Not only is Week 5 the final installment of college football in September, it’s also the time when we see more conference play. While there is still a spattering of non-league games worth watching, it’s time to replace Texas A&M-SMU with Texas A&M-Arkansas and Washington-Georgia State with Washington-Stanford.
This week you’ve got two power-five games to watch on Thursday night, the best is late and features two ranked squads from the Pac-12, UCLA and Arizona State.
Saturday’s primetime is daytime, anchored by Georgia-Tennessee early followed by Texas A&M-Arkansas and Stanford-Washington in the afternoon. While there is some decent stuff in the evening time slot, the best comes late with Oregon State-USC.
If you’re looking for a sleeper try Ohio State-Cincinnati or Auburn-Louisiana Tech, both potential upsets featured on the Big Ten and SEC networks. Don’t be afraid to stray from the major networks this weekend, it might be worth your while.
Thursday, Sept. 25
7:30PM ET, ESPN: TEXAS TECH (2-1) at No. 24 OKLAHOMA STATE (2-1): Oklahoma State has won five straight against Texas Tech, the last four by an average of 33 points per game. The last time the Red Raiders beat the Cowboys was in 2008, when then No. 2 Tech was fresh off its 39-33 triumph over No. 1 Texas. The Red Raiders gave up 271 yards of rushing to UTEP in Week 2 and 438 to Arkansas in Week 3, look for one of Oklahoma State’s backs—maybe senior Desmond Roland who was the team’s No. 1 rusher last season—to go off on Tech’s D.
7:30PM ET, ESPNU: APPALACHIAN STATE (1-2) at GEORGIA SOUTHERN (2-2): Though the clash between these two Sun Belt teams might look like something new to FBS fans, these former-FCS programs combined to win 15 of the 16 Southern Conference titles awarded from 1997 to 2012. Georgia Southern is ranked No. 1 in the FBS in rushing offense, averaging 365 ground yards per game. Watch out for sophomore running back Matt Breida who ran for 111 yards and two scores in a narrow 42-38 loss at Georgia Tech in Week 3 and 187 yards and two touchdowns in a 28-6 win at South Alabama last week. App State’s defense gave up 350 yards rushing to Michigan in the opener but held both of its other two opponents (FCS Campbell and Southern Miss) to under 65 ground yards.
10:00PM ET, FOX SPORTS 1: No. 11 UCLA (3-0) at No. 15 ARIZONA STATE (3-0): The Pac-12 opener for UCLA, both these squads had a bye in Week 4. The Bruins have won three of the last five, but fell 38-33 to the Sun Devils last season. UCLA has failed to impress thus far in 2014, beating unranked Virginia, Memphis and Texas by a combined 18 points. Arizona State’s offense ranks No. 7 in the FBS in scoring and No. 11 in rushing, putting tremendous pressure on a Bruin team that that ranks No. 74 in total defense. Watch out for ASU running back D.J. Foster, who has posted 140-yards plus in each of his first three outings including a 216-yard performance in the win over New Mexico. Whether Brett Hundley or Jerry Neuheisel gets the start at quarterback for the Bruins, keep in mind that the Sun Devils rank No. 99 against the pass and gave up 313 yards through the air to Colorado. History tell us this one will be close, the last three games between the two were decided by a total of eight points.
Friday, Sept. 26
8:00PM ET, ESPN2: FRESNO STATE (1-3) at NEW MEXICO (1-2): The Mountain West opener for both teams, New Mexico is 1-9 vs. Fresno State since 1990, the only win coming in 1994 in Fresno. The Bulldogs’ No. 108-ranked rushing defense may provide the perfect gateway for the Lobo’s first win in 20 years as it owns the No. 3-ranked rushing attack in the FBS. Watch out for New Mexico running back Crusoe Gongbay, who rushed for 134 yards in last week’s narrow win at New Mexico State. Fresno State has already lost more games this season—three—than it did all of last season when it finished 11-2.
8:00PM ET, FOX SPORTS 1: MIDDLE TENNESSEE (2-2) at OLD DOMINION (3-1): These programs are both C-USA East division members, but have never met in football. Old Dominion’s only loss this season came in a 46-34, Week 2 defeat at North Carolina State. Check out the Monarchs’ passing attack—which rung up 430 yards in last week’s 45-42 win at Rice—led by senior quarterback Taylor Heinicke, who with 1,172 yards is No. 10 in the FBS. This unit will be facing Middle Tennessee’s No. 102-ranked scoring defense, which coughed up a whopping 593 yards through the air to Western Kentucky in Week 3. This game may not garner any headlines, but it should be very entertaining.
