Like we’ve done in years past, every week throughout the season we’ll be highlighting the best games of the coming weekend. We’ll be doing it a little differently this year, however. We’ll rank the top five games we’re most intrigued by while also providing some insight on other games that will be worth your time.
Week 4 only yielded us a few upsets with TCU taking down Oklahoma State and NC State keeping Florida State winless. There were nearly quite a few more, but teams like Oklahoma, Penn State and USC emerged by slim margins. There could be a few more upsets on the horizon in Week 5.
Starting with the five best games, we broke down this week’s slate for you:
5. No. 14 Miami (2-0, 0-0) at Duke (4-0, 1-0) — 7 p.m., ESPN2 (Friday): We’ll find out if Duke is going to be a factor in the ACC Coastal race in this one. The Blue Devils are off to a 4-0 start and knocked off rival North Carolina in its ACC opener last week. Duke has been strong on defense, but haven’t done a whole lot offensively. Daniel Jones is going to have his hands full with Miami’s speedy defense, but the Canes cannot take the Blue Devils lightly.
4. No. 24 Mississippi State (3-1, 1-1) at No. 13 Auburn (3-1, 1-0) — 6 p.m., ESPN: Auburn got its offense back on track last week in a road win over Missouri with 51 points and nearly 500 yards. And more importantly, the Tigers did not turn the ball over. Mississippi State’s defense wil provide a tougher test. The Bulldogs impressed in a blowout win over LSU but are coming off a 31-3 defeat at the hands of Georgia in Athens. Traveling to Auburn is another tough road test. Expect a better showing from MSU this time around.
3. No. 15 Oklahoma State (3-1, 0-1) at Texas Tech (3-0, 0-0) — 8 p.m., FOX: Oklahoma State was brought back down to earth last week when it fell at home to TCU. The Cowboys put up big yards against TCU, but turned it over a few times and struggled keeping a clean pocket for QB Mason Rudolph. Texas Tech’s defense is definitely improved, but Rudolph should have more time and room to operate this week. But if the OSU defense doesn’t take some strides, this will more than likely turn into a shootout. Even with Patrick Mahomes off to the NFL, the Red Raiders have another gunslinger at QB in Nic Shimonek. AT&T Stadium will be rocking.
2. No. 5 USC (4-0, 2-0) at No. 16 Washington State (4-0, 1-0) — 10:30 p.m., ESPN (Friday): USC has avoided upsets the past two weeks, squeaking past Texas in overtime and then Cal by just 10 points last week. The Trojans will need to execute at a higher level Friday night in Pullman if they want to stay undefeated. USC QB Sam Darnold has made his share of highlight reel plays as expected, but has thrown the third-most interceptions (7) in the country. Wazzu has caused 10 turnovers through four games. Darnold needs to avoid costly mistakes because WSU QB Luke Falk likely won’t make many. Falk leads the country in completion percentage (76.9) and is second in TD passes (14) with just one interception. The USC defense is going to have its hands full.
1. No. 2 Clemson (4-0, 2-0) at No. 12 Virginia Tech (4-0, 0-0) — 8 p.m., ABC: How’s this for a conference home opener, Virginia Tech fans? Since the Hokies knocked off West Virginia to open the season, they’ve cruised through the non-conference behind redshirt freshman QB Josh Jackson and wideout Cam Phillips, who leads the nation with 523 receiving yards. Those two should have some success against a Clemson secondary that is dealing with injuries, but that’s only if the VT offensive line can give Jackson time to throw against Clemson’s vaunted defensive line.
Clemson also has a first-year starting quarterback, junior Kelly Bryant. He passed his first road ACC test — at Louisville — with flying colors. But the Hokies have a much tougher defense and the crowd in Blacksburg should be even rowdier. Dabo Swinney-coached teams always seem to win these games, but this one could come down to the wire.
Keep an eye on…
Vanderbilt (3-1, 0-1) at No. 21 Florida (2-1, 2-0) — Noon, ESPN: Vanderbilt has a chance to put last week’s blowout at the hands of Alabama behind it with this trip to Gainesville. Florida is 2-1 (with both wins coming in the final minute) but hasn’t really looked too good on either side of the ball, especially offense. Luke Del Rio will get the start at QB for the Gators. Vandy has a chance to pull the upset, especially if it can get RB Ralph Webb going.
