By: Alan Brads
What do birthday parties and September have in common?
Once they’re over the cupcakes are gone.
Technically this Saturday falls on September 30th, but the leaves are turning orange and my neighbors have pumpkin decor on their front door, so I feel justified considering this Saturday to be the 0th of October.
That’s right, conference season hits its stride in week five and we get watchable games in bunches every weekend. No more powerhouses facing Midwestern A&M State University, save for the SEC’s wimpy November games, but that’s a conversation for another day.
All football is good football, but conference football is great football. Every highly ranked team should be nervous. Over 25 FBS teams enter October undefeated, fewer than 10 will emerge unscathed.
There’s plenty to get into, but unlike last week, I’ll stick to just three storylines and three games for week five.
#3- Middling Group of five will have to wait for expanded playoff
2021 Cincinnati will stand alone as the only team from a group of five conference (AAC, MAC, MW, Con-USA, Sun Belt) to ever make the four-team college football playoff. At face value, that’s a bold statement in September, but when you zoom in on the candidates it becomes less of a hot take. Only six teams from the group of five haven’t lost a game, a prerequisite for a GO5 team to qualify for the playoff. Of those six teams only #25 Fresno State is ranked. Those Bulldogs already beat their only two power five opponents, Purdue and Arizona State, so there’s just no path for Fresno State to move up another 21 spots. In a year with uncharacteristic parity across the Power Five, there’s no spot at the table for a little brother.
#2- The Big 12 is Texas or bust … or is it?
Oklahoma is America’s most under-talked-about football team. After one down year with a rookie head coach, some fans wrote them off. Apparently dominating the Big-12 for a decade and half doesn’t hold much weight for them. Texas beat Bama, and that can’t be ignored, but they also entered the fourth quarter tied with Wyoming. Oklahoma quarterback Dillon Gabriel has connected on 78% of his passes this year, and the defense has only allowed 8.5 points per game. The rivals get one more week of preparation, Oklahoma hosts Iowa State while Texas welcomes the Kansas Jayhawks to Austin, more on that later. Then it’s the Red River Rivalry, where the sportsbooks favor Texas iver the Sooners by less than a touchdown. Heavy money will go down on Texas at those odds, but as they say, Vegas always knows.
#1- Questions answered, others arise in the ACC
FSU’s overtime victory in Death Valley solidified what many suspected: Clemson is out, the Seminoles are in. However, second place remains wide open. Miami and Louisville lead the charge, but Duke already notched a dominant win over Clemson, and North Carolina trots out a top-10 NFL prospect under center every week. Even Syracuse stands at 4-0 after they threatened to stir up trouble last year. The sad fact is we won’t get hard answers in week 5, but there will be clues. Syracuse hosts Clemson where they’ll be just 6.5-point underdogs, while Duke plays a massive non-conference game against a desperate Notre Dame team seeking to salvage a season they lost by about three inches last Saturday.
Sadly, not every college football weekend can be like last week, but this slate measures up as a solid set of games. Good enough to keep Auburn vs. Georgia and Colorado vs. USC out of the top 3 matchups for the week. Speaking of:
#3- #10 Utah @ #19 Oregon State – Friday, 9 P.M. on FS1
Think your social plans are the most important thing on Friday night? Think again. Better cancel those plans and set a Friday night date with your TV. Every game matters in the jam-packed Pac-12. Five unbeaten teams will battle for two conference championship game berths, so a loss in the early running can sink a promising season. Both these teams have yet to work through USC, Washington and Oregon. The Pac-12 has dominated headlines since August. From realignment to Deion Sanders to simply playing like the best conference in football, the dying conference stole headlines all season.
#2- #13 LSU @ #20 Ole Miss – 12:00 P.M. on ESPN
The offseason talk about LSU hyped them up as Georgia’s biggest threat. That all fell apart in week one, and we haven’t heard much good about LSU since. Here’s their chance to get things back on the rails. Last week I called the SEC West a three horse race between these two and Alabama. After the Tide beat Ole Miss handily, it’s a two horse race with a few stragglers trying to stay in striking distance. If LSU wins Saturday in Oxford, Ole Miss is shot and the winner of Bama/LSU should represent the West. If Ole Miss wins, Bama can all but clinch the division with a win over LSU, but if the Tigers knock off the Tide we start playing the tiebreakers game. Our view of the West is still blurred, primarily by the unclarity of who Alabama is, but the window pane into the SEC West should unfog quite a bit after this one’s over.
#1- #24 Kansas @ #3 Texas – 3:30 P.M. on ESPN
Lance Leipold’s Jayhawks haven’t received as much attention as they deserve for over a year. Kansas seeks their second consecutive 5-0 start. Last year they knocked off a ranked Oklahoma State team, and played TCU, an eventual playoff team, to a single score loss. This is their chance to put themselves on the map for good, and it isn’t as unlikely as the masses might think. Texas won big last year, but Kansas has a habit of hanging around against superior opponents, and they have the key ingredient to pull off an upset, a great playmaking quarterback. There’s every chance Quinn Ewers adn the Longhorns will take care of business and you can flip the channel by halftime, but if hell breaks loose in week 5, I think it will happen in Austin.
Alan Brads is a senior journalism student and sports editor for Cedars. He enjoys playing the drums, speaking Spanish and watching Buckeye football like his life depends on it.