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Week 6 Pickoff: Ohio State-Northwestern, Washington-Stanford; more

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Can running back Venric Mark (5) lead Northwestern to an upset of Ohio State in his return from injury?

Will Northwestern step up to the challenge and knock off Ohio State in front of a national television audience? Can Maryland continue its undefeated run with a road upset of Florida State? Will Washington prove itself as a real Pac-12 contender with a win over Stanford?

My picks for all of the week's top games are below. For more Week 6 walk-up coverage, check out the Mailbag, Andy Staples' Walkthrough and Martin Rickman's breakdown of the Buckeyes-Wildcats mathcup.

Saturday, Oct. 5
 
Noon ET (ESPN) No. 25 Maryland (4-0) at No. 8 Florida State (4-0)
Two of the nation's top-10 rated passers, Florida State's Jameis Winston and Maryland's C.J. Brown, will square off. But this won't be a shootout. The 'Noles are still limiting foes to just 5.6 yards per pass attempt, and Maryland's eighth-ranked defense (4.0 yards per play) will present the toughest challenge for Winston to date. However, the 'Noles could exploit an injury-riddled Terps' secondary.
 
Noon ET (ESPN2) Michigan State (3-1) at Iowa (4-1)
The Spartans had a bye week to try to resuscitate their 112th-ranked offense. Even if quarterback Connor Cook breaks out, his team may still struggle to run the ball against Iowa's 12th-ranked rushing defense. The Hawkeyes' offense will find it tough sledding against the nation's No. 1 defense, but a steady dose of tailback Marc Weisman (123 yards per game) and no turnovers should be the difference.
 
3:30 p.m. ET (ABC/ESPN2) No. 3 Clemson (4-0) at Syracuse (2-2)
The Dome will be rocking for Syracuse's ACC debut, but the Orange haven't done much to show they can stand up to Clemson. After opening with losses to Penn State and Northwestern, they've beaten up Wagner and Tulane. Tigers star Tajh Boyd doesn't need a huge game to win this one, as Clemson's defense should have little trouble keeping Syracuse's mediocre offense in check.
 
3:30 p.m. ET (CBS) No. 6 Georgia (3-1) at Tennessee (3-2)
It would be surprising if Georgia DOESN'T have a hangover effect after last week's draining win over LSU, not to mention coming down from three games against top-10 foes. Star running back Todd Gurley's ankle is an issue. So the Dawgs could certainly be susceptible to a letdown ... if the Vols' defense wasn't so atrocious. Even a half-awake Aaron Murray should be able to pick his spots.
 
3:30 p.m. ET (ESPNU) Georgia Tech (3-1) at No. 14 Miami (4-0)
After last week's 17-10 loss to Virginia Tech, Jackets coach Paul Johnson lamented, "... we're not very good with the option. We're terrible in fact and it showed." Tech has to rely on its defense this season, as it did in beating North Carolina on Sept. 21. But Miami quarterback Stephen Morris and tailback Duke Johnson (assuming they're both healthy) are too potent to hold down for 60 minutes.
 
3:30 p.m. ET (ABC/ESPN2) Minnesota (4-1) at No. 19 Michigan (4-0)
Since we last saw the Wolverines, the winless team they almost lost to in Week 4 (Connecticut) fired its coach and the opponent they scored their best win against (Notre Dame) took its second loss of the season. So it may be that Michigan is not very good. For now, however, we're inclined to think Devin Gardner snaps out of his funk and the Wolverines' defense helps secure the Little Brown Jug.
 
7 p.m. ET (ESPN2) Arkansas (3-2) at No. 18 Florida (3-1)
So far, so good for new Gators quarterback Tyler Murphy, whose 162.4 efficiency rating would rank just behind Boyd and Marcus Mariota nationally if he were eligible. The Razorbacks' defense, led by standout defensive end Chris Smith (six sacks), has the ability to fluster Murphy and the Gators' offense. But Florida's D should stifle Arkansas' stout rushing attack even without star Dominique Easley.
 
7 p.m. ET (ESPNU) No. 24 Ole Miss (3-1) at Auburn (3-1)
The Rebels are better than what they showed in last week's 25-0 loss at Alabama. Running back Jeff Scott and the offense should move the ball on Auburn's 84th-ranked defense (5.8 yards per play). But Auburn, playing at home and coming off a bye, might seize on a possibly weary Ole Miss team. Look for Tre Mason to run the ball well and for quarterback Nick Marshall to make some plays through the air.
 
7:30 p.m. ET (NBC) No. 22 Arizona State (3-1) vs. Notre Dame (3-2) in Arlington, Texas
Another week, another big game for the Sun Devils. Quarterback Taylor Kelly (342.5 yards per game) may find himself under pressure from Stephon Tuitt and the Irish, but quick-strike throws should keep Notre Dame's secondary off balance. Meanwhile, cornerback Alden Darby and the Arizona State defense will pounce on turnover-prone Tommy Rees. At least the losing coach won't be fired this week.
 
8 p.m. ET (ABC) No. 4 Ohio State (5-0) at No. 16 Northwestern (4-0)
My Northwestern class of '98 is descending on Evanston for its 15-year reunion ... but it's being overshadowed just a bit by visits from College GameDay and the No. 4 team in the country. Wildcats back Venric Mark's return from injury could spark an already explosive offense. Northwestern will score points. But Buckeyes star Braxton Miller and his cast of speedy receivers will be too much for the 'Cats' D.
 
10:30 p.m. ET (ESPN) No. 15 Washington (4-0) at No. 5 Stanford (4-0)
The Cardinal front seven, led by Trent Murphy (3.5 TFLs), is built to stuff runners like Washington's Bishop Sankey (151.8 yards per game). Huskies quarterback Keith Price (72.3 completion percentage) might fare better through the air. But Washington's thus-far dominant D (3.8 yards per play against) hasn't faced a line as physical as Stanford's. David Yankey and the Cardinal will wear it down.
 
*UPSET SPECIAL*
 
Saturday, Noon ET (ESPNU) Illinois (3-1) at Nebraska (3-1)
The Huskers' woeful defense is allowing 6.55 yards per play, which ranks 110th nationally. Perhaps Bo Pelini patched some holes during the bye week, but for the most part Nebraska seems too young. Conversely, fourth-year Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase (12 touchdowns, three interceptions) is thriving in coordinator Bill Cubit's attack. Counterpart Taylor Martinez is out from lingering turf toe.
 
Record Last Week: 8-2               Record This Season: 42-12
 
Staples' Midweek Update: Week 6
SI's Andy Staples looks ahead to the biggest storylines entering Week 6 of college football.
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