A quick primer on who, what and where to look for as we head into Week 6 of the 2019 college football season.
WEEK 6 STORYLINES
- For the first time in the 2019 campaign, we have three ranked-on-ranked matchups on the same day: No. 14 Iowa at No. 19 Michigan; No. 7 Auburn at No. 10 Florida; and No. 25 Michigan State at No. 4 Ohio State. Another baker’s dozen Associated Press Top 25 teams (Top 26 this week, actually, as Michigan State and Texas A&M are tied for 25th) are in action as well, leaving seven ranked schools idle (No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Clemson, No. 17 Utah, No. 20 Arizona State, No. 22 Wake Forest, No. 23 Virginia, No. 25 Texas A&M). Not surprisingly, ESPN‘s College GameDay traveling roadshow is parked in Gainesville for the Top 10 matchup between the Gators and Tigers this weekend.
- There were 24 teams that entered Week 5 undefeated; with a half-dozen going down in defeat last weekend, the number has now been pared to 18. The Big Ten (Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota) and SEC (Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, LSU) account for more than half of the unbeatens; conversely, the Pac-12 is the only Power Five conference without at least one as Cal suffered its first loss of the season at the hands of Arizona State Friday night. Four unbeatens are on a bye this weekend (Alabama, Clemson, Wake Forest, Appalachian State), while, obviously, the number will be reduced by at least one as 5-0 Auburn and 5-0 Florida tangle in The Swamp. Another four unbeatens face teams with one loss on the season: Ohio State (5-0) hosts Michigan State (4-1); Baylor (4-0) travels to Kansas State (3-1); Iowa (4-0) makes the trek to Michigan (3-1); and LSU (4-0) welcomes Utah State (3-1). The remaining unbeatens will square off with teams at .500 or below.
- Some will say, at this point in the season, it’s a two-person race in the chase for the 2019 Heisman Trophy between quarterbacks Jalen Hurts of No. 6 Oklahoma and Tua Tagovailoa of No. 1 Alabama. Most, though, would say it’s at least a four-person fight, adding another pair of quarterbacks — No. 5 LSU’s Joe Burrow, No. 4 Ohio State’s Justin Fields — into the mix, with a handful adding No. 8 Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor to make it a quintet. Could there be some sort of separation in Week 6? It’s doubtful, even as three of the prime contenders — Hurts (Kansas), Burrow (Utah State), Taylor (Kent State) — face inferior (vastly in a couple of cases) competition while another, Fields, will face the toughest defense he’s seen yet in No. 25 Michigan State. Tagovailoa, meanwhile, is on a bye this weekend. It should be noted that, almost exactly a year ago at this time, Tagovailoa was a heavy Heisman favorite with 6/5 odds; the then-sophomore was a “gargantuan” favorite at 1/10 in early November as well. The player who went on to win the 2018 Heisman, Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray, was fourth in that late-September set of odds at 8/1 and second at 6/1 a month and a half later.
SIX-PACK OF MUST-SEE GAMES
- No. 7 Auburn (-3) at No. 10 Florida — While both teams come into this game unbeaten, they’ve reached this point making the trek down decidedly different paths. The Tigers have beaten three Power Five teams, including a pair of ranked squads, along with two Group of Five teams. The Gators have also beaten three Power Five teams, although all three are at .500 or below. UF’s other two wins came against members of the FCS. … Auburn has won the last three games versus Florida, although the most recent meeting came in 2006. From 1945-2002, the two SEC schools met every year. … Freshman quarterback Bo Nix set career-highs in passing yards (335) and rushing yards (56) in AU’s Week 5 win over Mississippi State. Nix has not thrown an interception in the last four games after throwing two in the opener.
- No. 25 Michigan State at No. 4 Ohio State (-20) — Ohio State is third in the country in scoring (52.4 ppg) while Michigan State is 14th in keeping teams off the scoreboard (15 ppg). The biggest difference between the two teams? OSU’s 8.6 ppg allowed is fourth among FBS schools and MSU’s offense is a middling 60th in scoring (31.4 ppg). … Matchup to watch: OSU’s seventh-ranked rushing attack (281.6 ypg) vs. MSU’s fourth-ranked run defense (57 ypg). … In six of their last seven meetings, both of the programs have been ranked. The Buckeyes have won five of those matchups, with the Spartans’ two wins coming in 2015 (in Columbus) and 2013 (in the Big Ten title game) when MSU was the lower-ranked team.
