Burning questions for CFB’s biggest Week 5 games

By Matt Johnson
© Melissa Majchrzak-USA TODAY Sports

College football is back this weekend and it’s packed with compelling Week 5 matchups that will shake up the rankings, award races and conference standings.

It starts Friday night with some exciting action. Maryland returns from a week of reflecting on its loss to Temple with a matchup against No. 12 Penn State. Meanwhile, Arizona State faces No. 15 California in a Pac-12 clash between two great, young quarterbacks looking to prove themselves on a national stage.

Saturday’s college football action will carry the same excitement with conference battles and ranked matchups. Given everything potentially at stake this weekend, it also means there are critical questions that will shape how it all plays out.

Here are the burning questions for college football’s biggest Week 5 games.

Can Maryland bounce back and upset the Nittany Lions?

Maryland will welcome the Nittany Lions to College Park with a chance to rebound from its brutal loss in Week 3. Quarterback Josh Jackson will need to be at his best if the Terrapins want to hang around in the game and upset Penn State.

Jackson struggled against Temple with a miserable 16.1 QBR and only 15-of-38 passes completed for 183 yards. Penn State’s defense will put pressure on him, but it also ranks 46th in quarterback rating allowed (122.3). This can be a program-defining win for Maryland, but it needs Jackson and Anthony McFarland Jr. to thrive.

Which young quarterback shines between No. 15 Cal and Arizona State?

The Golden Bears are enjoying a breakout season in 2019 behind the success of their defense and sophomore quarterback Chase Garbers. If California wants to keep its undefeated season alive, it needs Garbers to shine and its defense to shut down Arizona State’s young signal-caller.

Sun Devils freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels is flashing plenty of promise. He enters with 1,073 passing yards, a 61.2 completion percentage and six total touchdowns. Arizona State needs him to excel against Cal’s stout secondary, which enters allowing a 56.4 completion percentage and 106.6 quarterback rating, especially if Garbers builds off his 357-yard, four-touchdown performance in Week 4.

Will No. 24 USC or No. 17 Washington salvage its season?

The Trojans and Huskies find themselves at the same pivotal crossroad entering Week 5. A win over a ranked conference opponent puts them at 4-1 with momentum to build on. A loss and 3-2 record put the other team on a dark path.

Washington holds the advantage with starting quarterback Jacob Eason giving coach Chris Petersen everything he hoped for this season. The Huskies are averaging over 40 points per game and just rolled over BYU’s defense. USC needs third-string quarterback Matt Fink to deliver another jaw-dropping performance. Otherwise, things could get bleak for Clay Helton once again.

Can Kylin Hill lead Mississippi State to an upset over No.7 Auburn?

Auburn is one of the most impressive teams in college football this season. There’s also always something about conference play that brings the best out of non-ranked opponents and the Bulldogs have a player capable of taking over.

Running back Kylin Hill is doing it all this season from juking defenders to soaring over them for touchdowns. Now he faces a monumental test against a defense allowing 89.5 rushing yards per game. This game will be on Hill’s shoulders and if he can find a way to tame the Tigers, it changes everything for the Bulldogs in 2019.

How will Washington State respond after humiliating Week 4 collapse?

Blowing a 32-point lead in the third quarter to UCLA is embarrassing. Now we’ll find out how the Cougars respond to adversity and criticism by facing No. 19 Utah in Salt Lake City.

Washington State’s offense is capable of scoring 50-plus points and it should feel confident given what Fink did to Utah’s secondary. The Utes will also be limited on offense with running back Zack Moss and quarterback Tyler Huntley dealing with injuries. Even with the injuries, Washington State is a program without any momentum or defensive consistency and that can be disastrous on the road.

Can Oklahoma State rebound to knock off No. 24 Kansas State?

The Cowboys came close to knocking off No. 11 Texas last weekend on the road. Now they return home with a new opportunity to take down a ranked opponent.

Kansas State’s defense comes into Stillwater allowing opposing teams to average 4.7 yards per carry and rush for over 135 yards per game. The Jayhawks survived a gashing from Hill, but they probably won’t be ready for Chuba Hubbard. Saturday’s game can be a great rebound opportunity for Oklahoma State and could feature another 200-yard game from Hubbard.

Will Notre Dame avoid a post-Georgia letdown down to No. 18 Virginia?

A few uncharacteristic mistakes made the difference in Notre Dame’s Week 4 loss to Georgia. Now the Fighting Irish must pick themselves up from the heartbreak and be ready to face Virginia.

Notre Dame enters as a 12-point favorite and will dominate if the Cavaliers make the same mistakes that allowed Old Dominion to take an early 17-0 lead last week. The key will be for the Fighting Irish to take away Virginia quarterback Bryce Perkins’ first read and prevent him from taking off out of the pocket. If the Fighting Irish can do that, they’ll climb back into the top-eight teams and keep their playoff hopes alive.