Expert College Football Best Bets: Picks and predictions for Week 5

By Zachary Cohen  ( Senior Editor) 

September 29, 2023 11:07 PM

Week 5 college football best bets and predictions

The college football season is in full gear and VSiN is pumping out more content for it than ever. All of our college football stories and resources are available at our Week 5 CFB Bet Hub, where you'll also get best bets from all of my incredibly talented colleagues. But you'll have to keep reading this one to get my college football best bets every week. I have six plays that I'm jumping on early this week, with one of them being a rare two-unit bet on an exciting matchup between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Duke Blue Devils. And I might add some more picks later on. If I do, they'll be thrown in at the bottom of this story, so definitely make sure to come back and look for more Week 5 college football best bets throughout the day on Saturday, September 30.  

MORE: Check out our Pro Picks page for college football best bets from all of our analysts

Texas A&M Aggies vs. Arkansas Razorbacks (AT&T Stadium)

It was announced on Wednesday that Conner Weigman will likely miss the remainder of the season for Texas A&M. It’s an unfortunate blow for the Aggies, as Weigman looks the part of a future star at the quarterback position. But I’m not quite sure it’ll impact Texas A&M all that much the remainder of the season. In Max Johnson, the Aggies have one of the best backups in all of college football. And the lefty proved two years ago that he is fully capable of being a starter, as he threw for 2,815 yards with 27 touchdowns and only six picks when he played for LSU. Johnson might not have Weigman’s ability to make big plays with both his arm and his legs, but he’s an extremely accurate passer. He’ll get the ball out quickly and he’ll put Texas A&M’s playmakers in a position to succeed.

Considering I’m not expecting much of a drop from the Aggies offense, I do think they’ll handle their business in Fayetteville this weekend. This Arkansas team was able to hang tough in a road loss against LSU last week, which was impressive. But the Razorbacks have now lost back-to-back games straight-up, and they’re just 1-3 against the spread this season. And the really concerning thing is that their defense has been abysmal recently. Arkansas gave up 38 points in a loss to BYU two weeks ago, and the team then gave up 34 against LSU. And in the loss to the Tigers, the Hogs gave up over 500 total yards of offense. With that in mind, I think they’ll have trouble stopping a Texas A&M offense that has looked great under offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino.

Defensively, the Aggies should be able to keep the Razorbacks in check, even if K.J. Jefferson is one of the better dual-threat quarterbacks in football. Texas A&M has allowed 10 or fewer points in three of its four games this year, and the only game in which the team struggled was against a Miami team that looks borderline elite offensively thus far. But the Aggies secondary has been a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks thus far, and Jefferson still isn’t all that great as a passer. So, I can see Jimbo Fisher’s defense mixing things up and giving him some trouble here.

Texas A&M also happens to be 11-4 ATS as a favorite of 3.5 to 10 points under Fisher. So, the Aggies have been comfortable in situations like these, and they’re also 6-1 SU and 4-3 ATS on neutral fields in that same span.

Bet: Texas A&M -6 (-112 - Play to -6.5) 

Clemson Tigers at Syracuse Orange

People seem to love clowning Dabo Swinney and Clemson, and the media had a lot of fun with the Tigers head coach saying that his team is a few plays away from being 4-0 this season. But while moral victories don’t mean a lot in college football, he isn’t wrong. And his team really should have earned a win over Florida State last week, but Jonathan Weitz missed what would have been a game-winning 29-yard field goal and Clemson lost the game in overtime. That game showed me that the Tigers are still a very good football team, even though it got away. And I think we’ll see a big difference in talent when they go out and face the Orange.

Syracuse has oddly had a lot of success against Clemson over the years, with the Orange being 7-2 ATS in the last nine meetings between these two. But I’m just not very confident that this version of the Orange will be able to find offensive success against the Tigers defense. Clemson has allowed less than 100 rushing yards in each of its last three games, and Syracuse is a team that does a lot of its damage on the ground. If this turns into a game in which Garrett Shrader has to try and beat the Tigers with his arm, I think things could unravel for the Orange.

