Like we’ve done in years past, every week throughout the season we’ll be highlighting the best games of the coming weekend. We’ll be doing it a little differently this year, however. We’ll rank the top five games we’re most intrigued by while also providing some insight on other games that will be worth your time.
Washington State’s triumph over USC was our only big upset of Week 5 with the rest of Saturday’s matchups going about as expected. In Week 6, there are only two games involving ranked opponents, and one — NC State’s win over Louisville — already happened. But every time we think we’re in for a lackluster Saturday, things tend to get pretty nutty. Let’s get weird, Week 6. Let’s get weird.
Starting with the five best games, we broke down this week’s slate for you:
5. Michigan State (3-1, 1-0) at No. 7 Michigan (4-0, 1-0) — 7 p.m., ABC: Since Michigan State hired Mark Dantonio in 2007, this rivalry, traditionally dominated by Michigan, has swayed toward the Spartans with MSU winning seven of the last 10 games. But Michigan is now back in the top 10 and MSU is looking to rebound after a disastrous 2016 campaign.
Michigan, coming off a bye, will start backup John O’Korn at QB for the injured Wilton Speight. O’Korn played well against Purdue in relief of Speight and will try to provide a spark for a Wolverines offense that has been mediocre through four games. On the other side, MSU looked pretty solid in a 17-10 home win over Iowa. The Spartans, led by dual-threat QB Brian Lewerke, will have a big challenge with Michigan’s stellar defense.
4. No. 11 Washington State (5-0, 2-0) at Oregon (4-1, 1-1) — 8 p.m., FOX: Fresh off its big upset of USC, Washington State is leaving Pullman for the first time this season with a trip to Eugene. Autzen Stadium is not an easy place to play, but Oregon, which is much-improved from last year, will be without starting QB Justin Herbert, who suffered a broken collarbone in the win over Cal.
It’ll either be fifth-year senior Taylor Alie or true freshman Braxton Burmeister at QB for the Ducks against a surprisingly good Washington State defense, which ranks 11th nationally (275.2 yards per game) in total defense. Whoever starts will duel with Wazzu senior Luke Falk, an early Heisman candidate. Falk has thrown for 1,718 yards, 16 touchdowns and two interceptions while completing 74.5 percent of his passes.
3. Stanford (3-2, 2-1) at No. 20 Utah (4-0, 1-0) — 10:15 p.m., FS1: We’ll learn a lot more about legitimacy of Bryce Love’s Heisman aspirations from this game. The Stanford running back has already rushed for more than 1,000 yards, but has done so against some lackluster defenses. Utah’s competition hasn’t been great either (its four opponents have a combined 5-15 record), but the Utes currently boast the nation’s No. 10 rush defense, allowing just 87 yards per game.
Rice-Eccles Stadium is a tough place to play, but it’d be a surprise if Love didn’t match that 87-yard total by halftime. For Utah’s offense, we don’t know who will start at quarterback with Tyler Huntley nursing a shoulder injury. Luckily, the Utes have senior Troy Williams, last year’s starter, available.
2. No. 13 Miami (3-0, 1-0) at Florida State (1-2, 1-1) — 3:30 p.m., ESPN: Will Miami finally snap its losing streak to rival Florida State? The Seminoles have won seven straight in the series after storming back from a 13-0 deficit and winning 20-19 on a blocked extra point last year. Miami, coming off a dominant win over Duke, is looking to break the dry spell Saturday in Tallahassee.
Miami’s defense sure looks good so far, and FSU has to trot out freshman James Blackman for his second career start. His first took a 40-yard touchdown pass in the final minute to knock off Wake Forest. The Hurricanes, tied for second nationally with nine tackles for loss per game, want to make life miserable for Blackman and the FSU running game, which is averaging just 3.1 yards per carry. On paper, this one feels like it should favor the Canes but games in this series never seem to go as predicted.
1. No. 23 West Virginia (3-1, 1-0) at No. 8 TCU (4-0, 1-0) — 3:30 p.m., FS1: TCU, coming off a bye, has a high-powered offense to contain with WVU rolling into Fort Worth. TCU certainly has a tough task defending Will Grier and company, but will WVU be able to slow down the Horned Frogs? Darius Anderson bulldozed his way through Oklahoma State’s defense to the tune of 160 yards and three touchdowns in a big upset. He and Kenny Hill, who is completing 72.7 percent of his passes, give the Horned Frogs a scary backfield duo to go with a pretty deep WR group.
