Arizona State’s Running Game, Washington’s Defense, A Pair of Potential Upsets, and Other Things To Watch Out For in Week 5

It’s Thursday, which means that it’s time to start getting ready for another action-packed weekend of college football. Here are some topics, statistics, and other pearls of wisdom to think about.

  • Forget about the status of Brett Hundley; the real key for UCLA tonight is its run defense. How the Bruin front seven (55th nationally in yards per game) fares against the Arizona State ground game (7.13 yards per carry – 4th in the nation) will determine who wins and loses.

  • Why aren’t more people talking about Sun Devil running back D.J. Foster as a Heisman Trophy candidate? He currently ranks fifth in the nation with 170 yards per game and is averaging a whopping 9.44 yards per carry.

  • We’ll find out if Washington is a contender or a pretender after this week’s matchup with Stanford. With very little fanfare, the Huskies have raced out to a 4-0 start, aided by an opportunistic defense that’s forced nine turnovers. It’ll be interesting to see how the Dawgs’ defense will fare against a Stanford offense that has run for an average of 194.3 yards per game against ranked opponents under the leadership of David Shaw.

  • Similarly, whoever wins the battle between South Carolina’s rushing attack and Missouri’s front seven will put itself in position to win the SEC East. While the Gamecock ground game doesn’t rank very high from a statistical standpoint, it has done well in three games against ranked opponents, running for a respectable 4.1 yards per carry. That will represent a huge challenge for the Tiger defense, which struggled to stop Toledo and Indiana from running the ball.

  • On the other hand, Mizzou did hold Carolina to a season-low 75 yards rushing in last year’s contest.

  • I never thought I’d say this, but the Arkansas – Texas A&M game will have a big impact on the SEC West race. Surprisingly, the Hogs rank eighth in the nation in rushing with 324.5 yards per game. That number is even more impressive considering that they’ve played both the 11th and 34th best run defenses in the country.

  • Of course, the Aggie defense is one of the stingiest units in the country, giving up just 3.1 yards per attempt. It also has not allowed a rushing TD this season.

  • Cincinnati quarterback Gunner Kiel will get a chance to show that he’s the real deal against Ohio State. Despite throwing for 10 TDs in his first two games, many experts have dismissed his gaudy numbers because he compiled them against MAC opponents. However, a big game against the Buckeyes – which rank third nationally in fewest yards per game and 20th nationally in interceptions – would silence these critics permanently.

  • I’m keeping an eye on Illinois – Nebraska as a potential upset. Sure, the Illini have had a tougher time than expected with Youngstown State, Western Kentucky, and Texas State. However, quarterback West Lunt has been absolutely brilliant when Illinois has fallen behind, completing 66.7 percent of his passes for 876 yards with a respectable 10-2 TD-to-INT ratio under those circumstances.

  • However, in order to pull off a victory, Tim Beckman’s defense has to come up with a way to at least slow down Ameer Abdullah (156.25 yards per game, 6.79 yards per carry). That’s going to be a difficult task for an Illini defense that ranks 94th nationally against the run.

  • Another potential upset to look out for: Texas Tech over Oklahoma State. Yes, I know that the Cowboys are (rightfully) the favorite on paper. However, OSU has no idea what to expect from new Red Raider defensive coordinator Mike Smith. Without any film to study, it’s not a stretch to think that new starting quarterback Daxx Garman – who’s making his second career start – might struggle in this contest, especially early on.

  • Make no mistake about it: Devin Gardner will be the starting quarterback for Michigan against Minnesota. While Brady Hoke hasn’t said anything about it publicly, there’s no way he could justify making a QB switch this week, given that Gardner connected on 13 of 17 passes for 235 yards against the Gophers a year ago.

About Terry P. Johnson

Terry Johnson is the Associate Editor for The Student Section. He is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the National Football Foundation.