Week 6 of the college football season is here, with another Saturday of terrific matchups.
Our handicappers Adam Burke, Tim Murray, Wes Reynolds and Scott Seidenberg are here to give you their best bets for the weekend's card.
Overall record: 23-26-2 ATS
Lines are consensus odds from VSiN's college football lines page, as of Wednesday night.
Old Dominion Monarchs at Marshall Thundering Herd (-20.5, 66)
Burke: The Monarchs have not played well in the first half this season. Ricky Rahne’s team has made some strong second-half adjustments and played much better in the third and fourth quarter, but this is a team that has not gotten off to a good start in any of the four games against FBS opponents.
Aside from a blowout loss against FCS Hampton, ODU has trailed 28-3, 28-17, 35-7 and 17-7 at the intermission to this point. That combined score of 108-34 is the reason why Marshall is a good bet this week. They should get the opportunity to play from in front and will be a great start to covering this big number.
The Thundering Herd are a big favorites in the game overall and have done pretty well offensively this season; they’ve just had some major defensive issues that have led to losses. Marshall has scored at least 28 points in every game, but goes into this one with a 2-3 record.
Marshall ranks 12th in YPP on offense with 7.06; Old Dominion ranks 118th with 4.69. Oddly enough, the Marshall defense has allowed fewer than five yards per play this season, but the Herd’s 15 turnovers are tied for the most in the nation. Old Dominion has forced only three turnovers this season.
Old Dominion’s second-half comebacks have to be something that first-year head coach Charles Huff has talked about with the Herd. They’re good enough to cover this number and keep adding on in the second half to avoid what has happened to ODU’s last two opponents.
Pick: Marshall Thundering Herd -20.5
West Virginia Mountaineers at Baylor Bears (-3, 44.5)
Burke: It will be an early start in Waco for the West Virginia Mountaineers and the Baylor Bears with an 11 a.m. local time kickoff. Maybe that will help the East Coasters from Morgantown, but that won’t be the only thing that should help the Mountaineers.
At this time of the season, strength of schedule discrepancies can play a huge role. WVU has played the 15th-ranked schedule per Jeff Sagarin. Baylor has played the 105th-ranked schedule. Despite playing a brutal schedule to this point, West Virginia is actually + 1.01 yards per play. Baylor has a great yards per play differential, but ran up some big numbers against the likes of Texas Southern and Kansas.
Baylor did score a win over Iowa State, but was outgained by 197 yards overall and 6.6 to 5.4 in yards per play. That was about as misleading as a final score can get, as Baylor ran back a kick for a touchdown and took advantage of Iowa State’s poor special teams in other ways. Against Oklahoma State last week, Baylor was once again badly outgained and managed just five yards per play. This offense has beaten up on the bums and struggled against legitimate foes.
WVU is a legitimate foe. The Mountaineers were minus-4 in turnovers in the season-opening loss to Maryland. They held Oklahoma to just 313 yards and lost on a last-second field goal. They had a hangover in the first half against Texas Tech and trailed 17-0 at the break, but scored 17 points in the third quarter to tie the game and outgained the Red Raiders, despite losing on yet another late game-winning field goal.
Maybe we could say that WVU has found ways to lose, but this is a battle-tested team that has a stronger resume and has played better competition than Baylor. It would be fair to say that the wrong team is favored here and getting three points is a nice bonus. Sprinkle the moneyline here as well.
Pick: West Virginia + 3
North Texas Mean Green at Missouri Tigers (-19, 68)
Burke: Embarrassment doesn’t even begin to describe what the Missouri Tigers must have felt last week. Tennessee led 28-3 after the first quarter and 45-10 at halftime in Columbia in what was one of the worst home losses ever for Missouri and certainly the worst loss Eli Drinkwitz has experienced as a head coach.
While Tennessee is far from the class of the SEC, the Tigers have a golden opportunity to get back on the right track this week against the North Texas Mean Green. North Texas was once known for offense with QB Mason Fine and OC Graham Harrell, but those days are long gone in Denton. UNT comes into this game 116th in the nation in yards per play and would be even worse than that if we scratched the Northwestern State game.
