Week 5 College Football Predictions: 10 Biggest Games

    Week 5 college football predictions for the 10 biggest games. The ACC and Pac-12 conferences have their best teams squaring off in high-impact matchups.

    September 30, 2016

    Week 5 college football predictions for the 10 biggest games. The ACC and Pac-12 conferences have their best teams squaring off in high-impact matchups.

    Conference play is in full swing. Let the chase for divisional titles, league supremacy and playoff berths begin in earnest. This week features a scheduling anomaly—three enormous matchups of top 10 programs, beginning Friday night in Pac-12 country. It’s the type of football treat fans typically can’t feast on until the New Year’s bowl games.

    Below are the breakdowns and predictions for the 10 most consequential and entertaining games of Week 5.

    10. Arizona State (4-0) at USC (1-3)

    How low can you go, USC? Heck, how high can you go, ASU?

    The Trojans’ season—and their staff—is on life support after back-to-back conference losses and a 1-3 start. The Sun Devils, meanwhile, are knocking on the Top 25 door after withstanding the aerial assaults of Texas Tech and Cal in September. With a win at the Coliseum, Arizona State will essentially eliminate one of the most talented Pac-12 teams from South Division contention after only five weeks. Fortunately for USC, the team appears to have a quarterback to build around, redshirt freshman Sam Darnold, who played well in the crushing last-second loss in Salt Lake City.

    It’s now-or-never for USC, which will operate with an appropriate sense of urgency on Saturday night. ASU will attack defensively, which will create opportunities for backs Justin Davis and Ronald Jones II and wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster to finally break through with output matching their skills. Darnold will outduel Manny Wilkins in the battle of young Pac-12 passers, giving troubled head coach Clay Helton much-needed relief and a much-needed W.

    Prediction: USC 38, Arizona State 30
    Line: USC -9.5

    9. Missouri (2-2) at LSU (2-2)

    It’s a battle of .500 teams going nowhere in their respective SEC divisions. But this week in Baton Rouge is all about witnessing what LSU will look like without Les Miles on the sidelines for the first time in over a decade.

    Miles was canned on Sunday, opening the door for interim coach extraordinaire Ed Orgeron to try his luck at transforming the Tigers into West Division contenders. Orgeron is promising a more diverse offensive attack, but LSU changed coaches not quarterbacks. And Danny Etling is still an average distributor going up against defensive end Charles Harris and a very capable Missouri defense. LSU also packs a punch, led by linebackers Arden Key and Kendell Beckwith, cornerback Tre’Davious White and safety Jamal Adams.

    There’s something about Orgeron that just flips the switch for teams, and LSU needed a fresh jolt. It’ll start fast for the reshuffled staff behind the running of Leonard Fournette and a defense that’ll harass Drew Lock into mistakes, hurried throws and three-and-outs.

    Prediction: LSU 28, Missouri 17
    Line: LSU -13

    8. Texas (2-1) at Oklahoma State (2-2)

    The Horns and the Cowboys meet this week with similar goals—move beyond their last game as quickly as possible.

    Texas lost to Cal two weeks ago, while Oklahoma State fell short against Baylor on Saturday. Another loss from either could be the start of a problematic trend, especially the Cowboys who’d slip below .500. Since both teams are struggling to defend the pass, it figures to be a productive day for the quarterbacks, Longhorn Shane Buechele and Cowboy Mason Rudolph. And Okie State wideout James Washington will require maximum attention from the beleaguered Texas defensive backs.

    Both teams will enjoy success through the air. But the Longhorns will also pound it with effectively behind power backs D’Onta Foreman and Chris Warren. Plus, the week off is going benefit Charlie Strong’s team, as it resumes playing like one of the Big 12’s primary title contenders.

    Prediction: Texas 40, Oklahoma State 35
    Line: Oklahoma State -3

    7. Oklahoma (1-2) at TCU (3-1)

    The Sooners and the Horned Frogs disappointed in September. A meeting in Fort Worth affords the winner a chance to begin turning things around.

    Oklahoma and TCU are 0-3 combined in their most important games to date: the Sooners bowing to Houston and Ohio State and the Frogs falling in overtime to Arkansas. Still, the Big 12 title is there for the taking for whoever can reverse course. OU will continue leaning on its backfield of Baker Mayfield and runners Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon, while TCU holds an edge at the line of scrimmage, particularly on defense with linemen Josh Carraway, James McFarland and Aaron Curry.

    This is a toss-up game that could come down to want-to. The Sooners are flawed in ways that most didn’t anticipate back in August. Their issues in the secondary and along both lines will result in a TCU victory and a 1-3 start for an Oklahoma team not long ago viewed as a playoff favorite.

    Prediction: TCU 33, Oklahoma 28
    Line: Oklahoma -3.5

    6. Miami (3-0) at Georgia Tech (3-1)

    No one truly knows what to expect from Mark Richt’s first Miami team. A trip to Atlanta, though, will slowly begin to pull back the curtain on the Canes.

    Miami has plowed through its first three opponents. But those victims were Florida A&M, Florida Atlantic and Appalachian State, so no major revelations there. A road contest to begin ACC play will begin answering how strong these Hurricanes might gust in 2016. Miami has been peerless thus far, even on defense, where youth was supposed to hamper the unit’s progress.

    Defending the triple-option is never simple, especially for a team starting three rookie linebackers. However, Miami has had the luxury of time, and Georgia Tech is coming off a poor effort in Thursday’s 26-7 loss to Clemson. The Canes will contain quarterback Justin Thomas, while peppering the Jackets with Mark Walton on the ground and Brad Kaaya over the top. Richt will move to 14-2 all-time against Tech, including 8-0 at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

    Prediction: Miami 33, Georgia Tech 24
    Line: Miami -7

    5. North Carolina (3-1) at Florida State (3-1)

    The Tar Heels and the Noles have battled back from their only losses, Georgia and Louisville, respectively. However, Saturday’s loser in Tallahassee will have a rugged time getting up the ACC mountain, particularly the host.

