Prove It - Week 5 Football; New Pressures in Conference Play

Wisconsin College Football Montee Ball



Baylor at West Virginia, Saturday, Noon


West Virginia is a team that has a lot expected of it this season.  Quarterback Geno Smith is even a Heisman candidate.  Under Dana Holgerson, the Mountaineers have ramped up their offense, and they are a juggernaut on that side of the ball.  They will be favored in most of the games that they play this season.  It is going to be a different year for West Virginia in the Big 12.  The Mountaineers defected from the Big East to enter a conference with the likes of Texas and Oklahoma.  Certainly, the escalated competition will provide Holgerson’s club with a good barometer of what kind of team and program they are.

Their quest begins this weekend against a good Baylor team.  The Bears no longer have the Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III under center, but they are still a strong squad.  They are neck-and-neck with West Virginia in terms of offensive numbers.  New quarterback Nick Florence has already thrown 11 touchdowns through three games.  They have not played anyone of consequence, but they are the fifth best scoring team in the nation. 

West Virginia should learn two things this weekend:  if their defense is worth their salt against a good offense and if they can keep pace with a league that is deeper top to bottom than their old conference.  Their ability or inability to stop the Bears will be a good indicator if they are for real.  A strong showing would vault them into national title conversation.  It is a long season so perhaps that talk is a little premature.  Still, the first game of their conference schedule is going to be a real test.  Tavon Austin is the key.  He torched Maryland last weekend for 179 yards and three touchdowns.


Virginia Tech vs Cincinnati, Saturday, 3:30pm

PROVE IT TEAM: Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech is playing their second Big East team in two weeks.  Unfortunately, in the first matchup Virginia Tech was massively upset by a subpar Pittsburgh team.  They were beaten pretty handily too.  The Hokies rebounded last week against Bowling Green.  Now they are back to playing high-AQ opponents.  Beamer’s team needs to show that they are still a force in the Coastal Division.

For a team with high expectations every year, Virginia Tech is not dominating competition.  They rank 82nd in rushing and 73rd in passing.  Logan Thomas was a preseason favorite for ACC Player of the Year, but his play has not been spectacular.  The Hokies only have one loss, but they always seem to come out of the gate slowly.  An early season roadblock always seems to trip them up.  Last season, they were solid all season, only falling to Clemson twice.  The year before, they lost their first two games against Boise State and FCS team James Madison.  The prior year they started out in a hole after losing the first game to Alabama.

The loss against Pittsburgh was bad, but it would really be compounded by a loss to Cincinnati.  The Bearcats crushed Pittsburgh in the opening game.  They could end up being a favorite alongside Louisville to win the conference.  If they beat Virginia Tech they will certainly have to be taken seriously.  Virginia Tech needs to win just to keep place with Florida State and seemingly Clemson.  They have been Old Reliable in the ACC for years.  Even after losing early, the Hokies rebound to finish strong and take care of their ACC schedule.  This year the ACC competition stiffens.  A second loss to a Big East team would be very difficult to climb back from.


Wisconsin at Nebraska, Saturday, 8pm

PROVE IT TEAM: Wisconsin

Wisconsin was considered the preseason favorite to win the Leaders Division in the Big Ten without any sort of competition.  As it turns out, Wisconsin’s season has not started the way they thought it would.  Maryland transfer Danny O’Brien has already lost the starting job to Joel Stave, and the offensive line coach has already been fired.  They lost a 10-7 snooze-fest to Oregon State.  Star running back Montee Ball got hurt against UTEP.  Wisconsin is reeling right now.  They face a Nebraska team that just put up 73 points against Idaho State. 

Wisconsin needs to make a good showing if they have any shot of winning this division.  It would appear that the gap between Wisconsin and other teams in the Leaders is very slim.  Even a sanctioned Ohio State team is in position to be at the top of the division at the end of the season.  Wisconsin has to answer some questions on Saturday.


Week 5 Football - What to Watch For