There are some exciting things afoot for teams around the nation in college football Week 6.
It’s hard to believe we’re nearly to the halfway point of this season, but it’s easy to lose track of time when we’re having so much fun.
Much has happened already, yet there is still so much left to be determined.
A couple of big schools are in big trouble already, with head coaches on the hot seat. There are some potential upsets on the slate and some significant prove-it contests against top contenders as well.
Those are among the top storylines for the upcoming weekend of college football action.
1. Potential trap game for Clemson
Fresh off a hard fought win over Louisville, No. 3 Clemson hits the road to face Boston College on Friday night.
On paper, the Eagles shouldn’t have a shot at taking down the Tigers. That said, Clemson has a track record this year of showing up small against lesser teams.
These circumstances represent the perfect recipe for a trap game.
Boston College features a physical offense that might prove tricky to defend. They love to pound the ball, using multiple tight ends, and the Tigers have already allowed six rushing scores.
Not counting a shutout loss to Virginia Tech, the Eagles have averaged 29 points per game. They also feature the No. 1 overall defense in the nation, allowing just 202 yards per game.
Deshaun Watson and Co. must be sharp to ensure all their hard work and effort last weekend was not in vain.
2. Can LSU score against Florida’s brawny defense?
The Tigers ran roughshod over Missouri’s defense last week, winning 42-7. It was complete domination and a welcome outcome for the embattled university that just fired its head coach.
Things get much tougher in Week 6, because LSU now has to travel to The Swamp to take on No. 18 Florida, which features the No. 2 overall defense in college football.
The Gators are allowing just 2.52 yards per carry, 5.92 yards per passing attempt and 11.6 points per game. The only team that has given Florida any trouble whatsoever is Tennessee, which won in dramatic fashion during Week 4.
The Tigers might be without Leonard Fournette for yet another week as well.
Orgeron on Fournette: "I don't know if he's going to play. Day by day. Don't know if he's going to practice." #LSU
— Ross Dellenger (@RossDellenger) October 3, 2016
Derrius Guise and Darrel Williams had monster games last week, but they might not find many open running lanes this weekend.
Quarterback Danny Etling has provided the Tigers with a bit more through the air than Brandon Harris, but LSU’s passing game remains anemic.
Meanwhile the Gators have proven capable of putting points on the scoreboard. Quarterback Luke Del Rio is expected to play after missing last weekend’s game with a knee injury. He leads a balanced offense that has scored 17 touchdowns and averages nearly six yards per play.
LSU’s prospects of winning this one are gloomy.
3. Can Indiana hang with Ohio State?
This question wouldn’t even be worth asking if not for the fact that the Hoosiers handed Michigan State a loss last weekend.
Heading into this game, No. 2 Ohio State hasn’t faced much of a challenge, barring the Oklahoma game. It’s been blowout central for Urban Meyer’s squad, which is averaging 57 points per game while allowing just over nine per game.
Featuring a dynamic offense that is just as dangerous through the air as it is on the ground, the Buckeyes are used to getting their way on the gridiron.
They’re used to getting their way against Indiana as well, winning 21 straight games. That said, the Hoosiers gave them a run for their money last year before ultimately losing by the score of 34-27.
Indiana does feature quite the productive passing offense, which ranks 17th nationally averaging over 320 yards per game. Junior quarterback Richard Lagow stands tall in the pocket and can deliver strikes down the field. He can also be baited into interceptions, however.
If Lagow has a good game and takes care of the football, then the Hoosiers have a chance to potentially finish what they started last year.
But likely, the Buckeyes will make short work of the matchup, just like they’ve done all year long.
4. Charlie Strong in do-or-die mode against Oklahoma
It was only a year ago that Charlie Strong was gaining national praise for guiding his Texas Longhorns to a huge upset win over Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry game.
Fast forward to now, and Strong is close to losing his job heading into this pivotal matchup for both clubs.
The Sooners worked their way back into the top 25 last week beating TCU, and their two losses were against Houston and Ohio State. This program is better than its record suggests, and the offense should make short work of Texas’ ailing defense.
On that topic, Strong demoted defensive coordinator Vance Bedford this week and will be calling defensive plays from now on (more on that here).
After Texas was taken down by Cal and then thrashed by Oklahoma State last weekend, athletic director Mike Perrin had some cryptic words to use describing his level of confidence in Strong as the long-term answer.
Some reports suggest Strong won’t be fired until after the season if things continue spiraling downwards. Others say he’s on his last leg this year.
Given the level of importance this rivalry game is to the University of Texas, we’re on the “last leg” train, should Oklahoma prevail in a big way.
5. Virginia Tech feeling feisty for matchup against North Carolina
Fresh off a thrilling victory over Florida State, No. 17 North Carolina is riding high on a four-game winning streak.
Featuring an upper-echelon passing attack, the Tar Heels have been scoring points in bunches since losing to Georgia to open the season.
No. 25 Virginia Tech offensive lineman Augie Conte is hoping North Carolina feels good about its chances coming into this one after having knocked off FSU.
“I’m glad they won. I want them going in there confident. I don’t think they have a whole lot of respect for us,” Conte said (h/t sportswar.com). “I feel like the more confident they’re feeling, the better chance we have [of] posting an upset.”
The Hokies made it into the top 25 for the first time this year after blasting ECU last weekend. Their only loss this season came against Tennessee, and they played the Vols tough for most of that game, jumping out to an early 14-0 lead in that one.
North Carolina’s defense will have its hands full going up against the balanced and tough Hokies offense. It should be a tightly contested battle that could end up coming down to the wire.
