2018 NCAAF Week 5 Weekend Preview

September 27, 2018

Finally, a good weekend for ole K Becks.

I dispatched of the Cheek Clapper last weekend, thanks in large part to a string of unfortunate events out West that resulted in an overtime victory for a team that was outclassed nearly the entire 60 minutes of regulation.

That’s college football, as we all know.

But I won’t spend too much time rambling – the majority of my “Three Thoughts” revolve around teams that helped me cut the prediction game deficit to just one.

1. Believe in the ‘Cats, because Kentucky is for real. After stifling previously No. 16 Mississippi State at home, the Wildcats are feeling good about their chances of realistically competing for the SEC East title. And you might as well give them a shot – Kentucky’s defense is legit, allowing fewer yards per game (279.5) than the team they’ll have to dethrone to get to Atlanta in early December (Georgia).

2. Stanford can’t ride this luck forever. More on this later, but the Cardinal were exposed defensively last weekend and it took a major collapse by Oregon not to send David Shaw’s team home with its first loss of the season. This isn’t the team to carry the banner for the Pac-12 this season.

3. Slowly but surely, the separation between the “haves” and “have-nots” of college football is happening. It’ll continue this weekend with a couple of Top 10 matchups, but based on what we saw last weekend, there is plenty of shuffling at the top of the heap in store for us as the season wears on.

This weekend, my beer buddy Matt will look to straighten things out for the guests. I’ll be getting him highly inebriated this weekend for his birthday, but one thing I don’t intend to let him have is a victory in the head-to-head pick ’em game. He’s running train on our division in fantasy football, so he can at least let me have this one…

The standings heading into the weekend look like this:

K. Becks – 11-9

Guests – 12-8

Let’s take a look at an intriguing slate of games of the docket.

5 Games to Watch This Weekend

#12 West Virginia at #25 Texas Tech (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

Around the Corn is a proud supporter of the Kliff Kingsbury Club, so on one hand I’m not surprised and pleased that the Red Raiders have found their way into the Top 25 in a season that feels like one in which Kingsbury must produce a winner. This is the fourth straight season in which Texas Tech has started 3-1, and in only one of the previous three have the Red Raiders finished the year with a winning record. The problem in previous years has been the pass defense – that will be the story again in 2018 unless the Red Raiders can find a way to outscore the entire Big 12.

The challenge started last weekend for the Red Raiders and they responded positively, thrashing Oklahoma State and allowing only 17 points. But Texas Tech’s lone loss, to Ole Miss, showed the ugly side of Texas Tech’s defense. A whopping 336 yards given up through the air en route to a 47-27 defeat. Unlike Oklahoma State, West Virginia has a proven and experienced passer in Will Grier, who has quickly climbed to near the top of the early 2019 NFL Draft Big Board. Grier leads an offense that averages over 375 yards of passing offense per game, precisely the type of attack that can tee off on Texas Tech’s defense. While I’d love to see the most attractive coach in college football steal another one at home, West Virginia is too strong on both sides of the football.

My Take: 56-31 West Virginia

Matt’s Take: Just like playing defense, neither of these schools are known for a wealth of craft beer around them. West Virginia has Mountain State Beverage, one of the best distributors in the region. Lead by the talented Andy Fields, they are set up for success in this matchup. Texas state laws don’t even allow for packaged beer to be sold at a brewery’s taproom.

West Virginia 48 Texas Tech 35

#4 Ohio State at #9 Penn State (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)

It isn’t often that a Big Ten matchup is touted for its potential for offensive fireworks, but that’s likely what we’ll see on Saturday evening when the Buckeyes look to avenge a 2016 loss to the Nittany Lions in Happy Valley. Ohio State hasn’t had a quarterback like Dwayne Haskins, with his combination of arm strength, accuracy and pocket awareness, since another guy that wore the No. 7 jersey in the late 1990s. As much as Buckeye fans still reminisce fondly about the recently concluded J.T. Barrett era, the fact is that Haskins is a much better quarterback and gives the Ohio State offense a legitimate passing game to go along with what was already a talented rushing attack.

