Week Five Lowe Down: Clemson, UGA survive road

Matt Lowe

September 29, 2017 at 7:47 pm.

Sep 23, 2017; Clemson, SC, USA; Clemson Tigers cornerback Trayvon Mullen (1) celebrates after intercepting a ball during the first half against the Boston College Eagles at Clemson Memorial Stadium. Photo Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 23, 2017; Clemson, SC, USA; Clemson Tigers cornerback Trayvon Mullen (1) celebrates after intercepting a ball during the first half against the Boston College Eagles at Clemson Memorial Stadium. Photo Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to Week Five of The Lowe Down.

Vanderbilt defensive lineman Nifae Lealao might have made one of the dumbest comments in sports history when he said “Alabama, you’re next” after a 14-7 win over Kansas State two weekends ago. That remark fueled Alabama’s most complete game of the season in dominating fashion as Nick Saban’s bunch ran through the Commodores like a hot knife through butter a weekend ago in a 59-0 beat-down.

Most everyone knows that Saban won’t let his assistants or any freshman speak to the media during the season and the reason why lies in the aforementioned words. Saban never wants to give added incentive to his opponent because one of his coaches or players makes a dumb statement. That’s why he’s the primary spokesman for his team. And having that attention to detail makes him the great coach that he is.

As of now, I think Alabama, along with Clemson, are the two best teams in the country. But a lot can happen between now and December. Play on.

Last week’s record was 15-7, bringing the yearly record to 59-27. To the games we go…


Friday, September 29

No. 14 Miami (2-0) at Duke (4-0) 6:00 p.m. CT
It didn’t take long for Mark Richt to get Miami moving in the right direction but the Hurricanes don’t need to take the upstart Blue Devils lightly. Duke’s offense, led by terrific dual-threat quarterback Daniel Jones, is balanced and doesn’t make a lot of mistakes — tied for 15th nationally in turnover margin at plus-5. And the Blue Devils’ defense has been a real bright spot so far this season. Stopping Miami quarterback Malik Rosier and talented tailback Mark Walton will be a tough task though. And is it one Duke can handle?

The Lowe Down: Miami 29, Duke 20

No. 5 USC (4-0) at No. 16 Washington State (4-0) 9:30 p.m. CT
The Trojans have talent. There’s no doubting that. But USC needs to clean up the mistakes on offense if it wants to skate through the Pac-12 unscathed. In last week’s win over Cal, two first-half turnovers inside Bears territory were huge momentum-killing mistakes. In the third quarter, USC failed on a fourth-down attempt, which gave momentum back to Cal and kept its upset hopes alive. If those types of plays happen against the Pirate (Mike Leach) and his pass-happy offense, led by gunslinger Luke Falk, who is coming off a 478-yard, five TD passing performance against Nevada, the Trojans could find themselves in a fourth quarter battle. It also doesn’t help matters that USC’s starting left tackle Toa Lobendahn is out and dynamic tailback Ronald Jones II (322 yards rushing, five scores) will likely be a game-time decision. Clayton Johnston will replace Lobendahn.

The Lowe Down: USC 33, Washington State 30

Saturday, September 30

Vanderbilt (3-1) at No. 21 Florida (2-1) 11:00 a.m. CT
Florida isn’t the best team in the SEC. Nor is it a national championship contender. But there is no denying that this year’s Gators have a flair for the dramatic. And that flair could lead Florida to its third consecutive SEC East crown if it can keep up the fourth quarter magic. Just one week after throwing a football 65 yards in the air to beat Tennessee, Feleipe Franks was benched in favor of Luke Del Rio — the team’s starter a year ago — against Kentucky late in the third quarter. All Del Rio did was spark one of the more memorable comebacks in Florida history and is in line to start against a Vanderbilt team that got humbled by Alabama a week ago. If Del Rio can stabilize Florida’s up and down QB situation, that would help the Gators become a much more formidable team.

The Lowe Down: Florida 26, Vanderbilt 13

No. 7 Georgia (4-0) at Tennessee 3-1 2:30 p.m. CT
To put it bluntly, Tennessee’s season and the future of Butch Jones could be on the line here. If the Vols lose to the Bulldogs, barring something unexpected, they would be pretty much eliminated from SEC East title contention since they’ve already lost to Florida. And if they are eliminated from an opportunity to win a division championship, then Jones, who is already under heat, could be on shaky ground. With that said, Tennessee is going to have to slow Georgia’s run game, hit Jake Fromm and establish a running game of its own with talented tailback John Kelly if it’s to pull the upset. Just like Alabama, Georgia wants to make teams one-dimensional by shutting down the opponent’s run game. That is step No. 1. If the Vols struggle in that area, it could be a long afternoon on Rocky Top. But something is telling me this will be a close game considering Tennessee’s season is on the line.

