Saturday's CF Picks
College football enters its fifth week of action and Saturday is chockfull of games. Our writers and handicappers hand out six college football picks for Week 5.
Mississippi State at LSU, 7:30 PM ET
A rally on the road kept LSU's hopes alive for a second straight national championship. Such a comeback likely won't be necessary this week.
Following last week's thrilling victory, the fifth-ranked Tigers return home and look to avoid a letdown Saturday against Mississippi State.
After easily beating Appalachian State and North Texas in its first two games of the year, LSU (3-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) faced its first major test last Saturday at then-No. 10 Auburn.
LSU trailed 14-3 before rallying in the second half. The Tigers gained 284 of their 389 yards after halftime, and quarterback Jarrett Lee and Brandon LaFell hooked up on an 18-yard touchdown pass with 1:03 left to give LSU a 26-21 victory - its first win at Auburn in a decade.
Mississippi State allowed 438 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns in last Saturday's 38-7 loss to Georgia Tech.
The Bulldogs' offense also struggled, committing four turnovers to increase its season total to 12. Mississippi State had gone eight consecutive quarters without offensive points before Robert Elliott's 6-yard touchdown midway through the final quarter against Georgia Tech's second-string defense.
Illinois at Penn State, 8:10 PM ET
During a non-conference schedule in which its toughest game was a 31-point victory, Penn State's biggest on-field issue was determining whether the injured Joe Paterno would coach from the sidelines or the press box.
This week, the Nittany Lions have to be much more concerned with the whereabouts of Juice Williams than those of their legendary coach.
After rolling through non-conference play, No. 12 Penn State faces a much stiffer challenge Saturday night as it opens Big Ten play at home against Williams and 22nd-ranked Illinois.
The Nittany Lions (4-0) haven't been challenged in their first four games, compiling the nation's top scoring differential at 42.8 points. They have the country's sixth-ranked offense (538.5 yards per game) and seventh-ranked defense (222.3 ypg), and have scored more points in four contests than any team in the 122-year history of the program.
Unlike last season, Illinois will face a Nittany Lions team with a dual threat under center. Clark offers Penn State a run-pass option that Anthony Morelli - who threw three interceptions and was sacked four times in last year's loss to the Illini - never did.
Clark, who has thrown seven touchdowns and run for two this season, can also rely on a pair of elusive tailbacks. Evan Royster (8.1 yards per carry) and Stephfon Green (7.3) rank second and third in the Big Ten in that category and have combined for 11 touchdowns.
Penn State has won all five meetings with Illinois at Beaver Stadium. The Lions have won 23 of their last 25 games at home.
Minnesota at Ohio State, 12:00 PM ET
Ohio State's offense received a spark last week, as highly touted freshman Terrelle Pryor had a stellar debut as the starting quarterback.
Coach Jim Tressel hopes another key part of the offense can provide a lift on Saturday.
Star running back Chris "Beanie" Wells is expected to be back in the lineup for the first time since the season opener as the 14th-ranked Buckeyes begin their quest for a fourth straight Big Ten title when they start conference play by hosting surprising Minnesota.
Wells was the nation's ninth-leading rusher in 2007 as a sophomore, finishing with 1,609 yards and 15 touchdowns. He was considered a Heisman Trophy candidate this season, when Ohio State (3-1) opened as the No. 2 team in the nation.
Wells rushed for 111 yards and one touchdown on 13 carries in the Buckeyes' 43-0 win over Youngstown State on Aug. 30, but left in the third quarter with a foot injury. He missed the next three games, and Tressel said Tuesday that Wells was probable for the conference opener.
The addition of Wells should help an offense that has averaged 262.7 yards in its last three games.
After going 1-11 in its first year under coach Tim Brewster in 2007, Minnesota is trying to open with five straight victories for the first time since 2004.
The Gophers were last in total defense last season (518.7 yards per game), but are allowing an average of 354.8 yards under new defensive coordinator Ted Roof, who was fired last season as the head coach at Duke.
Minnesota had four interceptions in last Saturday's 37-3 win over Florida Atlantic, avenging last season's 42-39 loss to the Owls. The Gophers already have forced 13 turnovers - while only committing two - after forcing only 14 all of last season.
Alabama at Georgia, 7:45 PM ET
Looking at his team's schedule before the season, coach Mark Richt saw a number of potential top-10 SEC showdowns that Georgia would have to get through to maintain its top ranking.
