College football Week 5: NC State’s latest chance to break through, Georgia faces tough SEC East road – CBS Sports

College football Week 5: NC State's latest chance to break through, Georgia faces tough SEC East road - CBS Sports

These are cap times for #10 NC State. The last time it was ranked in the top 10 was 20 years ago. The last time it won on the road against a top five opponent was 55 years ago. The only obstacle in the way this week is #5 Clemson. You know, the same Clemson that has been in six of the last seven College Football Playoffs. The same Clemson that won 10 games in an “off” year last season.

In case you haven’t noticed, there isn’t much room at the top. Not much has changed since we started alabama, Georgia and Ohio State holding those top three spots. One-third of the way through the season, it’s still reasonable to project that there is one spot left to fill in the CFP.

But what looked like another same-old, same-old playoff race has some spice. Suddenly, we have to consider the likes of USC, Kentucky and Tennessee. Oklahoma State, too. Don’t forget: The Cowboys were inches from a playoff spot last season. Opportunity is out there for the Wolf Pack. Unconventional, sure. Basketball school, sure. A non-factor? Well, we’ll see.

Coach Dave Doeren methodically built the program over the last decade finishing as high as second straight in the ACC Atlantic once. He has a quarterback, Devin Leary, who started the season as a Heisman Trophy candidate. (At least I got the hat in the mail that said so.)

Much of this potential turning point is on him. A win over Clemson opens up that CFP possibility. After Saturday, there are only three more road games. NC State could hang one of the nation’s most impressive wins in front of the CFP Selection Committee. Don’t forget: Half of the CFP field were rookies last year (Michigan, Cincinnati).

Leary led the Wolfpack with four touchdowns in last year’s upset of the Tigers in overtime. This season was kind of blah because the schedule was kind of blah. Leary (and the rest of the Pack) struggled against East Carolina. Numbers were padded against Charleston South and UConn.

Against the only Power Five opponent so far, Leary relied mostly on short throws against Texas Tech. He have to be a differentiator in this game. Many measurables work in favor of Leary and NC State. Clemson’s secondary was vulnerable, part of the ACC’s second-worst pass defense. Meanwhile, NC State’s defense leads the ACC in interceptions (seven).

There is no question that Clemson is back; is whether the Tigers ever really left. DJ Uiagalelei willed Clemson to that win last week at Wake Forest. Clemson has won 36 in a row at home. The Wolfpack is just the second top-10 opponent for the Tigers during that streak.

The teams began playing in 1899. This may be the greatest Clemson-NC State game ever. Much like Texas A&M beating Alabama, NC State didn’t do enough with that breakthrough Clemson win, going 9-3. And it still hasn’t won the ACC since 1979, when Dabo Swinney was all of 10 years old. Maybe it’s time for NC State’s aspirations to grow, too.

Week 5 plots

Best coaching jobs at the one-third point: Earlier this week, we take a look Lance Leipold’s hot start in Year 2 at Kansas and wondered if the Jayhawks would be able to hang on to him based on the already battering coaching carousel. But Leipold isn’t the only coach deserving of praise a third of the way through the season.

  • Lincoln Riley, USC: Did we forget the Trojans were 4-8 last season? So far, the turnaround in SoCal has been massive. USC is the only program that has yet to turn the ball over. Caleb Williams is in the Heisman conversation. Jordan Addison looks like he took his Biletnikoff Award to the West Coast without a hitch. Shane Lee looks like an Alabama linebacker — like many Trojans, acquired through the portal.
  • PJ Fleck, Minnesota: Tanner Morgan is a five-year starter with plenty of experience. Mohamed Ibrahim returned from a season-ending injury at No. 2 in FBS rushing. Fleck is not a fraud. He is coming off a nine-win season in 2021 and won 11 at Minny in 2019. The Golden Gophers could win the Big Ten West.
  • Josh Heupel, Tennessee: When Heupel left in 2018 to become UCFs coach, there was hardly a shrug at Missouri. When he left UCF to go to Tennessee amid an NCAA scandal, Heupel hit his sweet spot by inheriting Hendon Hooker. The Volunteers are 4-0 for the first time in six years after an impressive win over Florida.
  • Sonny Dykes TCU: The Horned Frogs deflated in later years under Gary Patterson. Dykes reset them with the nation’s top-rated passer, Max Duggan. That was after Dykes revived a cross-town rival SMU. Beat Oklahoma and TCU will be 4-0 for the first time since 2017.
  • Mark Stoops, Kentucky: Stoops has lost his upper back, temporarily. Chris Rodriguez is expected to return this week. He beat Florida and topped Bear Bryant as the UK’s winningest coach. He developed quarterback Will Levis into an NFL prospect. Stoops is at a school where he can go 8-4 the rest of his career, and they’re going to build him a statue.
  • Kalen DeBoer, washington: A young version of Leipold being a national championship coach at a lower division (Sioux Falls in NAIA). The first Indiana offensive coordinator imported his former quarterback, Michael Penix Jr., through the portal. The Huskies are back in the national conversation.
  • Dino Babers, Syracuse: From hot seat to hot coach. In Year 7 of an up-and-down stay with the Orange, Babers has ‘Cuse 4-0 for the first time in 2018. We’ll find out more in back-to-back weekends against NC State and Clemson next month.

