SportsPulse: Death, taxes and Ohio State getting trounced by a random Big Ten school has become a fall tradition. As Paul Myerberg prognosticates, the Buckeyes should be on high alert against Nebraska.
Shocking disappointments and better-than-expected performances are anticipated each weekend in wild world of college football. It’s especially true in the first month of the season as teams have yet to get into the swing of the schedules and are more prone to mistakes.
The USA TODAY Sports college football staff — Jace Evans, Paul Myerberg, George Schroeder, Erick Smith, Eddie Timanus and Dan Wolken — weigh in with some bold predictions for Week 5 of the college football season:
Ohio State will prove it’s a legitimate national title threat by dropping a 50-burger on Nebraska. The Buckeyes are the No. 6 team in the nation but somehow their dominance in their first season under Ryan Day has gone under the radar. Heisman Trophy candidate Justin Fields and Co. will put on a show in their first prime-time game of the year against an opponent that needed all it had just to beat Illinois.
Washington blitzes Southern California – by 21 points, let’s say – to ratchet up the already immense pressure on Clay Helton. And it doesn’t get much easier from here: USC next travels to Notre Dame, so sitting at 3-3 at midseason seems likely for the Trojans and their embattled head coach. Meanwhile, the Huskies can paint themselves as the team to beat in the Pac-12 despite a painful loss a few weeks back to California. But UW won’t be the biggest story in the league coming out of the weekend. All eyes will be Helton and his tenuous job security as the Trojans make a short-lived stay in the Amway Coaches Poll.
IMPACT GAMES: Week 5 matchups key to the Playoff race
STAFF PICKS: Predictions for every Top 25 game in Week 5
In its first three games, UCLA scored 42 points. And then in a span of 17 minutes late last Saturday night (or early Sunday morning, depending on your time zone), something clicked for Chip Kelly’s Bruins.
A furious comeback from a 49-17 deficit to a 67-63 victory was aided by Washington State’s turnovers and other mistakes, but the Bruins had plenty to do with it, took. Sophomore quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson set a school record with 564 total yards.
UCLA hasn’t turned the corner, necessarily. It’s still going to be a long season; Kelly has a big rebuilding job still ahead. But the Bruins will keep the momentum going this weekend, when they win another late-night/early-morning road game (this time in Tucson against Arizona).
The hardest weeks to win are often the ones after a big win. Such is the situation for Auburn. The Tigers went and handled Texas A&M on the road and established themselves as potential contenders in the SEC.
A dangerous home game awaits against Mississippi State,especially if they haven’t put last week’s win behind them. The Bulldogs can run the ball effectively, which means Auburn must be ready for the physical challenge. And it’s possible Tommy Stevens is back to start at quarterback. Mississippi State also defend the pass well, meaning Bo Nix will have to make some plays in the passing game. So far, Gus Malzahn has covered up his weaknesses with some timely play calling.
Don’t be surprised if this one goes to the wire and an upset happens.
Over the nearly three decades I’ve been writing for this publication, I’ve wished I could give out a weekly stinks-to-be-you award — only it wouldn’t use the word stinks, if you know what I mean. (Hint: it’s what a vacuum cleaner does. This is a family show, so we’ll try and keep it that way.) Anyway, the recipient of said award would be a bad team that’s about to be on the receiving end of a complete annihilation by an angry opponent.
There are three candidates for the dubious honor this week. The first nominee is Connecticut. The Huskies once tried to make its annual clash with Central Florida into a trophy game. That didn’t go well, and Saturday’s visit to UCF isn’t going to be pretty, either. The Knights just had their quest for a third consecutive undefeated regular season end at Pittsburgh, so they won’t be in a very charitable mood.
Neither will Michigan, which just got taken to school at Wisconsin. The Wolverines return home to meet our second rout of the week candidate, Big Ten doormat Rutgers.
But this week’s winner (?) is Arkansas. After an ignominious loss at home to lowly San Jose State, the Razorbacks must now venture to Jerry World to take on a disgruntled Texas A&M. The Aggies have been stymied by the two top-caliber defenses they’ve faced. Arkansas does not have one, and Kellen Mond and Co. won’t be shy about trying to put up a big number against their current SEC West and former Southwest Conference foes. Will A&M hit 62 as it did against Lamar the week after the Clemson setback? Perhaps not, but the half-century mark is certainly in play. Mmmm, smell that bacon. Sorry, Hogs.
I think Notre Dame is in a really tough spot this week against Virginia. The Irish endured one of the more physical games you’ll see all season last week against Georgia, and there’s no way this team can bounce back quickly and be at its best against Virginia. While the Cavaliers have not been visually impressive the last couple weeks with close wins over Old Dominion and Florida State, they’re only allowing 188 passing yards per game and are really stout against the run (12th nationally entering this week). Notre Dame is going to be in a lot of third-and-longs, and I think Virginia will be able to create some turnovers off their pressure and pull the surprise in South Bend.