College football Week 5 primer: Heisman Watch, upset picks, predictions and moreOctober 1, 2020
Week 5 of the college football season features the first top-10 showdown of 2020.
No. 7 Auburn travels to No. 4 Georgia in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry, and that’s the highlight of the schedule. The Bulldogs have won the past three meetings in that series.
No. 13 Texas A&M faces No. 2 Alabama in the only other matchup between teams ranked in the Top 25. That is a series the Crimson Tide have dominated since Johnny Manziel led a 29-24 upset in 2012.
Every week, Sporting News will survey the landscape looking for Heisman contenders, coaches on the spot, upset alerts and other trends. With that in mind, get ready for Week 5.
A total of six quarterbacks have a passer rating of more than 200 at this point, and that list includes Heisman Trophy front-runner Trevor Lawrence along with Florida’s Kyle Trask, who enjoyed a six-TD debut against Ole Miss in Week 4.
BYU’s Zach Wilson is another one of those quarterbacks, and he gets the Friday night stage in what should be a shootout with Louisiana Tech. Wilson averages 312 passing yards per game through two weeks, and that comes with a 78.3 completion percentage on 13.6 yards per attempt. The numbers aren’t that different than Lawrence.
BYU has a proud quarterback tradition, and this season marks the 30th anniversary of Ty Detmer’s Heisman Trophy run in 1990. Wilson is a fringe candidate, but as long as the Cougars stay unbeaten he can stay in the mix.
Coach on the spot
Georgia’s Kirby Smart took a not-so veiled jab at Auburn coach Gus Malzahn ahead of this week’s game, and that adds some flavor to the matchup.
Kirby Smart calls out Gus Malzahn for his coach speak, fires some right back at the Auburn coach.
Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry at it’s finest right here pic.twitter.com/ASVzomWWEE
— SEC Mike (@MichaelWBratton) September 29, 2020
Remember, it was Malzahn who said, “We whipped the dog crap out of them, didn’t we?” after Auburn beat Georgia 40-17 on Nov. 11, 2017.
The Bulldogs got revenge with a 28-7 victory in the SEC championship game later that season, and Georgia has won the past two meetings heading into the next installment.
Which coach faces more pressure? The answer is both. Smart needs to find the right quarterback among Stetson Bennett, D’Wan Mathis and JT Daniels. Auburn was 1-3 against top-10 teams last season, and the Tigers haven’t won in Athens since 2005.
We’ll see whether Malzahn can get the last word.
Georgia-Auburn is one of two games involving top-25 teams with a single-digit spread. The other is an American Athletic Conference matchup between No. 25 Memphis and SMU. The Tigers and Mustangs played a 54-48 shootout in primetime last year.
Memphis has not played since a 37-24 victory against Arkansas State on Sept. 5. The Tigers missed the past three weeks after players tested positive for COVID-19. SMU, meanwhile, is 3-0 and senior quarterback Shane Buechele (852 yards, 7 TDs, 2 INTs) is playing even better in 2020.
Buechele and Memphis quarterback Brady White combined for 806 passing yards, six TDs and no interceptions in last year’s matchup. The rematch should be even better.
Manziel led the Aggies to a 29-24 victory against Alabama on Nov. 10, 2012. Manziel’s efforts — 253 passing yards, 92 rushing yards and three TDs — were the centerpiece of his Heisman Trophy campaign.
Alabama has won the past seven meetings by an average score of 43-21 since that legendary upset. Manziel had 464 passing yards, five TDs and two interceptions in a 49-42 loss the following season.
Quarterback play has been a huge difference in the six meetings since. The yardage total isn’t all that different — Alabama’s QBs have a 239-225 advantage in average passing yards per game. Crimson Tide QBs, however, have a 15:3 TD:INT ratio. That is much better than the Aggies’ quarterbacks at 7:9.
Kellen Mond has to be almost flawless opposite Mac Jones for Texas A&M to have a chance.
Think about it …
There are only two 3-0 teams in the AP Top 25 on the first weekend of October.
No. 8 Miami (3-0) is on an open date and will face No. 1 Clemson in Death Valley on Oct. 10. No. 24 Pitt (3-0) is the other one, and the Panthers are looking for their first 4-0 start since 2000 against North Carolina State this week.
The Panthers have quietly gone about their business in September. Preseason All-American defensive tackle Jaylen Twyman opted out before the season started, but defensive end Rashad Weaver (3.5 sacks, 5.5 TFL) has stepped up in his place. Safety Paris Ford (2 INTs) has come as advertised, and the defense has allowed just 10 points per game. Imagine where they would be with Twyman.
Quarterback Kenny Pickett also has shown improvement, and the Panthers have benefited from a consistent schedule that hasn’t been impacted by COVID-19. Will it last? As long as Pitt can take care of business against N.C. State and Boston College the next two weeks, showdowns against Miami, No. 5 Notre Dame and Clemson highlight the back half of the schedule.