College News & Analysis

College Football Week 5 Preview: Picks, predictions, matchups to watch and more

We witnessed a wild week of college football last weekend, filled with upsets, come-from-behind wins, exhilarating performances and more. Will those teams who were put on upset alert prevail and make things right in Week 5? Will those quarterbacks prove that their strong day wasn’t just a flash in the pan?

With the help of PFF grades and advanced statistics — which are now available to PFF's CFB Premium Stats+ Subscribers — we will give you everything you need to know ahead of this week's top college football matchups. Please note that any picks and predictions made here are not reflective of PFF Greenline or our expert betting analysts. For this week's college football betting advice, click here!

Louisiana Tech @ No. 22 BYU

Friday, Oct. 3 — 9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2

All eyes need to be on BYU quarterback Zach Wilson in this one, as he is currently third in PFF grade at the position, at 91.6. Granted, he's earned this grade against bad defenses, but ranking in the top 10 in both positively and negatively graded throw rate is impressive nonetheless — the only other quarterback to rank in the top 10 in both is Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence. Wilson will once again be going up against a lowly defense, which ranks 54th of 72 FBS coverage units in expected points added (EPA) per play allowed.

Treash’s prediction: BYU.

Seth’s prediction: BYU.

For our PFF Greenline game preview that includes win and cover probability, click here.

South Carolina @ No. 3 Florida

Saturday, Oct. 3 — 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN

Kyle Trask's breakout game was the talk of Week 4. The fifth-year senior put up a 416-yard, six-touchdown performance en route to a 90.5 passing grade last week, the highest of his career by a substantial margin (previous high 83.0).

We just need to see him repeat that, though there is some reason to worry that he might not do so. First and foremost, that Ole Miss defense is bad; it allowed the Gators to post the highest EPA per pass of any team in Week 4. Despite this, Trask still made a few bad decisions, which played a part in him recording a negatively graded throw rate that ranked 33rd of 62 quarterbacks in Week 4.

South Carolina’s defense isn’t that great from top to bottom, but they do have an excellent outside cornerback duo in Jaycee Horn and Israel Mukuamu. Horn didn’t allow a single yard against Tennessee, but he might be without his partner opposite of him, as Mukuamu is day-to-day with an injury.

Treash’s prediction: The people aren’t going to like this one, but I’m still not entirely sold on Trask. I don’t like to see that negatively graded throw rate, and that was an outlier-type performance relative to the rest of his career. Florida will win this one, but we should learn a lot about whether or not Trask’s Week 4 was a fluke.

Seth’s prediction: UF.

For our PFF Greenline game preview that includes win and cover probability, click here.

TCU @ No. 9 Texas

Saturday, Oct. 3 — 12:00 p.m. ET, FOX

TCU may not have been able to pull off the victory against Iowa State last week, but at least they got a huge performance out of quarterback Max Duggan. The Horned Frogs went with Matthew Downing as the starter, but after he led TCU to an inefficient start (-0.2 EPA per pass play in the first half), Duggan was inserted into the lineup. The team then went on to generate 0.48 EPA per pass play in the final two quarters.

Duggan was one of the most inaccurate quarterbacks of the 2019 season, but he looked so much better in that regard up against the Cyclones, as he let go of just two uncatchable throws on 20 attempts.

Texas will be looking for a bounce-back performance after almost getting upset by Texas Tech. While the defense looked bad— they missed more than a few tackles and posted a bottom-10 team coverage grade — perhaps the bigger concern though is quarterback Sam Ehlinger, who struggled to a horrid 55.0 passing grade through the first three quarters of action against a bad Texas Tech defense.

Treash’s prediction: UPSET! Horned Frogs.

Seth’s prediction: Texas.

For our PFF Greenline game preview that includes win and cover probability, click here.

Missouri @ No. 21 Tennessee

Saturday, Oct. 3 — 12:00 p.m. ET, SECN

Missouri was the lucky team to draw Alabama for the first week of SEC action, and the Crimson Tide made them look bad almost everywhere. Edge defender Tre Williams did have a good game, though, as he recorded a 78.4 PFF grade, while interior defensive lineman Kobie Whiteside managed a respectable pass-rush win rate of 11.0%.

The big question with Tennessee this year was whether they would be getting a more consistent Jarrett Guarantano, and if his Week 4 performance was any indication, the answer looks to be a no. He had more negatively graded throws than positively graded throws last week, generating the fifth-worst negatively graded throw rate of the Saturday slate.

Treash’s prediction: Tennessee.

