Every week throughout the season we’ll give you a college football viewing guide by highlighting the five best games of the coming weekend. We will also pick those five games against the spread, plus some other matchups that caught our eye from a betting perspective.
Let’s just say Week 5 was a little underwhelming.
Other than the massive scare North Carolina gave No. 1 Clemson — failing on a go-ahead two-point conversion with 1:17 to play — there weren’t many close games, at least among the Top 25. But we still learned some things.
For one, Ohio State is a force to be reckoned with in the Big Ten, and Penn State might be OSU’s biggest competition. Notre Dame’s defense might be even better than we thought. Oh, and Auburn has the chance to make some serious noise in the SEC.
What will we learn in Week 6? We’ve got three ranked vs. ranked matchups on tap: two in the Big Ten and one big one in the SEC.
(Note: All times ET, point spreads from FanDuel Sportsbook)
5. Baylor at Kansas State
Time: 3:30 p.m. | TV: ESPN2 | Line: Kansas State -1
Matt Rhule is doing a great job at Baylor. We all know the mess he inherited in the aftermath of the Art Briles era. He got the Bears back to a bowl game in his second year and now they are off to a 4-0 start in 2019. The team’s first three wins of the year were nothing special. Last week, Baylor jumped out to a 20-0 lead but needed a last-minute field goal to best Iowa State 23-21. Now Baylor will travel to Manhattan in a game that could help shape the second tier of the Big 12 standings — the teams that could play the role of spoiler for Oklahoma and Texas atop the conference.
On the Kansas State side, coaching kudos are also worthy. Chris Klieman was tasked with replacing the legendary Bill Snyder, and the early returns are positive. The Wildcats started the year 3-0, including a road win over Mississippi State, before suffering the first loss last week, a 26-13 defeat to Oklahoma State in Stillwater. K-State has been a run-heavy team to this point in the year, averaging 241.5 yards per game. That mark is good for No. 17 in the nation. The running game will be tested against a Baylor defense that has limited opponents to just over 100 yards on the ground per game.
Picks: Sam Cooper: Baylor +1, Nick Bromberg: Kansas State -1
4. No. 18 UCF at Cincinnati
Time: 8 p.m. (Friday) | TV: ESPN | Line: UCF -4
Both divisional races in the AAC have the potential to be pretty fun and this game should be pretty important in the East. UCF, the two-time reigning conference champions, lost its first regular-season game since November 2016 a few weeks ago at Pittsburgh. Last week, the Knights bounced back with a cakewalk win over UConn to improve to 4-1 and start off conference play 1-0. If you haven’t seen much UCF this year, learn the name Dillon Gabriel. Gabriel, a true freshman, emerged as the Knights’ starting QB early in the year and has thrown for 1,338 yards and 14 touchdowns with just two interceptions. Friday night’s trip to Cincinnati will be the first road night game of his career.
For Cincinnati, this game will be the second prime-time game of the year. The Bearcats started off the year by besting UCLA 24-14 on a Thursday night before getting blown out by mighty Ohio State in Week 2. Since then, the Bearcats have comfortable wins over Miami (Ohio) and Marshall. The Marshall win was especially impressive. On the road, Cincy was completely dominant and had a 45-0 lead by the time the third quarter ended. UCF will pose a much tougher challenge. The Knights have won the last three times the teams met by a combined score of 113-39 and don’t plan on stepping down from their AAC throne any time soon.
Picks: Sam: Cincinnati +4, Nick: UCF -4
3. No. 25 Michigan State at No. 4 Ohio State
Time: 7:30 p.m. | TV: ABC | Line: Ohio State -20
Will the real Michigan State please stand up? The Spartans are off to a 4-1 start, but have been inconsistent on both sides of the ball. The issues on offense have been well-documented. In games against Tulsa and Arizona State, the offense combined for 26 points. In the team’s other three games, all wins, the offense combined for 116 points. MSU’s offense scored 34 in last week’s win over Indiana, but the usually stout defense allowed the Hoosiers to score 31, including two lengthy fourth-quarter scoring drives, one of which tied the game with 2:00 left. MSU coach Mark Dantonio said this week that the path to the Big Ten title “goes through Columbus.” If MSU is going to factor into the divisional race, it has to put together its best game of the year.
Ohio State is rolling in its first year under Ryan Day. The offense looks as good as ever while the defense, after the uncharacteristic struggles of a year ago, looks fast and instinctual. To call the Buckeyes dominant to this point in the year might be underselling it. Following last weekend’s demolition of Nebraska in Lincoln, Ohio State has outscored its five opponents 262-43. While defensive end Chase Young and cornerback Jeffrey Okudah lead the charge on defense, Justin Fields has been masterful at quarterback. The Georgia transfer has thrown for 1,092 yards and 16 touchdowns without an interception. Can he keep it going against the Spartans?
