Bleacher Report's College Football Ultimate Guide to Week 5

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Bleacher Report's College Football Ultimate Guide to Week 5
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Week 5 features as many Top 10 matchups (three) as Week 4 featured Top 20 games.

Get ready for a fun weekend of football.

But even before that, we have a Top 10 team facing the one opponent it lost to last season on Thursday, then a Top 10 matchup that could decide a Power Five conference on Friday.

So what are we waiting for? Let's get into it.

Welcome to Week 5 of college football.

        

Games of the Week

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No. 7 Stanford Cardinal at No. 10 Washington Huskies | Friday, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN

The old guard of Stanford meets the new guard of Washington in a game that could determine the Pac-12 North's victor.

Cardinal running back Christian McCaffrey is the only true star on either roster, but both teams are loaded with All-Conference-caliber players on both sides of the ball. With the talent matchup roughly even, this game could come down to the coaching chess match between Stanford's David Shaw and Washington's Chris Petersen. And even though Washington needed overtime to beat the Arizona Wildcats last week, Petersen knows that will only wake up his team.

"We really wanted to go through something that was going to be hard, and I think teams can get confidence in going through things that are hard," Petersen said of last week's thriller, per Adam Jude of the Seattle Times. "When they respond when it’s not going like it should — and when it’s frustrating."

Beating Stanford would send the message the Huskies are legitimate College Football Playoff contenders. They still lack a signature win under Petersen, but this would register as one of the biggest in program history.

              

No. 8 Wisconsin Badgers at No. 4 Michigan Wolverines | Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

Wisconsin passed the first test of its early Big Ten gauntlet, winning away against the Michigan State Spartans, 30-6. Now it travels cross-state to play at No. 4 Michigan before a bye week, a home date with No. 2 Ohio State, a road trip to defending Big Ten West champion Iowa and a home game with No. 15 Nebraska.

Who said Big Ten schedules were easy?

The Badgers have played tougher opponents, but it's hard to say which of these teams has impressed more this season. Michigan demolished Penn State last week, outgaining the Nittany Lions by 324 yards in a 49-10 win. And the Wolverines' struggles against Colorado look better after the Buffaloes won at Oregon in Week 4.

Head coach Jim Harbaugh continues to back up his off-field weirdness with on-field production, and he surely took note of how Paul Chryst outcoached Mark Dantonio in East Lansing. His defense could make this a long day for Badgers quarterback Alex Hornibrook, a redshirt freshman who has played well in limited action but will now have teams game-planning against him.

              

No. 11 Tennessee Volunteers at No. 25 Georgia Bulldogs | Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS

Tennessee should beat Georgia. Even in Athens, the Vols have such a distinct experience advantage that they should win by a couple of scores. Georgia is, by all indications, in a rebuilding year.

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

What throws this into doubt is we don't know how Tennessee handles success. It just beat the Florida Gators for the first time since 2004 and enters this week with playoff hype. But the last time it played with this much fanfare, it laid an egg and almost lost—and probably should have lost—to the Appalachian State Mountaineers in Week 1.

Georgia got its tail whipped by the Ole Miss Rebels last week, 45-14, but it still has a lot more talent than Appalachian State. If Tennessee reads too many press clippings, the Dawgs could jump up and bite it.

          

Oklahoma Sooners at No. 21 TCU Horned Frogs | Saturday, 5 p.m. ET, Fox

Despite having two losses, Oklahoma is a 3.5-point road favorite against TCU, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. The line opened as a pick 'em (with no spread), but bettors have favored the Sooners to get right against a ranked opponent.

It's easy to see why. Houston and Ohio State, the two teams Oklahoma lost to, are ranked in the Top Six, while TCU has looked sluggish against South Dakota State and SMU.

The Horned Frogs pulled away both times, but if they struggle off the blocks against Oklahoma, which even at 1-2 ranks No. 18 in the country in yards per play, they'll dig themselves into an insurmountable hole.

It doesn't help that Arkansas, which beat TCU, just crumbled down the stretch against Texas A&M. That's still a quality loss, but it looks less impressive than it did at this time last week.

               

No. 3 Louisville Cardinals at No. 5 Clemson Tigers | Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, ABC

Deshaun Watson vs. Lamar Jackson is the matchup we all deserve. In addition to deciding the Heisman Trophy front-runner, this game will determine the ACC favorite and maybe a College Football Playoff berth.

