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  • Who will win Washington-USC, Notre Dame-Virginia, Mississippi State-Auburn and more? Our staff locks in their picks for 12 of Week 5's most compelling games.
By The SI Staff
September 26, 2019

Week 4 brought us a Friday night upset, UCF's first regular-season loss since 2016, statements by Auburn, Wisconsin and Washington and more. What will Week 5 bring? After a couple intriguing Friday matchups, Saturday will see Notre Dame play its second straight top-20 opponent, a top-25 showdown at Huskie Stadium and some important Big 12 and Big Ten battles. Our writers and editor picked the winner of the week's 12 biggest games below. To see our picks against the spread, click here.

Season-Long Standings:

Scooby Axson: 37–12 (75.6%)
Max Meyer: 36–13 (73.5%)
Michael Shapiro: 35–14 (71.4%)
Molly Geary: 33–16 (67.3%)
Tim Rohan: 32–17 (65.3%)
Ross Dellenger: 30–18 (61.2%)
Laken Litman: 29–20 (59.2%)
Joan Niesen: 25–24 (51.0%)

No. 12 Penn State at Maryland (Friday, 8 p.m. ET, FS1)

Ross Dellenger picks Penn State: Maryland officials are bringing in extra seating for this Friday night affair, but the game took a hit when the Terrapins lost at Temple. Pitt exploited some of Penn State's weaknesses two weeks ago. That's good and bad for Maryland. While coach Mike Locksley and staff can gather intel from the Panthers' performance, coach James Franklin and staff can shore up the deficiencies. The Terps had the big upset of Syracuse in Week 2, but the Penn State defense isn't Syracuse.

Arizona State at No. 15 Cal (Friday, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Ross Dellenger picks Cal: The Bears remain the last undefeated team in the Pac-12, just like we all thought, right? They're riding high after escaping Ole Miss and going into Seattle to beat Washington. This feels like the unusual Pac-12 defensive slugfest. They're both top-30 in scoring defense and their offenses both rank in the 90s. We give the nod, ever so slightly, to the home team.

Texas Tech at Oklahoma (12 p.m. ET, FOX)

Scooby Axson picks Oklahoma: Usually when these two teams face off, the defenses don’t bother to show up, giving ample opportunity for quarterbacks to shine over the years, namely Baker Mayfield, Patrick Mahomes and Kyler Murray. The jury is still out on the Sooners’ defense, but it is giving up a half a yard less than what it was last year, when it as one of NCAA’s worst units. But the Oklahoma offense can’t be stopped and ranks in the top 10 in the nation in scoring, passing, rushing offense and leads the nation in total offense, while averaging 10.41 per play. Expect fireworks in this one, and for Oklahoma to pound Tech into submission using the ground game.

No. 1 Clemson at North Carolina (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

Joan Niesen picks Clemson: The Tigers have yet to give us a reason to doubt them, much less against and an up-and-down UNC team that lost to Appalachian State Saturday. In fact, after starting 2–0, the Tar Heels have lost their last two games and look prime for a dismantling by Clemson; Mack Brown's team has thus far allowed opponents an average of 394.8 yards per game, and look for that number to tick up before all is said and done in this likely blowout.

No. 18 Virginia at No. 10 Notre Dame (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC)

Tim Rohan picks Notre Dame: Notre Dame’s comeback attempt in Athens came up just short last week, and now the Fighting Irish come home for a tough game against No. 18 Virginia. Notre Dame is the best team on Virginia’s schedule, and I’m sure the Cavaliers will treat this game like their personal Super Bowl. Bryce Perkins, the JUCO transfer quarterback, should keep Virginia in the game. But I think Notre Dame’s desperation wins out. If the Fighting Irish want to have any shot at the playoff, they need to win this game. Ian Book leads the way and redeems himself after throwing a few costly interceptions last week.

