2019 NCAAF Week 5 Weekend Preview

September 27, 2019

As the college football progresses, Around The Corn’s predictions only seem to be getting worse.

For the third consecutive week, the guests emerged victorious in the head-to-head prediction game. Nothing is more humbling while you are out at a bar than a text from your brother with a screenshot of the incorrect analysis you published about games that have recently concluded.

After Week 4, the overall records now look like this:

K. Becks – 13-8

Guests – 14-7

This week, my newly engaged friend Trent (ahem, Tront…he is happy Trent right now given recent events) will look to keep the win streak for the guests alive. I think he’s had enough happiness for awhile, so to avoid an overload, I plan on knocking him down a peg. Especially after an email greeting like this:

“Hello Faithful Reader,

This is my 5th year making picks and I am happy to be here. My sole purpose in life is to beat K. Becks in things like this, so I hope my predictions are true.”

Here are the top games to watch this weekend which will help me do so.

5 Games to Watch This Weekend

#18 Virginia at #10 Notre Dame (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

After a competitive loss in Athens, Georgia last weekend in which the Fighting Irish nearly made waves across the college football landscape, Notre Dame heads home to take on a Virginia squad that is making its case as the best team in the ACC not named Clemson. The Cavaliers don’t keep many defensive coordinators up at night, but try to put points on the board against Bronco Mendenhall’s team is like pulling teeth.

For the Fighting Irish, the defensive assignments will be a bit easier than against Georgia. Virginia’s Bryce Perkins is an excellent dual-threat quarterback and leads the team in rushing with 193 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, but needs to step it up in the passing game compared with prior performances this season if the Cavaliers are to have any shot at pulling off the upset. A one dimensional offense won’t be enough to beat Notre Dame. The Cavaliers are stingy on defense, but haven’t forced a single fumble this season. The Fighting Irish already take good care of the football, so without a change in that narrative, they should be able to bounce back from last weekend.

My Pick: 31-13 Notre Dame

Tront’s Take: With Notre Dame losing a close game to Georgia (at Georgia), I think Notre Dame has a bounce back week. Notre Dame has proven it can hang with the big dogs this year, and the Fighting Irish know they cannot afford another loss if they want to be in the Playoff discussion at the end of the season. It’s in South Bend, so that will play to their advantage. With Virginia being ranked 18th, the Cavaliers are no pushover team, either. This is a must win and Notre Dame knows it. Have a lil’ faith!

Notre Dame – 31 Virginia – 27

#21 Southern Cal at #17 Washington (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

Once again, the Pac-12 has effectively taken itself out of the College Football Playoff conversation before the first rankings are even released. Both of these teams have shown at times that they would be competitive in such games, but inconsistency, injuries and attrition in-conference has already been a factor in 2019. The Huskies as least have their starting quarterback – the Trojans, after losing backup Kedon Slovis to a concussion against Utah last Friday, will roll with third-stringer Matt Fink. It may be a blessing in disguise, however, as Fink did lead Sothern Cal to a 30-23 upset over the then-No. 10 Utes.

In last Friday’s game, the Trojans made it abundantly clear that stopping their passing attack is much easier said than done. Utah’s secondary is one of the best in the Pac-12, but didn’t have an answer for Fink. While it will be no small task for Washington to slow down Fink, the Huskies do at least have a week to prepare for him and are similarly talented on the back end of the defense. Graham Harrell appears to be the real deal, however, and may end up saving Clay Helton’s job as head coach as a result. Washington will keep this one competitive but won’t be able to avoid the same fate as Utah.

My Pick: 34-31 Southern Cal

Tront’s Take: USC must be thanking the football gods that it has a good O-line this year. They have been dealt a bad hand at the QB position with two injuries but even Matt Fink, the 3rd string quarterback, has shown that he can be more than productive with enough time in the pocket. The Trojans won a big matchup against the Utes last week. However, this is AT Washington and how will a third string QB perform on the road in another big game?? (Plus the Huskers kicked the crap out of BYU.)

I think this has the making to be a cool story for USC this year. I think they win this game and they have the potential to be sort of Cinderella this year if their line can continue to play well.

USC – 42 Washington – 35

#24 Kansas State at Oklahoma State (Saturday, 7 PM ET)

A competitive loss to Texas is a positive sign for Oklahoma State, a team breaking in a new quarterback that could have been humbled against the Longhorns if the young signal-caller was not ready for the big stage. Building upon encouraging losses isn’t how Mike Gundy runs his program, though, and a loss this week will have him all kinds of fired up. The Wildcats are doing surprisingly well under new head coach Chris Klieman, the former coach of North Dakota State who led the Bison to four FCS national titles in five seasons.