No. 7 Georgia (4-0, 1-0) at Tennessee (3-1, 0-1) — 3:30 p.m., CBS: Tennessee looked like it was sleepwalking last week, barely edging lowly UMass at home. This week, a much tougher opponent strolls into Neyland. UGA looked great in a home blowout over Mississippi State — especially on defense — and seem like the clear favorite in the SEC East. If Tennessee wants to have a say in that division race, an upset would go a long way. Oh, and Butch Jones’ hot seat would cool off quite a bit — for the time being.
Florida State (0-2, 0-1) at Wake Forest (4-0, 1-0) — 3:30 p.m., ABC: How weird is it to see FSU unranked? The Seminoles kicked off the year with a loss to top-ranked Alabama before Hurricane Irma resulted in a three-week layoff. When the Noles return to the field, with freshman James Blackman playing QB for the injured Deondre Francois, they lost to NC State. Wake Forest is off to a 4-0 start, but needed a blocked field goal to beat Appalachian State last weekend. Look for FSU to take out some frustrations on the Demon Deacons in Winston-Salem.
Memphis (3-0, 0-0) at UCF (2-0, 0-0) — 7 p.m., ESPN2: Memphis already has a win over UCLA this year while UCF is coming off an impressive win at Maryland, though the Terps played much of the game with their third-string QB. This is the AAC opener for both teams who look like contenders for the league crown.
Nebraska at Illinois (+5.5) — 8 p.m., FS1 (Friday): Nebraska (2-2, 1-0) managed to bounce back from its debacle against NIU by beating Rutgers, but it was still a pretty close game. Illinois (2-1, 0-0) is coming off a bye and already beat Conference USA champion Western Kentucky at home. Illinois receivers Mike Dudek and Malik Turner will have chances to make plays against the porous pass defense of the Huskers.
Maryland (+13) at Minnesota — Noon, FS1: Yes, Maryland (2-1, 0-0) is down to its third-string QB in Max Bortenschlager, but he has played before and will have the entire week to prepare. He has enough talent on offense, namely Ty Johnson and D.J. Moore, that the Terps will cover the nearly two-score spread on the road, despite Minnesota’s (3-0, 0-0) stellar run defense.
Baylor (+17) at Kansas State — 3:30 p.m., ESPN2: Baylor (0-4, 0-1) got its act together offensively and gave No. 3 Oklahoma a major score last weekend. Though receiver Chris Platt is out, the Bears, with Zach Smith at QB, have enough firepower to keep this one close against Kansas State (2-1, 0-0) in Manhattan.
Iowa (+3) at Michigan State — 4 p.m., FOX: Iowa (3-1, 0-1) lost a heartbreaker at home to No. 4 Penn State last weekend. Iowa won’t have the Kinnick crowd behind it this time, but it has more talent than the Michigan State (2-1, 0-0), which didn’t put up much of a fight against Notre Dame. Expect a big game from Akrum Wadley in an Iowa win.
Channel surf through…
Northwestern (2-1, 0-0) at No. 10 Wisconsin (3-0, 0-0) — Noon, ABC: Northwestern hasn’t looked much like a surprise Big Ten West contender so far, but gets the division’s best team coming off a bye week. Expect the Wildcats to keep this one close on the road.
South Carolina (3-1, 1-1) at Texas A&M (3-1, 1-0) — 7:30 p.m., SECN: Texas A&M fans should feel good about the progression of QB Kellen Mond in the early going. Let’s see if he can keep the Aggies’ win streak going.
Cal (3-1, 0-1) at Oregon (3-1, 0-1) — 10:30 p.m., FS1: Oregon hopes to get back on track after losing to Arizona State last week. Cal has looked much better than anticipated so far this year and gave USC a game last week.
Colorado (3-1, 0-1) at UCLA (2-2, 0-1) — 10:30 p.m., ESPN2: This is a big game for UCLA, which hasn’t proved it can stop anybody on defense as its offense puts up huge numbers. Lose this one, and things can go downhill quickly.
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