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POWELL’S PREDICTIONS: Week 5 NCAA Football Game Picks

Penn State running back Miles Sanders (24) finds a hole in the first quarter against Illinois during an NCAA college football game Friday, Sept. 21, 2018, in Champaign, Ill. (AP Photo/Holly Hart)

Miles Sanders is a monster.

WEEK 4 REVIEW:

Last week, I said that I wanted to see the video game statistics from either Trace McSorley or Miles Sanders in what was going to be a blowout against Illinois.

Well, that’s exactly what we got.

Sanders was looking like OJ Simpson out there hitting the 200-yard mark, and also punching in three touchdowns — all of this on just 22 carries.

The kid was elite against the Fighting Illini.

McSorley didn’t have a power game, but the numbers were still pretty effective throwing 12-19 for 160 yards and three touchdowns.

Overall, the Nittany Lions concerned me at first only being up 21-17 at the half, with the third quarter ending in a 28-24 lead for PSU. But they exploded in the fourth quarter and looked really good, especially Sanders — who might I add was consistent throughout the entire game, which will be needed against Ohio State.

But here’s what concerns me for Penn State with the Buckeyes coming up this week: The Nittany Lions can’t get off to that same slow start, not against the Buckeyes. That won’t go so well, unless…

We’ll get to that later.

NO. 7 STANFORD (38) DEFEATS NO. 20 OREGON (31): What. A. Game. Stanford was down 24-7 at halftime, and then exploded in the second half to pull a 38-31 comeback win over the Ducks. It was truly an impressive comeback, especially considering Oregon outplayed them the entire game, even bringing in the better statistics in each passing, rushing and receiving, but a win is a win — especially on the road against a ranked conference opponent. Bryce Love didn’t hit the 100-yard mark in a big game, which should cause some concern as the schedule continues, but a good win for Stanford in hostile territory. They roll on still undefeated.

OLD DOMINION (49) UPSETS NO. 13 VIRGINIA TECH (35): Over the weekend, I heard a lot of criticism in the way of the Hokies’ football program due to playing a small school on the road. In Virginia Tech’s defense, I get it — Norfolk, where Old Dominion is located, is a beautiful city. (I’m originally from Virginia) So I get it. They wanted to relax and take (what was supposed to be) a break on the schedule, dominating a small school opponent and having a nice weekend in Norfolk, chillin’ on the beach. That’s all fine and dandy in my opinion. What I don’t understand is allowing a dinky school to almost put 50 on you. That’s inexcusable, you can’t defend that whatsoever. ODU quarterback Blake LaRussa was absolutely incredible, putting up a stat line of 30-49, 495 YDS, 4 TDS. But how? Virginia Tech’s defense has a lot of explaining to do in practice this week. Truly a historic and mammoth upset.

KENTUCKY (28) UPSETS NO. 14 MISSISSIPPI STATE (7): I predicted the Wildcats to upset Mississippi State last week, and that’s exactly what Kentucky gave us. After the game, Wildcats players were yelling that nobody believed in them and they keep proving doubters wrong — I just want to point out that I wasn’t one of those people. For a couple of weeks now, I’ve been seeing the potential of this team, mainly thanks to their defense and their running back Benny Snell Jr. Their defense has been fantastic this year, actually ranked 25th overall in the nation (which is great for college). The highest points they’ve allowed in a game this year is 20, and that’s easy to score more than when you have a RB like Snell Jr. on your offense. This cat has been incredible this year, putting up 540 yards and seven touchdowns in four games — watch out for this kid as the season continues, and Kentucky at that. They’re legitimate.

NO. 19 MICHIGAN (56) POUNDS NEBRASKA (10): Lord have mercy, my Wolverines looked absolutely brilliant against Nebraska, doing anything they wanted — and I loved every minute of it. Now granted, the Cornhuskers are really bad this year, and will continue to be really bad, but you can’t help but to marvel at the performance that Michigan put up no matter who the opponent was. It was incredible. Has the offense finally clicked for the Wolverines? We’ll see. Hard to knitpick the lack of power statistics in this one from Michigan, they were playing their third string with plenty of time still left to go in the game. But this one could be a turning point for Blue, getting them geared up for a potential playoff run — the talent is there.

Week 5… Let’s go!