If TCU wins here, we need to be ready to talk about the Horned Frogs in the College Football Playoff picture. Building off the Oklahoma State win, the Horned Frogs should be favored in every game moving forward until a Nov. 11 trip to Norman. TCU and Oklahoma are the only two unbeaten teams remaining in the Big 12. TCU needs to do its part to keep pace with the Sooners.
Keep an eye on…
No. 4 Penn State (5-0, 2-0) at Northwestern (2-2, 0-1) — Noon, ABC: James Franklin is 0-2 against Northwestern during his time at Penn State, so the Nittany Lions won’t overlook the Wildcats even with the early kickoff. Northwestern needs to get RB Justin Jackson going to have a chance in this one. He’s rushed for a combined 43 yards in his team’s two losses.
Air Force (1-3, 0-1) at Navy (4-0, 3-0) — 3:30 p.m., CBSSN: Air Force took two ranked teams — Michigan and San Diego State — deep into the fourth quarter before a disappointing road loss at New Mexico. Still, things are always serious when the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy is involved, and Air Force currently holds the hardware after beating both Army and Navy last year. Navy, as Navy does, is off to a 4-0 start with its option running attack chugging along at a high level.
Kansas State (3-1, 1-0) at Texas (2-2, 1-0) — 7 p.m., FS1: Texas, which hasn’t played at home in nearly a month, looks like it could have the makings of a pretty good defense, but the offense has a lot of work to do. Kansas State has also been pretty underwhelming so far. This should be a nailbiter, especially if Jesse Ertz and the Wildcats continue to sputter through the air.
No. 9 Wisconsin (4-0, 1-0) at Nebraska (3-2, 2-0) — 8 p.m., BTN: Nebraska hasn’t lost a night game at home since 2008. It would take a pretty flawless performance for that to continue against Wisconsin. Nebraska QB Tanner Lee is coming off his best game of the season, but he still leads the nation in interceptions. He’ll need to avoid turnovers for the Huskers to put a scare into the Badgers, who have a future star at RB with freshman Jonathan Taylor.
Duke (+2.5) at Virginia — 12:20 p.m., ACCN: Yes, Duke (4-1, 1-1) was stomped by Miami last week, but the Blue Devils are too solid defensively to lay down twice in a row. Virginia (3-1) is well-rested coming off an impressive win at Boise State two weeks ago, but Duke should be able to force a few turnovers and pull out a road win.
LSU (+2.5) at No. 21 Florida — 3:30 p.m., CBS: LSU (3-2, 0-1) has to show a pulse in this one, right? I’m in the camp of thinking it’s way, way too early to write off Ed Orgeron, but he could help himself out if he lets Matt Canada run the system he hired him to run. And if the offense doesn’t show any life, maybe the defense will against Florida (3-1, 3-0) and freshman QB Feleipe Franks.
Maryland (+30.5) at No. 10 Ohio State — 4 p.m., FOX: Yeah, this one is all about the spread. And yes Maryland (3-1, 1-0) is starting its third-string QB, but the Terps, coming off a road win over Minnesota, have enough talent on both sides of the ball to cover a huge spread like this even if it requires some garbage time points at Ohio State (4-1, 2-0).
SMU (+6.5) at Houston — 7 p.m., CBSSN: Houston (3-1, 1-0) made the switch to senior Kyle Postma over heralded transfer Kyle Allen at QB, but only managed a 20-13 win over a terrible Temple team. SMU (4-1, 1-0) can really move the ball offensively, and the Cougars could be without star defensive lineman Ed Oliver, who has a knee injury.
Channel surf through…
Wake Forest (4-1, 1-1) at No. 2 Clemson (5-0, 3-0) — Noon, ESPN2: Wake Forest took Florida State down to the wire last week. Clemson sleep walked through three quarters against Boston College a few weeks ago. You can’t do that against the Deacs, Tigers!
No. 5 Georgia (5-0, 2-0) at Vanderbilt (3-2, 0-2) — Noon, ESPN: Can Georgia continue its dominant play? The Bulldogs beat Mississippi State and Tennessee by a combined score of 72-3 the last two weeks. During that timeframe Vanderbilt went from a sleeper in the SEC East to being regular old Vanderbilt again.
No. 1 Alabama (5-0, 2-0) at Texas A&M (4-1, 2-0) — 7:15 p.m., ESPN: Maybe the Aggies at home can put up a better fight than Ole Miss and Vanderbilt did the last two weeks. FYI: a better fight would be losing by less than 59.
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