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Fearless predictions: Week 5

Spotlight Game

No. 7 Florida at No. 1 Alabama (-8), 8 p.m.: Florida has had this game circled on its calendar since last December, when the Crimson Tide beat the Gators 32-12 to win the SEC title. The Gators, with John Brantley now at quarterback, had been struggling on offense this season before erupting for 48 points last week against Kentucky. Freshman Trey Burton seems to be the much-needed explosive weapon the offense was looking for, scoring six touchdowns against the Wildcats. A key will be how effective running back Jeff Demps will be. Demps bruised his left foot against Tennessee and then re-injured it against Kentucky. He had his protective boot removed this week. Florida is just 26th in total defense, but 13th against the run, giving up just 94 yards a game. The defense has also produced 14 turnovers. Alabama showed a lot by rallying from a 20-7 deficit on the road last week against Arkansas. The Crimson Tide’s defense is adjusting to nine new starters. But credit Alabama’s coaches for making the necessary adjustments at halftime last week. Ryan Mallett and the Razorbacks managed just a field goal in the second half. And Alabama’s young secondary came up with two huge interceptions late in the game. Here’s how I see the game playing out: Florida will have success moving the ball in the first half. The game will be tight well into the fourth quarter. If Alabama’s offensive line can control the Florida front, expect Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson to take control and grind out a close win. Alabama’s defense comes up with a turnover late. Alabama 23, Florida 20

The other games

No. 16 Miami (Fla.) at Clemson (+3), noon: It’s a key game for both teams. Clemson appears to be among the ACC’s elite after giving No. 10 Auburn a tough game. The same goes for Miami, which played Ohio State tough, but couldn’t overcome costly mistakes. The winner of this game builds momentum for a run at a division title. Clemson has to worry about North Carolina State and Florida State in the Atlantic, while Virginia Tech seems likely to challenge the Hurricanes for the Coastal crown. So who wins this game? As impressed as I was with Clemson’s performance at Auburn, I still think Miami has the most talent of any team in the ACC. Jacory Harris rebounded from a bad game against the Buckeyes and played well in the win at Pittsburgh. This one will be close, but Miami wins, 23-20

No. 21 Texas vs. No. 8 Oklahoma (-3.5) at the Cotton Bowl, 3:30 p.m.: It’s not a typical Texas-Oklahoma game. The Longhorns looked bad last week at home, falling to unranked UCLA 34-12. Oklahoma is unbeaten, but has struggled in three of those games. Texas’ offense is a concern. There is no running game and Garrett Gilbert has been up and down this season. That means the pressure falls on the Texas defense, which was on the field way too much against UCLA last week. Oklahoma has plenty of offensive weapons to win this game -- Landry Jones, DeMarco Murray and Ryan Broyles. Unless there is a huge turnaround for the Texas offense, it looks like Jones and Co. will eventually wear down the Longhorns’ defense. Oklahoma 27, Texas 19

No. 11 Wisconsin at No. 24 Michigan State (+1.5), 3:30 p.m.: The Big Ten opener will certainly answer some questions. The Badgers have had some closer-than-expected games this season. Are the Badgers the 11th-best in the nation? Meanwhile, the Spartans are 4-0 and have plenty of confidence after the overtime win over Notre Dame a few weeks back. Plus, Mark Dantonio, who suffered a mild heart attack after the Notre Dame win, will be coaching from the press box. Michigan State has a solid running game with Edwin Baker and Le’Veon Bell. But I’ve also been impressed with quarterback Kirk Cousins and the passing game. Wisconsin also has a strong running game with John Clay and James White. Plus, tight end Lance Kendricks has become the go-to receiver for Scott Tolzien. This should be a great game. But the Spartans will be at home and will have the emotional boost of Dantonio in the stadium. Michigan State 31, Wisconsin 27