Louisville won't be able to take the top off Clemson's defense the way it has its first four opponents, which will likely force Jackson to dink and dunk his way to points. If he proves he can do that and wins, on the road, against the defending national runners-up, you can hand him the Heisman on Saturday night.

"He's Michael Vick, right-handed," Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said of Jackson, per Marty Smith of ESPN.

But Clemson has the No. 1 defense in the country, per the S&P+ ratings, so if anyone can stop him, it's the Tigers. 

           

Three More to Watch

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No. 22 Texas Longhorns at Oklahoma State Cowboys | Saturday, Noon ET, ABC

This is a "loser leaves town" match. The winner will remain in Big 12 title contention, while the loser will likely be toast.

For Texas, it's also a chance to prove its resume isn't inflated. That's how things appear after Week 4, when Notre Dame, the Longhorns' best win, dropped to 1-3 with a home loss to Duke, and Cal, the Longhorns' sole loss, dropped to 2-2.

Texas struggled defending the pass against Cal and will need to correct those issues by Saturday. Cowboys wide receiver James Washington led the nation with four catches of 70-plus yards last season. In Week 3, he caught nine passes for 296 yards against the Pitt Panthers.

Another game like that, and he could push Texas coach Charlie Strong back onto the hot seat.

         

North Carolina Tar Heels at No. 12 Florida State Seminoles | Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Florida State showed great resilience against the South Florida Bulls, rebounding from an early deficit—and in a broader sense, the Week 3 loss to Louisville—by reeling off 38 straight points in a 55-35 win.

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The catalyst was running back Dalvin Cook, who set career highs with 267 rushing yards and 329 yards from scrimmage. But UNC's offense posted eye-popping Week 4 numbers also, led by quarterback Mitch Trubisky (35-of-46, 453 YDS, 5 TDs, 0 INT) and receiver Ryan Switzer (16 REC, 208 YDS, 1 TD), who led a dramatic game-winning drive against Pittsburgh.

With little defense to speak of on either side, this game might come down to mental mistakes and intensity. FSU is the favorite, and with good reason, but anyone who's seen it play without star safety Derwin James (knee) cannot feel good about its toughness. 

           

Missouri Tigers at LSU Tigers | Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network

LSU's first game without dismissed head coach Les Miles comes in a tricky spot. Missouri will fight tooth and nail on defense, and its offense has found a pulse behind sophomore quarterback Drew Lock.

Tiger Stadium will be a madhouse given the circumstances, especially at night, but this game is not the mismatch teams prefer after a difficult week. Missouri is just good enough to beat quality teams but just mediocre enough that losing to it looks bad.

That's not what interim head coach Ed Orgeron needs in his debut.

             

Frisky Underdogs

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Connecticut Huskies at No. 6 Houston Cougars | Thursday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

Houston's only loss in 18 games under Tom Herman came last year against UConn. That's enough to make us tune in when the Cougars host the Huskies on Thursday night.

UConn likes to ugly things up, and head coach Bob Diaco always brings a feisty defensive game plan. Houston QB Greg Ward Jr., who missed last year's game with a bum ankle, is nursing an injured shoulder, which could make things interesting.

                 

Memphis Tigers at No. 16 Ole Miss Rebels | Saturday, 7 p.m. ET

Joe Murphy/Getty Images

According to Brian Fremeau's points-per-drive data, which discounts FCS games and garbage time, Memphis has the best defense in college football. Considering its offense dropped 77 points in 47 minutes against the Bowling Green Falcons last week, plus the fact it beat Ole Miss last season, this game could be close.

Ole Miss is out for revenge and knows better than to take Memphis lightly, but the Tigers might be good enough that that doesn't matter.

                 

No. 17 Michigan State Spartans at Indiana Hoosiers | Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, BTN

In the wake of Notre Dame's loss to Duke, let's re-examine Michigan State's resume:

  • Held on to beat Furman, 28-13.
  • Beat a 1-3 team, 36-28.
  • Lost at home to Wisconsin, 30-6.

Are we sure the Spartans are good? The offense has gone flat in two of three games, and the only team it looked decent against just fired its defensive coordinator. Indiana is nothing special, but its offense will always score points, and it has played Sparty tight in three of the past four seasons. Things might get weird in Bloomington.

