By: David Folz
With week five of the college football season upon us, we have begun to figure out who may be a contender, who is battling for a bowl game, and who may be a pretender against good competition. We have seen upsets, surprising teams and those expected to contend fall flat and not live up to expectations thus far. Week five will have many of the same storylines and with that, here is what to watch for and the top five games to watch this weekend.
West Virginia starts a new era: The Mountaineers begin life in the Big 12 on Saturday against Baylor. Everyone in the nation who can watch this game should do so as it appears that Geno Smith will be in the Heisman Trophy race all year, while Baylor has been surprising so far under new quarterback Nick Florence, being ranked at 25. This will be a high scoring game and should be a fun one for fans to watch.
The Big Ten starts conference play: The Big Ten had to deal with a miserable non-conference season that dealt with just one contender in Ohio State getting through the schedule without losing, and the Buckeyes aren’t even eligible for postseason play. Wisconsin suffered a loss and three very shaky games, Michigan had two losses, Michigan State and Purdue both lost to Notre Dame, and even Nebraska fell to UCLA. Every team besides Ohio State and Penn State will get the chance to play for the Big Ten Championship and a shot at the Rose Bowl starting this weekend.
Pac-12 Top teams: Stanford, Oregon State and Oregon are all playing this weekend, and to raise the stakes, they are all on the road. Stanford on Thursday night plays at Washington and on Saturday, the Beavers play at Arizona and the Ducks at Washington State. Immediately playing on the road in the Pac-12 is grounds for an upset watch, since that is what already happened to USC. Do not be surprised by either upsets of three teams or all three win against teams that will have critical road wins.
Bounceback games?: Clemson, Tennessee and Michigan State have been lackluster teams of late. Clemson had a bad defensive effort against Florida State that sounded the alarms back to when they were destroyed against West Virginia a year ago. This week they take on Boston College, which will be a tricky road game. Tennessee had a bad SEC opener against Florida, and to have a second game, they take on Georgia. Michigan State got beat up against Notre Dame, then proceeded to be lackluster against Eastern Michigan. They cannot afford to be lackluster against the Buckeyes, or they could quickly find themselves down in the Big Ten race.
Top 5 games to watch:
5. Tennessee at Georgia: The Volunteers may be desperate to win this game considering they are in the SEC East at 0-1 and cannot fall two games behind to have a chance at it. Georgia, however, could afford to fall but could still win the SEC east with one loss if they have wins against Florida and South Carolina. You could argue that Tennessee is a desperate football team to get back on track following the loss to Florida. This could be either a blowout in favor of Georgia or a big upset by the Volunteers, and either way will be fun to watch Saturday.
4. Texas Tech at Iowa State: At first look, this would be a crazy idea to put this up among the top five games to watch. A second look, however, has both teams at 3-0 and actually playing really well this year. The Red Raiders have played Northwestern State, Texas State, and New Mexico so their stats are a little inflated, but a Red Raiders offense is always explosive, regardless of who they face. The Cyclones have shown offensive firepower with wins over Tulsa and Western Illinois, while adding defensive prowess with a win over Iowa. This game will be a fun one to watch if you can.
3. Wisconsin at Nebraska: Besides the hideous uniforms that one will have to get over in this game, there are many story lines for this Big Ten opener. Nebraska wants revenge from last year’s blowout loss in Madison. Wisconsin’s offense has been very sporadic of late, but finally got it together last week against UTEP. Nebraska’s offense has also been spotty, with being great in wins against Southern Mississippi and Idaho State, but bad in the loss to UCLA. This is a very crucial game for both teams to open up right in the Big Ten.
2. Baylor at West Virginia: You have been hard pressed to tell me that Baylor would be in the top 25 in the rankings by the time September ended this year with so much that they lost to the draft over the offseason. However, the Bears are a resilient bunch and with Nick Florence leading the way, the Bears are 4-0 and ranked 25 entering this game. West Virginia starts life in the Big 12, but head coach Dana Holgerson has always known the Big 12, being a coordinator at Oklahoma State. This may be a race of the first team to 40 points wins.
1. Ohio State at Michigan State: College GameDay is here for the showdown in East Lansing, and so is the #1 game to watch for this weekend. Ohio State has nothing to play for, only wins and a better ranking. They can only do that due to the tattoo scandal two years ago, and cannot play in the Big Ten Championship and a bowl game. Michigan State however is a team many consider to have to be a top ten team in the pre-season, but those anticipations have waned in the last two weeks as they have not had a good time on offense. There are many storylines to this game, thus why the #1 ranking.