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College Football Week 5 Preview: Match-Ups, Upset Picks and Storylines to Watch


The final weekend of college football action in September certainly won't win many awards for the best slate of games. The Week 5 schedule features some intriguing games (Ohio State-Michigan State), but nothing like college football fans experienced last Saturday with Clemson-Florida State, Kansas State-Oklahoma and Notre Dame-Michigan. However, it's the weeks we least expect to be exciting that end up producing several upsets and close calls among teams ranked in the top 25.

Top Storylines to Watch in Week 5

1. Big Ten Showdown: Ohio State vs. Michigan State
It’s been a difficult first four weeks of the season for the Big Ten. With no marquee non-conference win and no team ranked inside of the top 10, the conference is desperately looking for some good news. Saturday’s Week 5 action should help erase some of the bad memories of non-conference play, especially due to the Ohio State-Michigan State match-up. The Buckeyes appear to be the Big Ten’s No. 1 team but struggled to beat UAB last week. Quarterback Braxton Miller is one of the Heisman frontrunners and takes on a Spartan defense ranked sixth nationally in yards allowed. The Buckeyes want to reduce the pressure on Miller, but the supporting cast needs to step up. Michigan State’s offense has been stuck in neutral for most of the year, with running back Le’Veon Bell averaging 152.5 yards per game despite a lackluster passing attack. Although Ohio State doesn’t want Miller to record 17-20 carries, it may be unavoidable against Michigan State. This one will be close because of the defenses, but Miller should be the difference in this game.

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2. Is Texas the Big 12’s frontrunner?
Kansas State’s win over Oklahoma last Saturday shook up the Big 12 pecking order. The Sooners were thought to be the frontrunner, but the door is open for Texas, TCU, Kansas State and Oklahoma State to win the conference title. The Longhorns are off to a solid 3-0 start, with their offense averaging 49.3 points a game. Of course, the competition hasn’t been spectacular, but quarterback David Ash is showing signs of progress. The Cowboys enter Saturday's contest with uncertainty under center. Starter Wes Lunt suffered a knee injury against Louisiana-Lafayette and may not be able to play against Texas. If he can’t go, redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh will get the start. Oklahoma State has won the last two games in this series, but the momentum seems to be shifting back to Texas – especially if Ash continues to take care of the ball, and the defense cuts down on the yards and points allowed.

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3. A Big (12) Welcome in Morgantown
West Virginia officially joined the Big 12 on July 1, but reality will sink in on Saturday afternoon. The Mountaineers kick off their first season in the Big 12 with a home date against Baylor. And if you like offense, this is definitely one of the weekend’s must-watch games. West Virginia is averaging 47.3 points a game, while Baylor ranks fifth nationally with an average of 51.3 points a game. Although the Mountaineers are stepping into a new conference and a schedule full of different opponents, this offense should feel right at home in the Big 12. Quarterback Geno Smith should have an opportunity to pad his Heisman resume against a Baylor secondary allowing 315 yards per game, while West Virginia’s new 3-4 scheme will get a test from the Bears’ offense. With a road date at Texas next week, this will provide the Mountaineers a barometer of just how their offense and defense stacks up in their new conference.

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4. No letdown for Florida State
Let's go ahead and say it: The Seminoles are back. It’s early, so a lot can change in the national title race, but Florida State announced its presence as a BCS Championship contender with a convincing win over Clemson. Now comes the hard part for the Seminoles – avoiding a letdown. South Florida beat Florida State in its only previous match-up in 2009, but this is a case of programs headed in opposite directions. The Bulls are 19-19 since defeating the Seminoles and are off to a disappointing 2-2 start this season. Although Florida State is coming off of a huge victory, there’s not much to suggest South Florida can hang around in this game. The Bulls rank 64th nationally in total defense, and quarterback B.J. Daniels has been inconsistent. The Seminoles may have a sluggish start, but expect them to pull away from South Florida in the second half. 

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5. Big Ten Championship Game Preview?
As mentioned previously with Ohio State-Michigan State, the race to win the Big Ten is wide open. With the Buckeyes banned from the postseason, Wisconsin appears to be the frontrunner to claim the Leaders Division title, but the Badgers haven’t looked like a championship team this year. Joel Stave replaced Danny O’Brien as Wisconsin’s starting quarterback and completed 12 of 17 passes for 210 yards against UTEP. Stave’s performance should give the Badgers some confidence on offense, especially as it appears running back Montee Ball will return from the concussion he suffered against the Miners. Nebraska’s defense has struggled to stop the run this year (177 yards per game), but its offense leads the Big Ten in scoring, total and rushing offense. The Badgers got the best of Nebraska last season, but beating the Cornhuskers in Lincoln won’t be easy. Considering both teams will be in the mix to win the Big Ten title, this could be an early preview of the conference title game in Indianapolis in early December.

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6. Georgia on upset alert?
The Bulldogs passed their biggest test so far this year, beating Missouri 41-20 in Week 2. Georgia has the pieces to contend for a national title, but this team will be tested over the next couple of weeks with road games at South Carolina and a neutral site meeting with Florida. The Bulldogs are expected to have some reinforcements this week, as safety Baccari Rambo and linebacker Alec Ogletree are expected to return from a four-game suspension. Rambo’s return to the lineup is huge, especially against a Tennessee offense that leads the SEC in passing yards per game. Although the Volunteers might be able to hang around with their offense, the defense ranks near the bottom of the conference in points and yards allowed, which is bad news against Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray and freshman running back Todd Gurley. This still doesn't mean the Volunteers aren't a dangerous opponent for the Bulldogs, especially with next week’s SEC East showdown against South Carolina looming large. 

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Under the Radar Match-ups

Western Kentucky at Arkansas State – Louisiana-Lafayette and FIU should both be a factor, but Western Kentucky and Arkansas State are the favorites to win the Sun Belt title. The Red Wolves have been tested in road trips to Nebraska and Oregon, while the Hilltoppers have wins over Kentucky and Southern Miss. Even though this match-up may not have top 25 implications, these two teams are two of the best from the non-BCS ranks.

Louisiana Tech at Virginia – After demolishing Illinois last week, Louisiana Tech is favored to beat Virginia. The Bulldogs lost running back Tevin King with a knee injury in last week’s game, but this offense is loaded with weapons, including receiver Quinton Patton and quarterback Colby Cameron. The Cavaliers have struggled to find their rhythm on offense and can’t afford to fall behind against one of the nation’s top offenses.

Texas Tech at Iowa State – Oklahoma State at Texas and Baylor at West Virginia will draw more national interest, but this match-up could be one of the most intriguing games in Week 5. The Red Raiders lead the nation in total defense and rank second nationally in total offense. However, this will be Texas Tech’s toughest challenge this year, and the Cyclones have beat the Red Raiders two consecutive seasons.

Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech (Landover, Md.) – FedEx Field will host its second college football game this year, as the Hokies and Bearcats meet in Landover, Md. Virginia Tech’s offense ranks 10th in the ACC with 366.3 yards per game, while the Bearcats rank third nationally by allowing only 8.5 points per contest. Tech has struggled to get its rushing game on track, and Cincinnati’s active front seven won’t make it any easier for the Hokies to establish the ground game.