Week 5 best bets for Penn State vs. Northwestern, Michigan vs. Nebraska
A lot of teams are now into conference play, as Week 5 brings us fewer marquee games, but games that have much greater importance when it comes to the standings. Only a handful of teams truly have a shot at college football’s ultimate prize, but most programs set goals to win division and conference titles and these games are vital to those causes.
As I wrote about in my Week 5 College Football Power Ratings piece earlier this week, we do have some enormous strength of schedule discrepancies that should be factored into the equation when evaluating the performances to date for these teams. So, that’s just another thing to work into your handicap as you look at Week 5.
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Here are my favorite picks for Week 5:
(odds as of September 28, 10:45 a.m. PT)
Penn State Nittany Lions (-27, 46) at Northwestern Wildcats
Penn State heads to Illinois for the second time this season, as they’ll play another Big Ten West opponent in the Land of Lincoln. This trip will be to Evanston, where Northwestern is riding a bit of a high off of a huge comeback win over Minnesota. The Wildcats have been a good second-half team in most of their games this season with interim head coach David Braun and that should help them keep it close here.
Also, Penn State’s offense is just not impressive. Last week, the Nittany Lions ran 97 offensive plays to just 33 for Iowa in a 31-0 win. Iowa lost four fumbles in the game, but Penn State still struggled to capitalize. In four games, Penn State has averaged just 5.45 yards per play and just 4.48 YPP in games against Big Ten foes.
I don’t think Northwestern wins this game, but I think 27 is a lot for a Penn State offense that has struggled to move the ball against conference foes.
Pick: Northwestern +27 (would play to +24.5)
Last week was a good one for Michigan. They comfortably beat Rutgers by a 31-7 score, but they were tested a little bit and actually had to focus on playing out the second half. That was not the case in wins over East Carolina, UNLV, and Bowling Green. It was something of a wake-up call and one that should carry over into the game against Nebraska.
This is a big spread with a really low total, but my line is a good bit higher on Michigan. Nebraska has played well the last two weeks, but Northern Illinois and Louisiana Tech are two of the worst FBS teams in the country. I have them ranked 110th and 131st, so this is an enormous step up in class with continued questions at the QB position.
Michigan used Blake Corum 21 times last week, so it seems like he’s finally in the game. They’ve found some success with J.J. McCarthy early in the year with some easy pitch-and-catch, so I think he should be in good shape. If Michigan gets into the upper 20s, I think they’re good here at this number and I think getting into the 30s is very doable, as Nebraska has faced one good offense and I don’t think we’re sure how good Colorado is. This is a mismatch in my opinion.
Pick: Michigan -17 (would only play at -17 or better)
After spending time staring up at Coastal Carolina in the Sun Belt East Division standings, I feel like the shoe is going to be on the other foot in the division this season. Georgia Southern looks to be building on last season’s improvements under head coach Clay Helton and is a legitimate contender for the conference crown.
This line has ticked up to -6.5, but I have it lined 11, so I still think it’s worthy of a play. Outside of the five-interception game against Wisconsin, Davis Brin has an 8/2 TD/INT ratio and has only been sacked three times. The Eagles left some points on the field in that one and have not left many points on the field otherwise, scoring 34, 49, and 40 points.
If they get to that level in this game, I think -6.5 will be good. The Chanticleers don’t have the same look or feel on offense under Tim Beck and they sprung a lot of leaks defensively last season, so that was already an area of concern. Coastal has won three in a row in the head-to-head series and it’s time for Georgia Southern to exact some revenge.
Pick: Georgia Southern -6.5 (would play up to -7)