Week 5 Friday Tailgate

A monster first Saturday of October is on the horizon.

Virginia and Miami (FL) kicked off Week 5 of the season Thursday night, and the Cavaliers extended the Hurricanes’ misery with a 30-28 road win behind Brennan Armstrong’s 268 passing yards. Freshman K Andy Borregales missed a 33-yard field goal as time expired after the Hurricanes drove 75 yards in 14 plays on their final drive. Heartbreak city for Manny Diaz’s squad. Boo birds were in attendance, and the announced crowd of 37,269 was the lowest for a Miami home game since November 2012—not including the pandemic season of 2020. It’s not a great situation right now in Coral Gables, and there’s 15 days between now and the team’s next tilt.

We have a sneaky good Friday night slate on tap, so let’s take a quick glance…

Houston-Tulsa, 7:30 p.m. ET ESPN: Golden Hurricane QB Davis Brin is improving steadily and has a nice array of skill-position players surrounding him, but the Cougars have a defense that has been re-tooled via the transfer portal.

No. 5 Iowa-Maryland, 8 FS1: This just feels like a tough spot for the Hawkeyes. Terps QB Taulia Tagovailoa and senior RB Tayon Fleet-Davis will pose a tough threat to a nasty Iowa defense. Spencer Petras is going to have to make a few plays downfield for the Hawkeyes.

No. 13 BYU-Utah State, 9 CBSSN: The Cougars have the edge on both sides of the ball, but this is a rivalry game, and Logan should be rocking. I’m just not sure the Aggies’ two-QB system is going to be able to sustain any rhythm against the Cougars.

Okay, onto Saturday’s big slate of games…

No. 8 Arkansas at No. 2 Georgia
There is no doubt that Sam Pittman’s Razorbacks are legit. The Hogs broke their long hex against Texas A&M in comfortable fashion last week behind another strong game plan from DC Barry Odom, looking like legit SEC West contenders in the process. However, you’re only as good as your next game. Such is life in the nation’s premier conference. And outside of Alabama, you don’t get more premier than Georgia, which has allowed just 69.5 rushing yards per game this season. However, the Razorbacks’ power run game ranks second in the conference at 261 rushing yards per game behind strong offensive line play and mobile QB KJ Jefferson. NG Jordan Davis leads a nasty UGA defensive front. If the Hogs can hold their own, we’ll have a four-quarter game—if Jefferson can make enough plays down the field. OC Kendal Briles needs to mix things enough, perhaps by throwing on early downs, and he needs a big effort from the Jefferson-to-Treylon Burks connection.

Meanwhile, Georgia QB JT Daniels is dealing with a latissimus dorsi muscles injury, Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart said during the SEC teleconference Wednesday, but he is expected to start. This comes after he previously dealt with an oblique injury. The ‘Dawgs have used Stetson Bennett and Carson Beck under center as well this year, and at times it really hasn’t mattered who’s been at QB. Granted, it was against Vanderbilt, but the ‘Dawgs finished with 62 points, while the Commodores finished with 77 total yards. Their 35-point lead after the first quarter was the biggest lead in an SEC conference matchup since 2000.

Pittman initially left Arkansas for a four-year stint in Athens before getting the call to be the head guy in Fayetteville. He now has the Hogs in their biggest game in quite some time, and their success can be attributed to all-around great coaching as well as help via the transfer portal and seniors who returned with an extra season of eligibility due to the pandemic. Even if the Hogs don’t have quite enough between the hedges—and I would never bet against Pittman, who helped build UGA into a strong force—it wouldn’t be shocking if an eventual ‘Dawgs win was too close for comfort for Smart. Meanwhile, an Arkansas win would be its first over a Top 10 team on the road since defeating No. 1 Texas in 1964. Maybe there is some symmetry working in its favor: this squad has already beaten the Longhorns this year.

No. 7 Cincinnati at No. 9 Notre Dame
This is it. This is the Bearcats’ second of two major non-conference showdowns as they seek to break through and become the first Group of Five team to make the College Football Playoff. While their win over Indiana may not look as glamorous as it could have appeared based on preseason projections, it was still a key data point. And while the Fighting Irish have looked shaky this year, they were able to pull away and blow things open last week at Chicago’s Soldier Field against Wisconsin despite just 39 combined rushing yards from Kyren Williams and Chris Tyree. Bottom line: a win for Luke Fickell’s squad over Brian Kelly’s Irish carries weight, and it at least positions itself for a run at a potential CFP berth if it can run the table in the AAC—especially with almost every team nationally showing vulnerabilities. The question, of course, is whether or not the selection committee would even entertain the idea of a non-Power 5 team to crack the field. But, first thing’s first.

ND head coach Brian Kelly said Thursday QB Jack Coan is making good progress in his return from a left ankle injury, but he did split time with Drew Pyne with the 1s all week. Coan left the game against the Badgers in the third quarter and did not return, and Pyne played well in his place. But Kelly said Coan is ahead of where he thought he’d be at this point in the week. Ultimately, the ND offensive line needs to play significantly better for the Irish to remain unbeaten. They do expect to get LT Michael Carmody back after he missed the past two games with an ankle injury.

No. 12 Ole Miss at No. 1 Alabama
If you hadn’t heard of Matt Corral before this week, you certainly have by now. The Ole Miss starting QB is in the spotlight as the Rebels head to Tuscaloosa in what could be the marquee game on a loaded Saturday. Former Crimson Tide OC Lane Kiffin will attempt to be the first Nick Saban assistant to dethrone the dynasty builder, and his team will be coming off of a bye following a 61-21 thrashing of Tulane. The Rebels are first in the FBS in points per game (52.7) and yards per game (635.3), paced by Corral, who has thrown for 9 TDs and rushed for 5.