The Mean Green averaged 4.1 YPP against SMU, UAB and Louisiana Tech in three losses. Missouri has played a tougher schedule to this point and has been poor defensively, but this is a “get right” game for Mizzou against an overmatched opponent from a weak conference.
North Texas has the fifth-worst pass defense by yards per attempt and Missouri has the 10th-highest number of pass attempts on the season. This should be a game where the Tigers get the passing attack going to give Connor Bazelak some confidence and one where the defense has a chance to get back to basics and get some confidence of its own.
After giving up 103 points the last two weeks, Missouri must have some frustration to let out and this should be the right spot to do it. Even though SEC play resumes next week for the Tigers, there are no lookahead spots when you just allowed 62 points and lost by 38.
Pick: Missouri -19
New Mexico Lobos at No. 25 San Diego State Aztecs (-19.5, 42)
Reynolds: The Aztecs have been the early-season surprise in the Mountain West as Brady Hoke is in the second year of his second act at San Diego State. Through four games, the undefeated Aztecs have gotten it done running the ball (ninth nationally, 254.8 yards per game) and stopping the run (second, 46 yards per game). San Diego State should also get back QB Jordan Brookshire (right ankle) and starting RB Greg Bell (left shoulder/collarbone) from injuries. More than likely, Brookshire will trade reps with Georgia Tech transfer Lucas Johnson, who has started the last two games. The Aztecs also come in off an early bye week.
New Mexico has been fairly anemic offensively, to put it mildly. The Lobos rank in the bottom 10 overall in FBS for total offense, scoring offense and third down conversions. On paper this looks like a mismatch, but this game will involve a lot of emotion on both sides. Rocky Long, now the defensive coordinator at New Mexico, returns to San Diego State where he was the head coach from 2011-2019, piling up an 81-38 record with three conference championships and bowl appearances in all nine years. Long, in his second year as the DC for New Mexico, is now working under his former player Danny Gonzales, who played for Long when he was the Lobos head coach. Gonzales also served on Long’s staff for seven years at San Diego State.
Meanwhile, Brady Hoke is in his second stint as head coach of the Aztecs. He was replaced by Rocky Long when Hoke left for Michigan in 2011. Then, Long took over before resigning in 2019. In Long’s final season in San Diego, Hoke came back as defensive line coach before eventually succeeding Long as head coach. Needless to say, these two coaching staffs are highly familiar with each other.
New Mexico is one of just six teams out of 130 in FBS who have yet to cover a spread this season. The Lobos are 0-5 ATS on the season and have failed to cover those games by 11.6 PPG. However, this is the game where you probably get their best effort with all of the emotion and familiar ties involved. Plus, San Diego State is now the hunted with a ranking by its name. New Mexico had been allowing just a little over 75 ypg on the ground before Air Force’s triple option piled up 408 on them last week. Expect Long to have placed an emphasis on tackling fundamentals this week and to have something in his bag of tricks to at least slow down San Diego State’s potent rushing attack. Long’s defenses were always at or near the top of the conference at both New Mexico and San Diego State. The total is only 42 and 19.5 is a big number with such a low total.
Pick: New Mexico + 19.5
Houston Cougars (-6, 59.5) at Tulane Green Wave
Seidenberg: Friday night will feature two teams going in opposite directions. Houston comes into this game winners of four straight, while Tulane enters having lost its last three games. Points certainly are not the issue for both of these offenses, as Houston averages 36.6 PPG and Tulane averages 35.4. The difference between the two teams is clearly the defenses. Houston enters this game as the fourth ranked defense in the nation, allowing 253.6 yards per game. Tulane, meanwhile, ranks 123rd in the nation in yards per game (out of 130 teams). The Green Wave have been torched this season, allowing 482 yards per game and 40.2 PPG, good for 126th in the country (again, out of 130 teams).
Last week against East Carolina, Tulane allowed RB Keaton Mitchell to gallop his way to 222 yards on the ground. I expect Houston to run the ball with ease against this front and see a big effort from both Alton McCaskill and Ta’Zhawn Henry. Both backs have combined for 10 touchdowns on the ground this season. McCaskill is averaging 4.6 yards per carry while Henry is averaging 5.1. Tulane hasn’t proven they can stop the run yet, and they shouldn’t in this one. If they do, Clayton Tune will lead the way. Since his four-interception performance in the opening loss to Texas Tech, Tune has completed 70 percent of his passes. Nathaniel Dell is a deadly weapon on the outside, ranking 31st in the nation in receiving yards.
