Top 10 storylines for college football Week 6

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

With Alabama and Clemson both on a bye, college football Week 6 offers other top teams a prime opportunity to make big statements.

This weekend’s schedule features three big-time ranked-versus-ranked matchups, along with a bunch of other games that could potentially be highly entertaining. With that in mind, here’s what we’re focused on for Week 6 of the college football season.

Prime opportunity for Heisman favorites to explode

After taking a week off, Joe Burrow and the LSU Tigers are hosting Utah State Saturday. Look for Burrow to continue putting up jaw-dropping stats in this one.

Other Heisman favorites like Jalen Hurts (against Kansas), Jonathan Taylor (against Kent State), and Chuba Hubbard (against Texas Tech), should feast. Dark horse Sam Ehlinger also has a tasty matchup against West Virginia.

This is going to be a banner weekend for these young stars to pad their stats against weak opponents.

Friday night lights in Cincinnati

The Bearcats are hosting UCF Friday night in a game that’s televised nationally on ESPN. Not surprisingly, the Knights are favored in this game, but the spread (-4.5) isn’t as significant as you may have imagined. Cincinnati’s defense is a big reason why oddsmakers aren’t keen on giving UCF too many points there.

However, UCF’s freshman quarterback, Dillon Gabriel, leads an explosive offense that averages 49 points per game. He’s thrown 14 touchdowns already this season, tossing three or more in three out of five games. If Cincinnati’s secondary struggles to contain Gabriel Davis (499 yards, eight touchdowns) then this game could get out of hand quickly.

Harbaugh on the hot seat

Sure, Michigan won last weekend, 52-0. The big caveat there is it was against Rutgers. The team’s embarrassing blowout loss to Wisconsin is still very much on everyone’s mind, and Saturday’s home game against Iowa will tell us quite a bit more about this program than what we saw in Week 5.

Jim Harbaugh is very much on the hot seat. His record against top competition since taking over at Michigan is awful. Now, his team has a darn good Hawkeyes program to contend with. Another loss to a top Big Ten team could be catastrophic in terms of his ability to remain in charge of this program long term.

How far down the rabbit hole will Maryland fall?

As we alluded to discussing Michigan, Rutgers isn’t a barometer of any kind, being among the worst programs in college football. On top of that, the program just fired head coach Chris Ash. So, there is absolutely no stability, and no clear direction. We bring up Rutgers because that’s the team Maryland has in its sights heading into Week 6.

Maryland opened the season as one of the hottest teams in the nation. Quarterback Josh Jackson led the highest-scoring offense in college football during those two weeks. Since then, though, the Terps have imploded in epic fashion, culminating with an embarrassing loss to Penn State last weekend. Needless to say, if Maryland can’t dispatch Rutgers, the program will have some very tough questions to answer.

Huge SEC clash down at The Swamp

It doesn’t get much bigger than Sunday’s epic SEC battle in Gainesville when the Florida Gators host the Auburn Tigers. Both of these programs enter college football Week 6 undefeated, and both cannot afford to lose. Florida, in the SEC East, is looking up at Georgia in the rankings, while Auburn, in the SEC West, has ‘Bama to overcome.

The matchup between Gus Malzahn’s offense and Florida’s defense is going to be fun to watch unfold. The Tigers love to use misdirection, and they have the speed to make teams pay when they do catch them off their guard. Auburn’s defense is no slouch, either, and Kyle Trask will have his hands full. Likely, the quarterback that takes care of the football will end up walking out of The Swamp with a victory.

Will Nebraska get right against Northwestern?

The Cornhuskers were served a hearty dose of reality last Saturday at home when Ohio State ran them out of their own building. The 48-7 loss was a clear illustration of just how far Scott Frost and Co. have to go in their rebuilding effort to contend with top teams.

Now at 3-2 on the season, Nebraska needs to get right, and do it quickly. Northwestern is visiting in Week 6, and things get no easier going forward. The Wildcats have just one win on record this year, which is disappointing. However, they gave Wisconsin a tough battle last Saturday and are clearly playing hard for head coach Pat Fitzgerald. Nebraska must bounce back from last weekend’s defeat and play its best on Saturday. Otherwise, we’re looking at a program destined to spiral with the meat of the schedule still upcoming.

Out of the frying pan, into the fire for Jeremy Pruitt

It’s hard to imagine Jeremy Pruitt’s seat getting any hotter. His program is in shambles. And instead of seeing improvement, all we’ve seen this year is more of the same dysfunction that has plagued Tennessee football the past three seasons.

Likely, things are only going to get worse. Tennessee is hosting No. 3 Georgia in Week 6, and we already know the Bulldogs will have no mercy on their SEC rival. Look for Jake Fromm and Co. to lay waste to Tennessee’s pathetic defense, and for the Vols to hit a new low in 2019.

Can MSU pull off the epic upset in Columbus?

Michigan State has done enough to sneak back into the top-25, but it’s debatable if the Spartans deserve to be there. How they perform in Saturday night’s huge road game against Ohio State will tell us plenty about this team’s quality.

Ohio State’s offense is a fully-loaded Ferrari. Justin Fields’ dual-threat abilities, along with J.K. Dobbins being a legitimate dual-threat running back, give the Buckeyes one of the most dangerous scoring attacks in the nation.

If ever there were a moment for Sparty to come through with a legendary defensive effort, it’s this Saturday. Of course, Brian Lewerke will also need to play his best if MSU is going to pull off this massive upset.

Interesting test for Justin Herbert and the Ducks

The Oregon Ducks are hosting the California Golden Bears Saturday night in Autzen, and Cal is backed into a corner. Having lost starting quarterback Chase Garbers, along with the first game of the season against Arizona State last Friday, the Bears will be eager to prove they’re up to the challenge.

Particularly, the matchup between Oregon’s offense, led by Justin Herbert, and Cal’s defense is one to watch. The Bears have been very good against the pass in 2019, so Herbert needs to be sharp to avoid costly turnovers. On paper, this game should be the Ducks’ for the taking. We’ll see how it plays out soon enough.

Time for the Huskies to make a statement

While Oregon is trying to dispatch Cal late Saturday, the Washington Huskies will be kicking off against Stanford, in Northern California. The Cardinal used to be one of the most formidable programs in the nation. But this year has been rough on David Shaw’s team, which isn’t good on either side of the ball.

Barring a shocking turn of events, this contest is one the Huskies should win easily. Yet we know that these conference rivalry games rarely turn into blowouts. If Washington is going to be taken seriously, however, that’s exactly what needs to happen. Look for Jacob Eason to come out slinging as he and his offense attempts to take the game over early.