Meanwhile, Najee Harris isn’t walking onto that field any time soon, and he scored 5 TDs in last year’s matchup against Ole Miss. New OC Bill O’Brien is still trying to sort out his committee of Brian Robinson Jr., Jase McLellan and Roydell Williams. This is still a big-play offense, as Ohio State transfer Jameson Williams and Jon Metchie III will be looked upon to make big plays. But can the Tide grind out the clock in a close game if they need to?

These teams combined for 111 points in a 63-48 ‘Bama win last season. The Rebels were able to get 248 rushing yards from Snoop Conner and Jerrion Ealy in that contest, and they’ve added Henry Parrish Jr. to the mix. Kiffin and his staff likely looked long and hard at the success Florida had on the ground against the Tide a few weeks back. Of course, Corral can run as well. The bottom line: can the ‘Bama defensive front hold up for four frames?

No. 14 Michigan at Wisconsin
The Wolverines’ problems against Ohio State have gone back several years across multiple head coaches. The 2021 Buckeyes could be a little more vulnerable than in the past, but we’ll see just how well or unwell Jim Harbaugh’s squad matches up at the end of the season when the rivals clash.

More damning for the Wolverines have been their play against Wisconsin in recent years. The Badgers, though, are 1-2 and have serious offensive issues. Simply put: this is a pivotal game that could change the course of the Wolverines’ season.

Michigan’s 31-10 win over Washington should be more impressive than it is, and Wisconsin is a team that struggled to move the football and eventually wilted against Notre Dame. So there may still be Wolverine doubters even if they remain unbeaten after this one. But this is perhaps more of a mental test than a physical one for Harbaugh and Co. A win here, and the Wolverines absolutely have to be taken seriously in the B1G.

No. 21 Baylor-No. 19 Oklahoma State
Dave Aranda’s Bears may still have a small sample size, but this has been a much more enjoyable team to watch compared to last year’s version. Baylor ranks No. 6 nationally in rushing offense (273.3 yards per game) behind Abram Smith and Trestan Ebner, while QB Gerry Bohanon has produced 11 total touchdowns and no interceptions. The Cowboys, though, have leaned on their defense and have held foes to 311.5 yards per game. And it has a stout rushing defense, though DE Trace Ford and S Tre Sterling were lost to season-ending injuries.

Mike Gundy’s Cowboys rank No. 90 in scoring offense (25.8 points per game), though QB Spencer Sanders is coming off of a strong game against Kansas State. The Pokes have dealt with injuries at running back, but Utah State transfer Jaylen Warren has stepped in and delivered. I’d expect balance on both sides of the ball for both teams, and another close Big 12 contest coming down to the wire.

Other notable games to monitor:
Texas-TCU
Louisville-No. 24 Wake Forest
No. 3 Oregon-Stanford
No. 6 Oklahoma-Kansas State
Nevada-Boise State
No. 10 Florida-Kentucky
Boston College-No. 25 Clemson
No. 22 Auburn-LSU
Washington-Oregon State
Arizona State-No. 20 UCLA

UAB is blazin’ hot
It’s really incredible that we are just a day away from UAB football opening up a brand-new stadium. The rebirth of Blazers football has reached its pinnacle with $200 million Protective Stadium, which will be unveiled Saturday when the Blazers play Liberty in Birmingham. This all became possible because of a dedicated fan base, AD Mark Ingram and some wealthy locals who helped revive the football program after it was killed off in 2014—the first FBS school to do so since Pacific (1997). Head coach Bill Clark was loyal to the program and remained there through all of the turmoil, and after an investment in new facilities and a gorgeous new stadium, the Blazers are trying to earn their third conference crown after winning their first-ever bowl game in 2018 since returning to the field in 2017.

The UAB program could be positioned for even bigger things due to its post-Legion Field, elevated Group of Five status. With another round of conference realignment unfolding, the Blazers would be a VERY attractive candidate to potentially move to the AAC, which passed on the program when it poached Conference USA about a decade ago when it was transitioning from the Big East to the American. Mike Aresco and his staff need to replace Cincinnati, Central Florida and Houston after the Big 12 acquired those schools to help offset the loss of Texas and OU. There were rumblings that the league was trying to add Air Force and Colorado State, but that deal has fallen apart, per reports. UAB would provide the AAC a program embedded in a football-crazed city and one whose future is as bright as any in the Group of Five.

Best bets
As always, I release my picks via Twitter on Saturday morning. But if I have to lean early, I’d go:
South Carolina -7
TAMU -7
Michigan State -10

Cocktail of the week
With the flip of the calendar prepping us for cooler days and colder nights, let’s make a Bourbon Smash today.

*In a small shaker, muddle two lemon wedges. After clapping a couple of mint leaves between your hands to release the oils, add to shaker and continue muddling.
*Add 2 oz. bourbon (your choice of brand, I did Woodford Reserve). Add .5 oz maple syrup.
*Fill a large shaker with ice, combine the two shakers and shake vigorously.
*Fill a rocks glass with fresh ice, strain bourbon smash into the glass and garnish with an orange slice.

The orange slice is my personal preference, but you could go lemon wedge or mint sprig if you’d like.

Tomorrow is the first Saturday in October. LET’S GO!!!

Follow me on Twitter @Miller_Dave & email me at david.matthew.miller@gmail.com