NCAA Week 5 Athlon Sports
NCAA Week 5 Athlon Sports
2008 Weekend On Tap: Week 5
By Mitch Light
Published: September 25th, 2008
Athlon Sports Senior Editor
Connecticut (+3.5) at Louisville
Louisville has bounced back from a dreadful performance in an opening-day loss to Kentucky to post consecutive wins over Tennessee Tech (51–10) and Kansas State (38–29). We don’t know quite yet how good (or bad) Kansas State is (the hunch is more bad than good), but the Cards played very well in the Thursday night win over the Wildcats. Victor Anderson posted his second straight 100-yard rushing game and Hunter Cantwell looked far more comfortable in the pocket. The challenge will be more difficult this week. UConn once again is winning games without much fanfare, doing so with a potent rushing attack and a very solid defense. Donald Brown leads the nation in rushing with 179.0 yards per game, but he is far from a one-man show. The Huskies boast several big-time running backs — some young, some old — to complement Tyler Lorenzen and the pedestrian passing game. In my opinion, the wrong team is favored in this game.
Connecticut 27, Louisville 21
Alabama (+6) at Georgia
We knew Georgia’s 2008 schedule was going to be brutal, but back in the summer we didn’t figure this early season date with the Crimson Tide would end up being such a big hurdle. Nick Saban’s club has been one of the nation’s biggest surprises, rolling out to a 4–0 record highlighted by dominating performances against Clemson in Week 1 and at Arkansas in the SEC opener. The strength of the team has been the rushing attack, with a host of talented ball-carriers operating behind a veteran offensive line. Georgia is a tough club to run on, however, so senior quarterback John Parker Wilson likely will be forced to make some plays down the field. Could this be Julio Jones’ coming out party? The freshman wideout has been solid when called upon, but the Tide haven’t really needed to open up the passing attack. Speaking of supremely talented freshman receivers, Georgia is getting a big (and much-needed) lift from A.J. Green, who has emerged as Matthew Stafford’s favorite target. In Stafford, Green and tailback Knowshon Moreno, Georgia boasts a trio of skill players that rival any in the SEC. Alabama is very good. Georgia is great.
Georgia 20, Alabama 17
Colorado (+6) at Florida State (Jacksonville)
One team is coming a thrilling overtime win over a (formerly) ranked opponent. The other team is coming off sobering 12–3 loss at home that featured some dreadful play on offense. Yet, Colorado (which beat West Virginia) finds itself as almost a touchdown underdog against Florida State, which managed only 220 total yards in a loss to Wake Forest. Yes, Florida State has the home field advantage, even though this game is being played in Jacksonville, but there isn’t much evidence (if any) to suggest that the Seminoles are the better team. They are still having major problems at the quarterback position. Against Wake, true freshmen Christian Ponder and D’Vontrey Richardson combined to complete only 33 percent of their passes and were intercepted a total of five times. The Noles’ defense played well, but this team needs to get better on offense to challenge for the Atlantic Division title. Colorado isn’t likely to challenge for a division crown in the Big 12 North, but the Buffaloes continue to makes strides under Dan Hawkins. They have a pair of talented true freshman tailbacks in Rodney Stewart and Darrell Scott, and quarterback Cody Hawkins has been steady in the first three games. Florida State will be by far the best defense CU has seen, but I think the Buffs will have enough to get it done on the road.
Colorado 21, Florida State 17
Tennessee (+6.5) at Auburn
These are not good times for Phil Fulmer. The man who delivered a national title at his alma mater in 1998 is under intense fire in the Volunteer State after a fourth straight loss to the hated Gators. It doesn’t figure to get much better in the near future, with trips to Auburn and Georgia looming. This team has talent, but the offense has struggled under new coordinator Dave Clawson, and the special teams have been poor. Auburn must rebound from an agonizing 26–21 loss at home to SEC West rival LSU. The Tigers have been outstanding on defense (as usual) but have been inconsistent on offense while adapting to Tony Frankin’s spread attack. Chris Todd showed some positive signs against LSU, throwing for 250 yards and a touchdown, but he was intercepted twice. Both teams are very good on defense and both teams are experiencing some growing pains on offense. Should be a typical SEC game.
Auburn 17, Tennessee 13
North Carolina (+7) at Miami
North Carolina’s hopes of reaching the ACC title game for the first time took a big hit when quarterback T.J. Yates injured his ankle in the third quarter of the Tar Heels’ 20–17 loss at home to Virginia Tech. Backup Mike Paulus, who completed 3-of-8 for 23 yards with three interceptions in relief, will make his first career start this weekend. Miami is coming off the biggest win of the Randy Shannon era, a surprisingly easy 41–23 victory at Texas A&M. Redshirt freshman Robert Marve looked very good at quarterback, completing 16-of-22 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns, and Graig Cooper rushed for 128 yards and two scores on only 16 attempts. We’ll know more about this team after Saturday, but the Hurricanes are looking like a legitimate contender in the Coastal Division.
