College Football Week 6 Preview: Storylines, matchups and predictions for the biggest games

Lawrence, Kansas, USA; Kansas Jayhawks safety Marvin Grant (4) celebrates after the game against the Iowa State Cyclones at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports

• Previewing the biggest Week 5 games in college football: TennesseeLSU, TCUKansas, TexasOklahoma, UtahUCLA and Texas A&MAlabama.

• No. 19 Kansas hosts College Gameday: The Jayhawks are doing so for the first time in school history ahead of their matchup with No. 17 TCU.

Quinn Ewers makes long-awaited return: Texas battles Oklahoma in the Red River Showdown in Week 6.

Estimated Reading Time: 7 mins

We're coming off a slate with five games between ranked teams, the most in a regular-season week since 2017. 

While only three such games take place in Week 6, there is still plenty of action to salivate over. Here are the storylines to know, matchups to watch and predictions for the five biggest games this weekend.

No. 8 Tennessee Volunteers at No. 25 LSU Tigers

How to watch: 12:00 p.m. ET on ESPN

Storyline to know: Can Tennessee prove itself once again?

Tennessee was unranked in the preseason AP poll. Just four weeks later, they entered the top 10. 

That’s mostly due to the Volunteers beating two top-25 teams already in Pittsburgh and Florida. They’ll have an opportunity to get a third this week as they travel to Baton Rouge to take on No. 25 LSU. 

Matchup to watch: Hendon Hooker vs. LSU’s defense

Tennessee’s offense runs through quarterback Hendon Hooker, who has emerged as a legitimate Heisman contender. He’s currently fourth (+1300) in BetMGM’s latest odds to win the coveted stiff-arm trophy. Hooker currently holds the highest rushing grade among Power Five quarterbacks (88.5) while also possessing the fifth-best passer rating. Under his leadership, the Volunteers have averaged 0.259 expected points added per play this season, which ranks sixth-best in the Power Five.

He and the Volunteers face their toughest test yet in LSU, which has the 12th-best team defense grade in the Power Five. The Tigers have allowed just -0.245 expected points added per play this season, the Power Five’s eighth-lowest rate.

If Hooker wants to remain a legitimate Heisman contender, he’ll need to make a statement against a very good LSU defense.

Prediction: Tennessee 31, LSU 30

This game should come down to the wire. Ultimately, Hendon Hooker does just enough to pull off a gutsy road victory.

No. 17 TCU Horned Frogs at No. 19 Kansas Jayhawks

How to watch: 12:00 p.m. ET on FS1

Storyline to know: Kansas is at the center of the college football universe (No, seriously)

It’s been a long road back to national relevance for Kansas. The last time the Jayhawks were ranked was 13 years ago in 2009. That year, Mark Ingram II won the Heisman Trophy and Matthew Stafford was in the midst of his rookie season.

This week, No. 19 Kansas puts its undefeated season on the line against No. 17 TCU. The Horned Frogs are having a fantastic season of their own, enjoying their first 4-0 start in five years. 

For the first time in school history, the Jayhawks will host ESPN’s College Gameday. It should be a special week in Lawrence, Kansas.

Matchup to watch: Two of the most efficient offenses in the country square off 

Both Kansas and TCU have something in common: explosive offenses. The Jayhawks and the Horned Frogs are two of the five most efficient offenses in the nation in terms of EPA per play. Surrounding them are some of the best teams in college football.

Best College Offenses by EPA/play
Team EPA/play AP Poll Rank
TCU 0.351 17th
Ohio State 0.339 3rd
USC 0.312 6th
Kansas 0.290 19th
Georgia 0.280 2nd
Tennessee 0.259 8th
Alabama 0.259 1st

Not to mention, both defenses have had their fair share of struggles so far. TCU ranks just 64th in EPA per play allowed, while Kansas sits at 104th. 

Prediction: TCU 37, Kansas 31

TCU ends Kansas’ Cinderella run in a classic Big 12 shootout.

Texas Longhorns vs. Oklahoma Sooners

How to watch: 12:00 p.m. ET on ABC

Storyline to know: The return of Quinn Ewers

For the first time since 1998, Oklahoma and Texas meet as unranked teams. 

The Sooners don’t have many excuses. Their defense has allowed a combined 96 points in back-to-back losses to Kansas State and TCU.

