Preview Thursday: Week 5

Lane Kiffin Ole Miss

One week after a top-10 showdown in South Bend and six ranked matchups, another week of college football is set to take center stage. 

There are four ranked matchups on the schedule this week. Friday will get the ranked ballgames started when No. 10 Utah travels to No. 19 Oregon State, which suffered its first loss of the season to No. 16 Washington State.

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Cougars quarterback Cam Ward earned Pac-12 offensive player of the week honors after a 404-yard performance. Ward added four touchdowns and completed 82.4% of his passes, good for seventh-best in program history. 

Here are several games to watch this week. 

No. 22 Florida at Kentucky 

A matchup between two 4-0 programs is set to take place at Kroger Field on Saturday. 

Defense just might be the name of the game and the key to victory for either team. Neither Florida nor Kentucky rank in the upper half of the Southeastern Conference in total offense, and the Gators are No. 8 while Kentucky is No. 9. 

The Wildcats are entering their first ranked matchup of the season, and it comes two years after they upset No. 10 Florida at home 20-13. The Gators had Kentucky’s number 29-21 during the 2019 season. 

“I mentioned last week when they talked about them beating us in the year before it really doesn’t have any bearing on that game,” Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops said. “If it does for our players, if they come in locked in early in the week then that’s the way I expect our team to be anyway. We’re playing Florida. You know it’s going to take a great effort. We’re playing that home; we should have a great sense of pride. And I think there’s that term that we use a lot in our program is that divine discontent. We know there’s more out there. We know we can play better, and that ought to be our motivation.” 

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Stoops also had positives to say about Florida quarterback Graham Mertz, who considered Kentucky when he entered the transfer portal after last season. 

“He’s been very good with the football,” Stoops said. “I think they have very few turnovers in general. I want to say he only maybe has one, and he’s been very efficient. Very smart getting rid of the football and taking care of the ball and running their offense, and he’s been very efficient. So he’s played very well.” 

No. 24 Kansas at No. 3 Texas 

A Big 12 matchup is set to take place in Austin, Texas, and the two teams between Kansas and Texas have a history. 

The Jayhawks topped Texas in 2021 during what was only their second win of the season Nov. 13, 2021. Kansas finished 2-10 that year, while Texas went 5-7 in Steve Sarkisian’s first year as head coach. 

Texas got back at Kansas last season with a 55-14 blowout at home. The loss left a bad taste in the Jayhawks’ mouths. 

“Old news, it doesn’t matter,” Kansas head coach Lance Leipold said. “Both teams are significantly better. And it doesn’t do you — it’s honestly it’s so far in the past. We got to keep moving. Yeah, it helped this program. It helped our players but we can’t, yeah, that’s about it.”

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And now, Leipold said the athleticism stands out about Texas now. 

“Yeah, and I guess I’ll add to that. I hope it’s the last time I have to answer that question this week honestly, I do,” Leipold said. “I really want to focus on our team now and where we’re going because that’s what’s important. It’s an excellent football team across the board. You can tell for coach Sarkisian, the staff he’s put on it offensively, he’s one of the best playcallers in the country. The movements and shifts and different looks that he gives, how they spread the ball about the playmakers that they have, huge up front and very athletic, well coached offensive line. And then defensively a front that, again, I think that’s a group from if you are going to keep looking at our previous meetings, I think that the defensive line continued improvement for them and consistency, maybe not improvement, but just consistent play and physical, tough kids. Linebackers who are extremely physical and run well. So yeah, it’s definitely to me a different team and a huge challenge for us and one that we’ve got to have our best week of preparation yet.” 

Kansas’ offense is No. 5 in the Big 12 averaging 37.8 points per game, and Texas is right behind at an average of 35 points per outing. 

Both the Jayhawks and Longhorns are in the top-three in their conference in total defense, as Kansas is second allowing 296.8 yards per game and Texas is third giving up 298.5 yards per game. 

No. 13 LSU at No. 20 Ole Miss 

LSU is seeking to reenter itself back into the College Football Playoff mix. 

After suffering a Week 1 upset to No. 5 Florida State, head coach Brian Kelly and the Tigers had to do a bit of soul searching to figure out what kind of team they are. 

Now they go on the road for two games, and the first will be against No. 20 Ole Miss, which lost 30-24 to No. 12 Alabama.

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Quarterback Jayden Daniels has played steadily in 2023. He’s eclipsed 320 passing yards in each of the past two games, and he threw four touchdowns last week against Arkansas. 

One of Daniels’ targets had a breakout game against the Razorbacks, as Malik Nabers became the 13th player in LSU history to catch over 200 yards. He finished with 239 receiving yards and two touchdowns. 

Ole Miss will bring a defense that ranks No. 61 in total defense, allowing over 351 yards per game. Linebacker Suntarine Perkins is tied for third with three sacks this season. 

Kelly thinks LSU has learned about itself through the first four weeks of the season, and this week he’s hoping to see a complete game with a distinctiveness about the team.  

“I’m seeing that starting to evolve in that identity, and look, I mean, there are times when you play in quality competition that you get a better sense and feel for your team. And especially when you’re down, right?” Kelly said. “We weren’t down against Mississippi State at anytime. We weren’t down at any time against Grambling. And we really didn’t have the right mix of mindset going into the Florida State game. So this was our first chance really to identify who we were when we got down late, and we immediately responded and we came out in the second half and played the kind of football that I expect. Never flinching, knowing that we were going to take some more shots and when we gave up a play, we forgot about it and we got to the next play.”