- No. 14 Iowa at No. 19 Michigan (-3½) — Michigan looked wobbly its first three games of the season before woodshedding a woefully inept Rutgers team that saw its head coach fired the next day. Is it a win that turns U-M’s season around, or is it merely a one-game reprieve before the talk of the temperature under Jim Harbaugh‘s seat heats back up? … U-M’s offense has been shaky for most of the season, and this week they’ll go up against an Iowa defense that allows just 8.5 points per game, the third-best figure at this level of football. … Dating back to 2009, the Wolverines have lost five of six in the series. Those five losses to the Hawkeyes, though, came by a combined 24 points. … In the last four games played vs. UI in the Big House, U-M is 3-1.
- Baylor at Kansas State (-2) — Baylor is one of four undefeated teams currently unranked, with the others being Memphis, Appalachian State and Minnesota. Outside of Florida (which plays a higher-ranked school), they also have the honor of being the only unbeaten school that is an underdog in Week 6. The biggest reason why they are unranked? Their four wins came against an FCS school and three FBS teams with a combined record of 3-10. … Kansas State was ranked for the first time this season following a Week 3 road win over Mississippi State before they dropped out of the Top 25 after a Week 5 loss at Oklahoma State. … The Wildcats have lost five of the last seven games they’ve played against the Bears.
- No. 18 UCF (-4) at Cincinnati — If you were to tell me this game should be a couple spots higher on this list, you wouldn’t get much of an argument from me, at all, as it’s that huge when it comes to the Group of Five’s chase for its lone New Year’s Six berth. Obviously, it would also give the winner a leg up in the American Athletic Conference East race, although this game will serve as Cincinnati’s conference opener (UCF beat woebegone UConn by 35 points a week ago). … One notable tidbit: Cincinnati has lost 12 straight games against ranked teams, with their last such win coming against No. 14 Pitt in early December of 2009. That upset was at Pitt; its last win over a Top 25 at Nippert Stadium? Against No. 24 South Florida in October of 2008. … The Knights have won the last three meetings in what’s been a four-game series, with the Bearcats’ lone win coming in the first-ever meeting between the two schools during UCF’s winless 2015 campaign.
- No. 11 Texas (-11) at West Virginia — Projected to finish somewhere near the bottom of the 10-team Big 12, West Virginia has surprised many by jumping out to a 3-1 record in Neal Brown’s first season in Morgantown, including back-to-back wins over Power Five schools (OK, one was Kansas, but still). … With its lone loss through four games coming against No. 5 LSU, meanwhile, Texas is exactly who we thought they were: a high-powered offense (41.8 ppg, 13th nationally) and, due to experienced personnel losses, a middle-of-the-road defense (25.5 ppg, tied for 62nd with… West Virginia). … The Mountaineers have won five of the eight games the two schools have played, although the Longhorns own a 2-1 record in Morgantown’s Milan Puskar Stadium, including a 28-14 win in 2017.
- Liberty (-6) at New Mexico State — Consider this one a last-call bonus brew. These two football independents played twice last season, marking the first time since 1998 (UMass-UConn) that two Division I schools faced each other twice in the same season. They square off again in Week 6 this year… and then again in the 2019 regular-season finale, marking the first time since World War II that two D-I teams have faced each other twice in back-to-back regular seasons. The Flames and Aggies split last year’s extended doubleheader, with the home team winning each contest.
BEST/WORST WAGERS OF WEEK 6
- BEST: No. 6 Oklahoma (-31½) at Kansas. Oklahoma has beaten Kansas 14 straight times. Of the last eight losses for the Jayhawks in that streak, six have come by 32 or more points. And then there’s this: The Sooners are tied for fourth in the nation in rushing offense at 293.5 yards per game, the Jayhawks are tied for 113th in rushing defense at 211.4 ypg. Give up the points on the road and take Lincoln Riley’s squad.
- WORST: No. 25 Michigan State at No. 4 Ohio State (-20). Suffice to say, OSU is the better team and should win relatively handily. I just can’t see them winning by three or more touchdowns against that MSU defense. Just once in the last 13 meetings in Columbus have the Buckeyes beaten the Spartans by 20-plus points in The Horseshoe… and that was OSU’s 48-3 waxing of MSU last season. I will have to say this, though: It won’t surprise me if this is a 17-14 OSU win… or a 52-20 OSU win, which makes me wonder why the hell I actually chose this game.
- COVER SPECIAL: Georgia (-25) at Tennessee. Forget the fact that UGA is a run-heavy team, they are right now at least four touchdowns better at Neyland Stadium against a UT team whose only win came against an in-state FCS program — and who also suffered one of the worst upset losses in college football history as well as an embarrassing shellacking at the hands of Florida two weeks ago. The last time the Bulldogs traveled to Knoxville, they beat the Volunteers 41-0.
HEISMAN TROPHY INDEX
- Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma (Last week: No. 1) — Hurts has thrown for exactly three touchdown passes in each of the Sooners’ first four games, although he did throw his first pick of the season in the Week 5 win over Texas Tech. The grad transfer from Alabama still leads the nation in pass efficiency rating at 249.9 and is second in total offense at 434.5 yards per game.
- Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama (No. 2) — Tagovailoa has 23 touchdown passes on the season, including a school-record six in a Week 5 win over Ole Miss. Of that FBS-best total, 16 have come in the past three games.
- Joe Burrow, QB, LSU (No. 3) — LSU was idle in Week 5, so we’ll let this tidbit from last week’s Cheat Sheet stand: With 17 touchdown passes in four games this season — he had a school-record six in the Week 4 blowout of Vanderbilt — Burrow now has 33 in 17 appearances since transferring from Ohio State to LSU; in the two years prior to his arrival, Tiger quarterbacks accounted for 29 in 25 games.
- Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State (No. 4) — The first-year starter’s 23 touchdowns responsible for (16 passing, seven rushing) are second-most at the FBS level behind Tagovailoa’s 25. The rushing scores are tied for the most among quarterbacks with Navy’s Malcolm Perry.
- Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin (No. 5) — In the closer-than-expected win over Northwestern, Taylor failed to score at least two rushing touchdowns for the first time this season. His eight scores on the ground are fifth in the country, while his 559 yards rushing are tied for seventh.
- Sam Ehlinger, QB, Texas (No. 6) — As was the case with Burrow’s team, Texas was on a bye in Week 5, so this one’s updated from a week ago: Ehlinger leads all Big 12 quarterbacks with 15 touchdown passes — he’s thrown four TDs in three different games — although he tossed his first interception of the season in Week 4.
- Chuba Hubbard, RB, Oklahoma State (No. 9) — Hubbard’s 938 yards rushing are not only tops in the country, but they are nearly 300 yards more than the No. 2 rusher (Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins‘ 654). He’s tied with SMU’s Xavier Jones with 10 rushing touchdowns, and his 200.2 all-purpose yards per game lead the nation as well.
- Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson (No. 7) — The preseason Heisman favorite has put up back-to-back pick-less games after throwing five in the season’s first three games (he had four in 15 games as a true freshman last season). His 143.7 pass efficiency rating is 57th nationally. If he doesn’t crank his game back up post-haste, he’ll find his way off this list — and one could make a compelling case that he should be off already.
- Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia (unranked) — Fromm’s Heisman candidacy is hurt on a pair of intertwined fronts: One, he’s boringly efficient (completes nearly 76 percent of his passes and hasn’t thrown a pick in four games, but has just six touchdown passes) and, two, he plays in a run-heavy offense (he’s attempted just 82 passes this season). On the plus side, he plays quarterback for the third-ranked team in the country and will get plenty of national exposure going down the stretch.
- Chase Young, DE, Ohio State (unranked) — For the first time this year, the token non-QB/RB holding down the No. 10 spot is a defensive player, although, if the junior keeps piling up the numbers the way he has the first quarter-plus of the season, he’ll make his way higher up the list on his own accord. In five games, Young’s eight sacks lead the country, while his 1.7 tackles for loss per game are tied for eighth. And after Mark Dantonio‘s epic quote about Young this week — “I would say I really haven’t thought of him in the human context” — how could you not include him?
(DROPPED OUT: Washington State QB Anthony Gordon (No. 8), Alabama WR Jerry Jeudy (No. 10))
WEEK 6 BRAZEN PREDICTIONS
BRYAN FISCHER (@BryanDFischer): Utah State’s Jordan Love goes into Baton Rouge and throws for five touchdowns (but also two picks) in a close loss to LSU, while Auburn runs Florida out of The Swamp in a convincing win. Also, keep an eye on Western Michigan-Toledo, which might be the highest-scoring game of the weekend. #MACtion indeed.
ZACH BARNETT (@zach_barnett): Michigan beats Iowa by two scores. The thing about narratives is they often run in conflict with reality. Though many in college football would love nothing more than to throw dirt on the Jim Harbaugh era of Michigan football, I don’t believe the maize and blue have completely forgotten how to play football. While I still believe there is trouble down the tracks for Michigan, I don’t believe they’ll run into it on Saturday. Wolverines 28, Hawkeyes 17.
JOHN TAYLOR (@CFTalk): The top four quarterbacks in our Heisman Index that aren’t idle this weekend — Hurts, Burrow, Fields, Ehlinger — have combined for 60 touchdown passes in 17 total games in 2019, an average of 3.5 touchdowns per player per game. This weekend, those four quarterbacks will combine for at least 20 touchdown passes in their four Week 6 games. Fields going up against Michigan State’s defense (six passing TDs in five games) makes me nervous, but that’s why they’re brazen predictions, right?
NFL DRAFT PROSPECT WATCH
This week, our pals over at Rotoworld focus most of their Week 6 attention on matchups in the trenches. For the entire extensively-detailed piece, click HERE.