Seth’s prediction: Tennessee.

For our PFF Greenline game preview that includes win and cover probability, click here.

NC State @ No. 24 Pitt

Saturday, Oct. 3 — 12:00 p.m. ET, ACCN

This Pitt defense continues to impress. They have allowed -0.2 EPA per play or better in each of their games so far. Overall, they have allowed positive EPA on just 24.4% of plays — the lowest rate in college football.

From safety Paris Ford in the secondary (82.9 coverage grade) to Cam Bright at linebacker (77.8 PFF grade) to Rashad Weaver and Calijah Kancey on the defensive line (both are top 10 in pass-rush win rate), this defense has talent littered all over.

The NC State defense is quite the opposite. Interior defensive lineman Alim McNeil has been the only bright spot, as he has recorded an 86.7 PFF grade this year, but he can’t make up for the deficiencies. The Wolfpack has allowed positive EPA on 56.4% of their plays, the third-worst in the country.

On a more positive note, quarterback Devin Leary looked significantly better against VA Tech than he did last year. Leary replaced a struggling Bailey Hockman last week and earned a 74.9 PFF grade on 19 dropbacks (55.9 PFF grade in 2019). Though VA Tech’s defense is far from the defense Pitt has.

Treash’s prediction: Pitt.

Seth’s prediction: Pitt.

For our PFF Greenline game preview that includes win and cover probability, click here.

No. 13 Texas A&M @ No. 2 Alabama

Saturday, Oct. 3 — 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS

Alabama was as good as advertised last week against Missouri. Mac Jones ranked as the top quarterback of the week in regard to PFF grade, and with the help of Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith, the Crimson Tide produced the third-most efficient offense of the week in regard to expected points added (EPA) per pass play (0.54). On defense, Alabama looks like it will again field one of the top outside corner duos in the country — this time in the form of Josh Jobe and Patrick Surtain II. The two combined to allow just four catches on 10 targets for 27 yards in Week 4.

The Aggies are coming off a poor showing against Vanderbilt — a game they near;y lost. The secondary wasn’t really the primary issue, though. In fact, Texas A&M allowed the third-lowest EPA per play of the 14 SEC teams in Week 4. The bigger issue was Kellen Mond and the offense. Mond had a 44.8 passing grade on throws of 10 or more yards, the worst in the SEC. He completed just three of 11 such attempts, with six being completely uncatchable. And that was against a subpar Vandy defense. Now, they're slated to face one of the best defenses in the entire country.

Treash’s prediction: Alabama.

Seth’s prediction: Alabama.

For our PFF Greenline game preview that includes win and cover probability, click here.

No. 12 North Carolina @ Boston College

Saturday, Oct. 3 — 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

This is a big game for quarterback Sam Howell after he struggled to hit his deep ball in the Tar Heels' first outing of the season. Howell did well in hitting his short and intermediate throws, though. On throws of 19 yards or fewer, he produced a 90.0 passing grade and threw 73.3% of his 30 passes accurately.

On 20-plus yard throws, he completed none of his three attempts, with one being a turnover-worthy. Howell’s success as a true freshman stemmed from his deep ball — no quarterback hit more throws 20-plus yards last year from a clean pocket than him.

Boston College is fresh off an all-around bad game against Texas State in Week 4. The Eagles failed to produce positive expected points added (EPA) through the air, and the defense allowed positive EPA per pass. The Eagles' secondary did well to defend deep shots, though. Texas State attempted six 20-plus yard throws, and Boston College allowed just one to be caught while intercepting one and forcing three incompletions. That's reminiscent of what they did in their opener against Duke, as they didn’t allow a single catch on five deep targets while intercepting one and forcing two incompletions.

Treash’s prediction: UNC.

Seth’s prediction: UNC.

For our PFF Greenline game preview that includes win and cover probability, click here.

USF @ No. 15 Cincinnati

Saturday, Oct. 3 — 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Cincinnati pulled out a win over Army in large part due to the stout play from its defense, which was expected. The team's defensive line is loaded with talent — led by edge defenders Elijah Ponder and Myjai Sanders, who rank first and fourth, respectively, among all FBS edge defenders in PFF grade. Ahmad Gardner leads the secondary and came down with an interception and a couple of pass breakups against the Black Knights.

Meanwhile, safety James Wiggins looks to be taking a step forward after producing a 79.7 coverage grade in 2019. Wiggins has earned an 88.3 coverage grade through two games of play, the fifth-best in the FBS. In all, this defense has allowed positive expected points added (EPA) on just 34.9% of plays, the best among teams in the Group of Five. That doesn’t bode well for a USF team that ranks 62nd of 72 FBS programs in EPA per play this year.

