WEEK 5 will start separating the pretenders from the contenders. Clemson at Virginia Tech to begin with, followed by Alabama at Florida and Nebraska at Wisconsin. We'll see if certain teams are real...or not!

We begin with a game tonight...MY THURSDAY NIGHT SPECIAL:

1. USF at Pittsburgh (8:00 p.m., ESPN) - USF

has the leadership (coach Skip Holtz) and the athletes (mostly Floridians) to give their opponents trouble...and they have this season. Pittsburgh is playing like they are already in the ACC, losing an eminently winnable game last week against Notre Dame (and, by the way, you may remember the Golden Domers DID fumble away their opening game against USF to the Bulls). This is the Big East opener, so let's forget some of the cupcakes each team has played. If USF can get by this one, they get two, yes two, weekends off in October. They make up for it by finishing at home against Miami (FL), Louisville and West Virginia...which should tell us what bowl game they will go to. Even though the game is being played in Pittsburgh, as I said in my Thursday Pick already posted, I like USF to cover the 2-1/2 points they are favored by in this one.

And four games on Saturday, October 1

2. Baylor at Kansas State (3:30 p.m., ABC) -

I'll just put it out there...K-State had a huge win last weekend in Miami. How emotional was that? Stopping the Canes' quarterback on the one with :45 left to play? Fantastic! They may be a little less emotional this week, but shouldn't be. Baylor has their own terrific quarterback, Robert Griffin III. good is he? Consider this: He has completed 85.4% of his passes. He has 13 touchdown passes...and only 12 incompletions. Not interceptions...INCOMPLETIONS. Good enough.  Baylor -3-1/2 wins!

3. Clemson at Virginia Tech (6:00 p.m., ESPN2) -

Two teams who have really not faced legitimate teams collide in Blacksburg Saturday evening. This game will tell a lot about both, so when Clemson's schedule was announced last spring, Tigers fans were not pleased with the ACC office. Following a Sept. 17 date with defending national champion Auburn, the Tigers would begin conference play with the league's two consensus preseason favorites: Florida State and Virginia Tech. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney not only embraced the challenge, but he also came up with a name for it. "We called it the Schedule of Champions," Swinney said Sunday, noting his team's first five opponents -- Troy (Sun Belt), FCS Wofford (Southern Conference), Auburn (SEC and BCS), FSU (ACC Atlantic) and Virginia Tech (ACC overall) -- all laid claim to a title last season. If you want to beat a champion, you've got to schedule for it. We have an opportunity if we take care of business to make ourselves relevant." Well, Auburn is not last year's version...and FSU has been overrated since July and they played without their starting quarterback. I give the Noles a lot of credit...and even picked them to win...but they just fell short. Virginia Tech has the best coach in the nation who has not won a national title, and don't think THAT doesn't drive Frank Beamer EVERY DAY! The Hokies and Clemson have played similar pre-conference teams. (Va. Tech played Applachian State, East Carolina, Arkansas State and Marshall) so this game will really be a good test for both schools. Hokies' running back David Wilson is averaging 129 yards per game, but quarterback Logan Thomas will have to make some plays, and Tech's secondary will need to contain Clemson's explosive young receivers. Lane Stadium is a tough venue for visitors..."Enter Sandman!" Count me among those who do not think Clemson will continue winning this weekend. If they do, I will jump on the bandwagon...but I've seen this before. VIRGINIA TECH -7 wins.

4. Alabama at Florida, Saturday (8:00 p.m., CBS) -

Gators' tailbacks Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey have been running away from people so far, but no one runs away from Alabama's defenders. The Gators' best hope is to produce an equally dominant defensive effort. Coach Will Muschamp has not seen anything like this from Florida Atlantic, UAB, Tennessee or Kentucky...and won't until NEXT WEEK when the Gators travel to Baton Rouge to play No. 1 LSU. Talk about two brutal weeks. may spontaneously combust. Alabama can move the ball...and don't tell me it's because they played Kent State and North Texas. They also played at Penn State (a convincing 27-11 win) and at home against Arkansas (another big win, 38-14). Let's face it...would ANYONE really be surprised if the Tide doesn't ROLLALABAMA -3-1/2, and wins by much more.

5. Nebraska at Wisconsin (8:00 p.m., ABC) -

Welcome to the Big Ten, Huskers! And, just to get you warmed up, we're throwing you a party at Camp Randall Stadium...under the lights! You'll love the Fifth Quarter. It's the first four you probably will not enjoy. But, by the end of the third, if you have the energy after chasing Badger QB Russell Wilson, you may want to join in and "Jump Around" with 80,321 Badger fans. Not that Nebraska will have any fear coming to Madison. They are used to playing in hostile environs like Norman, Austin and Columbia. But this will be an interesting one, as Wisconsin has been a force this season...due to an upgrade in the quarterback position and their nationally-ranked defense (6th). Wilson has been playing like a man intent on going to the NFL...or at least to New York for the Heisman presentation. His 218.4 QB rating and 11 passing TD's are just a start. He is one of the best athletes in the college ranks. His feet get him out of a lot of trouble. Nebraska's Blackshirts, the famed defense, has its work cut out for them. Additionally, how do you think Huskers enigma quarterback, Taylor Martinez, will fare Saturday night? I trust Wilson a lot more than Martinez...but, for Russell, the pre-season is over...and, "It's Go Time!" (Why do I always hear, "Mendelbaum...Mendelbaum...Mendelbaum..." when I hear "Go Time?" (Seinfeld reference, readers!) Because I trust Wilson...Wisconsin +9 (lots of points) wins.

I will also be back on Sunday with the Top Five Things We Learned This Weekend!


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