Week 5 of college football season will see the first top 10 showdown of 2020.
No. 7 Auburn travels to No. 4 Georgia in the deep south’s oldest rivalry, and that’s the high point of the schedule. The Bulldogs have won the last three meetings in this series.
No. 13 Texas A&M faces No. 2 Alabama in the only other match between teams in the top 25. This is a series that has dominated the Crimson Tide since Johnny Manziel ran a 29-24 surprise in 2012.
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Each week, Sporting News will be surveying the landscape looking for Heisman competitors, on-site coaches, angry warnings, and other trends. With that in mind, get ready for Week 5.
A total of six quarterbacks have a passerby rating of more than 200 at this point, and that list includes Heisman Trophy leader Trevor Lawrence and Florida’s Kyle Trask, who made a six-TD debut against Ole Miss in Week 4.
BYU’s Zach Wilson is another of those quarterbacks, and he’s getting the Friday night stage in a shootout with Louisiana Tech. Wilson averaged 312 yards per game for two weeks, which translates to a completion percentage of 78.3 at 13.6 yards per attempt. The numbers aren’t that different from Lawrence.
BYU has a proud quarterback tradition and this season marks the 30th anniversary of Ty Detmer’s 1990 Heisman Trophy. Wilson is a marginal contender, but as long as the Cougars remain undefeated, he can stay in the mix.
Coach on site
Georgia’s Kirby Smart gave Auburn coach Gus Malzahn a not-so-disguised punch ahead of this week’s game, and that adds some flair to the matchup.
Kirby Smart calls Gus Malzahn for his coaching talk and immediately shoots the Auburn coach again.
Deep South’s oldest rivalry at its finest here pic.twitter.com/ASVzomWWEE
– SEC Mike (@MichaelWBratton) September 29, 2020
Remember, it was Malzahn who said, “We whipped the dog poop out of them, didn’t we?” after Auburn beat Georgia at 40-17 on November 11, 2017.
The Bulldogs retaliated with a 28-7 win in the SEC championship game later that season, and Georgia won the last two games in the next episode.
Which coach is under more pressure? The answer is both. Smart needs to find the right quarterback among Stetson Bennett, D’Wan Mathis and JT Daniels. Auburn were 3-1 against top 10 teams last season and the Tigers haven’t won in Athens since 2005.
We’ll see if Malzahn can have the last word.
Georgia-Auburn is one of two games with top 25 teams with a single-digit spread. The other is an American Athletic Conference matchup between Memphis No. 25 and SMU. The Tigers and Mustangs played a 54-48 shootout in prime time last year.
Memphis hasn’t played since beating Arkansas State 37:24 on September 5. The Tigers missed the last three weeks after players tested positive for COVID-19. The SMU is 3-0 and senior quarterback Shane Buechele (852 yards, 7 TDs, 2 INTs) will play even better in 2020.
Buechele and Memphis quarterback Brady White combined for 806 yards, six TDs, and no interceptions in last year’s matchup. The rematch should be even better.
Manziel led the Aggies to a 29:24 win over Alabama on November 10, 2012. Manziel’s efforts – 253 passing yards, 92 rushing yards, and three TDs – were at the heart of his Heisman Trophy campaign.
Alabama has won the last seven games with an average score of 43-21 since that legendary surprise. Manziel had 464 passes, five TDs and two interceptions in a 49-42 loss the following season.
The quarterback game has made a big difference in the six meetings since then. Overall length doesn’t vary too much – Alabama’s QBs have an advantage of 239-225 on average overtakes per game. However, Crimson Tide QBs have a TD: INT ratio of 15: 3, which is much better than the Aggies’ quarterbacks at 7: 9.
Kellen Mond has to be nearly flawless against Mac Jones for Texas A&M to have a chance.
Think about it …
On the first weekend in October there are only two 3-0 teams in the AP Top 25.
No. 8 Miami (3-0) has an open date and will face No. 1 Clemson in Death Valley on October 10th. Number 24 Pitt (3-0) is the other, and the Panthers are looking for their first 4-0 start since 2000 against North Carolina State this week.
The panthers did their business quietly in September. Preseason All-American Defensive Tackle Jaylen Twyman quit before the start of the season, but Rashad Weaver’s defensive end (3.5 sacks, 5.5 TFL) has risen in his place. Security Paris Ford (2 INTs) came as advertised and the defense only allowed 10 points per game. Imagine where they would be with Twyman.
Quarterback Kenny Pickett has improved too, and the Panthers have benefited from a consistent schedule that has not been affected by COVID-19. Will it take? As long as Pitt looks after the deal against N.C. State and Boston College can take care of, showdowns against Miami, Notre Dame No. 5 and Clemson mark the back half of the schedule.