The situations couldn’t be more different. Aside from one team being hot and another being cold, Houston comes into this short week with an extra day of prep, having won last Friday in a game that did not take much effort in the second half. They’ll be the more rested team, the more talented team, and the more dominant team in this lopsided matchup. Plus, as pointed out in this week’s edition of Point Spread Weekly (do yourself a favor and make sure you are getting this every week) teams coming off a conference blowout road win (more than 33 points) cover the next game 59.9 percent of the time. Houston won by 35 at Tulsa last week.
Pick: Houston -6
Memphis Tigers at Tulsa Golden Hurricane (-3, 61)
Seidenberg: Okay, I’m a little confused here: Why is Tulane favored in this game? Is it because they are at home and it’s a prime-time game? While that may mean something, I don’t think it means that much. Memphis has lost its last twp games, the first time that’s happened since 2018, so I guess people are down on them? However, both losses were by a combined six points and if not for four fumbles, they’re just a couple of plays away from being 5-0. Then what would the line be?
The offense is rolling, averaging 37.8 points and 476 yards per game. Freshman QB Seth Henigan has been a revelation this season, throwing for 12 touchdowns and just one interception. It’s the fumbles that have gotten to Memphis. If they hold on to the football, they should score on every possession against a Tulsa defense that has allowed 40 points per game in its last three games.
The defense, however, has let the Tigers down. They allow 465 yards per game and rank among the bottom 20 of the nation in sacks and takeaways. Head Coach Ryan Silverfield said he’s not going to change things schematically, they just need to tackle better and create some more havoc. Perhaps some more blitzing could be in store this week as they try to force the issue.
What really stands out to me in this game is that Tulsa is the fourth-most penalized team in the nation. Most of their infractions have come on offense, where they rank second in the nation in flags. If the offense continues to play undisciplined, they will certainly help out the weak Memphis defense. I see the Tigers scoring well into the 30s, while Tulsa shoots itself in the foot one too many times. I think Memphis not only covers, but wins outright, so I’ll gladly take the points.
Pick: Memphis + 3
No. 9 Michigan Wolverines (-3.5, 50.5) at Nebraska Cornhuskers
Murray: Last weekend, Michigan was quite impressive in a dominant 38-17 win over Wisconsin. The Wolverines were two-point underdogs against the Badgers, and for the first time since Jim Harbaugh took over as head coach Michigan won a game as an underdog (0-11 in previous games as an underdog). Additionally, the Wolverines avenged back-to-back embarrassing losses against Wisconsin; the Badgers had won the previous two meetings by a combined 59 points. Now, the unbeaten Wolverines hit the road again for a tricky contest against Nebraska.
“Tricky contest against Nebraska?” Yes. Since the Cornhuskers’ season-opening 30-22 loss at Illinois (Nebraska closed -7), Scott Frost’s squad is 5-0 ATS. QB Adrian Martinez will be the best quarterback that Michigan has faced so far this season. Martinez is fifth among FBS quarterbacks in rushing with 412 yards on the season. He has rushed for nine touchdowns and is also completing 67 percent of his passes.
In last week’s 56-7 win over Northwestern, Nebraska outgained the Wildcats 657-293. Two weeks ago in East Lansing, Nebraska dropped a heartbreaker to Michigan State, 23-20, in overtime. The Cornhuskers outgained the Spartans 442-254 and held Michigan State to 14 total yards in the second half (the Spartans’ only points in the second half came courtesy of a punt return for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter). Nebraska held the nation’s leading rusher, Kenneth Walker, to just 39 yards on the ground in regulation (Walker finished the game with 61 rushing yards), and then proceeded to throw an interception on the third play of overtime.
Nebraska has had issues closing out close games, as ESPN’s Chris Fallica tweeted: They have lost an FBS-high 15 one-score games since Frost took over in 2018. The Wolverines have been rolling this year, but Saturday night under the lights in Lincoln seems like a tricky spot for Michigan. The line is suspiciously short and I think the Cornhuskers will rise to the occasion.
Pick: Nebraska + 3.5