12:00PM ET, ESPN: TENNESSEE (2-1) at No. 12 GEORGIA (2-1): The Vols haven’t won in Athens since 2006, when they were ranked No. 13 and beat No. 10 Georgia 51-33. If Tennessee is going to have a chance it will have to contain the Bulldogs’ No. 13-ranked rushing offense, led by Todd Gurley who is averaging 134 yards per game (No. 10 in the FBS). The good news is, the Volunteers defense held an Oklahoma offense that had averaged 222 ground yards to only 146 yards of rushing in the Week 3 loss. Check out Tennessee linebacker A.J. Johnson who has registered 29 tackles (three for a loss), one forced fumble, one interception and one blocked kick this season. If Georgia wins, it will be only the second time in the history of the series that it has won five-straight over the Vols, the first run coming from 1909-24.
12:00PM ET, ESPN2: SOUTH FLORIDA (2-2) at No. 19 WISCONSIN (2-1): The only other nationally televised game in the early slot with a decent chance of being competitive, it’s the first-ever meeting between the two programs. With two wins, USF has already matched its win total from last season and is two victories away from its best campaign since going 5-7 in 2011. Wisconsin’s running game—headlined by Melvin Gordon who rushed for 253 yards and scored five times in last week’s win over Bowling Green—ought to pound the Bulls’ defense. What may turn this game on its head is turnovers—Wisconsin ranks No. 84 in the FBS in turnover margin while USF ranks No. 20. With 11 takeaways, the Bulls are tied for the fourth most in the nation while the Badgers have only gained five.
1:30PM ET, BIG TEN NETWORK: MARYLAND (3-1) at INDIANA (2-1): Despite its airing on a regional network, this might be the best early game on Saturday. This is Maryland’s first ever Big Ten game and the first time the two programs have met since 1935. What’s compelling about this matchup is Indiana’s No. 10-ranked rushing offense squaring off with Maryland’s No. 102-ranked rushing defense. It’s a Terrapin unit that gave up 370 rushing yards in its win over Syracuse last week trying to contain a Hoosier attack that is averaging 310 ground yards per game. Check out Indiana running back Tevin Coleman who leads the FBS with an average of 189.67 yards per game.
3:30PM ET, ABC/ESPN2: No. 1 FLORIDA STATE (3-0) at NC STATE (4-0): The visitor has dropped five straight games in this series, the last road win came in 2008 when FSU won 26-17 in Raleigh. Though everybody remembers the 2012 game when unranked, 16-point underdog NC State upset No. 3 Florida State 17-16, don’t forget that last season the Seminoles pounded the Wolfpack 49-17. NC State is 4-0, its best start since 2010, but the wins came against Georgia Southern, Old Dominion, USF and FCS Presbyterian, making this game its first real challenge this season. A few things to keep in mind when watching: Florida State’s rushing attack has been almost non-existent, it ranks No. 111 in the nation. NC State’s scoring defense is ranked No. 23 and its pass defense is No. 27. If the ‘Noles can’t run the ball and the Wolfpack can contain the passing attack, things could get interesting. On the flip side, watch NC State’s No. 25-ranked rushing attack—headlined by Shadrach Thornton and Matt Dayes—take on Florida State’s No. 81-ranked rush defense, the same unit that gave up 250 ground yards to FCS Citadel.
3:30PM ET, ABC/ESPN2: MINNESOTA (3-1) at MICHIGAN (2-2): A long-standing rivalry, the Golden Gophers and Wolverines have been battling for the Little Brown Jug since 1892, when Benjamin Harrison was president. Minnesota has only won once since 1987, in 2005 when it upset No. 21 Michigan 23-20 in the Big House. Neither of these teams have been successful at establishing a passing attack so look for this to be an old-school, grind-it-out game, between two teams who can run and stop the run. The backs to watch out for are Michigan’s Derrick Green and Minnesota’s David Cobb. Keep in mind that Michigan ranks dead last in the FBS in turnover margin, it coughed up the ball four times last week in its loss to Utah and overall has scored only two takeaways vs. 12 turnovers.
3:30PM ET, CBS: ARKANSAS (3-1) vs. No. 6 TEXAS A&M (4-0) (AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas): CBS has what might be the best game in Week 5, don’t miss it! It’s the SEC opener for Arkansas and the SEC-West opener for Texas A&M. The Aggies’ top billing is completely based on their staggering 52-28 win over South Carolina in the opener. Though there is no doubting the impressiveness of the victory, there is still plenty we don’t know about the since untested Aggies. Tune in to watch Arkansas’ No. 71 -ranked pass defense try and contain A&M’s No. 4-ranked passing offense AND see the Aggies’ No. 42- ranked rush defense try and deal with the Razorbacks’ No. 8-ranked rushing attack. It’s a pounding ground game against a finesse-filled pass attack, featuring defenses that have struggled to wrap up. If the Aggies manage a win, it will be the first time in the 71-year history of the series that they’ve beat the Razorbacks in three consecutive games since they won six straight from 1938-43.
