College Football Week 5 Preview: Storylines, matchups and predictions for the five biggest games

2RX9AW6 September 23, 2023: LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels (5) delivers a pass during NCAA football game action between the Arkansas Razorbacks and the LSU Tigers at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, LA. Jonathan Mailhes/CSM (Credit Image: © Jonathan Mailhes/Cal Sport Media) (Cal Sport Media via AP Images)

• No. 8 USC-Colorado: Quarterbacks Caleb Williams and Shedeur Sanders face off in a potential shootout.

• No. 24 Kansas-No. 3 Texas: The Jayhawks will try to pull off a massive upset in Austin for the second time in three years.

• No. 11 Notre Dame-No. 17 Duke: The Fighting Irish will attempt to recover from a heartbreaking loss this past weekend against a Blue Devils program that’s hosting ESPN's “College GameDay” for the first time.

Estimated Reading Time: 8 minutes

If you haven’t come down from the high of Week 4, we don’t blame you. The weekend sent from the football gods was as heavenly as it was hyped up to be. Both Florida State and Ohio State emerged victorious in instant classics over Clemson and Notre Dame, respectively.

While Week 5 doesn’t feature as many ranked games, it’s still a loaded slate with four games between top-25 teams and a must-see matchup in Boulder, Colorado. Here are the storylines to know, matchups to watch and predictions for the five biggest games in Week 5.

No. 10 Utah Utes at No. 19 Oregon State Beavers (Friday, 9 P.M. ET on FOX)

Storyline to know: Will Cameron Rising and Brant Kuithe finally be able to play?

Utah is 4-0 for the first time since 2017, defeating No. 22 Florida and then-No. 22 UCLA, among others. And the Utes have done it without their two best offensive players: quarterback Cameron Rising and tight end Brant Kuithe. Both are still recovering from torn ACLs that they suffered last season.

Rising practiced without limitations last week, so Utah fans should be optimistic about his availability for this Friday affair. However, he’s still splitting reps with backup quarterback Nate Johnson in practice this week. The Utes will need the sixth-year senior back as soon as possible, as they are currently the 11th-worst Power Five team in expected points added per pass. Oregon State’s defense, meanwhile, places in the top 25 in that same metric.

Matchup to watch: Can Oregon State establish the run early?

The bread and butter of the Beavers’ offense is the run game. Among Power Five teams, Oregon State ranks fourth in EPA per rush, tied for fifth in rushing grade and fourth in run-blocking grade. Even in their loss to Washington State, the Beavers still averaged 6.9 yards per attempt. Since the Cougars built a three-score lead in the second half, the burden fell mostly on quarterback DJ Uiagalelei to dig them out. He recorded 12 dropbacks in the first half of that game compared to 26 in the second half, finishing with just a 50% completion rate and 61.0 passing grade.

Utah has experience with making dominant rushing offenses rely on inconsistent passing games. In the team's season-opening victory over Florida, the Gators ran the ball 16 times compared to 51 dropbacks since the Utes built an early lead. With Utah’s defense placing fourth in the Power Five in expected points allowed per pass, Oregon State’s rushing success becomes paramount. It won’t be smooth sailing, though, as Utah leads the Power Five with just 1.7 yards per rushing attempt allowed.

Prediction: Utah 24, Oregon State 21

Utah is already a top-10 team without its star quarterback. If Rising debuts this week, watch out.

No. 8 USC Trojans at Colorado Buffaloes (12 P.M. ET on FOX)

Storyline to know: How will Colorado respond?

Colorado enjoyed a magical 3-0 start to its 2023 season and was the biggest story in college football. That was quickly halted by a 42-6 curb-stomping at the hands of then-No. 10 Oregon this past weekend.

The Buffaloes must rebound quickly because Lincoln Riley, Caleb Williams and the most explosive offense in the country are heading to Boulder this weekend. Another blowout loss would kill most of the hype created in the first three weeks

Matchup to watch: Can Colorado keep up?

Oregon, behind the nation’s second-most efficient offense in EPA per play, scored a touchdown on six of its first seven drives against Colorado. The only team to rank above the Beavers in that metric? USC.

The Buffaloes need to make this a shootout to have any chance of winning. Luckily for them, the Trojans’ defense is not nearly as stout as the Ducks’. USC ranks just 50th in the nation in EPA allowed per play despite facing two offenses outside of the top 100 in that same metric. Shedeur Sanders is still the fourth-highest-graded quarterback in the country (92.1), one spot higher than Caleb Williams.

USC, on the other hand. can expose Colorado in the trenches. Sanders was sacked eight times by the Ducks, and USC ranks third in the country with an 84.9 pass-rushing grade.

Prediction: USC 49, Colorado 24

It won’t be as embarrassing as the loss to Oregon, but Colorado won’t be able to match USC’s offense. To be fair, there might not be any team in the country that can.

