By Stewart Mandel
September 27, 2012
College Football Pickoff: Week 5
Saturday, Sept. 29
Noon ET (FX) No. 25 Baylor (3-0) at No. 9 West Virginia (3-0)
Just as Maryland wideout Stefon Diggs burned the Mountaineers' secondary last week, Baylor's Terrance Wiliams and Tevin Reese should find the end zone often in West Virginia's Big 12 debut. But Mountaineers quarterback Geno Smith has been nearly flawless to date, and he should have his way with the Bears' 49th-ranked pass defense (6.6 yards per attempt).
3:30 p.m. ET (ABC) No. 14 Ohio State (4-0) at No. 20 Michigan State (3-1)
Urban Meyer described the Buckeyes' defensive performance as "very alarming" so far. Fortunately, they're running into a sputtering Spartans offense with no passing game. But while Braxton Miller has shined, Ohio State's attack has been sloppy (dropped passes, penalties). That's not going to fly against Michigan State's seventh-ranked defense (3.9 yards per play).
3:30 p.m. ET (CBS) Tennessee (3-1) at No. 5 Georgia (4-0)
Part of the SEC's mythology is that every week is a closely fought battle. According to the Birmingham News, however, the past seven SEC games on CBS -- which usually televises the prime weekly matchup -- have been decided by an average margin of 32 points. Georgia's star-studded offense going against the Vols' overmatched defense won't help.
7:50 p.m. ET (FOX) No. 12 Texas (3-0) at Oklahoma State (2-1)
Neither offense has been properly tested yet, so it's difficult to say whether Longhorns quarterback David Ash's hot start (No. 3 in pass efficiency) or the Cowboys' top-ranked total offense (686.7 yards per game) is really legitimate. But Texas' defense seems better primed to disrupt an opposing passer.
10 p.m. ET (Pac-12) No. 18 Oregon State (2-0) at Arizona (3-1)
Even after two wins over ranked foes, the Beavers are still searching for respect. They're Vegas underdogs against a team that lost 49-0 to Oregon last week. Arizona coordinator Jeff Casteel's undermanned defense hung for a half against the Ducks, but it seems ill-equipped to slow down Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion and his deep-play receivers.
8 p.m. ET (ABC) Wisconsin (3-1) at No. 22 Nebraska (3-1)
It's amazing how much has changed since Wisconsin's 48-17 rout in Madison last year. That game was a coming out for the Badgers' powerful Russell Wilson-led attack; a year later, they're ranked 96th in the nation in total offense (5.0 yards per play). Meanwhile, Huskers quarterback Taylor Martinez sits in the top 10 in pass efficiency for an offense averaging 48.5 points per game.
7 p.m. ET (Fox College Sports) Texas Tech (3-0) at Iowa State (3-0)
The Red Raiders' defense, among the worst in FBS the past two seasons, currently sits at No. 1 (3.06 yards per play). They've also faced Northwestern State, Texas State and New Mexico. The Cyclones remain limited offensively, but their defense is for real, ranking second in pass efficiency defense. They'll force a few turnovers against Seth Doege and Co.
Noon ET (ESPNU) NC State (3-1) at Miami (3-1)
Somehow these ACC foes haven't met since 2008. The young 'Canes are coming off a confidence-building overtime win at Georgia Tech, and no one has been able to slow down freshman running back Duke Johnson, the nation's leader in all-purpose yards (209.5 per game). NC State will present problems defensively, but the Wolf Pack lack the weapons to exploit Miami's vulnerable defense.
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET (ESPNU) Cincinnati (2-0) vs. Virginia Tech (3-1)
This one's an admittedly risky pick since we have such a small sample size for the Bearcats. But the Hokies' inexperienced offense has struggled, averaging just 5.5 yards per play (72nd nationally) and allowing eight sacks in four games. The Bearcats have recorded eight sacks in two games and should cause problems for inconsistent Hokies quarterback Logan Thomas.
Thursday, Sept. 27
9 p.m. ET (ESPN) No. 8 Stanford (3-0) at Washington (2-1)
Stanford should definitely be on upset alert. Strange things happen on Thursday nights, and a very strange thing happened at CenturyLink Field just a few nights ago. But if Cardinal quarterback Josh Nunes simply turns and hands the ball to Stepfan Taylor and Co., Stanford should be just fine. Washington has the nation's 87th-ranked rushing defense (4.52 yards per carry).
Record Last Week: 6-4               Record This Season: 25-15

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