4:00PM ET, SEC NETWORK: LOUISIANA TECH (2-2) at No. 5 AUBURN (3-0): The Week 5 sleeper, is Auburn at risk of a hangover game after surviving a 20-14 decision at K-State last week? Louisiana Tech has never beaten Auburn and are 8-71-2 all-time against SEC teams. But, this is the same Bulldog program that beat Ole Miss 27-7 in Oxford in 2011, Mississippi State 22-14 in Ruston in 2008 and No. 18 Alabama 29-28 in Birmingham in 1999. There is nothing to indicate a lingering upset here, but what’s intriguing is Auburn’s secondary—which gave up 240-plus passing yards to San Jose State and K-State—taking on a La Tech aerial attack that hung up 253 yards passing on Oklahoma in its opener. Watch out for Bulldog quarterback Cody Sokol who has 10 touchdown passes this season, tying him for the sixth most in the FBS.
4:00PM ET, FOX SPORTS 1: TEXAS (1-2) at KANSAS (2-1): Texas is 11-1 all-time vs. Kansas, the only loss came in 1938 when the Longhorns fell 19-18 in Austin. Though the Jayhawks almost upset Texas 21-17 in 2012, the Longhorns have won the other 10 Big 12 meetings by an average of 31 points per game. Texas is ranked No. 107 in scoring offense and No. 51 in scoring defense, its worst showing since going 5-7 in 2010. While this makes the Longhorns look vulnerable on paper, why does it seem like they are playing harder than their predecessors, with the hunger missing from the latter part of the Mack Brown era? Regardless, Kansas has a chance to break Texas’ dominant streak in Week 5. They key matchup may be the Longhorns’ No. 91-ranked rushing defense vs. the Jayhawks’ No. 43-ranked ground attack, led by freshman Corey Avery and junior De’Andre Mann.
4:15PM ET, FOX: No. 16 STANFORD (2-1) at WASHINGTON (4-0): Don’t forget to swap over to this Pac-12 headliner on FOX. Washington is undefeated but has achieved perfection with wins over Hawaii, FCS Eastern Washington, Illinois and Georgia State, making Stanford its first real test in 2014. The Huskies have only beaten the Cardinal once since 2008, a 17-13 upset win in 2012 over then No. 8 Stanford in Seattle. This game is all about a stellar Stanford defense—the No. 1 scoring unit in the country—squaring off with a one-dimensional Washington O which runs the ball well. On the flip side, can the Huskies secondary—which ranks a dismal No. 110 vs. the pass—contain a Cardinal attack which managed 285 passing yards against USC? Where Washington does have an advantage is in turnover margin, it ranks No. 4 in the nation at plus-eight while Stanford lags way behind at No. 84 with minus-one. With one loss already in the books, Stanford must win this game to stay in the hunt for a spot in the first-ever College Football playoff.
6:00PM ET, BIG TEN NETWORK: CINCINNATI (2-0) at No. 22 OHIO STATE (2-1): This game is a golden opportunity for an Ohio team to snap the Buckeyes’ 93-year winning streak against in-state opponents. Ohio State’s last loss to a fellow-Ohio school came in 1921 when it fell 7-6 to Oberlin College, now a D-III school located about 40 minutes southwest of Cleveland. Though Ohio State’s defensive woes have been well documented, the Buckeyes rank No. 20 in scoring, No. 87 vs. the run and No. 3 vs. the pass. The success of the secondary presents a strength vs. strength matchup against a Cincinnati passing attack that is No. 9 in the FBS (former 5-star Phenom Gunner Kiel is the quarterback) vs. a rushing game that ranks No. 102. What’s even more compelling is an Ohio State offense that’s failed to launch taking on a Bearcat defense that ranks No. 91 in scoring and No. 111 vs. the pass. Could this be the young J.T. Barrett’s first chance to play the role of hero? Keep in mind that this is only Cincinnati’s second game of the season, its wins—and stats—came via games against Toledo and Miami (Ohio).
