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College Football: Previewing the Biggest Games in Week 5

Week 5 of the College Football season is a few days away, and after an eventful week 4, this weekend features intriguing matchups that can impact the College Football Playoff picture. The prominent games in week 5 are previewed and analyzed.

No. 11 Notre Dame vs No. 17 Duke

Image featuring Duke quarterback Riley Leonard. Image courtesy of Duke

ESPN College Gameday will emanate from Duke University for the first time ever when the Fighting Irish travels to Durham, NC to do battle with the Blue Devils.

Duke is in year two under head coach Mike Elko, as the Blue Devils have won eight out of their last nine regular-season games dating back to 2022. Junior quarterback Riley Leonard is aiming to lead Duke to their second victory against a ranked opponent in 2023 (vs. then No. 9 Clemson in week 1). Leonard is coming off a productive outing against UConn on the road last weekend, as he amassed 248 passing yards, a touchdown and led the team in rushing with 30 yards (7.5 per rush).

Alongside Leonard on offense is senior rusher Jordan Waters, who has tallied 258 total rushing yards, 7 touchdowns with a per carry average of 6.6 in 2023, respectively. In 2023, the Blue Devils offense have posted 28-plus points in every matchup, defensively, the defense haven’t given up more than 14 points in any of the four games they’ve played so far.

Notre Dame on the other hand are coming off a heartbreaking home loss to Ohio State this past Saturday night. The Fighting Irish fell to the Buckeyes after failing to stop Ohio State running back Chip Trayanum from plunging into the end zone at the goal line with one second remaining in the contest. Now, the Irish must turn their attention to an upstart, confident Duke team that is clicking on all cylinders.

The Fighting Irish will need star grad transfer quarterback Sam Hartman to lead them to victory in a likely riotous crowd at Wallace Wade Stadium. Hartman has tossed for 14 touchdowns with zero interceptions in 2023. Alongside Hartman offensively is halfback Audric Estime (591 rush yards, leads nation) and wideouts Chris Tyree (241 reception yards, leads team), Jayden Thomas (15 yards per catch) and Jaden Greathouse (3 touchdowns).

This matchup between two top 20 teams will likely have College Football Playoff implications. Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman and the Irish can get back on track with a road victory against a ranked Duke team. The Blue Devils can strengthen their playoff chances if they can beat one of the more complete teams in the country in Notre Dame.

Duke is 2-5 all-time against the Fighting Irish.

No. 8 USC vs. Colorado

Colorado head coach Deion Sanders and the Buffaloes fell out of the top-25 rankings (prev. No. 19) after suffering a loss to Oregon last weekend 42-6. The Buffaloes were without star wideout/defensive back Travis Hunter, as he recovers from a lacerated liver injury due to a late hit from Colorado State defensive back Henry Blackburn in week 3. The Buffaloes struggled on both sides of the ball against a high-powered Oregon team led by Heisman hopeful quarterback Bo Nix.

Nix tossed for 276 passing yards, three touchdowns with a completion percentage of 84 percent, respectively. Overall, the Ducks produced 522 yards of total offense to the Buffaloes 199 yards.

Colorado junior quarterback Shedeur Sanders had his worst statistical outing this season against Oregon, as he posted only 159 passing yards and a touchdown. Sanders was sacked 7 times in the affair as the Buffaloes offensive line couldn’t handle the Ducks pass rush led by Oregon senior defensive end Jordan Burch (2 sacks).

Now, the Buffaloes return to Boulder, Colorado to battle 2022 Heisman winner quarterback Caleb Williams and USC. The Trojans are fresh off a road victory against Arizona State led by Notre Dame transfer quarterback Drew Pyne, 42-28. Williams currently leads the nation in passing efficiency (223.07) and is second in passing touchdowns (15), respectively.

The Buffaloes defensively have given up 1,927 yards of total offense this season, as they prepare to face one of the nation’s top offenses orchestrated by USC head coach Lincoln Riley. Colorado will need to garner supreme pressure upfront if they want to rattle Williams and contain halfback MarShawn Lloyd (8.9 yards per rush).

This weekend marks the second consecutive week that Deion Sanders’s team will face an offense that is ranked top 3 in the country in total offense (Oregon ranked 2nd, USC ranked 3rd).

No. 24 Kansas vs No. 3 Texas

The Longhorns will welcome the Jayhawks into Austin, Texas as these two ranked Big-12 teams do battle for the right to stay undefeated.

The Jayhawks are in their third season under head coach Lance Leipold, as he led Kansas to their first bowl game appearance since 2008 by having competed in the 2022 Liberty Bowl against Arkansas. Kansas is led by junior dual-threat pass thrower Jalon Daniels, who has tallied 705 passing yards, 5 touchdowns with a 74.7 percent completion percentage (career-high) in 2023. Daniels along with halfback Devin Neal (6.9 yards per rush, 5 touchdowns) and wideouts Luke Grimm ( 3 touchdowns, leads team) and Lawrence Arnold (246 reception yards, leads team) make for a prolific offensive attack.

The Longhorns are coming off a dominant victory over the reeling Baylor Bears this past weekend. Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers has amassed 1,033 passing yards along with 9 touchdowns and zero interceptions in 2023. This matchup is the Longhorns’ second-toughest affair this season after defeating then No. 3 Alabama in Tuscaloosa back in week 2.

Texas has yet to compete in the College Football Playoff since its inception in 2014, but they will have a chance to if they win the remainder of their games and grab ahold of the Big-12 championship. The journey for the Longhorns back to national title contention continues this weekend against a rising Jayhawks football team.

No. 13 LSU vs No. 20 Ole Miss

Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin and the Rebels aim to bounce back after losing to Alabama last weekend on the road. The Rebels struggled offensively, especially on the ground. As a team, the Rebel offense produced only 56 rushing yards compared to Alabama’s 131. Ole Miss dual-threat junior quarterback Jaxon Dart couldn’t muster much on the ground, as he tallied only six yards on 12 rushing attempts.

The Rebels hope that senior star pass catcher Tre Harris returns to full form after suffering a knee injury in the first quarter against Tulane in week 2. It was reported that Harris underwent knee surgery after the injury, but he did play a few snaps against Alabama last weekend. Harris leads the Ole Miss wideout room with 5 touchdowns on eight receptions.

The Tigers have been clicking since suffering a 45-24 loss to Florida State in week 1. Since that game, LSU have outscored their opponents 147-55, including a hard fought home victory against Arkansas quarterback K.J Jefferson and the Razorbacks last weekend.

LSU senior quarterback Jayden Daniels continues to post abundant numbers, as he currently ranks fifth in the nation in passing yards (1,296) and leads the Tigers to tenth place in total offense (42.8 points per game), respectively. Daniels also averages 4.3 yards per rush, as he currently has the most rushing attempts on offense (45). Junior wideout Malik Nabers has proven to be one of the nation’s top-tier pass catchers, as he currently averages 130.8 receptions yards per game (3rd in the nation) along with 5 touchdown grabs. Alongside Daniels and Nabers is junior halfback Logan Diggs. Diggs is having a solid 2023 season on the ground by averaging 6.7 yards per carry (14th in the nation) as the lead back in Baton Rouge.

The Ole Miss defense will have their hands full against a dynamic Tigers offense that is a threat through the air and on the ground. Rebels defensive coordinator Pete Golding (served as Alabama’s defensive coordinator from ’18-’22) and his defense have given up ample passing yardage against backup Tulane quarterback Kai Horton (237 yards), Georgia Tech transfer pass thrower Haynes King (307) and limited Alabama first-year starting quarterback Jalen Milroe (224), respectively.

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