As the College Football Playoff race heats up, the pressure mounts for contending teams.
Here are five questions that need to be answered this week and our Week 6 predictions.
*Can Florida State’s offensive line hold up? (Miami (Fla.) at Florida State, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Florida State has allowed four sacks per game, which ranks 126th out of 129 FBS schools. Yes, the Deondre Francois injury was significant. But the offensive line is a bigger problem than freshman QB James Blackman, who has been decent. The Seminoles (1-2) lost to North Carolina State and were almost upset by Wake Forest.
Florida State’s running backs and wide receivers are speedy and talented, but they can’t show it without time to run deep routes or holes to scurry through. Things won’t get easier against the suffocating Miami defense, either, a unit that allowed only six points to Duke. The Hurricanes held the Blue Devils to four yards per passing attempt. Duke was 4-0 coming into the matchup with wins over Northwestern, Baylor and North Carolina. The Hurricanes just overwhelmed the Blue Devils up front.
Miami (3-0) is the biggest threat to Clemson in the ACC. The Hurricanes’ defense has balled out all season, and in a rivalry game like this one, there’s no reason to think that changes.
Prediction: Miami 31, Florida State 16
*Will TCU stay committed to the ground game? (West Virginia at TCU, 3:30 p.m. ET)
When we think of TCU (4-0), we think of explosive offense and dynamic quarterback play. The Horned Frogs have been phenomenal again this season, but their tactics are different. A newfound commitment to the running game has paid off.
Sophomore Darius Anderson ran for 160 yards and three scores in TCU’s road win over Oklahoma State. The Frogs, thanks to that clock-eating running game, held the ball almost twice as long as the Cowboys. TCU can still make plays through the air, but there’s something to be said for zigging when the rest of the conference is zagging. The Big 12 has several outstanding passing offenses and few good defenses.
West Virginia (3-1) will come at TCU much like Oklahoma State did. Will Grier will sling it. The Mountaineers will score points. But their defense is a question mark. West Virginia’s only non-Kansas Power 5 opponent to date is Virginia Tech, which shredded them on the ground for 234 yards.
This game will likely be fun, high-scoring and competitive. But it’s tough to pick against the more battle-tested group.
Prediction: TCU 38, West Virginia 30
*Which Feleipe Franks shows up? (LSU at Florida, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)
Franks has given the Florida offense a jolt it desperately needed. The redshirt freshman threw only 14 times in a win over Vanderbilt, but he averaged 13.2 yards per attempt. That’ll play.
But the Franks experience is a roller-coaster. He’s young. He doesn’t always make the best decisions. He’ll throw picks.
He’s also undeniably talented. Perhaps lost in Florida’s dramatic last-second win over Tennessee was just how awesome this throw was.
Not many guys can do that with a clean pocket, let alone on the run. Franks makes throws few else can.
The Gators (3-1) will have a chance to earn a rivalry win over LSU (3-2), reeling after an inexplicable loss to Troy. The only way Florida loses this game is if we see “Bad Feleipe” instead of “Good Feleipe.” Florida is the better team. Avoid turnovers, and this one should go to the Gators.
Prediction: Florida 30, LSU 21
*Can Michigan get above-average play out of its quarterback? (Michigan State at Michigan, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
This is John O’Korn’s show with Wilton Speight sidelined due to injury.
Michigan’s O’Korn looked good in extended action against Purdue, going 18-of-26 for 270 yards and a score. Despite being a senior, though, he’s unproven at the high-major level. The bulk of his college experience came in 2013 at Houston, when he threw for 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
He’s talented. He may have a higher ceiling than Speight. But we still don’t know a lot about him. Fortunately for him, the Wolverines’ defense and running game are phenomenal. He’s not going to have to do a whole lot to win.
Michigan State (3-1) looks better than it did last year, but Michigan (4-0) has a clear talent advantage. If O’Korn is fine, the Wolverines will win. If he’s good, obviously the Wolverines will win, and we can give Michigan more College Football Playoff love.
If he’s bad, the Spartans have a chance. Michigan State allowed only 10 points to Iowa last week. Look for the Spartans to try to muck things up again. As we know, crazy stuff happens in this rivalry.
Prediction: Michigan 24, Michigan State 10
*Has Washington State recovered from its huge win over USC? (Washington State at Oregon, 8 p.m. ET)
This game would be getting a ton of hype if Oregon was at full strength. But the Ducks will be without quarterback Justin Herbert, who broke his collarbone last week. Still, Oregon has spent some time ranked this year. The Ducks are significantly better than they were a year ago. They have a shot here.
Washington State is coming off the highest of highs, beating USC on Friday night in Pullman. With that win, they are firmly in the playoff hunt. They have a chance to go into the Apple Cup against Washington undefeated. Look at the schedule. It’s favorable.
It’s awfully tough to win in Eugene, though. Oregon running back Royce Freeman, who has three games of 150-plus rushing yards, could run wild. If he plays, that is. Freeman left the Cal game early and is listed as questionable.
Washington State (5-0) is probably the better team, especially with Oregon’s Herbert out. The Cougars play sound defense and will unleash quatrerback Luke Falk, who is completing nearly 75 percent of his throws this year and has 16 TD passes to just two interceptions. No reason to change things up against the Ducks (4-1).
But away from Pullman against a quality foe, this one has sneaky upset written all over it … provided Freeman goes. This prediction assumes he does.
Prediction: Oregon 34, Washington State 31
Penn State 40, Northwestern 27 (Noon ET, ABC)
Georgia 27, Vanderbilt 10 (Noon ET, ESPN)
Notre Dame 31, North Carolina 18 (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
Alabama 41, Texas A&M 17 (7:15 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Utah 27, Stanford 23 (10:15 p.m. ET)