Clear Your Schedule | Week 5, 2023

By Brian Wilmer -

Greetings, earthlings. We’re into Week 5 — already — of the college football season and things are still taking shape.  It’s a bit of a Separation Saturday in the SEC, with games in Lexington and on the Plains drawing attention. Gameday goes to Durham for a matchup that lost a tiny bit of its juice almost immediately after they announced it — more on that in a bit — and there are some other interesting storylines into which we’ll delve here.

Let’s go.

Sunday Stories

It’s time for the four biggest stories from the week prior in college football. Agreement is not required, but I always appreciate it.

Death Valley: For all those times you’ve sat on the couch watching college football and a #CollegeKickers moments happens, leading you to think, “I could get out there and hit that kick”…no, you can’t. Clemson brought back one of their former kickers — off the couch, as was publicized all week — only for him to promptly miss a kick that could have won Clemson the game. To his credit, Jonathan Weitz showed incredible accountability after the game — especially for someone who was taking online classes a week prior.

In tandem with that story, though, is what Florida State accomplished Saturday. Whether down or not, it is still a significant win for the Seminoles to go into Clemson and come out with a victory. Mike Norvell’s Seminoles have arrived, and they have a very, very solid look at Charlotte with that win. They could very well head there in Clemson’s normal role of getting to the playoff with a win. Go ahead — take a look at that remaining slate and tell me who beats them. (Hint:  If anybody does, it’s going to be a team whose quarterback’s mom tells him he sucks.)

Monarchy (nearly) overthrown:  We very nearly had one of the more earth-shaking upsets of the season in Norfolk last Saturday, as provisional FCS Texas A&M-Commerce was one two-point play away from taking down Old Dominion in an ugly game in the Tidewater. The Lions are not exactly a fly-by-night school — they won the 2017 Division 2 title — but no one outside of Commerce could have expected them to win in eastern Virginia.

ODU now heads to Huntington and Hattiesburg in a tough Sun Belt road combo and hosts App before heading to Bridgeforth Stadium in Harrisonburg (lots of “H” road trips for ODU this season, apropos of nothing) for a battle with a really tough JMU squad. If that’s not enough, they host Coastal and head to Lynchburg to square off with 4-0 Liberty before traveling to Georgia Southern and hosting Georgia State. We’ll see who the real Monarchs are — are they the club who beat Louisiana and barely lost to Wake, or are they the club that got boat raced by pedestrian Virginia Tech and had this blown tire this past Saturday?

Middle of nowhere?:  100 Miles of Hate offers a renewal of pleasantries this weekend in the shadow of the Corvette Museum, and the Blue Raiders head up I-65 with more questions than answers. MTSU has one win this year in four tries — against FCS Murray State — and after being level with Colorado State with a quarter to play last week in Murfreesboro, they allowed the Rams to score twice in the final quarter and leave the Floyd Stadium turf with a measure of revenge for a 2022 loss to Middle. Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi connected on 30-of-43 tries last week for 321 yards and two scores, while the Rams did not log 20 rushing attempts. This is not the greatest bit of news for the Raiders, who get the top passing offense — by far — in Conference USA in the Hilltoppers (283.3 ypg).

Rick Stockstill’s not going anywhere — he’s been in the ‘Boro nearly 20 years and has a sweetheart deal through the end of the decade that automatically rolls over by a year every time the club wins six games or meets other measures — but a 1-4 start with a loss to the Raiders’ most hated rival will create some howling on the banks of the Stones River.

Imperfect 10:  Notre Dame appeared poised to pick up one of the biggest wins in South Bend in a long time, before Ohio State drove the field and broke their spirit with a winning drive that wrapped on the penultimate play of the game. The telecast continually questioned how Notre Dame had an alignment with only two defenders on the side of the field where the Buckeyes scored, and we found out later that night why — the Irish only had 10 men on the field. This wasn’t the first time this season that’s happened, either.

Notre Dame’s good — really good — but stuff like that can’t happen. Period.

Bad Bets

And now for the time that I show off my complete lack of handicapping skills. I make no claims to the contrary. With that, here’s what you’ll read every week:

I’ll pick four games each week, with many not in the huge P5 windows, because I tend to color outside those lines a bit. I’ll just pick straight lines as they are listed on the day I pick them — no money lines, no teasing, nothing else.  I’ll keep track of my record as the season goes along, and you can trash me in the comments each week for my lack of prediction prowess.

NOTE:  None of the text within is meant to serve as gambling advice. This is largely meant for parody and light-hearted review. At no point should any of the picks in this article be construed as gambling advice offered by or me.

Week 4

Virginia Tech at Marshall (-4.5)
WHAT HAPPENED:  Marshall 24, Virginia Tech 17. Kyron Drones offered Tech a solid dual-threat look under center in Huntington, but the Herd’s 17 unanswered points after trailing, 10-7, sent the Hokies reeling further. Tech has a potential get-right game with Pitt Saturday night in Blacksburg, but things get rough afterwards as the Hokies head to Doak Campbell. There’s still a path to six wins and a bowl after three straight losses — especially with sadly hapless Virginia in the Commonwealth Cup looming to possibly be that sixth win — but the window is quickly closing on Tech.