POWELL’S TOP 25: 1. Alabama, 2. Georgia, 3. Ohio State, 4. Clemson, 5. LSU, 6. Stanford, 7. Oklahoma, 8. Notre Dame, 9. Penn State, 10. Auburn, 11. Washington, 12. West Virginia, 13. UCF, 14. Michigan, 15. Wisconsin, 16. Miami, 17. Kentucky, 18. Texas, 19. Oregon, 20. Duke, 21. Mississippi State, 22. Michigan State, 23. BYU, 24. California, 25. Texas Tech

POWELL’S PREDICTIONS (TOP 25)

NORTH CAROLINA AT NO. 16 MIAMI (THURSDAY, 8:00 PM // TV: ESPN)

ANALYSIS: The Hurricanes didn’t look like it’s typical “we dominate small schools, but can’t beat legitimate competition” self against FIU — they only won, 31-17. Regardless, they’re playing the 1-2 Tar Heels who are just okay. However, UNC has potential, upsetting Pittsburgh by a 38-35 score last weekend. Miami will win, but I see them struggling a bit in this game against a pesky North Carolina team, eventually pulling away for the victory in the fourth quarter.

PREDICTION: Miami 34, North Carolina 21

LOUISIANA AT NO. 1 ALABAMA (SATURDAY, 12:00 PM // TV: SECN)

ANALYSIS: Alabama is a 50 point favorite. Do I really need to say more?

PREDICTION: Alabama 54, Louisiana 0

SYRACUSE AT NO. 3 CLEMSON (SATURDAY, 12:00 PM // TV: ABC)

ANALYSIS: This game may be a little interesting, I’m just not sure for how long. Both teams come in with an undefeated 4-0 record, but the issue for the Orange is that they haven’t played any elite competition — no, a bad Florida State team doesn’t count. On the other end, Clemson hasn’t been showing us dominant football this season, instead showing us a bit of a decline, at least for one year. Clemson wins, but not in blowout fashion. Syracuse will cause some problems for the Tigers.

PREDICTION: Clemson 41, Syracuse 21

NO. 12 WEST VIRGINIA AT NO. 25 TEXAS TECH (SATURDAY, 12:00 PM // TV: ESPN2)

ANALYSIS: Ahh, our first matchup of the day between two Top 25 schools, and you’ve got to love this one due to two potent Big 12 offenses going up against one another. Both quarterbacks have been absolutely lighting the opposition up — keep an eye out on Texas Tech’s Alan Bowman (1557 YDS, 10 TDS) and West Virginia’s Will Grier (1117 YDS, 14 TDS) in this one. Also pay attention to both teams’ running game, they both have platoon situations. For the Red Raiders, Ta’Zhawn Henry and Demarcus Felton have combined for 433 yards and 10 touchdowns. On the Mountaineers’ side of things, you have three different running backs in action. Leddie Brown, Kennedy McKoy and Martell Pettaway have totaled 489 yards, but they only have three combined touchdowns — Grier has been punching in the majority of their scores. With all of that being said, get ready for a shootout. This one will be fun, with two balanced teams going at it.

PREDICTION: Texas Tech 49, West Virginia 42

CENTRAL MICHIGAN AT NO. 21 MICHIGAN STATE (SATURDAY, 12:00 PM // TV: FS1)

ANALYSIS: I don’t see Michigan State rolling in this one, but I don’t see them having much of a problem either. Spartans win.

PREDICTION: Michigan State 35, Central Michigan 20

TENNESSEE AT NO. 2 GEORGIA (SATURDAY, 3:30 PM // TV: CBS)

ANALYSIS: Tennessee got flat-out embarrassed last weekend by Florida, and I expect it to be a lot worse against Georgia this weekend. The Bulldogs have been absolutely dominant this season, even garnering comparisons to Alabama. I’m not going to go that far (yet), but they have been displaying beautiful football ever since the season started. Georgia continues to roll over opponents.

PREDICTION: Georgia 52, Tennessee 17

BAYLOR AT NO. 6 OKLAHOMA (SATURDAY, 3:30 PM // TV: ABC)

ANALYSIS: Other than the loss against Duke, Baylor has looked pretty good this season. Other than the near-loss against Army last week, Oklahoma has looked pretty good as well. The Bears may not be ranked, and the Sooners might be at home, but this game will be a battle. Vegas has Oklahoma being a 24-point favorite, but I have it being much closer. Expect a high-scoring affair, and give the slight advantage to Oklahoma and Kyler Murray, because Baylor will have a hard time stopping him.

PREDICTION: Oklahoma 44, Baylor 41

PITTSBURGH AT NO. 13 UCF (SATURDAY, 3:30 PM // TV: ESPNU)

ANALYSIS: This game may not interest the masses across the nation, but it sure does interest me and a lot of others in Pennsylvania — and in Orlando, obviously. QB McKenzie Milton (895 YDS, 9 TDS) and the Golden Knights’ offense have been lighting up defenses this year, but Pittsburgh comes in as a power five conference opponent. I expect it to be a competitive game for the most part, but UCF will eventually pull away for the win. It should be a fun game to watch.