Treash’s prediction: A low scoring affair — Cincinnati.

Seth’s prediction: Cincinnati.

For our PFF Greenline game preview that includes win and cover probability, click here.

No. 17 Oklahoma State @ Kansas

Saturday, Oct. 3 — 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

This game is set up to be an ugly offensive showing. Through Week 4, Kansas and Oklahoma State rank second-to-last and last, respectively, in the Big 12 in offensive expected points added per play. It’s all going to come down to which defense takes advantage of that and shuts the opposing offense down completely. As of now, the Cowboys have the edge there.

Oklahoma State has a great safety duo in Tre Sterling and Kolby Harvell-Peel, and while both have gotten off to slow starts, we know they are capable of performing at a high level. Harvell-Peel produced an 89.5 coverage grade in 2019, while Sterling sat at 83.7. Cornerback Rodarius Williams is in the midst of a breakout, as well — he has not allowed a single yard in coverage on 75 coverage snaps while totaling up five pass breakups.

Treash’s prediction: Oklahoma State.

Seth’s prediction: Oklahoma State.

For our PFF Greenline game preview that includes win and cover probability, click here.

No. 25 Memphis @ SMU

Saturday, Oct. 3 — 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Auburn and Georgia might be the game of the day, but this matchup is going to be just as good. Each of these teams has gotten off to a hot start through the air; the Tigers rank seventh and the Mustangs ranking ninth in expected points added per pass play among all FBS schools to play thus far.

Memphis quarterback Brady White produced an 85.8 passing grade in his lone game appearance, and tight end Sean Dykes emerged as another solid target alongside Damonte Coxie. The fifth-year senior caught all 10 of his targets that day en route to a 91.1 receiving grade.

SMU quarterback Shane Buechele has gotten off to a strong start, as well. He has produced a 77.0 passing grade in the Mustangs' three games despite new offensive coordinator Garrett Riley changing up the offense quite a bit and swaying from relying on vertical concepts. As a result, Buechele’s average depth of target has dropped from 10.0 to 8.7 and Reggie Roberson has hardly seen any deep targets despite tying for first in deep receiving grade a year ago. No complaints here, though — it’s clearly working.

Treash’s prediction: Memphis.

Seth’s prediction: SMU.

For our PFF Greenline game preview that includes win and cover probability, click here.

No. 7 Auburn @ No. 4 Georgia

Saturday, Oct. 3rd — 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

After being put on upset alert by Kentucky last week, Auburn turned on the jets and came away with a 29-13 W.

Quarterback Bo Nix played a decent game, tossing up four big-time throws en route to a 79.0 passing grade. Whether he can sustain this is a different question. Consistency was a big issue for him as a true freshman, and we will find out on Saturday if that is still an issue.

The Tigers’ defense came up huge in their win. The MVP was cornerback Roger McCreary, who came down with the game-changing interception when Kentucky was at the 1-yard line at the end of the first half. He went on to produce an 89.6 coverage grade for the game.

Georgia’s offense looked completely different with Stetson Bennett under center as opposed to D’Wan Mathis. In the first quarter of play, Mathis led the Bulldogs to -0.7 EPA per pass play — and this came against perhaps the worst team in the SEC. With Bennett under center, that figure jumped to 0.34.

We might see even more quarterback change this weekend, as USC transfer J.T. Daniels is now cleared to play. Of the three, Bennett looks like the best option, considering D’Wan Mathis' volatility and Daniels' poor showing in his first year as a starter.

Treash’s prediction: Georgia will be playing with fire if they decide to play all three quarterbacks against a good Auburn defense. I believe they win this game if they roll with Bennett from start to finish, but that doesn’t look like it will be the case. For that reason, I’m going Auburn.

Seth’s prediction: UGA.

For our PFF Greenline game preview that includes win and cover probability, click here.

Tulsa @ No. 11 UCF

Saturday, Oct. 3rd — 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2

This one is all about Dillon Gabriel and his path to stardom. He boasts a passing grade of 90.2 through two games, tying for the sixth-best in the FBS, while his rate of negatively graded throws is nearly cut in half from his 2019 rate, placing him in the top 10 in that metric.

Tulsa has played just one game this season — against Oklahoma State — and they were in that one for a good majority of the game. They allowed -0.28 EPA per pass play, which still stands as the eighth-best in the FBS. However, they'll now be put to the test against the best offense in the entire Group of Five.

