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College Football Week 5 Preview: Afternoon is packed with big games and stakes

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Here is what’s on deck for this week in college football.

NCAA Football: Southern California at Washington Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

This is an open thread for college game chat.


#18 Virginia @ #10 Notre Dame - Can Irish put loss to Georgia behind them and handle another ranked opponent? 3:30 PM ET NBC

The Irish hung around with Georgia a lot longer than expected and though any loss stings, Notre Dame cannot dwell on it. Not with the #18 ranked Cavaliers heading to South Bend on a hot-streak.

Virginia has a very good defense, along with some play-makers on offense and a potential game-changer on special teams. That combination is good enough to make any reasonable Notre Dame fan worried, especially coming off such a hyped-up, emotional game last Saturday night.

However, the Irish are at home, will get another key offensive piece back, and will be playing with a renewed focus, anger, and something to prove after once again failing to beat the best opponent on their schedule. I think they end up winning this by two scores and send a message to everyone that they plan on running the table and contending for one of the final playoff spots.

Prediction: Notre Dame handles Virginia in a tight 27-24 contest.

#21 USC @ #17 Washington - The Trojans keep plugging along despite the injury bug biting hard 3:30 PM ET FOX

USC has one three-point loss to BYU and has kept rolling through the competition despite losing multiple players to injury. The Trojans have a Huskies squad that has demolished it’s competition since a loss to Cal several weeks ago. Can the carousel at quarterback for USC continue to deliver?

The injury bug has once again hit the Trojans before they hit the road. USC will be without three key starters when they take the field to face No. 17 Washington. Safety Talanoa Hufanga, cornerback Olaijah Griffin, and quarterback Kedon Slovis are officially listed as out for Saturday’s game per USC head coach Clay Helton following Thursday’s practice. Matt Fink was officially named the starter against the Huskies.

Slovis injury occurred during the second play of last weeks game when Utah defensive tackle Leki Fotu planted the freshman to the ground, taking him out the game. Fink stepped in and threw for 351 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 1 interception. The redshirt junior made a couple of big plays including a 77 yard touchdown pass to Michael Pittman Jr. Fink will have to be more careful with throwing the 50/50 passes against the Huskies secondary. One thing that Fink brings to the position is his ability to expand plays with his legs. He will need to utilize that against a Washington pass rush that had a two sacks and forced 3 turnovers against BYU last week.

Prediction: Huskies win at home 38-28.

Indiana @ #25 Michigan State - A big test for the Spartans because the Hoosiers’ Defense is for real 3:30 PM ET BIG-10 Network

Michigan State has a disappointing loss to Arizona already accrued this season and Indiana got smoked a few weeks ago vs. the Buckeyes. Though the Spartans should feel confident in their abilities at home, the Indiana defense is not to be taken lightly. Michigan State better protect the quarterback or the Hoosiers will pounce on Brian Lewerke:

Michigan State offensive line versus Indiana defensive line: As mentioned, Indiana’s defense is good. They have ten sacks so far this season, which is an average of 2.5 sacks per game. Michigan State is dealing with a makeshift offensive line, but has done a good job of keeping opposing teams off of their quarterback, as Lewerke has been sacked just four times this season (average of one per game). For comparison, Michigan State has 15 sacks this season, which ranks them as a top-10 unit. While the Hoosiers aren’t quite on the same level, it will be important to neutralize their pass rush and allow Lewerke to make plays in the passing game.

Prediction: Spartans hold on for 35-31 win over Indiana

Mississippi State @ #7 Auburn - Can Bo Nix bring his road show back home against the Bulldogs? 7 PM ET ESPN

Bo Nix wasn’t incredible against the Aggies but he protected the football and got out of College Station with the win. This week is going to be very tough as the Auburn Tigers host a Mississippi State Bulldogs defense that feasts on takeaways:

PROTECTING NIX

Auburn can expect most teams to try to apply some pressure to freshman quarterback Bo Nix, and Malzahn describes the Bulldogs as “a very aggressive team.” Mississippi State safety Brian Cole Jr. leads the SEC with 5.5 tackles for loss and the team with a pair of sacks.

TURNOVER BATTLE

The Bulldogs have forced a league-best 11 turnovers and trail only Alabama in turnover margin. Auburn hasn’t been so good in that regard, tying for 12th with Texas A&M. The Tigers have only forced three turnovers, though Nix hasn’t thrown an interception since getting picked off twice in the opener against Oregon.

Prediction: Auburn keeps it clean and cruises to a 42-20 win

Washington State @ #19 Utah - Both teams have disappointed but division is still in sight - 10 PM ET FS1

Both squads are coming off of troubling losses but there is still time to get right. The question is if either team can rally after not just getting beat and badly, might I say, but also getting beat up. The Utes especially have quite a few injuries to deal with this week and will face a potent Cougars offense:

UTAH INJURIES: It is unclear whether Moss will be back for the game. Huntley, who was limping late in the loss to USC, was also a question mark but he told reporters this week at practice that he planned to play.

If Moss doesn’t return, Utah will lean on Jordan Wilmore, Devin Brumfield and Devonta’e Henry-Cole to run the ball.

AIR RAID PART II: This will be the second straight week the Utes face an Air Raid offense. New offensive coordinator Graham Harrell has installed the Air Raid at USC, and of course it’s the hallmark of Leach’s offenses.

”We’ve got to try to solve the same kind of offense this week that we played last week. They do it better than anybody in the country as far as what they do — throwing the football. Year-in and year-out, wherever Mike Leach is coaching they are going to be near the top in the country in throwing the ball,” Whittingham said.

ALL ABOUT ANTHONY: Speaking of the Air Raid, Gordon has thrown for more than 400 yards in each of his first four games and is the first WSU quarterback to do so. He is the national leader among FBS quarterbacks for completions per game with 32.45, passing yards per game with 473.5 and total offense at 483.5.

Leach couldn’t recall if he’d ever coached a QB who threw for nine touchdowns in a single game. “I’m not sure but I don’t think so,” he said.

Prediction: Mike Leach’s Cougars pull one out and steal the victory 31-28


Full TV schedule here.