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Top storylines for college football Week 5

Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

There are some monumentally important games that will have lasting national ramifications in store for fans in college football Week 5.

Five ranked-versus-ranked matchups highlight what should be a thrilling Saturday of action. But we start by taking a look at the only Thursday night game on the schedule, as a freshman quarterback looks to begin a new era at one of the nation’s top programs.

These are the top storylines to keep your eye on for college football Week 5.

The N’Kosi Perry Era begins in Miami

So, it’s not official yet at the time of this writing, but all signs point to Miami turning its offense over to freshman quarterback N’Kosi Perry. Last Saturday, Mark Richt inserted the young man into the lineup after two drives, and he proceeded to have an excellent game passing the ball in the team’s 31-17 victory.

The Hurricanes are hosting North Carolina on Thursday night at Hard Rock Stadium. It’s the perfect time to get this freshman acclimated to being “the man,” as the Tar Heels aren’t exactly dominating opposing offenses this year. Assuming Perry does start, he’ll cement himself as the leader of the offense with another strong showing.

Can Syracuse possibly pull off another upset?

A couple weeks back, Syracuse stunned the nation by taking Florida State behind the woodshed. During that game, Orange fans mocked the Seminoles by chanting, “We want ‘Bama!” Well, it’s not Alabama this weekend, but it’s darn close.

Clemson enters Week 5 as the No. 3 team in the nation and finally made the decision to start freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence. He provides so much more to the Tigers’ passing game, and we have a hard time believing Syracuse’s secondary will be able to slow this attack down.

That said, the Orange are undefeated. And given the upsets we saw last weekend we’re not ruling anything out. Ever.

Offensive fireworks display set to go off in Lubbock

West Virginia and Texas Tech are set to clash early Saturday in Lubbock, Texas, and it should be a fun game to watch. These two teams know how to put points on the scoreboard and pile up yardage.

Heisman candidate Will Grier has been on fire to open the season, throwing 13 touchdowns in his first three games. He’ll be trying to outscore the potent Red Raiders offense and Alan Bowman, who’s put up 1,002 yards and seven touchdowns the past two games.

Texas Tech is coming off an impressive blowout win over Oklahoma State and should give the Mountaineers all they can handle. And quite possibly more.

Tennessee goes from frying pan into fire

The Volunteers had a chance to make a statement last weekend at home against Florida. They sure did, but it was the kind of statement no team wants to make.

Now Tennessee hits the road for a date with Georgia — a team that’s been embarrassing every opponent it’s faced so far this year. The line on this game is ridiculous — the Bulldogs are favored to win by 32 points.

So, is there any hope at all for the Vols here? We highly doubt it. Georgia has incredible playmakers on both sides of the ball, and is at home, to boot.

Oklahoma’s defense needs some redemption

One of the craziest things that happened last Saturday was Army taking Oklahoma to the brink before Kyler Murray finally put the game away in overtime. The real crazy aspect of that game (quite aside from the fact that most people couldn’t watch it) was that the Knights ran 83 plays to 38 for Oklahoma in regulation, and held the ball for 44:51.

Needless to say, that’s not the type of defensive effort Lincoln Riley wants to see going forward. The Sooners have to be able to stop the run, and they weren’t able to do it very often against Army.

This Saturday they’ll be at home hosting Baylor, which features a pretty strong offensive attack. We don’t anticipate Oklahoma will have the same kinds of problems this weekend as it did against Army. Rather, we fully expect the Sooners to come out with a chip on their shoulder with the intention of pure domination.

First road test for suddenly relevant Longhorns

The Longhorns have been a different team ever since Maryland once again embarrassed them on the national stage to open the season. Most notably, the last two games they’ve taken down ranked teams in USC and TCU by a combined score of 68-30.

On paper, you’d think Texas would have no problem going into Manhattan this Saturday to knock off Kansas State, which lost big to both Mississippi State and West Virginia. That being said, we’ll believe it when we see it. Since Tom Herman took over last year, his team has been maddeningly inconsistent — just when you think the Longhorns are ready to take that next step forward, they fall back.

It’s going to be up to Sam Ehlinger to stay sharp in this one to keep Texas from once again falling into that pattern.

Time for Michigan to make a statement

Since losing in ugly fashion to Notre Dame in Week 1, Michigan has been on cruise control with three straight home games against pretty bad teams. Now it’s time to hit the road again, with a Week 5 trip to Ryan Field and a date with Northwestern.

Now, the Wildcats are no powerhouse. They most recently got pounded by Duke and taken out by Akron. That said, a B1G road game is never a given, and Northwestern is a scrappy squad.

The Wolverines really need to make a statement with a convincing road win. So far, they have done nothing of consequence this season and are clearly a tier or two below the likes of Ohio State, Wisconsin and Penn State.

Gators and Bulldogs, oh my

Florida at Mississippi State is an underrated huge game. Both teams come into the weekend with one loss, which just so happened to be dealt to them by Kentucky. In particular, the Bulldogs were bullied by the Wildcats last Saturday — Kentucky held them to just seven points in a rousing defensive effort that saw gain a total of 201 yards and 11 first downs.

The SEC is ridiculous. One more conference loss for either team here could potentially be the nail in the coffin for any hope of making it to the SEC Championship Game.