No. 24 Kansas Jayhawks at No. 3 Texas Longhorns (3:30 P.M. ET on ABC)

Storyline to know: Can Kansas shock the world again?

In 2021, both Texas (Steve Sarkisian) and Kansas (Lance Leipold) introduced new head coaches. When the two met that season, Leipold and his Jayhawks pulled off a colossal road upset. They beat the Longhorns in overtime, 57-56, despite entering the game as 31-point underdogs.

Kansas now has an opportunity to win in Austin for the second time ever and rocket up the rankings.

Matchup to watch: Can Jalon Daniels carry this team once again?

The biggest reason for Kansas’ upset over Texas two years ago was Jalon Daniels. If the Jayhawks want to pull off another stunner, it’ll once again be on his shoulders. A sophomore Daniels excelled in the 2021 meeting with a 90.9 passing grade. He has a 90.5 passing grade this season, ranking fifth among Power Five quarterbacks.

However, the Texas defense isn’t nearly as vulnerable as it was two years ago. The Longhorns place 10th in the Power Five in both defensive grade and EPA allowed per play. Texas has scored 30-plus points on every opponent so far this season, including Alabama, so Daniels and the Kansas offense will need to step it up.

Prediction: Texas 40, Kansas 24

Kansas keeps it close for a while before Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers and his explosive receiving corps kick into high gear.

No. 13 LSU Tigers at No. 20 Ole Miss Rebels (6 P.M. ET on ESPN)

Storyline to know: Which team can get back on track?

LSU and Ole Miss are two of four schools in the top 20 despite having lost a game. One of the other two teams, No. 12 Alabama, handed the Rebels their first defeat this past weekend. Meanwhile, LSU lost its first game of the season against now-No. 5 Florida State.

The winner of this game proves it's a contender in the SEC. The loser is almost assuredly falling out of the top 25 with an uphill battle for the rest of the year.

Matchup to watch: Ole Miss’ passing attack vs. LSU’s defense

As long as Lane Kiffin is calling the shots, it’s a near certainty that Ole Miss will have one of the top passing games in the nation. The Rebels have an 81.4 offensive grade on passing plays this season, ranking 10th among Power Five schools. Jaxson Dart continues to impress with an 89.1 grade that places him third among SEC quarterbacks this season. Ole Miss also finally has a healthy receiving corps, as tight end Caden Prieskorn and wide receivers Zakhari Franklin and Tre Harris returned from their respective knee injuries last week.

That could present a problem for LSU, whose biggest weakness on defense is the secondary. The Tigers have the seventh-worst coverage grade among Power Five teams this season (62.5). LSU can slow down Ole Miss' offense through consistent pressure against a middle-of-the-pack offensive line. The way for the Tigers to do that is to finally let Harold Perkins rush the passer. As a true freshman, Perkins led all Power Five linebackers with a 90.9 pass-rushing grade. However, he’s rushed the passer on only 40% of his passing plays this season, spending the other 60% in coverage.

With a struggling secondary up against a lethal aerial attack, allowing Perkins to go after Dart could be the difference between winning and losing this game.

Prediction: LSU 34, Ole Miss 31

This game could turn into a shootout between two of the SEC's best quarterbacks, Jayden Daniels and Jaxson Dart. If it does, we're rolling with Daniels to come out on top.

No. 11 Notre Dame Fighting Irish at No. 17 Duke Blue Devils (7:30 P.M. ET on ABC)

Storyline to know: Can Notre Dame rebound from that gut-punch?

Notre Dame suffered a heartbreaking 17-14 loss at home to then-No. 5 Ohio State in Week 4, as the Buckeyes scored the game-winning touchdown with just three seconds left. The Fighting Irish had just 10 defenders on the field for Ohio State’s final two plays. On the game-winning touchdown, the missing defender was a defensive lineman who would’ve lined up exactly where Chip Trayanum barely reached over the goal line.

Notre Dame must move on quickly or its season could go off the rails against a top-20 opponent in Duke. Saturday will also be one of the biggest games in Blue Devils history, as Duke is hosting ESPN’s “College GameDay” for the first time in program history.

Matchup to watch: Will Duke be outmatched in the run game on both sides?

Notre Dame can expose Duke on both sides of the ball through the run game. Audric Estime leads the nation with 591 rushing yards on the season and paces all running backs with a 92.1 grade. The Blue Devils have the Power Five’s ninth-worst run-defense grade (64.6) and the third-worst missed tackle rate (20%).

On the other side, the Fighting Irish have earned the eighth-best run-defense grade in the Power Five (90.6) and have tallied the most run stops (98). Duke, meanwhile, has the 12th-worst run-blocking grade in the Power Five (58.2), averaging just 1.5 yards before contact per attempt.

Prediction: Notre Dame 28, Duke 24

The Fighting Irish bounce back with a road victory over a top-20 team, thanks in large part to Estime’s dominance.

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