I’m also not very confident in Syracuse’s defense finding a way to stop Clemson. The Orange have been great on that side of the ball this season, but that was against Colgate, Western Michigan, Purdue and Army. Syracuse hasn’t faced a team with anything near the amount of talent that Clemson has, and the Tigers do seem to be rounding into shape under Garrett Riley. They’re averaging 46.0 points per game over their last three games and I can see them hanging a big number on the Orange, even in a difficult road environment.

Bet: Clemson -6.5 (-110) 

Michigan Wolverines at Nebraska Cornhuskers

When a game has a total as low as 40, it’s very hard for one team to blow the other out. So, while Nebraska has had its share of embarrassing moments this season, I don’t see the Huskers losing this game by more than 17 points. And Nebraska has looked a lot more competent offensively since turning to quarterback Henrich Haarberg. That makes it hard to handicap this Huskers team quite like the one we saw in Weeks 1 and 2. Haarberg is unproven at this point in his career, but there’s a little Josh Allen to him. He’s a 6-foot-5 dual-threat quarterback that is a monster in the running game, as evidenced by his 255 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns over the last two games. And while he’s a little inaccurate as a passer, he has been able to avoid making costly mistakes. Haarberg hasn’t yet thrown a pick this season.

Of course, Michigan’s defense will be the toughest one Haarberg has seen, by far. The Wolverines are one of the best teams in all of college football on that side of the ball. But Nebraska should only need a couple of successful drives in order to stay within this number. The reason for that is Nebraska’s defense is legit. The Cornhuskers are allowing only 18.5 points per game this season, and they are allowing fewer yards per game on the ground than all but one FBS team this season. That’s exactly the type of defense you want against an offense that features star running back Blake Corum. If the Huskers can cut off the head of the snake, they should be just fine here. Quarterback J.J. McCarthy has made big improvements for Michigan in the passing game, but I don’t see him lighting up this defense — especially with the Wolverines lacking a true alpha at wide receiver.

It's also worth noting that Michigan is just 5-6 ATS as a road favorite of 14.5 or more under head coach Jim Harbaugh. Meanwhile, Matt Rhule is one of college football’s best motivators, so I think he’ll have the Cornhuskers fired up for this massive home game.

Bet: Nebraska +17.5 (-110) 

Georgia Bulldogs at Auburn Tigers

I’m not quite sure Auburn has the offensive firepower to win this game outright, but I do think the Tigers are going to find a way to keep this thing close. While this passing game is anemic with Payton Thorne under center, I do think head coach Hugh Freeze is capable of scheming up a few solid drives for this Auburn offense — potentially with some highly scripted early drives that utilize a lot of smoke and mirrors. And if the Tigers can put even double digits in this one, I can’t imagine they won’t find a way to cover as a home underdog of a little more than two touchdowns.

While Georgia is 4-0 to start the season, the team is just 0-3-1 ATS through four games. Kirby Smart’s team has not been playing to expectations, and the Dawgs now find themselves playing in one of the most difficult road environments in sports. The atmosphere at Jordan-Hare Stadium is going to be out of this world this weekend, which should make it hard for Georgia’s offensive players to even think properly. And that’s something that’s important to me heading into this game, as Carson Beck is the furthest thing from proven right now. He simply hasn’t experienced anything quite like the pressure he’ll be under in Week 5, and I think Auburn defensive coordinator Ron Roberts will play into that. Look for Roberts to dial up a lot of blitzes in this game, and don’t be surprised if Beck struggles a bit under duress.

Auburn’s secondary has also held up rather nicely this season, with the team giving up fewer than 200 passing yards in all four games thus far. The Tigers hadn’t faced any serious passing attacks until playing the Aggies last week, but they looked just fine against Weigman and Johnson last week. That gives me confidence in this Auburn defense heading into this week. I don’t think the Tigers will have trouble covering if they can avoid giving up big plays through the air.