Penn State can score as well, however, so it will be anything but a cakewalk for the Buckeyes. Trace McSorley has to be tired of playing college football’s version of a bridesmaid, as the Nittany Lions have just missed the CFP the previous two seasons. To have a shot this year, Penn State will definitely need to beat the Buckeyes at home. Ohio State will be without Nick Bosa on defense, so it will be interesting to see if the defensive front can get enough pressure on McSorley to slow down Penn State’s offensive attack. But even if the Buckeyes do engage in a shootout, their offense is well equipped to manage it. There is no reason why an offense with as many weapons as the Buckeyes have shouldn’t win by at least two touchdowns.

My Pick: 42-28 Ohio State

Matt’s Take: An illustrious craft beer scene in the major cities of these two states leads to an exciting matchup. Penn State has history with Yuengling and some recent success with breweries like Troegs and Victory. But Ohio State has stayed true through the years with old and new. CBC and Elevator lead the way with tradition while breweries like Seventh Son, Land Grant and North High have taken the state by storm. Consistency and talent are key to any success story.

Ohio State 35 Penn State 30

#7 Stanford at #8 Notre Dame (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)

It’s getting a bit old hearing a particular couple of ESPN personalities gripe about Notre Dame not hosting College GameDay whenever the Fighting Irish are set to play in a big game. Perhaps, unnamed gentlemen that may be related, your school would be featured more often on the show your network runs if it would play ball with regards to broadcast rights. ESPN has been known to help out its own – well, except for its employees. Anyway, despite the Big Ten’s marquee matchup getting the nod over this one for GameDay rights, this is still an intriguing one. Had Stanford looked better defensively against Oregon last weekend, I would have been more inclined to go with the Cardinal. However, that isn’t the case now.

Against Oregon, Stanford’s defense was torn apart by a junior quarterback that may be headed to the NFL after this season. Against Notre Dame, Stanford must deal with a sophomore quarterback that could do the same. After last week’s five touchdown performance (two passing, three rushing), California native Ian Book has taken the starting job from the ultra athletic Brandon Wimbush, a solid decision by Brian Kelly. Book is a much more accurate passer and generally more comfortable staying in the pocket. As Stanford showed last weekend, it doesn’t have quite the defense that it has in previous seasons under David Shaw. A competent passer can solve the Cardinal defense, which is exactly what Book will do in his first collegiate start on Saturday evening.

My Pick: 34-28 Notre Dame

Matt’s Take: Both these schools pull talent from far and wide, much like the beer they drink. Notre Dame has the entire state of Indiana as well as a big city like Chicago. Stanford has California which has immense diversity from North to South. This diversity is what will give them the edge. Being able to pull from their own state to find talents such as Monkish, Ballast Point, and Firestone Walker is a huge advantage.

Stanford 28 Notre Dame 27

#20 BYU at #11 Washington (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)

BYU may not truly be a Top 25 team, but there is a good chance this one will be closer than it should be. Washington has been a disappointment this season, struggling offensively despite having one of the top quarterbacks in the Pac-12 in terms of talent. While the Huskies are by no means out of the CFP conversation, performances like the lackluster one at home against Arizona State last weekend will keep them at bay in the rankings.

Luckily for the Huskies, defense will dictate what happens in this game. Both Washington and BYU are strong on that side of the ball and questionable on the offensive side. BYU doesn’t have the talent to match the Huskies on offense, though, so Jake Browning can build upon a three touchdown performance against the Sun Devils last Saturday to quietly, yet effectively, put away the Cougars.

