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Bad spots: It's not the best time to face Alabama, Ohio State

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College football's likeliest upsets and biggest locks (1:03)

Who will win this week's battles in the ACC and SEC? Is a high-profile upset lurking in the Pac-12? Does Ole Miss have a shot against Alabama? Take a look inside the numbers to forecast Week 5 in college football. (1:03)

Penn State found out the hard way that playing Iowa at home in a night game can be a terrifying experience. Weird things seem to happen to teams who take on the Hawkeyes after 6 p.m. ET, where Iowa has an 8-2 record since 2007.

The Nittany Lions won the game 21-19, but it took a last-second touchdown pass from Trace McSorley to Juwan Johnson. Iowa has spoiled the party for a ranked Penn State team before at night winning in 2010 and also beating No. 2 Michigan at night last season.

There are teams that you just don't want to play in certain situations or certain circumstances.

Strong Tide
Ole Miss at No. 1 Alabama (9 p.m. ET, ESPN and the ESPN App)

Alabama has done a ton of winning under Nick Saban, so it's tough to say there is a good time to play the Tide. You definitely don't want to be first, though, as Saban is 11-0 in season openers at Alabama, which is the longest active streak of its kind for an FBS head coach at his current school according to ESPN stats and info.

Ole Miss has a daunting task this weekend as the Rebels are an unranked team heading to Tuscaloosa. Alabama has won 68 straight games against unranked opponents.

That, too, is the longest active streak in the FBS, and it's the third longest streak since the AP poll debuted in 1936.

Good luck, Ole Miss.

Defending Ohio State's defense
No. 11 Ohio State at Rutgers (7:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

Rutgers hosts No. 11 ranked Ohio State this weekend and the Scarlet Knights don't just have to worry about Ohio State's offense that put up 54 points in its previous game, but also the Buckeyes' defense.

Ohio State is 21-0 under Urban Meyer when its defense scores a touchdown, whether it's on an interception or fumble return. That is the best such record in the FBS since 2012.

The positive for Rutgers is that Ohio State's defense has not scored yet this season, but the bad news is the fact that they haven't scored makes it seem like they might be due. The Buckeyes' defense had seven touchdowns on defense last season and Rutgers has already turned the ball over seven times this season.

Home is where the wins are for LSU
Troy at No. 25 LSU (7 p.m. ET, ESPNU and the ESPN App)

LSU has a nonconference game against Troy after the Tigers beat Syracuse 35-26 this past weekend. That bodes well for LSU, as it has won 49 straight nonconference home games, which is the longest active streak in FBS. The last time LSU lost to a nonconference opponent was in 2000 against UAB. The Trojans are 3-1 on the season, but they won't be allowed to use a Trojan horse in this battle.

Outgain the Cardinal
Arizona State at Stanford (4 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network)

Stanford has two losses this season to USC and San Diego State. In both losses, the Cardinal had less total offensive yards than their opponent. USC outgained the Cardinal by 280 yards and the Aztecs by 99.

Under David Shaw (since 2011) Stanford is 34-2 when it outgains its opponent by at least 100 yards. The only two losses in that scenario were in the 2012 Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma and in 2014 against USC.

Shaw and the Cardinal take on Arizona State this weekend and the Sun Devils are averaging 431.3 yards offensively per game with Stanford averaging 451.3. Stanford's defense has given up 453 yards per game so far this season, while Arizona State is averaging 479.3.

The key will likely be Arizona State's run defense and how it holds up against Bryce Love and the run game of Stanford. Love leads the FBS in total rush yards with 787, and rush yards per game with 196.8. If the Sun Devils can corral Love, they have a shot at keeping the yardage difference in check.

Don't let the Ducks convert
California at Oregon (10:30 p.m. ET, FS1)

Cal travels to Oregon this weekend in a game that features two 3-1 teams looking to take a conference win. Third down conversions are obviously a big part of any game, but since 2010, Oregon is 40-3 in games when it converted on at least half of its third downs.

That is the best win percentage in the Pac-12 over that span with that statistic.

Cal's defense is ranked 51 among Power 5 teams, allowing 41.5 percent of its opponents' third down plays to go for a first down. The key for Cal will be to keep Oregon in third and four or longer as much as possible.

So far this season, the Ducks have converted 71.4 percent of its third downs when the distance was three yards or less. The team converted 40 percent at third and four to six yards, and 30.8 percent at third and seven or greater.

Coach speak

All week Adam Rittenberg has been chatting with head and assistant coaches around the country. Here is the best of those conversations.

  • Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury credits better depth for his defense's uptick, and part of it comes from three new players (actually, two new ones and an old one). Defensive end Tony Jones, a junior college transfer, has an interception and two fumble recoveries. Defensive end Eli Howard, a North Texas transfer, had two tackles for loss (one sack) and a forced fumble at Houston. Linebacker Dakota Allen, who returned to Texas Tech after a season at East Mississippi Community College, where he was featured in the Netflix documentary "Last Chance U," leads the team with 27 tackles and earned Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week honors after the Houston win. "Those three guys have really brought a spark, made a bunch of plays, got their hands on a bunch of footballs," Kingsbury told ESPN.com. "It's nice to have guys who could contribute right away."

  • Josh Jackson's 11-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio is a welcome sight for Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Brad Cornelsen. "He was uncharacteristically not taking care of the ball last spring," Cornelson told ESPN.com. Cornelsen saw Jackson dramatically improve his decision-making in preseason camp, and it has carried over to the season. Jackson's running ability (4.5 yards per catch) has exceeded the coaches' expectations, and Cornelson loves the freshman's demeanor on game day. "He doesn't get rattled," Cornelsen said. "He sees exactly what's going on. He's able to think quickly and make good decisions. He's put some deep balls right on the money and given our guys chances to make plays."

  • Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst is quick to point out that quarterback Alex Hornibrook still has a long way to go, but the sophomore is showing clear improvement, especially on third down. He leads the FBS in third-down efficiency, completing 18 of 23 attempts for 241 yards with five touchdowns and, most important, zero interceptions. "He's just more certain of what he's seeing," Chryst told ESPN.com, "from what a defense is doing, or maybe as he continues to develop that timing with the receivers, that helps it, too. You always want to know what all of them feel. Are they comfortable? Do they have a good grasp of what they're doing? What gives you comfort is confidence."

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