96 Buffalo
It’s been a strange season for Buffalo, which in consecutive games gave up 70 points to Baylor, beat Stony Brook in five overtimes and beat Connecticut by 29 points.
No. 109 FAU at No. 106 UAB
The record isn’t very good (1-5), but FAU is showing signs of life under second-year coach Carl Pelini. The Owls won at South Florida in Week 3 and have lost their two games — vs. Middle Tennessee and at Rice — by a combined 11 points (one in overtime).
No. 122 New Mexico State at No. 107 New Mexico
It’s the annual battle in the Land of Enchantment between two of the worst FBS teams in the country. New Mexico is 0-5, and only one its losses (at home to San Diego State) has come by less than 21 points. New Mexico is 1-3, with its only win in overtime at UTEP.
New Mexico 34-20
No. 113 Louisiana Tech at No. 108 UTEP
Some teams have bad records because they’ve played a tough schedule. Louisiana Tech has a bad record because it’s a bad team. The Bulldogs are 0-4 against FBS competition, including losses to Tulane at home, at Kansas and vs. Army in Dallas.
No. 114 Central Michigan at No. 119 Miami (Ohio)
Miami has scored a total of 35 points in four games and only has two plays of at least 30 yards. Wisconsin, for comparison purposes, has 19 such plays.
Central Michigan 20-7
No. 124 FIU at No. 117 Southern Miss
Southern Miss hasn’t won a game since the end of the 2011 season yet is a 17-point favorite over FIU. This game could be painful.
Southern Miss 38-10