The Longhorns, however, are missing their star quarterback … or at least they were. Quinn Ewers is expected to make his long-awaited return after missing the past three games with a shoulder injury. The last time he was on the field, he was lighting up top-ranked Alabama. He earned a 90.2 grade and made three big-time throws in just one quarter against the Crimson Tide. Since Texas lost by a single point in that game, one can only imagine where the Longhorns would be if he never went down.

Matchup to watch: Can Oklahoma keep up?

Texas with Ewers should be able to score at will against a porous Oklahoma defense. The question is whether the Sooners can match that output.

Oklahoma’s offense is one of the 15 highest-graded in the Power Five this year, mainly due to its run game. The Sooners currently have the Power Five’s eighth-best EPA per run play figure this season. Eric Gray has picked up a first down or touchdown on 45.5% of his carries this season, the highest rate in the country. Dillon Gabriel has also become a dangerous dual-threat quarterback this year. His 0.33 missed tackles forced on runs is tied for third in the Power Five at the position.

Texas won’t be easy to run against. The Longhorns boast the seventh-best run-defense grade in the Power Five this season. They’re led by two stud interior defensive linemen in Byron Murphy II and Keondre Coburn, who are two of the six highest-graded players at their position in the Power Five. Murphy, in particular, sports an 87.7 run-defense grade, third in the Power Five. 

Prediction: Texas 34, Oklahoma 28

Quinn Ewers will make his triumphant return and get Texas back on track. Oklahoma will suffer its third straight loss, which hasn’t happened in 24 years. 

No. 11 Utah Utes at No. 18 UCLA Bruins

How to watch: 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX

Storyline to know: Is Utah back?

Utah was ranked seventh heading into the season and had College Football Playoff aspirations. Those hopes were quickly dashed in a season-opening 29-26 loss to Florida, a game that ended with the Utes throwing an interception on the goal line.

While many quickly cast Utah aside after the loss, the team looks determined to prove that game was a fluke. In the four games since, the Utes have outscored their opponents by an average of 35 points. A win on the road over a top-20 team in UCLA would go a long way in showing that they’re still a force to be reckoned with. 

Matchup to watch: Utah’s passing game vs. UCLA’s secondary

Cameron Rising has been a very solid quarterback for Utah the past couple of years. His 85.6 grade this season ranks 12th in the Power Five. It also doesn’t hurt that the Utes' receiving corps carries a top-15 receiving grade among Power Five teamsthis season. 

The strength of UCLA’s defense is its secondary. The Bruins carry a 90.7 team coverage grade this season, which ranks eighth-highest in the Power Five. The star of that secondary is safety Stephan Blaylock. The redshirt senior has an 87.1 coverage grade through Week  5, third among Power Five safeties.

Prediction: Utah 34, UCLA 30

Utah will reclaim its spot in the top 10 with a road victory over No. 18 UCLA. 

Texas A&M Aggies at No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide

How to watch: 8:00 p.m. ET on CBS

Storyline to know: Will Bryce Young be able to play?

The major storyline heading into this game is the health of Alabama quarterback Bryce Young. Last year’s Heisman winner suffered a sprained AC joint against Arkansas in Week 5 and was forced to leave the game early in the second quarter.

Head coach Nick Saban described Young’s shoulder injury as one that shouldn’t have long-term ramifications and said that Young is day-to-day. If Young isn’t able to play, redshirt freshman Jalen Milroe will start in his absence, opening the door for a potential Texas A&M upset.

Matchup to watch: Alabama’s run game vs. Texas A&M’s run defense

If Milroe starts, expect Alabama to run early and often.

Last week against Arkansas, Milroe earned just a 30.8 passing grade, second-lowest among Power Five quarterbacks for the week. He made up for it on the ground, though, as his 79.7 rushing grade was third-highest. He’ll combine with running back Jahmyr Gibbs, who leads the Power Five with 8.8 yards per attempt.

Texas A&M’s run defense has been putrid so far this season. The Aggies hold just a 51.9 team run-defense grade, second-lowest in the Power Five. They also have the highest rate of negatively graded run-defense plays in the Power Five. However, they can stack the box against Alabama, since there won’t be much of a passing threat if Milroe starts.

Even if Bryce Young is able to play, Alabama will likely try to run the ball down Texas A&M’s throat, since his shoulder likely won’t be fully healed.  

Prediction: Alabama 37, Texas A&M 14

It seems like Bryce Young should be available for this game. If he is, the Crimson Tide will likely cruise to victory.

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