6. Will Tennessee’s good fortunes continue against Texas A&M?
After watching the No. 9-ranked Vols win with a dramatic Hail Mary last week (watch here), we cannot help but wonder if the football gods will continue smiling upon this program throughout the year. The win kept them perfect on the season, though four of their five wins have come down to the wire.
Up next for Tennessee is a date with No. 8 Texas A&M, which hasn’t lost a game this year either.
This one will present the toughest challenge yet for the Vols, as the Aggies excel on both sides of the ball. Texas A&M averages over 258 yards per game on the ground and through the air. The Aggies also average over 39 points per game while allowing just a touch over 15 per game.
Myles Garrett and Co. make life miserable for every quarterback who has the misfortune of lining up on the other side of the ball, racking up over three sacks per game.
The Vols feature a dynamic pass rusher in Derek Barnett, but as a whole their defense isn’t as stout.
Statistically speaking, the Aggies have a better chance of winning. Plus they’re at home. But so far the Volunteers have overcome all obstacles to stay undefeated. Something’s going to give this Saturday when these two top-10 teams clash.
7. Can Clay Helton rally USC for another big win vs. Colorado?
Despite winning big last weekend against Arizona State, USC head coach Clay Helton’s seat remains scorching hot. The Trojans are still 2-3 on the year with a daunting stretch of opponents to come, beginning with No. 21 Colorado this Saturday.
The biggest move Helton has made thus far that could potentially help him retain his job after 2016 is making the switch from Max Browne to Sam Darnold. The freshman went off last weekend in a winning cause, totaling 360 yards and four touchdowns.
But things will be much more difficult for Darnold this weekend against the Buffaloes, who rank No. 9 in the nation allowing 149 passing yards per game. They have also racked up 13 sacks thus far in 2016 and feature a potent defensive front.
Colorado’s offense should be able to move the ball against the Trojans, too, coming into the game averaging more than 530 yards and 43 points per game.
On paper, this isn’t a favorable matchup for USC, even at home. In fact, it’s liable to get ugly for the home team. The Buffaloes are quickly proving themselves to be a real threat to challenge for the Pac 12 championship later this year.
8. Alabama gets a real test again against Arkansas
To this point in the season, Nick Saban’s top-ranked program has only truly been tested once, against Ole Miss. And the Crimson Tide barely escaped that affair with a win.
Now comes the fun part of the schedule for those who secretly (or not so secretly) want to see ‘Bama lose.
This weekend marks the first stop in a four-game gauntlet when they will play at Arkansas, at Tennessee, will host Texas A&M and then hit the road again for a battle against LSU.
The Razorbacks have lost just once so far this year — a failed expedition into College Station that ended in a blowout for the Aggies.
Quarterback Austin Allen has thrown at least two touchdowns in each of his first five outings this year, and the offensive line is monstrous in the running game. It could pose the toughest test yet for Alabama’s vaunted front seven in what should be a fantastic battle in the trenches.
If Arkansas’ defense can limit big plays, this game could tilt in their favor.
Of course, it’s one thing to speculate success and quite another to see it play out. Alabama’s offense is very balanced with freshman Jalen Hurts behind center, and he can kill defenses with his ability to escape while keeping eyes downfield for the big pass.
Arkansas has its hands full in this one, but so does Alabama. It should make for highly entertaining football.
9. Out of the frying pan and into the fire for Florida State against Miami
Jimbo Fisher’s No. 23-ranked Seminoles were stunned last weekend against North Carolina. That loss almost certainly will keep this program out of the ACC championship running, but there is no time to pout about it.
Florida State will now be tasked with taking down No. 10 Miami at Hard Rock Stadium Saturday night, and the odds are against an upset.
The Hurricanes feature the second-ranked scoring defense in college football, allowing just over 11 points per game. They have allowed just five touchdowns all year and allow an average of just 250 yards per game.
Conversely, Miami’s offense might have a field day against an FSU defense that has allowed an average of 45 points the past three games. While nobody is going to accuse Brad Kaaya and Co. as an explosive offensive attack, the Hurricanes have been consistent about scoring, with 35 points being their lowest total thus far.
With all that in mind, we’re picking Miami in this one.
10. Can Stanford rebound after devastating loss to Washington?
Last Friday night was a humiliating experience for No. 15 Stanford, which was impotent against No. 5 Washington. On both sides of the ball, the Huskies dominated the Cardinal, winning by a lopsided score of 44-6.
The big loss highlighted the deficiencies on Stanford’s roster. Unlike what we’ve seen in years past, this team simply does not have dominant linemen on either side of the ball, barring defensive end Solomon Thomas.
Stanford also cannot win in a shootout. Quarterback Ryan Burns isn’t all that impressive, and the roster is devoid of natural talent at the receiver positions.
Truly, it’s all about Christian McCaffrey. If he goes strong, then Stanford has a chance to win. If he gets bottled up, then the Cardinal are doomed. Honestly, though, even when McCaffrey has good games Stanford still hasn’t dominated anyone this year.
This could be problematic at home in Week 6. Though Washington State isn’t a powerhouse by any means, it does feature an offense that moves the ball with regularity and scores a lot of points.
Making matters worse for Stanford is the fact that head coach David Shaw expects to be without his two top cornerbacks, Quenton Meeks and Alijah Holder. Stanford’s defense was torched last weekend without them and is liable to suffer the same consequence on Saturday night.
This means McCaffrey needs to be in rare form to keep the Cardinal from dropping two games in a row to Pac 12 opponents.