Colorado (+20.5) at Oregon
WHAT HAPPENED:  Oregon 42, Colorado 6. Yikes. Were I being objective — and realistic — before this game, I might have taken Oregon minus whatever points were on the board. Colorado had just seemed to find a way thus far this season. Oregon found its way to Colorado’s backfield early and often, and Bo Nix looked like Peyton Manning.

I guess we know now that I don’t post for clicks.

Georgia Tech at Wake Forest (-3.5)
WHAT HAPPENED:  Georgia Tech 30, Wake Forest 16. I thought this would be a close game — maybe a late touchdown or something — but Haynes King had other ideas. The Jackets leapt out to a 20-3 advantage before weathering a late storm from the Deacs and taking the win home from Winston. King finished the day 16-for-27 for 222 yards and two scores. Georgia Tech has taken strides under Brent Key, and could — could — be on track for its first bowl appearance since the 2018 Quick Lane Bowl.

Let’s move on so that I don’t upset certain other voices on this site…

Appalachian State (+3) at Wyoming
WHAT HAPPENED:  Wyoming 22, Appalachian State 19. My first push of the season! App acquitted itself well — there was obviously not going to be an issue with playing at altitude for the Mountaineers — but the Cowboys won the game on a blocked field goal return and two-point conversion with 2:02 to play. Wyoming will cause some problems for everybody this year. So will App, if we’re being honest.

Week 5 (1-2-1 last week, 5-10-1 this season)

#22 Florida at Kentucky (-1(noon, ESPN)
South Alabama at JMU (-3) (noon, ESPNU)
Virginia at Boston College (-3) (2pm, CW)
Pitt at Virginia Tech (+2.5) (8pm, ACCN)

And finally, here are the four “under-the-radar” games I’ll be watching this week and how to watch them. I’ll also include lines if there are any — for informational purposes only, naturally, as outlined in the above disclaimer. I don’t yet have a name for this section. All times are Eastern.

Louisiana (3-1) at Minnesota (2-2) (noon, BTN)I don’t honestly know why this game jumps out at me, but I will say — again, not offering gambling advice — that I am confused by the line. The Ragin’ Cajuns broke the toepiece on their proverbial skates in a 38-31 loss to ODU, but have rebounded nicely with a win at UAB and another at home against Buffalo.

Minnesota, on the other hand, has lost two straight, including a horrendous loss in extra time to Northwestern last week. The Gophers have Michigan coming to call next week before heading to Iowa following a bye. This game has a weird feel to it.

LINE:  Minnesota -11.

#24 Kansas (4-0) at #24 Texas (4-0) (3:30pm, ABC)This game is obviously not under any radar anywhere, but I’m legitimately curious about what will break the “LOL KANSAS OWNZ TEXAS” storyline. How many touchdown passes does Quinn Ewers need? How badly do the Longhorns have to beat the Jayhawks? Actually, can that storyline go away? I report, you decide!
LINE:  Texas -16.5.

Charlotte (1-3) at SMU (2-2) (7:30pm, ESPNU):  Charlotte started the season so full of hope. Biff Poggi took over the 49ers, rocked the sleeveless shirts, and got everyone fired up. They scored a touchdown last week at Florida and matched the Gators; however, five Florida field goals put away Charlotte, 22-7. A 1-4 start for Charlotte would make the already annoyed contingent in University City borderline angry. Potentially winnable games against Navy, at East Carolina, and Florida Atlantic at home loom to possibly get the 49ers level if they lose here, but…yeah.

LINE:  SMU -23.5.

West Virginia (3-1) at TCU (3-1) (8:00, ESPN2):  Remember when TCU lost the season-opener to Colorado and everyone left them for dead? Remember when people inquired as to whether Neal Brown would be fired? Well, here we are with a pretty fiery Big 12 showdown in Fort Worth in prime time. TCU beat Nicholls, then won at Houston and clipped SMU in the battle of the Metroplex. West Virginia’s wins are less impressive, with decisions over Duquesne, Pitt, and Texas Tech. Whether or not you have a dog in the proverbial hunt here, this is probably the game to watch — yes, even more so than Notre Dame/Duke — Saturday night.

LINE:  TCU -14.

Next week is a bye week for your humble correspondent. I’m sure this will cause tears and chaos everywhere, so please try to control your rage and sadness.

Thanks so much for reading every week, and for your feedback. I appreciate you all. Enjoy your college football weekend(s), and we’ll tee it up again in two weeks!

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Comment (1)

Brian Wilmer,
I enjoy well written entertainment journalism.

Your writing about university Football with nuanced cultural references allows me to use the non sports parts of my intellect.

Some of your writing reminds me of @Harmonwrites ( Dick Harmon) the BYU sportswriter & columnist (if the position still exists in digital news) @ @DesNews ( the Deseret News).