Written by: John Stocco
Time flies when you’re having fun, and already we’re in week 5 of the college football season. Right now when you take a quick glance at the college football landscape there are two elite teams in college football that you know will be playing in the final four, and then there are a plethora of teams in each conference fighting for their chance to take those two final spots. Clemson and Alabama are right now one and two, but the rest? There’s Georgia and LSU in the SEC, Ohio State and Wisconsin in the Big Ten, Texas and Oklahoma in the Big 12, a one-loss Notre Dame team, and even Oregon and USC in the Pac 12. It’s become a crucial part of the season where every week there’s must-win games with playoff aspirations. It starts right here in week 5.
#18 Virginia vs. #10 Notre Dame
Notre Dame shocked a lot of talking heads last week when they brought the fight to Georgia and didn’t get blown out like everybody said they would. Notre Dame lost, but their playoff chances are still alive. There’s a slim chance, but hope is hope, and Notre Dame has to make the most out of this game by beating a pesky Virginia team. I really like this Notre Dame team. They have all pro’s on the offensive line in Liam Eichenberg and Tommy Kraemer. Three receiving threats that can torch you anywhere on the field in Chase Claypool, Cole Kmet, and Chris Finke. A talented defense led by Julian Okwara, Drew White, and Alohi Gilman. Then, of course, there’s Ian Book. He’s had a tendency to get off to slow starts, but I like the way he plays the game. He’s one of the most athletic quarterbacks in college football, and he’s got pro level arm strength. He played well last week. Making some clutch throws to his big three receivers, and even though he had two picks, one of those picks was a great play by Georgia’s safety JR Reed, so I couldn’t fault Book on that turnover. He’s been getting off to slow starts and as the game goes on so does Book. Notre Dame needs Book to be on his best game for all four quarters, and they must get their running game going so that it takes the pressure off of Ian Book. After the game against Georgia, against one of the best teams in the nation, in a violent atmosphere in Athens, this game against Virginia could feel like a letdown, and it’s everything but a letdown. Virginia can put themselves on the map with a win in South Bend. The Cavs are climbing up the ranks, and they’ve become the team who can give Clemson their toughest test in the ACC. They’ve become that team because of their defense. Linebackers Jordan Mack and Charles Snowden have been wrecking machines, totaling up 8 sacks, and 57 tackles. Their defense keeps them in games, but Bryce Perkins and the rest of the offense can’t say the same. As in fact, their offense tries to keep them out of games. Perkins hasn’t taken that next step that people in Virginia were hoping he’d take. 8 TD’s, 6 INT’s, and 3.8 average rushing yards won’t cut it. In my prediction, being back at home for the Irish and their defense that kept them in the game against Georgia gives ND the edge.
#21 USC vs. #17 Washington
I talked about USC last week and how impressed I was with Matt Fink, and the three headed monster in their receiving core in Michael Pittman, Tyler Vaughns, and Amon-Ra St. Brown. So naturally of course they’re going to lose. Right? The Trojans are on the road against a tough defensive team in Washington that, like Utah, can dominate the line of scrimmage. I said all of this week about Utah, and the USC Trojans pulled off the upset. Why do I think Washington will put up a much better fight than Utah did? Jacob Eason. Eason is coming off his best game as a college quarterback, and out of the three quarterbacks we continually talk about in the draft world, Jacob Eason is a quarterback who’s going unnoticed. Watching this game I’m going to have my eyes glued on Eason as we get closer to start evaluating these quarterbacks for the NFL Draft. So far he’s played really well, throwing for 1,063 yards, 10 TD’s, and 2 INT’s. Eason will be the best quarterback on the field, Washington’s defense will have the edge, and the difference in this game, and the reason why I think Washington will end up winning this game, is the running game. Washington has three running backs that they can lean towards. Salvon Ahmed, Richard Newton, and Sean McGrew. All three of them have ran for over 200 yards, and all three running backs are factors to win football games for Washington.
#5 Ohio State vs. Nebraska
It’s really the first big game where there are expectations for Scott Frost, and the Cornhuskers. It doesn’t get any bigger than the Buckeyes coming to town. Ohio State is on an absolute terror, but if we’re being honest, their schedule has been a cakewalk. Florida Atlantic, Cincinnati, Indiana, and Miami OH. Of course, Justin Fields should be the leading candidate for the Heisman trophy through four weeks. Ohio State has tremendous football players on both sides of the ball that will get drafted high and play on Sunday’s. I’m expecting more explosive plays by Justin Fields, KJ Hill, JK Dobbins, and Chase Young. And yes, I’m expecting Ohio State to win this football game, and make a strong case as to why they should be up there with the elite programs like Alabama and Clemson. The story here is Nebraska. How far away are the Cornhuskers? I’m not looking and expecting to see Scott Frost take Nebraska back in time of the ’90s, because in all honesty, everyone knows that’s not ever coming back. Scott Frost has to bring Nebraska back through player development and by recruiting athletes who might be too small for the programs like Michigan, Ohio State, and Notre Dame. This game is going to tell us how close, or how far, Nebraska is from actually competing in the Big Ten Conference. If they’re farther than people think, the unfair criticism towards Scott Frost will come down harder than ever before. Some of these coaches need more than two years to get the program back to where it should be. If it gets ugly, I’ll be sure to check out Jordan Love on CBS Network.