Conference plays takes over in Week 5 of the college football season, and two games matching top-10 teams highlight the schedule.
No. 8 Arkansas (plus-18) at No. 2 Georgia, noon, ESPN
Off to their first 4-0 start since 2003, the Razorbacks (1-0 SEC) moved on to the national radar after last week’s win over Texas A&M, and now face the Bulldogs (4-0, 2-0), who lead the nation in fewest points allowed (5.8 per game) and total defense (181.8 yards per game).
Arkansas averages 35.8 points and 262 rushing yards. Trelon Smith has rushed for 298 yards while 6-foot-3, 245-pound KJ Jefferson is the only quarterback in the SEC with 800 passing yards and 200 rushing yards. Watch out for wide receiver Treylon Burks, who has 19 catches for 373 yards and two touchdowns.
Georgia quarterback JT Daniels, who is 7-0 as a starter, is expected to play after being treated for a latissimus dorsi muscle injury. One of his favorite targets is tight end Brock Bowers (18 receptions, 272 yards, four TDs), only the eighth freshman to start a season opener under Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart.
Prediction: Georgia 27, Arkansas 13
No. 14 Michigan (plus 1 ½) at Wisconsin, noon, Fox29
After four weeks inside the friendly confines of the Big House, the Wolverines (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) venture west seeking their first win over the Badgers (1-2, 0-1) in Madison since 2001.
They’ve done very well, averaging 40.2 points and almost 291 rushing yards per game and allowing an average of 11.8 points. The Badgers, who were smoked by Notre Dame last week, lead the nation in rushing defense, allowing 23.0 yards per game and 1.0 yards per carry, but they’re still not getting much in the way of offense, averaging just 19.0 points.
Michigan’s Blake Corum is ninth in the nation with 118.8 rush yards per game and leads everyone in all-purpose yards with a 180.8-yard average. Wisconsin’s Chez Mellusi averages 106.3 yards and ranks 18th nationally, but quarterback Graham Mertz has thrown six interceptions and just one TD pass.
Prediction: Michigan 24, Wisconsin 17
No. 7 Cincinnati (minus 1 ½) at No. 9 Notre Dame, 2:30 p.m., NBC10
The Bearcats (3-0) are trying to make history this season and become the first team from a non-Power 5 conference to make the College Football Playoff. They already have a convincing win at Indiana under their belt, and now get a shot at mighty Notre Dame (4-0).
Cincinnati is averaging 43.0 points behind quarterback Desmond Ridder, who has completed 65.1% of his passes for 748 yards and seven touchdowns. He must be concerned with Fighting Irish safety Kyle Hamilton, who has three interceptions.
Notre Dame, however, has a new defensive coordinator, Marcus Freeman, who came over after four years at Cincinnati. How well he knows Ridder’s tendencies is anyone’s guess. A bigger question is the status of Irish quarterback Jack Coan, who left last week’s game with an ankle injury.
Prediction: Cincinnati 31, Notre Dame 27
No. 12 Mississippi (plus 14) at No. 1 Alabama, 3:30 p.m., CBS3
Lane Kiffin returns to Alabama, where he spent three seasons at Nick Saban’s offensive coordinator, with the nation’s most potent offense, averaging 52.7 points and 635.3 total yards per game. Junior Matt Corral has thrown for 997 yards and nine touchdowns with no picks.
The Rebels (3-0, 0-0 SEC), who put up 48 points and 647 total yards on the Crimson Tide (4-0, 1-0) last season but still lost by 15, enter the game with their highest ranking since Week 7 of the 2016 season.
But Alabama continues to roll along with quarterback Bryce Young (15 TDs, one interception) and a deep corps of receivers. In last week’s rout of Southern Mississippi, junior Jameson Williams caught an 81-yard touchdown pass and returned kickoffs 100 and 83 yards for scores.
Prediction: Alabama 48, Mississippi 38
No. 11 Ohio State (minus 14 ½) at Rutgers, 3:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
Many of the previous seven games of this series have been difficult to watch for fans of the Scarlet Knights, with scores like 49-7, 56-0, and 56-21. And those were just the games in Piscataway.
In all, the Buckeyes are 7-0 against Rutgers averaging 53.7 points to 10.7 for their opponent. However, the Knights (3-1, 0-1 Big Ten) shut down Michigan’s running game very well in a 20-13 loss, so why not shock the world against Ohio State (3-1, 1-0), which is averaging 559 of total offense?
Buckeyes freshman Kyle McCord, who starred at St. Joseph’s Prep, completed 13 of 18 passes for 318 yards and two touchdowns last week against Akron in relief of injured starter C.J. Stroud. Stroud, who was nursing a shoulder injury, is expected to return Saturday.
Prediction: Ohio State 34, Rutgers 17
No. 10 Florida (minus 7 ½) at Kentucky, 6 p.m., ESPN
This will be the first look at Penn State transfer quarterback Will Levis as a starter in front of a national television audience. Levis passed for 800 yards in his first three games for the Wildcats (4-0, 1-0 SEC) but was held to 102 yards last week against South Carolina while the rushing game and defense led the way.
This could be a battle of the ground games. The Gators (3-1, 1-1) lead the SEC in rushing at 322.5 yards per game. The Wildcats are fifth at 204.5 per game and boast the nation’s third-leading rusher in junior Chris Rodriguez Jr., who has 522 yards on the season.
A major problem for Kentucky is turnovers, with 11 on the season, tied for worst in FBS. Levis has contributed five interceptions to that total.
Prediction: Florida 24, Kentucky 21