Games and Players To Watch - Week 5

September 28, 2023 by Rich Cirminiello, Maxwell Football Club and Staff

Saturday starts with ESPN GameDay on the Duke campus and, no, it isn't basketball season.

After Lee Corso picks the Notre Dame-Duke winner by donning the mascot headgear, ESPN will segue right into Florida at Kentucky.

It used to be a foregone conclusion when the 'Cats and Gators met, but that is not the case anymore and that makes this week's matchup in Lexington worth watching at Noon.

At 3:30, switch over to ABC and learn first-hand if Kansas can win at Texas - again.

At 6 o'clock, you will have to begin flipping back-and-forth between ABC and ESPN to catch the start of LSU at Ole Miss.

And then at 7:30, you can catch the Irish and Blue Devils on ABC.

If you're looking for other games, here are the Complete TV Listings.

(ALSO SEE: Complete schedule, picks, odds)

Games To Watch

Florida (3-1) at Kentucky (4-0) - Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Kentucky appears to have caught up with Florida in football, testament to the incredible work Mark Stoops has done in Lexington since 2013.

Between 1987 and 2017, the Gators beat the Wildcats 31 straight times. But the Cats have taken three of the last five in the series, including the last two. If Kentucky can make it three in a row Saturday afternoon, it’ll swap places with Florida in the Top 25 rankings. The Gators haven’t lost since falling to Utah in the opener, highlighted by a 29-16 victory over rival Tennessee. While the offense has been spotty, the D has been stingy, setting the stage for what should be another close, low-scoring tug-of-war between these two SEC East schools.

Kansas (4-0) at Texas (4-0) - Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET (ABC)

Texas is playing great, but it knows not to look past Kansas this weekend.

The Longhorns are ranked No. 3, with road wins already over Alabama and Baylor in a drilling last Saturday. The offense is humming and the defense is contributing as well. UT is in great shape with the Red River Showdown looming next week. However, the program knows better than to overlook Kansas, which is also unbeaten and ranked for a second straight year. Head coach Lance Leipold has completely changed the culture in Lawrence and he led Kansas to a 57-56 single-overtime win the last time he took his team to Austin two years ago. The Jayhawks lead the country in third down conversions, while the Cobee Bryant-led D is fast, physical and opportunistic.

LSU (3-1) at Ole Miss (3-1) - Saturday, 6:00 p.m. ET (ESPN)

The SEC West is wide open, so every divisional showdown will be critical to the race this fall.

We’ll learn a lot about LSU and Ole Miss over the next two weeks. The Tigers have won three straight behind Jayden Daniels and the passing game, but back-to-back road games versus ranked teams, the Rebels and Missouri, will be their toughest tests since dropping the opener to Florida State in Orlando. How will Ole Miss respond after getting punched in the mouth by Alabama in a deflating 24-10 loss? QB Jaxson Dart got knocked around by the Tide front seven, and a dinged-up Quinshon Judkins has so far been a shell of the back who led the SEC in rushing in 2022.

Notre Dame (4-1) at Duke (4-0) - Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET (ABC)

ESPN’s College GameDay will be in Durham for the first time ever. Yeah, this is gonna be huge for the Blue Devils.

This shapes up as arguably the biggest game in the modern era of Duke football, which has risen to its highest AP Poll ranking in two decades. The Blue Devils have won all four of their games by at least three touchdowns, highlighted by the opener over then-No. 9 Clemson. While versatile QB Riley Leonard is the face of Mike Elko’s team, the unheralded defense has been a rock in September, yielding just 8.8 points per game.

If Notre Dame has any hope of clawing back into College Football Playoff contention, it’ll have to have a very short memory. The Irish suffered an absolutely crushing loss to No. 6 Ohio State Saturday night on the final play. QB Sam Hartman faced Duke as the Wake Forest starter last Nov. 26, getting outdueled by Leonard, 34-31, with the hurlers combining for 738 yards and seven touchdowns through the air.

Players To Watch - Offense

The Maxwell Football Club honors the nation’s best offensive player with the Maxwell Award. Here’s a look at last week’s standout offensive players.

RB Peny Boone, Toledo

Boone is making the most of an expanded role to start his junior season. A week after the Detroit native had his first 100-yard game, he exploded for a career-high 211 yards and two scores on 24 carries in a 49-31 comeback win against Western Michigan. At 6-1 and 242 pounds, Boone has the power to run through tackles, but also has a little wiggle to make defenders miss in space.

RB DJ Giddens, Kansas State

Welcome to the Big 12, UCF. Playing their first conference game as a member of a new league, the Knights were trucked in Manhattan, 44-31. With veteran Treshaun Ward sitting out, Giddens performed with next-man-up energy. The north-south sophomore ran 30 times for 207 yards and four touchdowns, all career-high numbers, while also leading the Cats with eight receptions for 86 yards.

RB Ashton Jeanty, Boise State

Jeanty isn’t getting enough national attention. A few more games like he had Friday night at Snapdragon Stadium and that’ll change. The versatile sophomore back, who’s equally dangerous as a receiver, totaled a career-high 254 yards and two touchdowns from scrimmage. Jeanty rushed for 205 yards in the 34-31 road win over San Diego State while also catching four passes for 49 yards as Boise State evened its record at 2-2.

RB Jawhar Jordan, Louisville

Jordan believes he’s one of the premier backs in all of college football. Hard to argue considering how well he’s played since last November. The big-play junior helped keep the Cardinals unbeaten in a 56-28 battering of Boston College last Saturday afternoon. Jordan rushed for 134 yards and two scores, his seventh 100-yard effort in the last nine games, while turning his one reception into a 75-yard touchdown. He's averaging almost 10 yards a carry through the first four games.