Virginia Tech at No. 23 North Carolina State (+4), 3:30 p.m.: Virginia Tech, losers of its first two games, has now won two straight, including last Saturday’s 19-0 win on the road against Boston College. But the Hokies will be facing a much better offense and a much better quarterback this week. Russell Wilson has been sensational for the Wolfpack, throwing for 1,112 yards and 11 touchdowns thus far. North Carolina State has the 19th best passing attack in the nation. Virginia Tech hasn’t been great this season against the pass, allowing about 192 yards per game. But the Hokies have shown signs of becoming a good defense the past few weeks. I picked against the Hokies last week. But I think Wilson is the best quarterback in the ACC and North Carolina State is for real. North Carolina State 27, Virginia Tech 23

Arizona State at Oregon State (-3.5), 6:30 p.m.: Both teams have played brutal schedules. Oregon State’s two losses have come against TCU and Boise State. Arizona State lost by a point at Wisconsin and gave Oregon a game last week, falling 42-31. The Sun Devils really hurt themselves by committing seven turnovers against the Ducks. Arizona State has played fairly well defensively this season. Oregon State wide receiver James Rodgers is questionable with a concussion. So I give the advantage to Arizona State. Arizona State is fifth nationally in passing yards, with quarterback Steven Threet, who once played at Michigan, throwing for over 1,200 yards and eight touchdowns. Threet does have seven interceptions this season, but he threw for nearly 400 yards last week against the Ducks. It’s tough to go to Oregon State and win, but Arizona State will do it. Arizona State 34, Oregon State 27

No. 9 Stanford at No. 4 Oregon (-7), 8 p.m.: Too bad Florida-Alabama is being played at the same time because this is a game the entire country should see. Both teams have been impressive this season. The winner takes control of the Pac-10 race. Oregon is third in the country in total offense (560 yards a game) and third in rushing (322 yards a game). LaMichael James, who has played in three of Oregon’s four games this season, already has 455 yards and four touchdowns. Sophomore Darron Thomas has played well at quarterback, throwing for over 800 yards and 10 touchdowns. But it’s not just James and Thomas. Oregon has plenty of offensive weapons. Stanford is averaging 48 points per game. Quarterback Andrew Luck has been superb, throwing for 912 yards and 11 touchdowns. Stanford is also averaging 223 yards on the ground. I was impressed with Stanford’s defense at Notre Dame last week, holding the Irish to just 14 points. But the Oregon speed is something Stanford hasn’t seen this season. Oregon 33, Stanford 27

Notre Dame at Boston College (+2.5), 8 p.m.: Notre Dame has lost three straight, so the Irish are due. Outside of that, it looks like true freshman quarterback Chase Rettig will start for the Eagles. I’m not too confident Boston College will be able to generate enough offense to stay with Notre Dame, which can put up points with Dayne Crist, Michael Floyd and Co. Boston College’s defense is good, but I still like what Notre Dame can do offensively. I expect Montell Harris to do some damage on the ground against the Irish. These games are always close and this one probably will be as well. Notre Dame pulls away late. Notre Dame 30, Boston College 17

No. 22 Penn State at No. 17 Iowa (-7), 8:05 p.m.: Two straight seasons Penn State came into this game the higher ranked team and with Big Ten championship aspirations. In fact, Penn State was on path for a shot at the national title game in 2008 before a 24-23 loss at Kinnick Stadium. This season the roles are reversed. Iowa has the nation’s top-ranked defense, giving up 227 yards a game. The Hawkeyes are thin at running back after starter Adam Robinson, but quarterback Ricky Stanzi is playing like a senior. Penn State has problems on its offensive line and the defensive line has not lived up to expectations. Throw in true freshman quarterback Rob Bolden starting just his second road game and this appears to be an unfavorable matchup for the Nittany Lions. But strange things have happened in this series (remember the 6-4 game?). Penn State is fairly young overall and probably needs more experience before it can win this game. Iowa is a veteran group that can still challenge Ohio State for the Big Ten title. Iowa 24, Penn State 16


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