PREDICTION: UCF 42, Pittsburgh 31

NO. 18 TEXAS AT KANSAS STATE (SATURDAY, 3:30 PM // TV: FS1)

ANALYSIS: After a week one loss to Maryland and having to deal with the “overrated” chants, Texas has been on point ever since. And now they face off against Kansas State on the road. Can they continue to deliver? Vegas only has Texas as a nine-point favorite, and I have to agree. Expect a close one due to the game being in Manhattan, but I eventually see the Longhorns pulling it out.

PREDICTION: Texas 38, Kansas State 28

SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI AT NO. 10 AUBURN (SATURDAY, 4:00 PM // TV: SECN)

ANALYSIS: Southern Mississippi can put up some points, but against Auburn on the road? I don’t see it going quite well for them.

PREDICTION: Auburn 43, Southern Mississippi 17

NO. 14 MICHIGAN AT NORTHWESTERN (SATURDAY, 4:30 PM // TV: FOX)

ANALYSIS: Michigan looked dominant against Nebraska last weekend, and might finally have the offense clicking. Now my question is, when will Shae Patterson have his breakout game? It could be in this one. I see the Wolverines with another solid offensive performance for the win, despite being on the road.

PREDICTION: Michigan 41, Northwestern 14

FLORIDA AT NO. 23 MISSISSIPPI STATE (SATURDAY, 6:00 PM // TV: ESPN)

ANALYSIS: I understand they were playing Tennessee, but the Gators looked dominant last week — and have looked really good for the season to bring them to a 3-1 record. Mississippi State was looking good until they got completely shut down by Kentucky. Needless to say, this one will be interesting, as most SEC matchups are. The Bulldogs will be tasked to stop Florida QB Feleipe Franks, which won’t be easy to do. He’s totaled 12 touchdowns this season. Strap up, folks. This is a toss-up game to the maximum degree.

PREDICTION: Florida 38, Mississippi State 34

VIRGINIA TECH AT NO. 22 DUKE (SATURDAY, 7:00 PM // TV: ESPN2)

ANALYSIS: Has Duke suddenly turned into a football school? Not only are they sitting with an undefeated 4-0 record, but they’ve beaten brand-name schools as well — oh, and they know how to score too. (150 points in four games) And then you have Virginia Tech, who will try to recover from an embarrassing defeat to small school Old Dominion last weekend. I have the Blue Devils taking advantage of the pain, and getting a 5-0 record in a close one.

PREDICTION: Duke 37, Virginia Tech 30

NO. 4 OHIO STATE AT NO. 9 PENN STATE (SATURDAY, 7:30 PM // TV: ABC)

ANALYSIS: Oh man, you talk about a main event. Two Top 10 teams in a Big Ten rivalry game between Ohio State and Penn State — in State College. As I was saying earlier though, the Nittany Lions can’t get off to a slow start against the Buckeyes like they have against other opponents this season. OSU’s offense is way too potent for that. Quarterback Dwayne Haskins (1194 YDS, 16 TDS) has been absolutely lighting up defenses this year, and he will certainly get his regardless of how good a defense is. So what does that mean exactly? Not only does Penn State need to get off to a quick start, but they also need to be prepared for a shootout, or do they? If you recall back in 2016, PSU shut down the Buckeyes and pulled out a 24-21 victory — in State College. If the defense can once again minimize Ohio State, letting Miles Sanders pound the rock should be enough to pull out another squeaker. (The Buckeyes are tied for 68th in the nation in rushing defense.) Personally, I don’t see that happening with Penn State having the 60th best defense in the country, and Haskins and Co. are just too good and poised for a playoff run, especially with Urban Meyer back. Like I said, this will be a shootout and a close game, but I don’t see the Nittany Lions keeping up enough. However, if this game is low-scoring and turns into a defensive battle, keep an eye out for a Penn State victory. Until then, give me the Buckeyes in a shootout.

PREDICTION: Ohio State 47, Penn State 41

NO. 7 STANFORD AT NO. 8 NOTRE DAME (SATURDAY, 7:30 PM // TV: NBC)

ANALYSIS: Bryce Love has been a bit of a disappointment this year, but Stanford quarterback K.J. Costello (1056 YDS, 10 TDS) has been delivering. And the Cardinal proved that they should be among the elite with their incredible comeback against Oregon on the road last weekend. So my question in this game is: Can Notre Dame prove they’re not overrated? They beat a Michigan team in its very first game with a brand new quarterback and an offense that was no where close to clicking — their next three opponents were Ball State, Vanderbilt and Wake Forest. The Fighting Irish have a lot to prove to me in this game, should be a fun one in South Bend.

