- Two top five teams face big road tests against ranked opponents over a span of 24 hours this weekend. Is there an upset afoot?
Saturday’s drama starts in the wee hours of the morning, as USC and Washington State wrap up a pivotal Pac-12 tilt, and could extend all the way to midnight if Clemson and Virginia Tech go down to the wire in Blacksburg. Will any underdogs put another scare into the top teams that were lucky to get out of last week with a win?
Below, our writers and editors make their picks for Week 5’s top matchups, taking turns defending their predictions.
Chris Johnson: 38–14 (73.1%)
Molly Geary: 35–17 (67.3%)
Joan Niesen: 35–17 (67.3%)
Eric Single: 35–17 (67.3%)
Andy Staples: 34–18 (65.4%)
Bruce Feldman: 28–19 (59.6%)
Scooby Axson: 22–16 (57.9%)
Miami at Duke (Friday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Chris Johnson picks Miami: The Hurricanes did well to run away from Toledo last week, but this should be their toughest game of the season so far. Junior tailback Mark Walton will be the difference in a close win.
USC at Washington State (Friday, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Bruce Feldman picks USC: The Trojans have been very inconsistent thus far, but they’re 4–0 after facing some pretty solid competition. Expect Luke Falk and the Washington State offense to give the Trojans some problems, but the hunch here is that once again Sam Darnold rallies USC to a win on the Palouse. The Trojans’ offense can wear down a smaller Cougars defense playing without its leader—middle linebacker Peyton Pelluer is out for the season with a foot fracture—and facing by far its toughest opponent.
Vanderbilt at Florida (Noon ET, ESPN)
Joan Niesen picks Florida: This game doesn’t inspire much enthusiasm in me about its watchability, but I think Florida will have a slight edge merely because it’s playing at home. That said, I may be putting too much stock in new Gators starting QB Luke Del Rio.
Georgia at Tennessee (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)
Andy Staples picks Georgia: Tennessee is just desperate enough to pull off the upset, but as long as the Bulldogs understand the stakes, they should be able to eek out a win in Neyland Stadium.
Indiana at Penn State (3:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)
Molly Geary picks Penn State: The Hoosiers have given up at least 240 rushing yards in two of their three games and now must attempt to stop—or at least contain—Saquon Barkley. After earning a last-second road win at Iowa, the Nittany Lions won’t suffer a letdown back at home in Happy Valley.
Florida State at Wake Forest (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
Eric Single picks Wake Forest: Florida State’s loss to NC State wasn’t all about that loaded Wolfpack defensive line. Seminoles quarterback James Blackman still has a lot of growing to do, and although BB&T Field is no cauldron of hostility, Blackman will hit some adversity in his first road start against the surprisingly unbeaten Demon Deacons.
Arizona State at Stanford (4 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network)
Scooby Axson picks Stanford: It doesn’t matter who the quarterback is for Stanford (whether it’s Ryan Burns or Keller Chryst) the Cardinal need to hand the ball off the Bryce Love, and keep handing it off until someone stops him. Arizona State hasn’t stopped much of anything lately, giving up 30 or more points in each game.
Iowa at Michigan State (4 p.m. ET, Fox)
Chris Johnson picks Michigan State: Kinnick Magic almost gave Iowa a signature upset over Penn State last week. Unfortunately, it can't be transported to East Lansing.
Mississippi State at Auburn (6 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Bruce Feldman picks Auburn: Miss State looked fantastic against a very young LSU team at home, but was dreadful last week at Georgia, and I think they’ll have more issues on the road at Auburn. The Tigers, especially new QB Jarrett Stidham looked like they got into a rhythm last week at Mizzou and I expect it to continue this week back at home. If this game were in Starkville, I’d probably pick the Bulldogs but it’s not. MSU is 1-4 in its last five SEC road games.
Memphis at UCF (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
Eric Single picks UCF: Two of the top 15 scoring offenses in the country meeting up for the right to start thinking seriously about a New Year’s Six run? Sign me up. The Knights have not been stopped in their first two games of the season.
Clemson at Virginia Tech (8 p.m. ET, ABC)
Joan Niesen picks Virginia Tech: Full disclosure: I spent some time at Virginia Tech recently, and I’ve been a big fan of Justin Fuente’s for a while, so this pick may be a result of some recency bias. That said, the Hokies look balanced enough to knock off Clemson.
Oklahoma State at Texas Tech (8 p.m. ET, Fox)
Andy Staples picks Oklahoma State: Texas Tech is a respectable 47th in the country in yards per play allowed (5.09), but even an improved Red Raiders defense will struggle to stop an Oklahoma State offense anxious to prove the TCU game was an anomaly.