Bet: Auburn +14.5 (-110) 

LSU Tigers at Ole Miss Rebels

All four of LSU’s games have gone Over the total this season, so it’s hard to expect anything but a high-scoring game against an Ole Miss team that has an explosive offense and a beatable defense — and the same can be said for the Tigers on both sides of the ball. LSU is currently 10th in the nation in scoring offense, averaging 42.8 points per game on the season. Meanwhile, Ole Miss is right behind at 12th in the nation, averaging 42.0 points per game. So, these are two of the better offenses in all of college football, and I think this game will turn into a showcase for both groups.

Realistically, we have seen LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels shred much better defenses than this one, and I don’t see how the Rebels will have an answer for him. Daniels has just been remarkable as a passer this year, completing 72.6% of his passes for 1,296 yards with 12 touchdowns and only two picks this season. And when you combine his improved ability to throw with the fact that he has next-level running ability, Ole Miss is going to have its work cut out when it comes to stopping this offense. But LSU’s defense will also be in for a long day here. Ole Miss scored at least 37 points in all three of its games before facing an elite Alabama defense last week. And the Rebels will likely get right back on track here.

It also should be noted that the Over has hit in five of the last six meetings between these two teams. Meanwhile, the Over is 8-4 in the 12 games that LSU has played as a favorite under head coach Brian Kelly. On top of that, the Over is 4-1 in the games that the Tigers have played against opponents that average at least 37.0 points per game in that span. So, when LSU faces good offenses, the games tend to go as expected.

Bet: Over 65.5 (-109) 

Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Duke Blue Devils

Duke is my favorite play of the week, by far. In fact, I’m putting a little more on this one than I normally do and I’m also sprinkling the moneyline. I just think that this Blue Devils team is every bit as good as the Fighting Irish, and then there’s the fact that this is a let-down spot for Marcus Freeman’s team. Notre Dame was minutes away from defeating Ohio State last week, but the Buckeyes scored a touchdown to win the game as time expired. It was a heartbreaking defeat for the Fighting Irish, who have to feel like their College Football Playoff hopes slipped away with that loss. That’s going to be hard for Notre Dame to come to grips with. And the team will also be playing in a hostile road environment this week, with this being one of the biggest games in the history of Duke football.

For whatever reason, people didn’t seem to have a lot of faith in the Blue Devils backing up last year’s 9-4 season. Duke did have some turnover luck last year, but the team also experienced a huge culture shift in Mike Elko’s first year with the program. Then, the Blue Devils returned a lot of production from last year’s team, which is ultimately why I played the Over on their regular season win total. But Duke has been even better than I expected early on, with the team earning a 21-point win over Clemson in Week 1. The Blue Devils have since won all of their games by at least 24 points, and they have just looked superb on both sides of the ball.

Not only is Duke’s offense incredibly hard to stop with star quarterback Riley Leonard being tremendous with both his arm and his legs, but the Blue Devils have finally taken to Elko’s coaching on the defensive side of the ball. Only three teams in the nation have allowed fewer than the 8.8 points per game that Duke has given up this season, and the Blue Devils have been extremely stingy in the secondary. That’s massive heading into this game, as I think they’ll find a way to keep Sam Hartman and the Fighting Irish offense in check. Duke is also a team that forces a lot of turnovers, with four interceptions and four forced fumbles on the year. I can see the Blue Devils forcing Hartman into making some mistakes in this game, giving Leonard the opportunity to cash in on some short fields.

Overall, I just don’t think it’s fair to expect Notre Dame to win this game. This team will likely be drained emotionally, and Duke will be the exact opposite. The Blue Devils will be fired up and looking to prove that this football program is here to stay.

Bet: Duke +5.5 (-105 - 2 units) & Duke ML (+180 - 0.5 units)

2023 Record: 20-20-1 (-2.18 units)

Added Plays

Arizona +20 (-110) vs. Washington

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