Treash’s prediction: UCF’s path to stardom continues on with a blowout here.

Seth’s prediction: UCF.

For our PFF Greenline game preview that includes win and cover probability, click here.

Arkansas @ No. 16 Mississippi State

Saturday, Oct. 3rd — 7:30 p.m. ET, SEC ALT

Arkansas putting Georgia on upset alert had more to do with D’Wan Mathis' play than anything else. The Feleipe Franks-led passing offense led was brutal from start to finish, and the secondary got smoked once Stetson Bennett came in for the Bulldogs.

It’s not going to get any easier this week against the Air Raid. K.J. Costello  posted eight big-time throws in his first game under Mike Leach last week, most of which stemmed from go-balls. He completed 5-of-9 such attempts for 149 yards and two touchdowns. Mississippi State’s offense as a whole recorded 15 plays that resulted in at least a 20-yard gain, four more than any other offense.

Treash’s prediction: Mississippi State … by a lot.

Seth’s prediction: MSU.

For our PFF Greenline game preview that includes win and cover probability, click here.

No. 18 Oklahoma @ Iowa State

Saturday, Oct. 3rd — 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC

Only a handful of plays lost Oklahoma the game against Kansas State last week. The coverage unit allowed only six first downs on the day, but four of those six first downs were extremely big plays — they allowed four plays in coverage that resulted in again of 35 or more yards (tied for the most of the week), and all four set up a touchdown drive for the Wildcats. Quarterback Spencer Rattler had a strong game overall, producing an 82.6 passing grade, but he also had four turnover-worthy plays, including the game-sealing interception.

The most disappointing start to the 2020 season has without question been Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy. He has earned a 45.8 passing grade in his two games and produced more negatively graded throws than positively graded ones. Purdy’s accuracy and timing had been his greatest strength, but it has seemingly vanished this year — a third of his passes have been uncatchable so far, the fifth-worst rate in college football.

With Oklahoma and Purdy each needing their own bounce-back game, this will be an interesting one to watch.

Treash’s prediction: I’m starting to lose faith in Brock Purdy. I hope he bounces back, but at this rate, it doesn’t seem likely. Oklahoma.

Seth’s prediction: Oklahoma.

For our PFF Greenline game preview that includes win and cover probability, click here.

No. 20 LSU @ Vanderbilt

Saturday, Oct. 3rd — 7:30 p.m. ET, SECN

True freshman quarterback Ken Seals struggled to move the ball downfield last week, producing the ninth-lowest positively graded throw rate of the week. That led Vandy to generate -0.22 EPA per pass, the third-worst in the SEC. On the bright side, they do have one of the best edge rushers in the SEC in Andre Mintze, who notched a 77.1 pass-rush grade in his season debut.

This will be a good bounce-back game for LSU’s defense after getting sliced and diced by Mississippi State’s Air Raid. They actually allowed 0.32 EPA per pass last week, which was the third-worst in the SEC. True freshman cornerback Eli Ricks was one of the few good things to come out of that game. He did give a couple catches, but intercepted one and broke up another en route to a 75.9 coverage grade. They also get back cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. after he had to miss last week’s game with a non-COVID illness.

Treash’s prediction: LSU.

Seth’s prediction: LSU.

For our PFF Greenline game preview that includes win and cover probability, click here.

Virginia @ No. 1 Clemson

Saturday, Oct. 3rd — 8:00 p.m. ET, ACCN

Trevor Lawrence has been about as close to perfect as a quarterback can be this year. His 95.7 passing grade is nearly four grading points higher than anyone else; he ranks first in positively graded throw rate and second in negatively graded throw rate. He’s on the path to breaking the records Joe Burrow set last year. He has only played Wake Forest and The Citadel, though, so he will get a tougher test against Virginia.

The players to watch on the Cavaliers are quarterback Brennan Armstrong and wide receiver Lavel Davis Jr. Armstrong got off to a bit of a slow start in his starting debut last week but showed up when it mattered most in the fourth quarter. Virginia was down 3 entering the final quarter of play, and Armstrong recorded a 94.5 passing grade in that period, leading the Cavaliers to an 18-point victory. His top target was Davis, a true freshman, and he excelled in his collegiate debut by recording an 87.3 PFF grade for the game.

Treash’s prediction: I really like this UVA squad, but Clemson is going to blow them out of the water.

Seth’s prediction: Virginia.

For our PFF Greenline game preview that includes win and cover probability, click here.


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