Hog Heaven: No. 2 Alabama at No. 20 Arkansas (3:30 p.m., CBS) would have been much better if a certain kicker had made a certain kick against Texas A&M. But here we are with the Razorbacks able to climb right into the SEC West race. Hogs defensive coordinator Barry Odom will have something for the Crimson Tide. The question: For how long?

Alabama didn’t play particularly well the only time it hit the road this season. Texas, now 2-2, exposed Bama’s weaknesses that day: inexperience at cornerback, a questionable offensive line. Aside from a key 81-yard scoring run by Jace McClellan, the Tide averaged just 3.4 yards per carry. Arkansas led Texas A&M 14-0 at the end of the first quarter. It had the game won when kicker Cam Little lined up for the game-winning field goal. You know what happened next. Arky’s New Year’s Bowl aspirations may be at stake.

SEC East won’t be a walkover for No. 1 Georgia: We know that now because of the starts by No. 7 Kentucky and No. 8 Tennessee, both 4-0. Oh, and don’t forget Florida (2-2), which has more wins over ranked teams than 10 other SEC teams. (Okay, one, but it was big against current #12 Utah.) For four weeks, the Gators have done enough to make the World’s Greatest Cocktail Party even more interesting.

Georgia gets another fight this week against 28-point underdog Missouri. In Kentucky at No. 14 Be a young ladythe winning coach gets Chestnut brown? OK, maybe it’s too early, but Stoops and Lane Kiffin have done amazing things. They are in schools that could be considered stepping stones for both. Kentucky has the second-longest winning streak in the nation (eight games). Stoops gets Rodriguez back from suspension. Kiffin wants people to leave The Grove early to be on time for the game. That lands somewhere between sacrilege and guerilla marketing.

Big 12 Rematch: It would be revenge, of sorts, for No. 9 Oklahoma State to win at No. 16 Baylor this week The world seems to have forgotten that the Cowboys were 2 yards away from a playoff spot in the Big 12 Championship Game. Dave Aranda’s defense held and changed the math on several levels. Aranda continues to be a hot name in training circles. The question he needs to answer: Does he believe he’s chasing a CFP spot in Waco, Texas? The answer, for now, is yes.

If the higher ranked Pokés are to stay in the playoff race, they must win. Quarterback Spencer Sanders has won 27 career games, one short of coach Mike Gundy’s school record. That nugget was glossed over this week when Gundy “celebrated” the 15th anniversary of his “I’m a man. I’m 40,” rant.

Road trip! Finally! We don’t want to say Iowa can’t score, but if you gave the Hawkeyes a dart from 2 feet away, they would miss the dart. It’s so bad for an offense that’s offensive (as in … stinks). Meanwhile, who has it better than No. 4 Michigan? Nooooobody. The Wolverines have to wait until October to play their first road game. They have their quarterback situation sorted (JJ McCarthy). You have to like their chances with the No. 2 offense (50 points per game) against the nation’s worst offense (5.8 points per game). Another reason to like the Wolverines: Blake Corum rushed for nine touchdowns (most in FBS). Iowa as a team rushed for five (T-second fewest in FBS).

Quick Kicks: Will the winning coach enter Iowa State at Kansas to get the Nebraska work? … No. 18 Oklahoma visits TCU still trying to figure out what happened to Brent Venables’ defense last week. The 41 points scored by Kansas State was the most at home against a Venables defense since 2016 … Williams’ streak without an interception (188) was accomplished at two schools (Oklahoma, USC), survived a transfer, and so far, four opponent defenses this season. Arizona State visits USC this week … The Sun Devils are 1-3 (or worse) after four games for the first time since 1994 … Minnesota leads the country in rushing opponents at 355.2 yards per game. Thirty one teams doesn’t average as many total yards…Arkansas leads the country with 20 sacks, four more than the next closest team (Middle Tennessee16) … Heisman contender Brock Bowers — largely regarded as the nation’s best tight end — has more rushing touchdowns (three) than receiving scores (two).

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