PREDICTION: Stanford 31, Notre Dame 27

NO. 20 BYU AT NO. 11 WASHINGTON (SATURDAY, 7:30 PM // TV: FOX)

ANALYSIS: BYU can play some ball, and that’s why they’re now in the Top 25. This coming after victories against name-brand schools Arizona and No. 6 Wisconsin. Despite the game being in Seattle, Washington needs to be on serious upset alert, especially since they didn’t look so good against Arizona State at home last week. However, not only is this game in Seattle, but the Huskies also have a strong statistical advantage. BYU makes it close, but I see Washington pulling out another tough game.

PREDICTION: Washington 31, BYU 28

SOUTH CAROLINA AT NO. 17 KENTUCKY (SATURDAY, 7:30 PM // TV: SECN)

ANALYSIS: I hope South Carolina fans know that this isn’t the same Kentucky team they’re accustomed to — these kids can play. The Gamecocks will have a massive problem with Wildcats’ RB Benny Snell Jr., who has rushed for 540 yards and seven touchdowns in just four games. And good luck to South Carolina getting around that dominant defense. Kentucky makes yet another statement in this game, and rolls all over the Gamecocks.

PREDICTION: Kentucky 42, South Carolina 13

OLE MISS AT NO. 5 LSU (SATURDAY, 9:00 PM // TV: ESPN)

ANALYSIS: We have another interesting matchup in the SEC. Ole Miss’ competition hasn’t been the best for their 3-1 record, but they did beat a now ranked Texas Tech in week one. But with it being in Baton Rouge, and it being LSU that they’re up against, how can I pick against the Tigers? Keep an eye out on Rebels quarterback Jordan Ta’amu though, he’s been great this year with 1,359 yards and 10 touchdowns — including 76 points on Southern Illinois and 47 on Texas Tech. He can make it a game, but man, LSU’s defense is just too good. Give me LSU, with Ta’amu at least doing a little something to make it a bit fascinating.

PREDICTION: LSU 38, Ole Miss 21

NO. 19 OREGON AT NO. 24 CALIFORNIA (SATURDAY, 10:30 PM // TV: FS1)

ANALYSIS: To close out our Saturday night, we have a fun Pac-12 Top 25 game, with the Ducks only coming in as a three-point favorite. California is at home and they’ve beaten legitimate competition, but Oregon has the clear statistical advantage. Needless to say, this game is pretty balanced on paper. For example: The Golden Bears will have their hands full with quarterback Justin Herbert (1186 YDS, 13 TDS), but California has the defense to stop him. Enjoy your Saturday night, and you will.

PREDICTION: Oregon 31, California 28

LAST WEEK’S PREDICTIONS:

No. 10 Penn State over Illinois (CORRECT — Penn State won, 63-24)

No. 16 UCF over Florida Atlantic (CORRECT — UCF won, 56-36)

No. 1 Alabama over No. 22 Texas A&M (CORRECT — Alabama won, 45-23)

No. 2 Georgia over Missouri (CORRECT — Georgia won, 43-29)

No. 3 Clemson over Georgia Tech (CORRECT — Clemson won, 49-21)

No. 4 Ohio State over Tulane (CORRECT — Ohio State won, 49-6)

No. 5 Oklahoma over Army (CORRECT — Oklahoma won, 28-21)

No. 6 LSU over Louisiana Tech (CORRECT — LSU won, 38-21)

No. 20 Oregon over No. 7 Stanford (WRONG — Stanford won, 38-31)

No. 8 Notre Dame over Wake Forest (CORRECT — Notre Dame won, 56-27)

No. 9 Auburn over Arkansas (CORRECT — Auburn won, 34-3)

No. 10 Washington over Arizona State (CORRECT — Washington won, 27-20)

No. 12 West Virginia over Kansas State (CORRECT — West Virginia won, 35-6)

No. 13 Virginia Tech over Old Dominion (WRONG — Old Dominion won, 49-35)

Kentucky over No. 14 Mississippi State (CORRECT — Kentucky won, 28-7)

No. 15 Oklahoma State over Texas Tech (WRONG — Texas Tech won, 41-17)

Texas over No. 17 TCU (CORRECT — Texas won, 31-16)

No. 18 Wisconsin over Iowa (CORRECT — Wisconsin won, 28-17)

No. 19 Michigan over Nebraska (CORRECT — Michigan won, 56-10)

No. 21 Miami over Florida International (CORRECT — Miami won, 31-17)

No. 23 Boston College over Purdue (WRONG — Purdue won, 30-13)

No. 24 Michigan State over Indiana (CORRECT — Michigan State won, 35-21)

No. 25 BYU over McNeese (CORRECT — BYU won, 30-3)

LAST WEEK’S RECORD: 19-4

SEASON RECORD: 71-14

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