Miami 24, North Carolina 14
Illinois (+14) at Penn State
The schedule hasn’t been overly taxing, but Penn State has been one of the most impressive teams so far this season. Thanks in large part to the emergence of senior Daryll Clark at quarterback, the offense is averaging over 50 points and 500 yards per game. And the defense has been impressive, too, giving up no more than 14 points in any single game. The Nittany Lion D figures to get its stiffest test from a potentially explosive Illinois attack. The Illini scored 42 in a season-opening loss to Missouri and 47 vs. FCS opponent Eastern Illinois but managed only 20 points (with only one offensive TD) in a sluggish 20–17 win vs. Louisiana-Lafayette. Over the last two games — against inferior competition — Juice Williams has thrown three interceptions and only two touchdowns. He will need to play mistake-free football to give his team a chance to win in Happy Valley.
Penn State 37, Illinois 24
Purdue (+2.5) at Notre Dame
Purdue, which lost in overtime in Week 2 to Oregon, is painfully close to being 3–0 on the season. But the Boilers, who escaped with a 32–25 win over Central Michigan last Saturday, could also be 1–2. Joe Tiller’s club is getting great production from tailback Kory Sheets (117.3 ypg), but senior quarterback Curtis Painter isn’t posting the type of numbers we are used to seeing. He hasn’t been bad, but he has yet to throw for 300 yards (after doing so six times last season) and has only tossed three TD passes. Purdue’s offensive balance should pose problems for Notre Dame. The Irish have struggled against the run and have had a tough time putting pressure on the quarterback, with only three sacks in three games. Jimmy Clausen has shown improvement at quarterback, but he isn’t getting much help from the running game. I’m not sure the ND offense is good enough to outscore Purdue, even at home.
Purdue 34, Notre Dame 24
Northwestern (+7.5) at Iowa
Northwestern is one of the undefeated teams that we still don’t know too much about. The Wildcats have defeated a bad Syracuse team, a decent Duke team (on the road), a FCS foe in South Illinois and a solid MAC team in Ohio. The offense hasn’t been quite as potent as we thought, but the defense has been better than expected. This week will present quite a challenge, however. The Cats will be facing the nation’s eighth leading rusher in Shonn Greene, who has rushed for at least 100 yards in each of the first four games. The Hawkeyes have been playing both Jake Christensen and Ricky Stanzi at quarterback this season. Stanzi, a sophomore, did not play in the second half of a one-point loss at Pittsburgh last week but is expected to get the start against Northwestern. Iowa has been terrific on defense, giving up a total of 29 points in four games; if the Hawkeyes are simply mediocre on defense, they should be in position to earn a spot in the top half of the Big Ten.
Iowa 20, Northwestern 14
Virginia Tech (+6.5) at Nebraska
It’s the first significant test of the Bo Pelini era. The Huskers have passed every test so far, but we haven’t learned too much about this team in wins over Western Michigan, San Jose State and New Mexico State. This is far from a vintage Virginia Tech team, but the Hokies are good enough to beat Nebraska in Lincoln. Statistically, Tech hasn’t been impressive, but Frank Beamer’s club has found a way to eek out 20–17 wins over Georgia Tech and North Carolina to open the ACC schedule with a 2–0 record. Nebraska hasn’t given up a lot of points (14.3 per game), but the Huskers have been a bit vulnerable against the pass, allowing 269.7 yards per game. However, don’t expect Virginia Tech to come into Lincoln and throw the ball all over the yard. Tyrod Taylor is winning games as the starting quarterback, but the Hokies are doing very little in the passing game. He has thrown for a total of 173 yards with no touchdowns and two INTs in two ACC games. If Virginia Tech can’t move the ball through the air, scoring points could be very difficult.
Nebraska 24, Virginia Tech 14
Wisconsin (-6.5) at Michigan
With Ohio State not dominating like we thought, the Big Ten race could get very interesting. Wisconsin, off to a 3–0 start, looks like a contender, but the Badgers are about to embark on a very difficult three-game stretch that features a road game at Michigan and home dates with Ohio State and Penn State. Wisconsin has been sharp in every phase of the game, most notably running the ball and stopping the run. If the Badgers can slow down Michigan’s ground game, led by freshman Sam McGuffie, they should be in good position to celebrate their first win in Ann Arbor since 1994.
Wisconsin 27, Michigan 18
Last week: 6–4 straight up (7–3 against the spread)
Season: 24–16 straight up (21–18–1 against the spread)