No 21 USC at No. 17 Washington (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX)

Max Meyer picks Washington: USC beat Utah last Friday, but I feel like it was more about Utah losing rather than USC winning. The Utes uncharacteristically had a multitude of penalties, had a key fumble in the red zone right before the half and the offense wasn’t the same when Zack Moss was injured. Now USC’s Air Raid goes up to Seattle, where Washington has successfully stymied Washington State and Mike Leach’s Air Raid over the years. USC has vastly superior receivers than those Wazzu teams, but Washington’s secondary is talented and Jimmy Lake is one of the best DCs in the country. USC’s top two players in the secondary, safety Talanoa Hufanga and corner Olaijah Griffin, are both hurt, and that’s bad news for a defense that has given up lots of big plays and is going up against Jacob Eason. I don’t trust USC’s offensive line, either. I think Washington takes care of business and establishes itself as the Pac-12 favorite.

Iowa State at Baylor (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Laken Litman picks Iowa State: Brock Purdy is fresh off a historic performance. In last week’s 72–20 victory over Louisiana-Monroe, he broke a program record by tallying 510 yards by himself—435 yards passing and 75 yards rushing. The sophomore QB also scored six touchdowns—three passing and three rushing. The offense was clicking after a close call against Northern Iowa and a one-point loss to rival Iowa, and faces a Baylor team that hasn’t been tested by a Power 5 opponent yet.

Minnesota at Purdue (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Joan Niesen picks Purdue: Minnesota is coming off of a bye, but before that, it went 3–0—and probably should have lost at least two of its first three games, if not all of them, against inferior opponents. Purdue has had worse luck thus far in 2019 and has played poorly defensively, but it was also without quarterback Elijah Sindelar in its most recent defeat, to TCU. Sindelar's status is still uncertain for Saturday, but with or without him, these teams are a fairly similar caliber; I'm betting luck won't break Minnesota's way for a fourth time, especially if Rondale Moore can return to form for the Boilermakers.

Mississippi State at No. 7 Auburn (7 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Laken Litman picks Auburn: Gus Malzahn and his team remember what happened in this game last year: The Tigers went to Starkville and were dominated by the Bulldogs, 23–9. “[They] embarrassed us,” Malzahn said this week. Now, Auburn heads into this game confident in its young QB Bo Nix and its physical defensive front, which held both No. 11 Oregon and No. 17 Texas A&M to less than 3 yards per carry. While it will be an interesting matchup to see how the SEC’s leading rusher Kylin Hill fares against that group, don’t expect the seventh-ranked Tigers to have a repeat meltdown at home.

No. 24 Kansas State at Oklahoma State (7 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

Michael Shapiro picks Oklahoma State: Kansas State boasts a more potent offensive in 2019 compared to last year's group, but it's tough to envision the Wildcats keeping up with Oklahoma State in Stillwater. The Cowboys boast perhaps the nation's best running back-wide receiver combo in Chuba Hubbard and Tylan Wallace, with the two players leading the Big 12 in rushing yards and receiving yards, respectively. QB Spencer Sanders should rebound after a rough Saturday night in Austin, leading the Cowboys to a victory in the program's first home game without legendary donor T. Boone Pickens.

No. 5 Ohio State at Nebraska (7:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

Molly Geary picks Ohio State: The Cornhuskers will be the best team Ohio State has faced so far in 2019—and Adrian Martinez the best quarterback—and the Buckeyes are going into a College GameDay, primetime atmosphere at Memorial Stadium. Don't expect Nebraska to get run off the field like OSU's first four opponents this season, but between Justin Fields, J.K. Dobbins, Chris Olave and a defense led by Chase Young, the Buckeyes have the talent and firepower to control this one and keep the Huskers at arm's length.

Washington State at No. 19 Utah (10:00 p.m. ET, FS1)

Max Meyer picks Washington State: Both teams suffered disappointing losses last weekend, including an all-time choke by the Cougs in Pullman. Utah struggled with USC’s Air Raid offense, and now it gets a Washington State Air Raid offense that has dropped 61 points on the Utes the past two seasons (both Utah losses). Utah’s biggest strength is obviously its defensive line, but that pass rush will get neutralized by Wazzu’s quick throws and strong pass protection. On the other side of the ball for Utah, quarterback Tyler Huntley and star tailback Zack Moss are both injured and might not play. This is a close one for me, but I just think Washington State is catching the Utes here at the right time.

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