My Pick: Washington 24-10

Matt’s Take: It is hard to beat the Pacific Northwest when it comes to beer. Washington is one of the trendsetters and is near the top when it comes to craft breweries per capita. BYU is another story – the state of Utah is the strictest in the US when it comes to alcohol and only allows beer higher than 3.2% to be sold at liquor stores. This creates a huge discrepancy in this matchup and things do not look good for BYU.

BYU 12 Washington 31

#19 Oregon at #24 California (Saturday, 10:30 PM ET)

The Ducks have to be sick to their stomachs about how last weekend’s game against Stanford ended, because they are a legitimately good football team. Up 24-7 with a great chance to take a commanding 31-7 lead, Jaylon Redd was ruled out at the one yard line before a bad snap the next play led to a defensive touchdown by the Cardinal that made the score 24-14. In the end, Mario Cristobal’s team lost an overtime battle that never should have gotten to that point. Fortunately for fans in Eugene, the Ducks proved that the big time numbers put up by Justin Herbert prior to the Stanford game were not a fluke – the junior quarterback is a true Heisman Trophy contender.

For the first time in what seems like forever, California is a solid defensive football team. First year head coach Justin Wilcox is a defensive mind that has made stops at Washington, Tennessee, Southern Cal and most recently Wisconsin as a defensive coordinator. What his team lacks in offense it makes up with on the other side of the ball, which is good news for trying to slow down Herbert. But if Oregon was able to move the ball so easily against Stanford, another team that was thought to have at least a decent defense, it could be an eye-opening experience for Wilcox & Co. This is the type of game where my dad will send me his annual “you know, Cal is never for real” text.

My Pick: 30-17 Oregon

Matt’s Take: Maybe the most intriguing game of the week pits two juggernauts against each other. California is known for innovation, putting the IPA on the map. But where did they get these hops from? The answer is Oregon. Hop Farms like Crosby have put their stamp on the craft beer game and are the reason for many of the delicious beers we have in this country. This is too big of an impact for Cal to handle.

Oregon 42 Cal 38

5 To Flip To

Syracuse at #3 Clemson (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

Memories of an October Friday night last year will surface, but probably not haunt the Tigers on Saturday afternoon. Syracuse is just as capable of putting up gaudy offensive numbers this time around, but winning on the road at Death Valley is a lot harder than at the friendly confines of the Carrier Dome.

#18 Texas at Kansas State (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

Are the Longhorns really back? We’ll see. To sell Around the Corn on it, Texas better win at Kansas State in convincing fashion. The Wildcats are disciplined but lacking the talent to regularly compete with the best competition this year.

#14 Michigan at Northwestern (Saturday, 4:30 PM ET)

This is the kind of game that screams “trap” for the Wolverines. Most fans (and perhaps players) have nearly forgotten about the season opening loss, especially after last week’s drubbing of Nebraska. But despite the 1-2 record, the Wildcats are well-coached and know a thing or two about upsets in Evanston.

Virginia Tech at #22 Duke (Saturday, 7 PM ET)

The Hokies actually looked fairly solid early in the season, but last week ended all hope of a surprise trip to the CFP. Few would have guessed that the Blue Devils would be the team ranked heading into this game, but David Cutcliffe is once again making the most out of what he has offensively in Durham.

South Carolina at #17 Kentucky (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)

As mentioned above, I’m sold on the Wildcats and their stifling defense. But Kentucky also has a baller at running back in junior Benny Snell, Jr., who leads the SEC in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. South Carolina will look to contain Snell, to which I say, “best of luck, fellas.”

In the past, I’ve asked readers to let me know if they’d like to be guests on Around The Corn to make weekly college football picks. And while that invite still stands (email kbecks@aroundthecorn.com or message me on Facebook or Twitter if interested), the truth is that I’m basically asking friends and family on a weekly basis. Writing is a passion of mine, as is commenting on sports. But sharing those two passions with others are what has always made this worthwhile. So tell me what you think of the site and let me know what could be done better, or what would make you come back without prompting. I’d really appreciate it.

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