Given that both of these teams features very strong defenses overall, it’s going to come down to the play of Nick Fitzgerald and Feleipe Franks (who’s been red hot, by the way) to determine the winner.

Blue Devils with chance to put rest of ACC on notice

The Duke Blue Devils are 4-0 coming into Week 5, prompting a spot on the national rankings for the first time since 2015. Now they really have a chance to make a statement with a home game against a Virginia Tech team that comes into Saturday’s game with a strong need for redemption after getting hosed by Old Dominion in one of the biggest upsets of all-time.

The Hokies have been able to put points on the board this year, but they’ll have to do that without starting quarterback Josh Jackson, who’s out for the year with a broken leg. Ryan Willis led the team on a touchdown-scoring drive last weekend and will be starting again in Week 5 in Jackson’s stead.

A desperate team is a dangerous team, and Duke won’t underestimate this opponent. Given the way the Blue Devils have been playing on defense, allowing just 15.3 points per game, we’re expecting them to move to 5-0 on the season with a big-time game that validates their ranking.

Can Kentucky keep the magic alive?

As we mentioned while discussing Florida and Mississippi State, Kentucky has been knocking off giants this year. The Wildcats will be hosting South Carolina this Saturday. The Gamecocks aren’t exactly a powerhouse in the mold of Alabama or Georgia, but this team isn’t a pushover, either.

That said, if Benny Snell Jr. can continue to pile up yardage and touchdowns like he’s been doing recently, then Kentucky has a real chance to improve to 5-0 with yet another impressive win against a good team.

Massive road test for BYU

Two weekends after stunning Wisconsin in Madison, the Cougars find themselves once again on the road against a highly ranked team. The Washington Huskies are No. 11, their only loss coming in Week 1 against Auburn — a game they nearly won.

A huge reason to be skeptical about BYU pulling off another stunning upset is that Tanner Mangum isn’t a potent passer. He only has two touchdowns on the year, and he’ll be going against a Washington defense that feasts on mediocre quarterbacks.

Though, a reason to have hope if you’re a Cougars fan is that Washington’s offense is no powerhouse. If BYU can summon an effort like the one we saw two Saturdays ago, then Washington will be susceptible to an upset.

LSU one again in the national spotlight

Remember when Ed Orgeron’s job was supposedly in jeopardy? That was a pretty common refrain before this season began. Not so much any more. The Tigers have knocked off two top-10 teams already this year and enter Week 5 with a 4-0 record.

Barring something unforeseen, LSU should improve to 5-0 when it hosts Ole Miss on ESPN in prime time Saturday night. The Tigers have employed a deadly combination of suffocating defense and a competent passing offense — something that’s lacked in recent years. They should have little trouble putting points on the board against a Rebels team that’s allowed over 36 points per game.

Cal’s defense looks to somehow slow down Justin Herbert

Oregon’s shocking collapse against Stanford last Saturday night notwithstanding, it was pretty amazing to see how the Ducks dominated the trenches for much of that contest. The strong play up front by Oregon’s offensive line against the stout Cardinal front seven was something to behold.

And of course, the Ducks have one of the most electric quarterbacks in the nation at the helm, Justin Herbert. He’s passed for 1,186 yards with 13 touchdowns this year while leading the No. 13-ranked scoring offense in the FBS.

The Cal defense comes into Saturday night’s game having looked darn impressive so far this season. It has been especially tough against the pass, allowing just over 170 yards through the air per game. If the Bears can continue to play the pass this well, then perhaps they have a legitimate chance to come away with yet another win.

Notre Dame looks to end three-game skid against Stanford

Two undefeated teams are meeting up Saturday night when Stanford takes on Notre Dame in what figures to be a season-defining battle. Recently, Stanford has had a big edge, winning its last three, and seven out of the last nine over Notre Dame.

Brian Kelly hasn’t closed the door on Brandon Wimbush starting once again after his decision to start Ian Book in his stead last weekend worked to perfection. If Wimbush is the starter, then we like Stanford to come out with the victory.

The Cardinal feature a balanced offensive attack in which receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside has emerged as a superstar. If Bryce Love can get going on the ground and the Irish struggle to bring pressure against K.J. Costello, then it might not matter who starts for Notre Dame under center.

Ohio State in Happy Valley 

As big as the Stanford-Notre Dame game is, this is the one we cannot wait to see. Ohio State traveling to Happy Valley to face Penn State has been a game we’ve circled on our calendars since the start of the season.

The Buckeyes have been unstoppable on offense so far this year. But hey! Look at that! So also has Penn State. These two teams are No. 1 and No. 2 in the nation in scoring offense, averaging a combined 110 points between them.

Dwayne Haskins is a legitimate Heisman front runner at this point, having piled up 1,194 passing yards and 17 total touchdowns, despite being pulled in blowouts. Last weekend, he threw five touchdowns in just one half of play.

Penn State still has Trace McSorley slinging the rock, and he extended his FBS-best streak of games in which he’s thrown at least one touchdown to 32 last Saturday. But if the Nittany Lions are going to pull out a win Saturday night, it’ll probably be due to the play of Miles Sanders, who’s done an amazing job filling the massive void left by Saquon Barkley.