NCAAF Week 5 Weekend Preview

October 1, 2010

It seems as if the slate of games from week to week just keeps getting better. If last week wasn’t good enough for you, then you’re in luck: four of the Big 6 conferences feature games in which two top 25 teams will square off against one another. In two of those four games, both teams are in the top ten. Also, the Boise State debate truly begins, now that the supposed “tough part” of their schedule is behind them, perfect record still intact. This is a bigger weekend than “Monster Saturday” in my opinion, just because of the stakes of certain games. Some of these matchups could ultimately decide who wins a conference.

Top 5 Games to Pay Attention to This Weekend

#11 Wisconsin at #24 Michigan State (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

Both of these teams rely on the running game to carry the offensive load. The question is, which defense will do a better job of containing the run? Wisconsin running back John Clay ran for over 100 yards last year in a win over the Spartans, and will likely be a factor in tomorrow’s game. While the Spartans biggest task may be stopping Clay, they cannot forget about Badgers quarterback Scott Tolzien. Tolzien was key in Wisconsin’s win last year by throwing four touchdown passes, and could very well be the x-factor in this game as well. Michigan State has the tools to win this game, but they are going to need to play exceptionally well on both sides of the ball in order to do it.

My Pick: 27-21 Wisconsin

#21 Texas at #8 Oklahoma (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

It’s not often that the Red River Rivalry isn’t regarded as the biggest game of the weekend, but thanks to UCLA’s drubbing of the Longhorns last Saturday, it definitely lost some significance in the public eye. However, counting Texas out in this game would be a grave mistake. The Longhorns’ loss last weekend can be attributed to two factors: inexperience, and the fact that they had five turnovers. If they can take care of the football better, they should have a much better chance of winning this weekend. I had said at the beginning of this season that I thought Oklahoma was underrated; after the Cincinnati game, I started to wonder if I was wrong. Redemption for last week, as well as the added intensity of a rivalry game should make this one worth watching.

My Pick: 34-24 Oklahoma

#9 Stanford at #4 Oregon (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

This is quite possibly the best game in the Pac-10 this year. These two teams are arguably the best in the conference, and both have been very solid offensively and defensively. Oregon looked almost unstoppable in their first three games, but then struggled a bit against an Arizona State team who has been surprisingly tough this season. Like UCLA, they showed how much turnovers (they forced seven against Arizona State) can be a difference maker. However, the Ducks probably won’t be able to rely on turnovers against the Cardinal. Andrew Luck is an extremely talented quarterback who makes good reads and decisions in the pocket. Disrupting Luck will be the task at hand for the Ducks. As for the Cardinal defense, keeping the game close is about all you can do. Oregon will score, but limiting the scoring so that Luck has a chance will be the key. This one is a toss-up, but considering I picked Stanford to win the conference, I’m looking for the upset.

My Pick: 44-41 Stanford

#7 Florida at #1 Alabama (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

Other than the loyal Crimson Tide fan base, hearts around the country sank when Ryan Mallet’s pass, which was intended to be thrown away, was intercepted by Dre Kirkpatrick, thus sealing the game for Alabama. Maybe next week, right? Well, maybe not. Like Texas was, Florida is probably a little higher in the rankings than they ought to be. Other than last week against Kentucky, the Gators have not looked particularly impressive, and have shown sloppiness on the offensive side of the ball. Tailback Jeff Demps, who has been one of the more productive players for Florida this year, has been wearing a protective boot on his left foot all week. While he should play, his possible diminished impact could be devastating for the Gators. Even with Demps, I don’t know how confident I would be in picking Florida to win this game. Still, no one thought Alabama was going to beat Florida last year, either. It could be a shocker, in which case I’ll have to eat my words about Florida being overrated.

My Pick: 30-17 Alabama

#22 Penn State at #17 Iowa (Saturday, 8:05 PM ET)

This has been a very intriguing series over the last couple of years. In both 2008 and 2009, Penn State came in as the heavy favorites over the Hawkeyes, but the Hawkeyes managed to win both times. This year, the tables have been turned, as Iowa is the favorite against a Penn State team that has been struggling. The Nittany Lions have had trouble on the offensive end, which is understandable after losing quarterback and team leader Daryll Clark to graduation. Although the rankings wouldn’t suggest it, a Penn State win would be about as monumental an upset as when Iowa beat the Nittany Lions in 2008 (when Penn State was ranked #3) considering the way their season has been going so far. Joe Pa’s team needs to be more productive on offense if they want that to happen, though.

My Pick: 24-17 Iowa

5 More to Flip To

#16 Miami (Fla.) at Clemson (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

This could be an indicator of who the best team in the entire ACC is.

#2 Ohio State at Illinois (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

Illinois can be a tricky team to play on the road. Also, Ron Zook may be on his way out after this season, so he may try to pull out all the stops to get a “job-saver” win.

Virginia Tech at #23 N.C. State (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

One of the surprises of the season, N.C. State looks to stay atop the ACC Atlantic division standings.

Tennessee at #12 LSU (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

I’ll probably put Tennessee on this list every week from here on out. They always seem to have a shot, and I don’t think this week will be any different.

Arizona State at Oregon State (Saturday, 6:30 PM ET)

Oregon State didn’t get through their non-conference schedule how they would have liked, but they can start off the Pac-10 season on a positive note by beating a Sun Devils team that has been surprisingly tough this year.

Storylines for the Weekend

How will Georgia respond?

Two weeks ago, I said that Mark Richt was not going to lose his job after this season. Now, he has the tools back to prove me right. After serving his four game suspension, All-SEC wide receiver A.J. Green will be back to help the Bulldogs take on Colorado. How big of a deal is this for Georgia? Well, I picked Green as one of my preseason Heisman hopefuls, and the 6’4 receiver is a huge target who can go up and pick balls out of the air, which should help out redshirt freshman quarterback Aaron Murray tremendously. Georgia still has a chance to turn this season around, and if they do, Green will likely be instrumental in their success.

Who wants to step up?

The ACC is doing it again. It’s impossible to peg a team in the conference as the best for more than a week. Rankings wise, Miami is still the best team. However, upstart N.C. State is the only team in the conference that is still unbeaten. Virginia Tech, which got off to the worst start possible, now has the chance to take the lead in the Coastal division with a win against N.C. State. In other words, this conference is a mess. Again. If someone wants to step up as the frontrunner in this division, then now would be the time to do it.

– K. Becks

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