Top college games: Who wins Ohio State vs. Penn State, Stanford vs. Notre Dame and others?
Games to watch in Week 5:
Syracuse at No. 2 Clemson
Sept. 29, noon ET, ABC Danny Sheridan’s line: Clemson by 23
Early results indicate there aren’t many viable challengers for the Tigers in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Orange (4-0, 1-0 ACC), who managed to trip up Clemson (4-0, 1-0) in the Carrier Dome a year ago, are unbeaten and could be it. That setback ultimately didn’t derail the Tigers’ path to the College Football Playoff, but they certainly haven’t forgotten the result.
Last season’s upset was made possible in part by the ingame injury to Clemson QB Kelly Bryant. Clemson didn’t have a ready replacement then, but now it does in freshman Trevor Lawrence. Syracuse, however, still has dynamic veteran Eric Dungey directing its attack. He has accounted for 13 touchdowns, nine by air and four on the ground, though he has yet to encounter a defense approaching Clemson’s talent level in his senior campaign.
Prediction: The Tigers have shown more explosiveness with Lawrence, who entered last week’s game against Georgia Tech early in the second quarter and guided Clemson to five touchdowns in six possessions.. The Orange will hit some plays, but not nearly enough.
No. 12 West Virginia at Texas Tech
Sept. 29, noon ET, ESPN2 Danny Sheridan’s line: West Virginia by 41⁄2
Although the Big 12 race is still young, West Virginia (3-0, 1-0) continues to look the part of favorite Oklahoma’s primary threat. But all of the Mountaineers’ road trips in this league are long, and this likely track meet with the red-hot Red Raiders could pose an early test to their stamina.
Texas Tech (3-1, 1-0) has reversed its fortunes since an opening-day setback against Mississippi. This is due in part to coach Kliff Kingsbury’s decision to turn his high-octane offense over to freshman QB Alan Bowman, but some improvements on the defensive side have also helped Tech upend unbeaten opponents Houston and Oklahoma State, the latter on the road, in back-to-back weeks. WVU QB Will Grier, however, has been just as impressive, leading a romp past Kansas State in last week’s conference opener despite a few early mistakes.
Prediction: Don’t blink. With strong arms and fast receivers on both sides, this could turn into the most fun watch of the day. It might come down to who has the ball last.
West Virginia, 52-45
No. 4 Ohio State at No. 9 Penn State
Sept. 29, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC Danny Sheridan’s line: Ohio State by 41⁄2
It might seem premature to declare this the Big Ten East championship game, but most signs point to it. With both challengers from Michigan already tagged with a non-league loss along with West Division favorite Wisconsin, these are also the conference’s most likely Playoff candidates.
After surviving an openingday scare against Appalachian State in overtime, the Nittany Lions (4-0, 1-0) have used big second halves to put away their next three opponents. A slow start would not be advisable against the Buckeyes (4-0, 1-0), who have looked as explosive as any team in the country not named Alabama with QB Dwayne Haskins emerging as an early Heisman Trophy contender. Penn State QB Trace McSorley has been around the block himself, however, and he appears to have found his go-to ballcarrier in RB Miles Sanders.
Prediction: Ohio State prevailed last season with a late rally in Columbus and eventually claimed the Big Ten crown. Will the change of venue make a difference for the Nittany Lions with an amped-up crowd in prime time? Possibly, but recent history suggests the Buckeyes know how to make the key plays when needed most.
Ohio State, 37-34
No. 7 Stanford at No. 8 Notre Dame
Sept. 29, 7:30 p.m. ET, NBC Danny Sheridan’s line: Notre Dame by 4
After somehow getting out of Oregon with a win, the Cardinal (4-0) have to tap into the reserve tank for another rough road assignment. The Fighting Irish (4-0), who appear to have found themselves a new No.-1 signal caller, return home with their Playoff aspirations very much alive.
Notre Dame’s offense found another gear with the switch to QB Ian Book. His success is in part attributable to facing Wake Forest’s leaky secondary, but his superior accuracy to Brandon Wimbush can’t be overlooked. Besides getting some fortuitous breaks in Eugene, Oregon, Stanford showed it could move the ball quickly when necessary. The combination of QB K.J. Costello and WR JJ Arcega-Whiteside is often the most effective mode of transport.
Prediction: A long journey after an overtime #Pac12AfterDark classic will almost certainly take its toll on the Cardinal. With its newfound offensive spark, the Irish should prevail at home.
Notre Dame, 31-21
No. 11 Washington
Sept. 29, 8:30 p.m. ET, Fox Danny Sheridan’s line: Washington by 17
The Huskies (3-1) have handled every test since a tough opening loss to Auburn. Nothing has come easily, however, and this date with a resurgent BYU squad could be another grind. The Cougars (3-1), who have already put a dent in one Playoff contender’s resume, will try for another huge road upset.
The veteran tandem of QB Jake Browning and RB Myles Gaskin continues to make the timely plays for Washington. The attack as a whole has been efficient if not explosive, and the same formula that helped the BYU defense win at Wisconsin could serve the Cougars well again. BYU figures to be better rested than the Huskies after a relatively easy clash with McNeese last week, and its backfield duo of QB Tanner Mangum and RB Squally Canada is also battle tested.
Prediction: Washington will be in for another tussle, with the Cougars certain to take their best shot, but the Huskies have more weapons and should do enough to protect their home turf.
Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins, being tackled by Tulane’s De’Andre Williams, left, and Juan Monjarres, had five TD passes in last week’s game.