Although they are near the bottom of the conference in terms of offensive yards per game, Klieman still has the Wildcats producing points and moving the football at a rate that Bill Snyder was unable to achieve during the previous few years. The rushing attack is second to just Oklahoma and the Cowboys are pretty thin up the middle on defense. Oklahoma State only managed to put 30 points on a Texas secondary that is the worst in the Big 12 thus far, and Kansas State boasts the best in terms of passing yards allowed per game. The Wildcats have also already gone on the road and won, beating Mississippi State two weeks ago. Klieman will continue to impress on the FBS level with a win this weekend.

My Pick: 30-27 Kansas State

Tront’s Take: Kansas State has not really been tested this year, and Oklahoma State held its own against a very good Longhorn team.

Oklahoma State – 38 Kansas State – 24

#5 Ohio State at Nebraska (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)

The College GameDay crew travels to Lincoln for this Big Ten matchup, the first real test for a Buckeyes squad that has looked every bit like a future Playoff team this season. Although Ohio State raised some eyebrows by posting 76 points on in-state opponent Miami of Ohio last weekend, the fact is that Ryan Day really hasn’t had to show his hand offensively yet this season. This is bad news for the Cornhuskers, who allow over 25 points per game. Nebraska does have a decent pass rush, however, and could give Justin Fields his first taste of consistent defensive pressure this season.

On its own offensive end, Nebraska feels confident with dual-threat option Adrian Martinez, who leads the conference average 263 passing yards per game to go along with 58 rushing yards per contest. Martinez will certainly be a test for the Buckeyes on defense, but there is so much talent on the defensive front starting with Chase Young that it’s difficult to see how Martinez will find any real estate in the run game. If Ohio State can bottle up Nebraska’s ability to run the football, the Cornhuskers will be too one dimensional on offense to keep this one within two scores.

My Pick: 44-27 Ohio State

Tront’s Take: The Buckeye defense will be tested in this one. With Nebraska scoring at least 34 points in each of its first four games, they definitely know how to move the chains. However, Nebraska’s QB, Adrian Martinez, has already been sacked 10 times this year. With Chase Young on the D-line for the Buckeyes, I’m predicting Martinez may have a rainy day at QB.

Ohio State – 35 Nebraska – 17

Washington State at #19 Utah (Saturday, 10 PM ET)

Two Pac-12 teams that suffered tough conference losses last week will look to bounce back on Saturday night against each other when the Cougars travel to Salt Lake City to take on the Utes. Washington State led UCLA 49-17 with less than seven minutes remaining in the third quarter last Saturday, a testament to just how ridiculous Pac-12 games can be but also a testament to the discipline of Mike Leach’s defense. Utah is on the opposite end of that spectrum, but struggled last week against a pass-heavy offense anyway.

Barring a spectacular meltdown by Utah’s defense, Anthony Gordon will not throw for nine touchdowns in this game as he did last weekend against UCLA. And while the Utes struggled against Southern Cal’s Matt Fink last Friday, Fink was originally the third-stringer but didn’t play like one. With a week to regroup and prepare, Utah shouldn’t look as lost defending the pass. On the offensive end, assuming that the Utes dictate the pace of the game and control possession of the football, it’ll only take a few defensive stops to give them the separation they need to win this game.

My Pick: 35-31 Utah

Tront’s Take: Now, this is going to be an old fashion shootout. Washington State has averaged over 50 points per game, and Utah has averaged over 30. Utah’s defense is probably better, though.

Utah – 45 Washington State – 41

5 Games to Flip To

Texas Tech at #6 Oklahoma (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

The Red Raiders have historically had the offensive firepower to keep up with the Sooners, but this year Texas Tech may actually have a defense capable of doing some damage, too. Somehow the Red Raiders need to stop Oklahoma in the run game to keep this one close.

Indiana at #25 Michigan State (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

Another trap game at home for the toothless Michigan State offense – Indiana’s pass offense is second best in the Big Ten so far. The Spartans need to find a way to score points to avoid another upset in East Lansing.

Wake Forest at Boston College (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

Lots of offensive fireworks are expected when the ACC’s top offense (Wake Forest) battles the conference’s No. 3 offense (Boston College). The Eagles have issues stopping teams, too, but have the home field advantage.

Iowa State at Baylor (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

A scrappy Iowa State squad must take on a new look Baylor program on the road that appears to be adapting quite well to Matt Rhule’s defense-first philosophy. This one should be close the entire game.

Mississippi State at #7 Auburn (Saturday, 7 PM ET)

The Tigers proved to be for real after taking care of business in College Station last Saturday but don’t have any time to rest. Mississippi State has played solid football thus far in 2019 but must find a way to slow down Auburn’s run game.

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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