Picks: Sam: Ohio State -20, Nick: Michigan State +20
2. No. 14 Iowa at No. 19 Michigan
Time: Noon | TV: Fox | Line: Michigan -3.5
While Big Ten West teams like Wisconsin and Nebraska have been talked about more — for reasons good and bad — to this point in the season, Iowa has seemed to lurk under the radar. Kirk Ferentz probably likes it that way. His team is off to a 4-0 start and has steadily climbed to No. 14 in the rankings. Along the way, the Hawkeyes handled rival Iowa State, beat up on Rutgers and dispatched of two other non-conference opponents. This weekend’s trip to Ann Arbor figures to be a step up in competition. Wisconsin vaulted up the polls by destroying the Wolverines in Madison a few weeks ago. Now the Hawkeyes get a chance to show that they are going to be in this Big Ten West race for the long run.
On the Michigan side, this game is the first of three in October that could go a long way in determining the program’s future — and whether Jim Harbaugh is a part of it. As Pat Forde noted in the Forde Yard Dash, Harbaugh’s “status as a big-time coach is need of repair” after the Sept. 21 beatdown at Wisconsin. The repair could start with a win over a good Iowa team. Last week, Michigan got back on track by destroying Rutgers. But how much was that a product of Rutgers being Rutgers, and how much was Michigan finding some solutions? We’ll find out more against the Hawkeyes and then with games at Penn State and Notre Dame in the coming weeks.
Picks: Sam: Iowa +3.5, Nick: Iowa +3.5
1. No. 7 Auburn at No. 10 Florida
Time: 3:30 p.m. | TV: CBS | Line: Auburn -3
Is it possible that Auburn is still underrated? The Tigers already have wins over Oregon, Texas A&M and Mississippi State on the year, and the latter two came in convincing fashion. A mixture of a strong defense and controlling ground attack were the recipe for success early on, but the offense may have emerged from its run-dominant shell last weekend against MSU. Prior to that game, freshman quarterback Bo Nix’s best passing output was just 207 yards. Against the Bulldogs, he completed 16-of-21 throws for 335 yards and two scores. If that kind of passing attack can carry over and complement the running game, the Tigers are going to be really tough to slow down.
Meanwhile, Florida has been able to carry on despite the season-ending injury to quarterback Feleipe Franks. Franks went down midway through the Kentucky game on Sept. 14, opening the door for Kyle Trask. Trask led the Gators to a comeback win that night, followed by back-to-back blowout victories over Tennessee and Towson. Can Trask continue playing well against a defense like Auburn’s? He has the benefit of playing in front of a home crowd at The Swamp, a venue where he has completed 79.2 percent of his passes so far this season. Florida is also expected to have the benefit of several injured starters returning to the lineup, including defensive lineman Jabari Zuniga and defensive backs CJ Henderson and Shawn Davis. With those guys back, we could be in for a classic SEC defensive battle.
Picks: Sam: Auburn -3, Nick: Auburn -3
Records ATS to date: Sam: 13-15, Nick: 13-15
Week 6’s best bets
Nick Bromberg (Last week: 2-1, Overall: 6-9)
Boston College at Louisville (-6): How crazy is it to see the Eagles getting nearly a touchdown in this game? Boston College lost by three to Wake Forest at home a week ago — I had the Demon Deacons covering the points in that game — so I’m going to overreact and go with Boston College on the road here. Louisville could very well win this game outright but BC should keep it close. If not, then Steve Addazio could start to feel the heat. Pick: Boston College +6
Ohio at Buffalo (+3): Ohio is 1-3 and that record includes a two-point loss to Marshall and a 20-point home loss to Louisiana-Lafayette. Buffalo lost to Miami, Ohio, but beat Temple. Neither of these teams has been straightforward through the first month of the season. And since they’re both confusing, let’s roll with the home team getting points. Pick: Buffalo +3
Arizona at Colorado (-4): Arizona QB Khalil Tate and RB JJ Taylor are both questionable for this one. Even if they do play, they probably won’t be at 100 percent. Let’s roll with the home team in a game that could get very Pac-12 After Dark. Pick: Colorado -4.
Sam Cooper (Last week: 2-1, Overall: 6-8-1)
Tulane at Army (+3): Army had a sluggish start in its most recent game against Morgan State two weeks ago, leading to a tongue-lashing from coach Jeff Monken. After a bye week, I like the Black Knights to come back strong, even against a good Tulane team. Army hasn’t lost at home since the 2016 season. Pick: Army +3
TCU at Iowa State (-3.5): I’m a little down on the TCU defense after watching it get carved up by SMU a few weeks ago. Iowa State came all the way back in the fourth quarter last week against Baylor, only to give up a last-second field goal. ISU’s two losses are by a combined three points and I think I’m getting good value with the game in Ames. Pick: Iowa State -3.5
Oregon State at UCLA (-6): Oregon State is an improving team. The Beavers were competitive against Oklahoma State and lost to both Hawaii and Stanford by three points. The rest of the schedule is tough, and OSU is itching for a victory, especially in Pac-12 play. With UCLA QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson banged (and possibly out), I like Oregon State to cover and would not be surprised by an outright OSU victory. Pick: Oregon State +6
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