WR Xavier Legette, South Carolina

Few playmakers have boosted their draft stock more than Legette has in the opening month of the season. He’s putting it all together in his fifth year in Columbia, flashing the size-speed combo that NFL coaches and GMs covet. The 6-3, 227-pound Legette torched the back end of the Mississippi State defense for 189 yards and two touchdowns on five receptions. Both scores were from at least 75 yards, the first Gamecock to ever pull off that feat, as South Carolina prevailed 37-30.

RB Ismail Mahdi, Texas State

The Bobcats moved to 3-1 with a 35-24 comeback win over Nevada and Mahdi was the star of an offense that typically leans more on the passing game. The junior from Murphy, Tex. turned on the jets and torched the Pack for two touchdowns and 216 yards, more than any FBS player in Week 4. Mahdi added two catches for 40 yards and rushed for 166 of his yards in the second half, when Texas State battled back from a 17-0 deficit.

QB Bo Nix, Oregon

Oregon took care of business in every phase of last Saturday’s game with Colorado, handing the Buffs their first loss of the season, 42-6. The Duck defense got to Shedeur Sanders seven times, and Nix led the offense on five scoring drives before halftime. The senior accounted for four of those touchdowns, scrambling for one and connecting on 28-of-33 for 276 yards, three TD passes and an interception. In the process, Nix became the first player in college football history to be responsible for at least 55 touchdowns at two different schools.

QB Cam Ward, Washington State

In a game billed as the PAC-2 championship last Saturday on the Palouse, Wazzu held off No. 14 Oregon State, 38-35, in a battle between ranked teams. Ward connected with WR Josh Kelly for three scoring strikes, adding another chapter to one of the really good stories in college football so far in 2023. The Texas native, who had no FBS offers coming out of high school, completed 28-of-34 for 404 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions, adding a fifth score on the ground. Ward is especially good at absorbing contact, buying second chances and turning nothing into something.

Players To Watch - Defense

The Maxwell Football Club honors the nation’s best defensive player with the Chuck Bednarik Award. Here’s a look at last week’s standout defenders.

LB Edgerrin Cooper, Texas A&M

The Aggies have regrouped well from their lopsided Week 2 loss at Miami, spearheaded largely by the play of the defense. In back-to-back wins over Louisiana-Monroe and Auburn, Texas A&M has not allowed an offensive touchdown. Cooper was all over the field in last Saturday’s 27-10 defeat of the Tigers to open the SEC schedule. He had eight stops, three for loss and two sacks as Auburn could only muster 200 yards of total offense.

DE Jonah Elliss, Utah

The Utes could not move the ball versus UCLA, so the defense pinned its ears back and took control of the game for a 14-7 win. Utah harassed rookie Bruin QB Dante Moore all day, with Elliss honorably serving as the mayor of Sack Lake City. The junior delivered the best game of his career, making a team-high 10 tackles and nine total pressures while setting personal-bests with five stops for loss and 3.5 sacks of Moore. In two games against ranked opponents this month, Elliss has made 7.5 plays behind the line of scrimmage.

CB Maxwell Hairston, Kentucky

Saturday in Nashville Hairston had the kind of afternoon cornerbacks usually only dream about. The first-year starter from West Bloomfield, Mich. became the first Wildcat in school history to have two pick-sixes in the same game, the first from 29 yards out and the second covering 54 yards to put the game on ice. Hairston added four tackles and three pass breakups as the Wildcats stayed perfect with a 45-28 win over Vanderbilt.

DB Alijah Huzzie, North Carolina

The Tar Heels got a total team effort in Saturday’s 41-24 road rout of Pitt. Huzzie was a microcosm of the conference win. As a defensive back, the junior picked off a pair of passes and helped shut down the Panther passing game. And as a special teamer, Huzzie returned a punt 52 yards for a touchdown that gave Carolina a second quarter lead it would never relinquish.

ED Kyle Kennard, Georgia Tech

Head coach Brent Key is gradually turning the Yellow Jackets into a dangerous program. Wake Forest saw firsthand Saturday evening, suffering its first loss of the year, 30-16, in Winston-Salem. The Tech defense, which began Week 4 with just one sack, pounded Deacon QB Mitch Griffis all night. Kennard led the brigade with eight tackles, half of the Yellow Jackets’ eight sacks and a forced fumble. His four sacks were the most in one game by a Tech player in a decade.

LB Danny Stutsman, Oklahoma

If there was an All-American Team for the month of September, Stutsman would be one of the unit’s linebackers. He’s been the top performer on a revamped Sooner defense that’s given up just 34 points through the first four games. Stutsman has taken his game to an entirely new level as a junior, particularly as a lane-filling run-stuffer. In Saturday’s 20-6 silencing of Cincinnati, his team-high 13 tackles included 3.5 for loss and a sack of Emory Jones.

ED Dallas Turner, Alabama

The offense still needs work in Tuscaloosa. The defense, though, remains elite. For the third time in four games, Alabama held an opponent to no more than 10 points, shutting down an Ole Miss attack that began the weekend averaging 52.7 points a game. The Tide front seven made life miserable for QB Jaxson Dart who was never able to get comfortable in the pocket in the 24-10 'Bama win. The hard-charging Turner led the assault with five tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, a forced fumble and a handful of hurries.

LB Payton Wilson, NC State

A healthy Wilson is going to be a problem for every Pack opponent over the next two months. The sixth-year senior, who has missed parts of nearly every season he’s been in Raleigh, has looked great through the first four games of 2023. The hard-hitting Wilson was the defensive star of last Friday night’s exciting 24-21 win at Virginia to kick off ACC play. He had a game-high 13 tackles and a sack while helping hold the Hoos to 2.8 yards per carry.