    Florida State must survive this weekend to have any shot of staying within range of the winner of Louisville-Clemson later that night. The Seminoles routed South Florida last week behind a career day from running back Dalvin Cook, but Carolina’s diverse offense will present problems for a defense still without star safety Derwin James.

    A vastly overrated FSU defense is going to bend in the face of mobile quarterback Mitch Trubisky, running back Elijah Hood and the wave of talented Tar Heel receivers. Cook, though, will break a Carolina defense that’s soft against the run and has yet to pick off a pass this season. It’ll be tight for a long time, and then Cook takes over with another monster effort to keep the Noles in contention and while improving his Heisman brag sheet.

    Prediction: Florida State 41, North Carolina 33
    Line: Florida State -11

    4. Tennessee (4-0) at Georgia (3-1)

    Last week, the Vols got off the mat to zoom past Florida and snap an 11-game losing streak in the series. Take down Georgia this week Between the Hedges and the SEC East race is over for all intents and purposes.

    Tennessee’s campaign took a sharp pivot last week in Knoxville, the result of a 35-point second-half outburst against a very good Gator defense. Now, the Vols head to Athens, where they haven’t won in a decade. The Dawgs are reeling after three straight poor efforts, including last week’s 45-14 demolition at the hands of Ole Miss. Kirby Smart’s defense is suddenly a liability, and running back Nick Chubb is a question mark after injuring his ankle.

    The Volunteers are an erratic team. And, yeah, they rolled late last week, but inconsistency and injuries will catch up to them in their first true road test of the season. While Chubb’s status is up in the air, Georgia has quality backfield depth, led by Sony Michel and Brian Herrien. Plus, Jacob Eason to Isaiah McKenzie will burn the Cam Sutton-less secondary for a pair of scores in a huge bounce back answer from the Dawgs.

    Prediction: Georgia 28, Tennessee 27
    Line: Tennessee -3.5

    3. Wisconsin (4-0) at Michigan (4-0)

    East meets West in a critical Big Ten showdown of unbeaten, top 10 programs.

    The Wolverines were supposed to be here. The Badgers? Absolutely not. But Wisconsin has been the nation’s biggest surprise this side of Churchill Downs, upsetting LSU and Michigan State to climb to No. 8 in the polls. Michigan, though, is a different animal, even for a Badger team yielding just 11 points a game. The Wolverines are every bit as stout defensively, and they harbor more offensive options for quarterback Wilton Speight. Jim Harbaugh’s team has yet to be held under 45 points, thanks to a rugged offensive line and a balanced approach. And as poised as rookie Alex Hornibrook was last week in East Lansing, this is an even tougher test for the young Wisconsin quarterback.

    These Badgers, fueled by an outstanding corps of linebackers, will not go down without a fight. Still, they’ll struggle to reach the end zone on Don Brown’s defense. And while Michigan will face its own problems with the ball, do-everything Jabrill Peppers will create something on offense, defense or special teams to provide the necessary spark.

    Prediction: Michigan 27, Wisconsin 16
    Line: Michigan -10.5

    2. Stanford (4-0) at Washington (3-0)

    A changing of the Pac-12 guard could be happening this Friday night in Seattle.

    Stanford has won three of the last four Pac-12 championships, and is the league’s highest ranked team after four weeks. However, Washington is coming on strong, with a young and talented program that’s been waiting to participate in a game of this magnitude for more than a decade. The Huskies are littered with emergent stars, like quarterback Jake Browning and defensive backs Sidney Jones and Budda Baker, but Stanford has the muscle memory for winning titles—as well as the game’s most dangerous player, Christian McCaffrey.

    U-Dub is the real deal, and it’s about to prove it in front of an electric home crowd. Jones and Baker will shut down passing lanes, enabling the linebackers to focus solely on stopping McCaffrey. Browning, meanwhile, will see less congestion against a Cardinal secondary that could be without corners Quenton Meeks and Alijah Holder. UCLA exposed Stanford’s flaws last week. Unlike the Bruins, Washington will close the deal in a statement victory for Chris Petersen and the program.

    Prediction: Washington 27, Stanford 23
    Line: Washington -3

    1. Louisville (4-0) at Clemson (4-0)

    The ACC lead. Playoff contention. The Heisman race. World domination. Plenty will be at stake this Saturday night when the Cardinals and the Tigers meet in Death Valley.

    Lamar Jackson vs. Deshaun Watson alone ought to make this one of the most riveting matchups of 2016. Behind Jackson, Louisville has been the surprise of the opening month, blowing up everything in its path, including Florida State two weeks ago. Clemson, conversely, is the defending league champion that hasn’t performed as such. The defense has been outstanding, but Watson and the offense have surprisingly sputtered. And if that trend continues, Jackson will leave Clemson in his wake.

    Jackson is about to meet his match … sort of. He’ll get his yards and scores, but not with the same proliferation as the first four games. Clemson’s deep rotation of linemen will frustrate the Cardinals and create traffic jams for Jackson. Watson will be the Week 5 hero, delivering his best game on the biggest stage, with a game-winning drive serving as the exclamation point. The Heisman race tightens in a thriller at Memorial Stadium.

    Prediction: Clemson 37, Louisville 34
    Line: Louisville -2

    MORE: 1-128 College Football Rankings – Week 5


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