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College Football Picks 2018: Week Five

(#4) Ohio State Buckeyes @ (#9) Penn State Nittany Lions
Juwan Johnson, Penn State

The Big Ten East is arguably the toughest division in college football, and this battle between Ohio State and Penn State should decide who the favorite is going to be out East. Ohio State has looked basically unstoppable, guided by big-armed quarterback Dwayne Haskins, whose early play has people believing he is a serious Heisman contender. Aided by a 1-2 punch at tailback, with sophomore J.K. Dobbins and junior Mike Weber and a dangerous receivers corps, the Buckeyes' offense has been flaming hot. Penn State can also put up points in a hurry, as veteran quarterback Trace McSorley has kept the unit chugging along, even without Saquon Barkley and offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne. Miles Sanders has done an admirable job replacing Barkley's production at running back, while Juwan Johnson and big-play threat K.J. Hamler do damage on the perimeter. So, its pretty clear both teams are going to put up big yardage and plenty of points (they are first and second in the country in scoring offense), but will they be able to stop the opponent? Penn State is still reeling from an off-season where they lost nine starters, including everybody in the secondary. James Franklin has done a great job of getting young guys to step up in the defensive backfield, but they have yet to face a quarterback with the skills Haskins has yet in 2018. With his huge arm and home run potential, PSU could really struggle. Their best hope is to force the youthful QB into mistakes and force some turnovers, but in order to do that they have to apply pressure, which is not easy against a good Ohio State O-Line. I have more confidence in the Buckeyes' defense, which has one of the country's elite defensive lines, even with All-American end Nick Bosa out for a number of weeks. Ohio State has a secondary with more experience and depth than the Nittany Lions, but McSorley should still be able to find some ways to get his wide outs open in space. This is going to be a competitive game, and either team has a very good chance to come out with a decisive victory. I lean towards the Buckeyes, because the defense is more proven, and they've looked more impressive over the season's first few weeks. With that being said, going into Happy Valley and coming out with a win is never easy, and Penn State should offer plenty of resistance here.
The Pick: Ohio State, 41 Penn State, 34

(#7) Stanford Cardinal @ (#8) Notre Dame Fighting Irish
After beating Oregon in a thriller last Saturday, Stanford is now the Pac-12's best hope to return to the Playoff for the first time since Washington in 2016. However, in order to do just that, they need to be nearly flawless and go on the road and beat a very good Notre Dame squad. Stanford doesn't have the elite offense other times may have, but they still move the ball and don't turn it over. It will be interesting to see how the offensive front handles the Notre Dame pass rush, which has been absolutely dominant so far this year. The Cardinal will still lean heavily on star running back Bryce Love, who is finally 100 percent after dealing with injuries earlier on this season. K.J. Costello, Stanford's sophomore signal-caller, has made serious strides in 2018 and should be able to have some serious success in the play-action game. The Irish defense is led by linebacker Te'Von Coney, but the pass defense has been inconsistent, which should bode very well for the Cardinal. ND's offense is looking a little bit different with Ian Book now under center, taking over for Brandon Wimbush, who is a superb runner but struggles to get the ball down the field consistently. Book seems to energize the Irish offense, which has incredibly one-dimensional under Wimbush. He should be able to find his top couple targets, Miles Boykin and Chase Claypool, but ND should still keep the ball moving on the ground primarily, where speedster Tony Jones has proven he can open things up. Stanford's defense has long been stingy under David Shaw, but it has had some struggles this season. It still has a number of playmakers and proven run-stoppers, but the Cardinal are very prone to the big play, something Book has proven he can help create. Contrary to the Ohio State-Penn State duel, this game should not be very high-scoring. It should be a hard-fought game with two teams taking blows at the other. Love could help open things up for Stanford's offense, but this Irish defense is no Pac-12 defense. The Irish should be able to contain the Cardinal enough here to give the home folks a huge victory.
The Pick: Notre Dame, 27 Stanford, 23

(#20) BYU Cougars @ (#11) Washington Huskies
Already equipped with one of the biggest upsets of the season when they took down Wisconsin, BYU hopes to cause more chaos as they go to Seattle to take on the Washington Huskies. The real key for the Cougars major improvement from 2017 has been a defense that is aggressive and versatile. That defense is going to face quite a stiff challenge against a Huskies' offense that has proven they can move the ball. Veteran quarterback Jake Browning still struggles when the pass rush gets in his face, but he still can get the ball down the field and UW is not short of offensive weapons. Running back Myles Gaskin is among the most underrated players in the entire country, and receivers Aaron Fuller and Ty Jones have proven they can open things up. The real key, however, will be how Washington's offensive line plays in this game. They struggled against Auburn, but that was without their anchor, left tackle Trey Adams, and BYU doesn't quite have the athletes Auburn possesses. The Huskies also have quite the great defense, allowing just under 13 points per game. Greg Gaines is a formidable force in the heart of UW's defensive line, while the secondary includes All-Americans in safety Taylor Rapp and cornerback Byron Murphy. For BYU, their offense has been decent for much of the season, but they aren't very explosive. BYU also has a veteran quarterback, in Tanner Mangum, and a quality rusher in Squally Canada, but they still will need to find a way to handle Washington's pass rush and not turn the ball over, which is always difficult against the Huskies. BYU's improvement from a 4-7 2017 has been one of the cooler stories so far of the college football season, and bringing down a Pac-12 power would only make it better. Yet, this is not going to be like the Wisconsin game; the Huskies will be prepared for the Cougars and they have better weapons up and down their roster. I like Washington to keep their Playoff hopes alive by rolling past the 20th-ranked Cougars.
The Pick: Washington, 34 BYU, 20

Other Picks
Ole Miss @ (#5) LSU: LSU, 30 Ole Miss, 26
(#19) Oregon @ (#24) California: Oregon, 38 California, 30
(#12) West Virginia @ (#25) Texas Tech: West Virginia, 45 Texas Tech, 35
Syracuse @ (#3) Clemson: Clemson, 35 Syracuse, 21
Florida @ (#23) Mississippi State: Florida, 27 Mississippi State, 24

Current Picks Record: 24-8

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