The Lowe Down: Georgia 20, Tennessee 16

Indiana (2-1) at No. 4 Penn State (4-0) 2:30 p.m. CT
It’s always interesting to see how a team responds after an emotional win. More often times than not, teams can come out a little flat because the players have heard all week long how great they are. Now do I expect Penn State to come out and lay an egg against a capable Indiana team? No. But Indiana’s offense, led by potential NFL quarterback Richard Lagow and freshman bruiser Morgan Ellison, could be a handful for the Nittany Lions’ defense. But the same can be said for Penn State’s offense facing off against Indiana’s D. That said, James Franklin’s crew wins a wild one.

The Lowe Down: Penn State 38, Indiana 30

No. 24 Mississippi State (3-1) at No. 13 Auburn (3-1) 5:00 p.m. CT
So far it’s been tough to get a read on either of these teams. Yeah, Mississippi State blew out LSU, but it then got blown out by Georgia in Athens. Auburn’s offense has looked better in recent weeks, but having success against FCS foe Mercer, a school that just resumed played football in 2013, and SEC doormat Missouri, who might get beat by Mercer if they played, is a lot different than having success against Clemson, Mississippi State, Georgia, Alabama etc. Defensively, there aren’t many teams better than Auburn. The front seven is fantastic and the secondary has good size and speed. The Tigers are also a good tackling team, which will be critical to containing Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, who practically is the Bulldogs offense. If Auburn can clamp down on Fitzgerald, that will be a big step toward winning the game. But I still need to see more from the Tigers’ offensively against good competition before I’m convinced this team is a contender in the SEC West.

The Lowe Down: Auburn 20, Mississippi State 13

No. 2 Clemson (4-0) at No. 12 Virginia Tech (4-0) 7:00 p.m. CT
If Clemson is going to go down this season, it could happen here. But I say that gingerly because I think Clemson is one of the best teams in the country. Last year the Hokies had success against the Tigers’ vaunted defense in the ACC title game, but a lot of that success came late in the second half after Dabo Sweeney’s team built a 35-14 lead. Brent Venables did a good job slowing talented dual-threat QB Jarod Evans in the run game in that game and rest assured he’ll implement a similar plan against super-talented freshman Josh Jackson in this contest. Lane Stadium is an extremely tough place to play and the atmosphere for this game will be off the hook. But Clemson will likely control the line of scrimmage — on both sides of the ball, like it has all season long — which will lead to another impressive win.

The Lowe Down: Clemson 24, Virginia Tech 17

Ole Miss (2-1) at No. 1 Alabama (4-0) 8:00 p.m. CT
Last year Alabama had to rally from a 21-point deficit to snap a two-game losing streak to the Rebels. But this year may be an entirely different story. Gone is head coach Hugh Freeze. And gone is the Rebels ability to play the sound defense they did a couple of years back. Tally that up and this looks like a tall order for the visitors. Not only did Alabama play its best game of the season a weekend ago, especially offensively, but it got some key pieces (notably linebackers Rashaan Evans and Anfernee Jennings) back on a defense that’s still evolving. Also, there wasn’t a lot of chatter about tailback Damien Harris before the season despite him rushing for over 1,000 yards a year ago. But he’s been fantastic so far this season. Ole Miss, behind Shea Patterson, is a capable team offensively, but it doesn’t have the horses on defense to slow down the Crimson Tide. Not having starting center Sean Rawlings doesn’t help matters either.

The Lowe Down: Alabama 48, Ole Miss 14

In other Saturday games:

Maryland 20 at Minnesota 30

Northwestern 17 at No. 10 Wisconsin 35

North Carolina 20 at Georgia Tech 37

No. 18 South Florida 52 at East Carolina 23

Syracuse 26 at NC State 43

Florida State 17 at Wake Forest 20 Upset Special****

Eastern Michigan 17 at Kentucky 34

Iowa 23 at Michigan State 17 Upset Special****

Miami (OH) 17 at No. 22 Notre Dame 42

Troy 20 at No. 25 LSU 35

South Carolina 30 at Texas A&M 27 Upset Special****

No. 15 Oklahoma State 42 at Texas Tech 35

Colorado State 52 at Hawaii 38