7:00PM ET, ESPN: MISSOURI (3-1) at No. 13 SOUTH CAROLINA (3-1): A rematch of last season’s double-overtime thriller that No. 20 South Carolina won over the No. 5 Tigers 27-24, this game became a lot less attractive after Missouri’s 31-27 loss to Indiana last weekend. Despite that, this is a key SEC East game between two teams that are still in the mix for a chance to play in the conference championship game. What’s important to remember about Missouri it that it is woefully young, returning only nine starters from last seasons’ 12-2 squad. Tune in to see if the Gamecocks’ questionable pass defense—ranked No. 119 out of the 128 FBS teams—can shut down Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk who is No. 2 in the FBS with 14 touchdown passes.
7:00PM ET, ESPNU: NORTH CAROLINA (2-1) at CLEMSON (1-2): Clemson is 8-2 against North Carolina since 1999 and hasn’t lost to the Tar Heels at home since 2001. North Carolina’s No. 121-ranked scoring defense will provide a good opportunity for the Tigers’ young offense to gain confidence. Watch out for Clemson’s quarterbacks—starter Cole Stoudt and backup Deshaun Watson—as they square off with a Tar Heel defense that ranks No. 125 vs. the pass. UNC gave up 341 yards through the air to San Diego State in Week 2 and 446 to East Carolina in last week’s 70-41 debacle. Keep in mind that Clemson hasn’t lost the game after its annual meeting Florida State since 2004 when it fell 41-22 to No. 8 Florida State on Sept. 25 and then lost to No. 10 Virginia 30-10 on Oct. 7.
7:30PM ET, ESPN2: DUKE (4-0) at MIAMI FLA. (2-2): Last season Duke beat the Hurricanes for the first time since 1976, also the only time the Blue Devils have won in Miami. Duke is 4-0, its best start since 1994, scoring wins over FCS Elon, Troy, Kansas and Tulane. The Blue Devils are ranked No. 15 in the nation in scoring offense and No. 7 in scoring defense, making them look as scary on paper as a Top Ten team. Miami, on the other hand, is 2-2 and has struggled to find itself on either side of the ball. The Hurricanes have managed 340-plus yards of passing in each of its last two games, led by quarterback Brad Kaaya who’s thrown seven touchdowns vs. three picks. Duke is No. 8 in the FBS in interceptions with six different guys scoring a pick (two for touchdowns) so far this season. Watch out for Blue Devil running back Shaun Wilson, a freshman who ran for 245 yards and three scores in the win over Kansas.
8:00PM ET, FOX: No. 7 BAYLOR (3-0) at IOWA STATE (1-2): After cruising past SMU, FCS Northwestern State and Buffalo and taking Week 4 off, it’s finally time to see Baylor play a power-five opponent. What’s hiding behind the Bears’ Top Ten stats is their youth, only nine starters returned from last season’s 11-2 product, No. 122 among FBS teams. Though Iowa State is not Oklahoma, this game represents a huge test for the inexperienced and untested Bears. Remember the Cyclones beat Iowa 20-17 and came within four points of upsetting No. 20 K-State. Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads has a habit of keeping things interesting for ranked opponents visiting Jack Trice Stadium. The Bears have dropped two straight in Ames, the last win coming in 2005.
8:00PM ET, ABC: No. 8 NOTRE DAME (3-0) vs. SYRACUSE (2-1) (East Rutherford, N.J.): The Irish are 3-3 all-time vs. Syracuse, but 1-2 since 2003. The last time these two hooked up was in 2008, the Orange won 24-23. This is one of the best strength vs. strength matchups in Week 5: Notre Dame’s No. 19-ranked rushing defense against Syracuse’s No. 20-ranked ground game. Players to watch include Orange quarterback Terrel Hunt, who rushed for 156 yards and two scores in last week’s loss to Maryland and sophomore Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith who leads the team with four tackles for a loss and is No. 2 in tackles with 22.
10:30PM ET, ESPN: OREGON STATE (3-0) at No. 18 USC (2-1): Oregon State hasn’t won at USC since 1960 but its last win over a ranked opponent came in 2012 over No. 19 UCLA in Los Angeles. Though it’s no shock that the Beavers have been successful throwing the ball this season (No. 27 in the FBS in passing yards), how about their claim on the No. 18 ranked scoring defense in college football? Included in this number is the No. 10-ranked pass defense. USC quarterback Cody Kessler hasn’t thrown a pick since Dec. 21, 2013 but he’ll have to watch out for the Beaver secondary, especially safety Tyrequek Zimmerman and corner Steven Nelson, both with two interceptions apiece this season. Remember, Oregon State is 3-3 against the Trojans in their last six meetings, meaning there is no guarantee that mighty USC will stomp the outgunned Beavers.