He probably didn't figure an early meeting with Alabama would be one of them.
After a big win over the defending Pac-10 co-champions, the third-ranked Bulldogs return home on Saturday to face the No. 8 Crimson Tide in a battle of two teams with SEC and national championship aspirations.
Georgia (4-0, 1-0) came into the season as the nation's No. 1 team and also with perhaps the country's most intimidating schedule. There were three other SEC teams in the preseason top 10, and the Bulldogs had to face two of them on the road.
In addition, they had to make their longest regular-season road trip in 48 years last Saturday, just a week after a brutal defensive struggle in a win at South Carolina.
The Bulldogs traveled to Tempe last Saturday to face an Arizona State team that was No. 15 in the preseason poll after tying Southern California for the Pac-10 title last season. The Sun Devils dropped out of the AP Top 25 due to a loss the previous week, but still figured to give Georgia a tough test.
That wasn't the case at all. Knowshon Moreno ran for 149 yards and two touchdowns and Matthew Stafford threw for 285 yards and a score in the Bulldogs' 27-10 victory.
Georgia and Alabama have met five times when both were ranked, with the Bulldogs winning all five meetings. Georgia has won three straight over the Tide since a 31-0 Alabama victory in Athens in 1995.
Wisconsin at Michigan, 3:30 PM ET
When Wisconsin looked at its Big Ten schedule this season, it couldn't have been thrilled to see it was the first team to ever open with the conference's three highest-profile programs.
Perhaps the Badgers can take solace in the fact that playing Michigan this season doesn't mean what it used to.
Ninth-ranked Wisconsin will hope to take advantage on Saturday, when it looks for its first win at the Big House in 14 years in the first matchup between a ranked Badgers team and an unranked Wolverines program in nearly a half-century.
It likely won't take Wisconsin (3-0) long to find out whether it's a real contender for a BCS bowl bid, having to open conference play by facing three opponents that have combined for 20 national championships and 77 Big Ten titles.
But while Ohio State and Penn State - Wisconsin's opponents in prime time on Oct. 4 and 11, respectively - are both currently ranked in the top 15, Michigan has struggled in its first season under coach Rich Rodriguez. The Wolverines' streak of 22 straight victories in Big Ten home openers appears to be in jeopardy.
Michigan has seen the Badgers' toughness first-hand the last few years. Wisconsin hasn't won at Michigan Stadium since 1994, losing its last four visits to fall to 6-26 there, but it has beaten the Wolverines twice in the last three seasons at home. Michigan was No. 13 when it lost 37-21 in Madison on Nov. 10.
Wisconsin also went 2-0 against West Virginia while Rodriguez was coach, including a 24-17 win in Morgantown in 2003.
None of that will make Badgers coach Bret Bielema breathe any easier going into Saturday's matchup, which will be the 500th game at Michigan Stadium.
For one, the Wolverines bounced back from two losses to open last season to finish 9-4. Also, Michigan's run defense ranks 12th in the nation (65.3 yards per game), giving the team hope of countering the Badgers' biggest offensive strength.
Arkansas at Texas, 3:30 PM ET
When Texas and Arkansas were originally scheduled to meet two weeks ago, the Longhorns were coming off a blowout win against an overmatched opponent and the Razorbacks had been buoyed by their second consecutive comeback victory.
While not much has changed for Texas, Arkansas has a new perspective after getting routed at home in its SEC opener.
The seventh-ranked Longhorns look to continue their strong start and send the Razorbacks to back-to-back defeats Saturday when the former Southwest Conference rivals make up a game that was delayed by Hurricane Ike.
Texas and Arkansas were both 2-0 heading into their Sept. 13 matchup at Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin. Severe weather in southeast Texas forced the postponement of that game to Saturday, when both teams had open dates.
The Longhorns (3-0) are still undefeated after a 52-10 win over Rice last Saturday gave them their third victory by at least 29 points.
The Razorbacks (2-1), though, suffered their first loss under first-year coach Bobby Petrino, falling 49-14 at home to then-No. 9 Alabama. Their first big test of the year exposed some weaknesses in a young Arkansas team that had gotten a go-ahead touchdown in the final two minutes of each of its first two games.
Arkansas has defeated a ranked Longhorns team in two of the last three meetings in the series, but lost to seventh-ranked Texas 22-20 in the last matchup Sept. 11, 2004.
The Longhorns are 55-21 all-time against the Razorbacks, including 27-11 in Austin, but have lost three of their last four home games against them.
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