After a couple of weeks of ho-hum
Thursday night contests, Week 5 kicks off with a treat. No. 8 Stanford will
make the trip to the northwest to face a talented Washington team in what
figures to be a very intriguing matchup. A Stanford win reinforces their case
to be a Pac 12 contender, but a loss gives back all the gains they earned from
their win over the USC Trojans.
With the Stanford-Washington game as
the appetizer, let’s have a look at the four most important games on the menu
for Week 5:
Stanford Cardinal at Washington Huskies Odds: Stanford -7
This game is worthy of top billing in
college football for Week 5 because it offers a litmus test for the
Cardinal. Stanford upset USC on home turf in Palo Alto but now the boys from
one of America's most prestigious academic institutions have a much bigger
bulls-eye on their backs. They are more of a target and they must go on the
road to Seattle to face a revved-up opponent.
Washington is banged up on its
offensive line but the Huskies' defense has become a much better unit under the
guidance of first-year coordinator Justin Wilcox, who confounded Oregon's
formidable offense when he was the defensive coordinator at Boise State in
Wilcox, fresh from a tour of duty at
the University of Tennessee, has seen what college football is like in the
Southeastern Conference. He seems to have instilled a certain degree of
toughness in the Huskies' defense.
If Washington can rattle Stanford
quarterback Josh Nunes and force him to commit turnovers -– Nunes did throw two
interceptions in what was a very ordinary performance against USC -– the Huskies
can win this game, provided that they don't turn the ball over themselves.
Stanford's defense will play well but if Washington can shut down the
Cardinal offense, an upset could be in the making.
Ohio State Buckeyes at Michigan State Spartans Odds: Michigan State -2.5
In other years this would be an even
bigger game, but since Ohio State is not eligible for the postseason, it's only
huge for the Spartans — who have to recover from the beat down they suffered on
home soil against Notre Dame a few weeks ago.
Pound for pound, Ohio State has a
better overall collection of skill-position players. Quarterback Braxton Miller
is far more talented than Michigan State signal caller Andrew Maxwell and he's
got better receivers to work with too. However, Michigan State has a vastly
superior defense – especially at the linebacker positions. The matchup between
Ohio State's offense and Michigan State's defense will be worth the price of
admission alone but it's going to be the other confrontation –- the one between
Ohio State's defense and Michigan State's offense -– that will likely tell the
tale in East Lansing.
Texas Longhorns at Oklahoma State Cowboys Odds: Texas -2.5
This is Texas' first true test of the
2012 season. The Longhorns did not get tested at all against Wyoming, New
Mexico, and Ole Miss. Now they will play a night game in the Big 12 Conference
against the league's defending champion.
Oklahoma State cannot begin to match
Texas' strength and power in the trenches but the Cowboys do have very good
skill players and if they can hit big plays in the passing game, the Longhorns
will be forced to keep pace. That's a risky proposition for Texas and unproven
quarterback David Ash.
The Longhorns cannot fall behind by
more than 10 points in this game and they need to have a lead heading into the
final six to eight minutes of the fourth quarter. If the Pokes can turn this
into a shootout, they'll probably win. If Texas can dictate the pace and keep
this a conservative contest, they'll be in better shape to earn the victory.
Tennessee Volunteers at Georgia Bulldogs Odds: Georgia -14
Tennessee has big-time talent but a
pronounced lack of mental toughness. Some people thought they were over the
hump after an impressive opening win against N.C. State, but a one-sided home
loss to Florida brought them back to reality.
The Volunteers will get one more chance
to show a level of resolve that has been largely absent under current head
coach Derek Dooley. If the Vols can't win seven games this season, Dooley could
very well be out of a job when December rolls around. With Mississippi State
and Alabama upcoming, this almost becomes a must-win for the Vols.
However, Georgia has already shown that
their defense might be on par with LSU's and Alabama's. That’s a scary thought
for the Vols considering how Florida manhandled them.
Time is ticking on the Dooley era. Either earn a
signature win in a spot like this or start looking for a new job.