                

Players You'll Get to Know

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QB Manny Wilkins, Arizona State Sun Devils (at USC Trojans)

Arizona State has flown under the radar to 4-0—and as a result, so has its quarterback. But sophomore Manny Wilkins is a fun one, having led the Sun Devils to shootout wins over Texas Tech and Cal, and now he gets a chance to stick a fork in Pac-12 power USC.

His accuracy is erratic, but his legs are electric, prompting Doug Haller of AZCentral.com to say he runs "like a punt returner." No matter what happens Saturday, Wilkins will make sure it's entertaining.

         

WR Amba Etta-Tawo, Syracuse Orange (vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish)

Amba Etta-Tawo, a Maryland Terrapins transfer, leads the nation in receiving for Syracuse. Much of his success is due to Dino Babers' offense, but still, how about that?

Through four games, Etta-Tawo has 706 receiving yards, which puts him on pace to break the FBS single-season record set by the Nevada Wolf Pack's Trevor Insley in 1999 (2,060). Considering the state of Notre Dame's defense, he could be in line for much more Saturday. 

           

WR J'Mon Moore, Missouri Tigers (at LSU Tigers)

J'Mon Moore has surpassed last year's totals in receiving yards (434 to 350) and touchdowns (six to three), which is notable for two reasons.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

First, it's just the fifth week of the season.

Second, he led Missouri in both last year.

The newfound charge in Missouri's passing game has made it substantially more watchable—and more dangerous. As mentioned above, the Tigers will not roll over in LSU's first game post-Miles. Moore's matchup against cornerback Tre'Davious White is one of the best of the weekend.

                

LB T.J. Watt, Wisconsin Badgers (at Michigan Wolverines)

Yes, he is J.J.'s little brother. No, that's not all you should know about him.

T.J. Watt has become a force in his own right, leading the Big Ten with 4.5 sacks through four games. His most recent performance, in which he logged 2.5 sacks, 3.5 tackles for loss, two QB hurries and a pass breakup against Michigan State, earned him Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors and led Wisconsin to a road upset.

Does he have another game like that in him? The Badgers will need it against a Michigan offense that plowed over Penn State. If he and Wisconsin's front seven win in the trenches, they're a good bet to stay undefeated.

             

LB James Hearns, Louisville Cardinals (at Clemson Tigers)

Louisville's offense overshadows its defense. And even within that defense, James Hearns is overshadowed by bigger names. But Hearns has been responsible for Louisville's success as much as Devonte Fields, Keith Kelsey, DeAngelo Brown or Josh Harvey-Clemons—plus any offensive player not named Jackson.

Through four weeks, the junior linebacker is tied for No. 8 in the country in sacks (4.5) and No. 1 in forced fumbles (three). He's found a home in the hybrid linebacker role, and his big-play ability will be crucial to stopping Clemson and pulling the upset.

             

Parting Shot

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One-Loss Teams Are Playoff Contenders

If we don't learn from history, we're bound to repeat it, which is why it's important to look back and "Freezing Cold Takes" ourselves.

We all remember declaring Ohio State—and the Big Ten—dead after Week 2 in 2014, just as we all declared Alabama—and its dynasty—dead after Week 3 in 2015. Both of those teams won national titles.

Only two teams (Florida State and Clemson) have entered the CFP undefeated the past two seasons, meaning six of eight playoff teams have suffered regular-season losses.

Remember that as you watch Week 5.

The loser of Stanford-Washington can still make the playoff. The loser of Wisconsin-Michigan can still make the playoff. The loser of Louisville-Clemson can still make the playoff. All of those are quality losses.

Jackson Laizure/Getty Images
Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield after losing to Texas last season. The Sooners still made the playoff.

Tennessee, if it loses to Georgia, can still make the playoff. Michigan State, if it wins at Indiana, can still make the playoff. The only one-loss team that might have cost itself a chance is Florida State—and only because the Louisville game was such an ugly blowout.

Even so, Florida State can still make the playoff.

Week 5 comes at an interesting time, because it feels like the season is getting old, when in reality it's just a gawky teenager. We need to fight the impulse for hot takes and adopt the long view. Two of last year's playoff teams, Michigan State and Oklahoma, lost to teams with losing records (Nebraska and Texas, respectively).

Every major one-loss team is alive.

           

Unless otherwise cited, all advanced stats courtesy of SB Nation's Bill Connelly and CFBStats.com. Odds provided by Odds Shark.

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