Most compelling matchups in college football Week 6

By Matt Fitzgerald
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Week 6 of the 2018 college football season has a lot to live up to in terms of drama, which the preceding slate of games provided in large quantities.

This past weekend, two teams in the current AP top four won by a combined five points. Four other programs inside the previous 25 lost at home. Some of the most highly-ranked matchups turned into unexpected blowouts.

It all goes to show how unpredictable the NCAA gridiron can be. Now that there’s a whole slew of fresh games to look forward to, let’s dive in to the most compelling matchups Week 6 has to offer. 

No. 19 Texas vs. No. 7 Oklahoma

The Heisman campaign for Sooners quarterback Kyler Murray continues against the Longhorns in the latest Red River Rivalry showdown at the Cotton Bowl.

Oklahoma will need Murray — who accounted for seven touchdowns in last week’s triumph over Baylor — to be at his absolute best against Texas’ stellar defense. The Longhorns are allowing only 19.8 points per game. Of course, Texas hasn’t faced any offense like that of the Sooners or a quarterback like Murray.

Longhorns coach Todd Herman is a renowned offensive mind, but any tactical genius he can pull off likely won’t be enough to help his signal-caller, Sam Ehlinger, outplay Murray.

That said, this is a rivalry game and Oklahoma showed vulnerability in needing overtime to defeat Army two contests ago.

Boston College at No. 23 NC State

Justin Herbert and Drew Lock deservedly get a lot of love as the 2019 NFL draft’s top quarterback prospects. Don’t discount Wolfpack field general Ryan Finley, however.

Despite a slender frame and marginal arm strength, Finley is a proficient distributor who makes full-field reads as well as anyone in the college game. He has pinpoint accuracy and could give the Eagles all kinds of problems on Saturday.

The best way Boston College can go about beating NC State is by controlling possession. That starts with running back AJ Dillon. As a freshman in 2017, Dillon ran for 1,589 yards, and is showing no signs of a sophomore slump with 652 yards and six touchdowns through five games. 

No. 6 Notre Dame at No. 24 Virginia Tech

After being blindsided by Old Dominion in a shocking loss two weeks ago, the Hokies rebounded, soundly defeating Duke last Saturday.

Now is really Virginia Tech’s time to shine with the Fighting Irish coming to town. The problem is, Notre Dame looks worthy of its powerhouse label in 2018 as it has in any recent years.

Largely to thank for the Irish’s elevated play of late is the performance of Ian Book. The signal-caller supplanted prior starter Brandon Wimbush under center and has lifted Notre Dame’s offense to new heights.

It’ll probably be too much for the Hokies to overcome, but a home-field edge can’t be underestimated.

Utah at No. 14 Stanford

Failing to build on its momentous comeback win over Oregon, Stanford looked flat in a 38-17 loss to Notre Dame.

The Utes aren’t ranked. That doesn’t mean they aren’t a challenging adversary for Stanford — even at home. Utah’s defense yielded only 21 points to Washington earlier this season.

Putting the clamps down on the Cardinal’s rushing attack, spearheaded by Bryce Love, would work wonders for the Utes. Stanford has to be feeling defeated at the moment.

If anyone can right the ship, though, it’s Cardinal coach David Shaw, who has his best quarterback in years in redshirt sophomore K.J. Costello. The talented passer complements Love well and should help Stanford take care of business at home.

No. 8 Auburn at Mississippi State

Week 6 marks the “easy” portion of the Tigers’ SEC schedule. That’s because they have to play Georgia and Alabama on the road in two of the season’s last three contests. However, a road game against the Bulldogs is no picnic.

Mississippi State is coming off an ugly, 13-6 loss to former coach Dan Mullen and Florida, and can’t afford to suffer a third consecutive loss.

Stringing drives together was tough last week for quarterback Nick Fitzgerald to say the least. Now he leads the Bulldogs against an Auburn defense with a loaded front that allows opponents to convert only 25.3 percent of third downs.

Good luck.

Benny Snell Jr. vs. Texas A&M front seven

AP No. 13 Kentucky is a “basketball school” but is winning on the gridiron with a blend of physical running and hard-nosed defense.

Snell is the stud tailback for the Wildcats’ offense, which is rather one-dimensional. Unfortunately, that could be a problem against the Aggies, who yield only 85 yards per game on the ground.

Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher is already changing the culture his first year at the helm, and has the support of a hostile environment in College Station for this game. Fisher’s only losses are to Alabama and Clemson.

The Wildcats must feed Snell early and often. If he can’t get going, Kentucky will face a fresh Aggies front seven and be in serious danger of failing to meet recently raised expectations.

Joe Burrow vs. Todd Grantham

LSU is sound enough in just about every other area to offset its continuing deficiency at the game’s most important position.

It might to catch up with the AP fifth-ranked Tigers on Saturday. No trip into The Swamp in Gainesville is a facile task. Thanks to Grantham’s aggressive, blitz-heavy tactics as defensive coordinator, the Gators enter Week 6 ranked second in the country against the pass, yielding 140 yards per contest.

Burrow completes 53.4 percent of his passes as it is. During Florida’s current run of three straight wins, it’s only allowing 2.59 yards per carry. It’ll be on Burrow to diagnose blitzes, change protections and get the ball out fast. Otherwise, this has the makings of an upset for the 22nd-ranked Gators.

Matt Canada vs. Jim Harbaugh

The 15th-ranked Wolverines trailed Northwestern by 17 last week; coach Jim Harbaugh made the proper adjustments and pulled out a win, but his job security is perpetually questioned.

Harbaugh has had a turbulent tenure at Michigan. Maryland has had a tough go in terms of coaching as well. DJ Durkin has been on administrative leave since the death of player Jordan McNair, leaving his offensive coordinator Canada in charge.

Canada led Maryland to an impressive Week 1 win over Texas and just rebounded from a surprising loss to Temple with a convincing 42-13 victory over Minnesota. It’ll be a tall order to win a big one in the Big House, but it’s worth monitoring how Canada stacks up to one of the elite coaches in Harbaugh.