We’re already a third of the way through the college football season, so excuse for a brief moment while I cry a little bit. OK, all good now. It seems like the season just started and here we are already over 30% of the way through. Now the matchups start taking on major significance and the specter of the College Football Playoff looms ever larger. The number of undefeated teams is getting smaller every week and with several undefeated teams going at each other this week, that number will continue to shrink. Here are the best games to watch in Week 5. All games are listen in chronological order and all times listed are Central Time. All rankings reflect the most recent AP Poll. And remember, if you’re team doesn’t make this list, it’s only because I hate them.
Thursday September 27
North Carolina @ #16 Miami
Hard Rock Stadium – Miami, FL
Why you should watch: It’s the only game of the night. Night games in Miami tend to cause problems for opposing teams (just ask Virginia Tech and Notre Dame how their night games went down there last season). After getting crushed by LSU to start the season, the Hurricanes have reeled off three wins in a row and are looking like the 2nd best team in the ACC. North Carolina meanwhile is in big trouble, with Larry Fedora squarely on the hot seat if the Heels don’t start winning soon.
Friday September 28
Memphis @ Tulane
Yulman Stadium – New Orleans, LA
Why you should watch: It’s the best of the two college games on this particular night. Memphis is 3-1 with resounding home wins over Mercer, Georgia State, and South Alabama but a close loss on the road at Navy. The Tigers boast one of the best running backs in the conference in Darrell Henderson who is just under 300 yards shy of 1,000 yards on the season. Tulane (or as one of the local radio hosts in Memphis calls them, Tulane in the Membrane) is just 1-3 with their lone win coming against FCS level Nicholls State (or as that same Memphis radio host calls them, Austin Nicholls State) and losses against Wake Forest, UAB, and Ohio State.
Saturday September 29
#12 West Virginia @ #25 Texas Tech
Jones AT&T Stadium – Lubbock, TX
Why you should watch: The first of several ranked vs. ranked matchups on the day. West Virginia is undefeated (though they did have a marquee non-conference game against NC State cancelled) and Will Grier is playing like the Heisman contender he was hyped to be. Texas Tech has bounced back from a poor start to the season against Ole Miss and sits at 3-1 after crushing Oklahoma State in Stillwater last weekend.
#14 Michigan @ Northwestern
Ryan Field – Evanston, IL
Why you should watch: Northwestern was a trendy pick to compete in the B1G before the season started, but after opening with a win against Purdue, the Wildcats dropped the ball in two straight home games with losses to Duke and Akron. Michigan has bounced back from a dismal offensive performance against Notre Dame to open the season, winning their last three by wide margins over Western Michigan, SMU, and Nebraska.
Florida @ #23 Mississippi State
Davis Wade Stadium – Starkville, MS
Why you should watch: It’s Dan Mullen’s return to Starkville. Mullen was the head coach at Mississippi State for nine seasons, where he posted a record of 69-46 before going to Gainesville to coach the Gators. His replacement is Joe Moorhead, who has fans believing that something more might be possible for the Bulldogs. However, after an impressive 3-0 start, they laid an egg last week and got smoked by Kentucky.
#4 Ohio State @ #9 Penn State
Beaver Stadium – State College, PA
Why you should watch: Big games at Penn State usually mean one thing: white out. It’s just one of the many things that sets college football apart from the NFL. Penn State has looked good this year, opening day struggles against Appalachian State notwithstanding. Ohio State has looked very good and has an impressive win against TCU on their resume. However, Penn State is undefeated at home with Trace McSorley as their QB and the last time the Buckeyes rolled into a whiteout in Happy Valley, they left with their tails between their legs. Revenge could also be a factor for the Nittany Lions, as they lost a thriller in Columbus last year.
#7 Stanford @ #8 Notre Dame
Notre Dame Stadium – South Bend, IN
Why you should watch: It’s the battle for the Legends Trophy. This game has become one of the better and more underrated rivalries in college football lately. From 2012 to 2016 every game between the two was a one score game. This year, the stakes are as high as they’ve ever been: two undefeated top 10 teams (in fact the last time there was a top 10 vs. top 10 matchup at Notre Dame Stadium was against USC in the Bush Push game way back in 2005). Also of note, despite both teams being very tough academically and each team having comparable talent, Brian Kelly is just 2-6 against Stanford in his time at Notre Dame. Last week Notre Dame’s offense finally got rolling with a switch to Ian Book at QB, while Stanford mounted an impressive 4th quarter comeback and ended up winning on the road at Oregon in OT.
#19 Oregon @ #24 Cal
California Memorial Stadium – Berkley, CA
Why you should watch: A ranked vs. ranked #Pac12AfterDark game? Sign me up. Oregon completely melted down last week against Stanford, which takes the shine off of their 3-0 start to the season (not that their schedule had been too difficult prior to that: Bowling Green, Portland State, San Jose State). Meanwhile, Cal has been flying under the radar, despite a 3-0 start to the season that includes wins over North Carolina and BYU. Justin Wilcox certainly seems to have it rolling in year 2.