A look at five games to watch during Week 5 of the college football season:
No. 12 Penn State (3-0) at Maryland (2-1), Friday, FS1, 5 p.m. PDT
Every team plays better at home than away, but not many have more of a discrepancy in performance as Maryland the last few years. The Terrapins knocked off No. 9 Texas last season and came within one play of beating Ohio State before losing in overtime. This season, Maryland already boasts a 63-20 victory over a capable Syracuse team. Enter Penn State, which has a 39-2-1 record all-time against the Terrapins. Nothing would get Mike Locksley’s Maryland tenure started better than a win over Penn State and James Franklin, the former Maryland offensive coordinator. Win or lose, College Park will be rocking Friday night.
No. 18 Virginia (4-0) at No. 10 Notre Dame (2-1), Saturday, NBC, 12:30 p.m. PDT
In one of only two top-25 clashes this week, the Fighting Irish have no time to mope after their hard-fought 23-17 loss to Georgia. Having to play a feisty Virginia team a week later will be a gift or a curse, depending on how Notre Dame plays it. If the Fighting Irish take care of business, they’ll reaffirm their status as a top-10 team and a contender for a playoff spot. If they can’t find their mojo and fall to the Cavaliers at home, their season will lose its national relevance before October. Notre Dame better be ready. Virginia quarterback Bryce Perkins has the ability — and the defense backing him up — to get this done.
No. 5 Ohio State (4-0) at Nebraska (3-1), Saturday, ABC, 4:30 p.m. PDT
For both programs, this is a perfectly placed litmus test. Is Ohio State, in its first year under coach Ryan Day, really going to keep clicking as if Urban Meyer never left? Is Nebraska, in its second year under former quarterback Scott Frost, ahead of schedule with its rebuild? These story lines and those iconic colors and uniforms have brought ESPN’s “College Gameday” to Lincoln for a prime-time game that we can only hope will match the hype. The Buckeyes have looked absolutely terrifying with Justin Fields at quarterback, and the Cornhuskers have flailed around out of the gate with uneven play on both sides of the ball.
Washington State (3-1) at No. 19 Utah (3-1), Saturday, FS1, 7 p.m. PDT
One week ago, this looked like a top-10 Utah team hosting a top-20 Washington State team — the rare Pac-12 game with true national championship implications. Then last Friday, in typical conference style, Utah went out and lost at USC and also lost star running back Zack Moss to a shoulder separation. Washington State followed that a day later with a complete meltdown, blowing a 32-point lead against UCLA in Pullman before losing 67-63. This game is now about which team can reclaim its footing and remain in the Pac-12 championship race entering October.
UCLA (1-3) at Arizona (2-1), Saturday, ESPN, 7:30 p.m.
Continuing the theme of how much things can change in one week, we would not have expected to include the Wildcats hosting the Bruins as a national game to watch. In one half of football, UCLA and Chip Kelly went from lolly-gagging lifelessly through their season to moonwalking into the end zone seemingly every other play. If the Bruins can pull this game off, they can finally sustain some real momentum under Kelly. Their next four games are all winnable too, with three coming at the Rose Bowl. But, one game at a time. Arizona’s Khalil Tate should light up the desert sky against UCLA’s defense, so it will be up to Dorian Thompson-Robinson to keep pace all night long.