Week 5 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: 18-18-2 ATS
Lines are consensus odds from VSiN's college football lines page, as of Wednesday night.
No. 14 Michigan Wolverines at Wisconsin Badgers (-2, 43.5)
Murray: Fresh off a 28-point loss to Notre Dame, life doesn't get easier for 1-2 Wisconsin as the Badgers welcome unbeaten Michigan to town on Saturday. At Soldier Field last weekend, Wisconsin led Notre Dame 13-10 early in the fourth quarter before falling apart. The Badgers allowed a kickoff return for a touchdown, QB Graham Mertz lost a fumble and threw three interceptions, two of which were returned for a touchdown. Despite the lopsided loss, Wisconsin outgained Notre Dame, 318-248, and held running back duo of Kyren Williams and Chris Tyree to 39 yards on 20 carries.
The Wolverines enter Camp Randall with an unblemished record, but Saturday’s 20-13 win against Rutgers was concerning. Leading 20-3 at halftime, Michigan was held to 42 total yards on 21 plays in the second half; QB Cade McNamara was just 1-of-5 for 7 yards after halftime. McNamara has only attempted 53 passes, completing 33, so far this season, as Michigan has relied on the ground game. The Wolverines are fifth in the nation in rushing yards per game (290.8), sixth in yards per carry (6.25) and tied for first in rushing touchdowns (17). Can Michigan rely solely on running the ball against Wisconsin? The Badgers have allowed a total of 69 yards on the ground in three games this season. Opponents are averaging 1.01 yards per carry and have rushed for only one touchdown.
Turnovers have been a massive issue for Wisconsin this season. The Badgers are last in the nation with a seven-7 turnover margin, and Mertz has thrown six interceptions (four against Notre Dame, two against Penn State). Michigan, on the other hand, is the only team in the country to have zero turnovers this season.
Lastly, doesn’t the line seem a bit off? An unbeaten top-15 team is an underdog against a 1-2 team? As pointed out by ESPN's Chris Fallica, going back to 2016, there have been nine unranked teams that have been favored over a top-15 team. The unranked teams are 7-2 straight up including West Virginia’s win over Virginia Tech on Sept. 18. In a desperate spot for the Badgers, I’ll ride with the unranked team.
Pick: Wisconsin -2
South Florida Bulls at SMU Mustangs (-20.5, 68.5)
Burke: USF is getting a lot of points for the second straight week. The Bulls covered with ease last week against BYU and are back on the road once again this week to take on SMU. The back-to-back road spot after a game in altitude is a little bit concerning, but not nearly as concerning as the spot for SMU.
The Mustangs just beat TCU to retain the Iron Skillet. It was the first time since 1992-93 that SMU won consecutive games over TCU. There is a “Little Brother vs. Big Brother” component to that rivalry, which has been heavily one-sided for TCU over the last 20 years and also with the difference in conference between the two schools.
SMU put a lot into that game and also needed a Hail Mary to beat Louisiana Tech on the last play of the game. SMU also only outgained North Texas by 30 yards back in Week 2, as the Mean Green went 0-for-4 on fourth down and managed six points in five red zone trips.
USF was worked over by NC State and Florida in the first two games, but played admirably last week against BYU and gets the Mustangs in a similar spot this week. BYU was off of three straight Pac-12 games with a rivalry game on deck. While SMU doesn’t play a rival, the Mustangs do play the Navy triple-option and that takes some extra time and preparation.
Jeff Scott took over this program with very little to work with, but the team has battled well and looks to be moving in the right direction.
Pick: USF Bulls + 20.5
No. 10 Florida Gators (-8, 55) at Kentucky Wildcats
Burke: This has been about as one-sided of a rivalry as you can get, as Florida has won 39 of the last 41 meetings against Kentucky. The Wildcats did steal one back in 2018 in Gainesville to end a 31-game losing streak, but have lost the last two contests between the two teams.
Kentucky is off to a 4-0 start despite a minus-9 turnover margin. The Wildcats have not played the greatest of schedules (wins over UL Monroe, Missouri, UT-Chattanooga and South Carolina), but they’ve found ways to win in spite of some bad turnovers and growing pains with a new offensive coordinator.
Florida has already played Alabama, so the Gators were tested in that one and nearly passed the test with flying colors in the 31-29 loss. This will be the first road game of the season in a hostile environment for the Gators after playing at USF in Week 2.
UF struggled a bit with Tennessee last week before pulling away in the second half and covering the spread with a late touchdown and a stop inside the 10-yard-line as time expired.
Kentucky is top-10 in yards per play allowed on defense, which has been the calling card the last few seasons for the ‘Cats. Florida comes in off two SEC games that mean more to them. Kentucky does look improved and the offense looks a bit more balanced.
Getting more than a touchdown in Lexington with a Florida team in a little bit of a down spot looks worthy of a bet to me.
Pick: Kentucky Wildcats + 8.5
Seidenberg: Kentucky must stop giving the ball away to the opposing team. Through four games this season, the Wildcats are minus-9 in turnover margin, but sit at 4-0, with a chance to have a special season. The offense is trying to go down the field more and the rushing attack has been solid, but this team goes where the defense takes it.
Kentucky is allowing just 87 rushing yards a game, and as a whole, the defensive unit ranks ninth in the country in yards per game. They’re in for a challenge against Florida, which is averaging 541 yards of offense per game. The goal is simple: Control the clock, don’t give away the football and keep Florida’s offense off the field. The Gators are allowing 350 yards per game, so Kentucky will have successful drives. If they are able to win this game, the Wildcats have the inside track at second place in the SEC East and a big-time bowl game when the season is over. The fans would love nothing more than to rush the field after this one, given the fact that Kentucky has only beaten Florida once since 1986. This will be a low-scoring, physical football game and eight points is too many.
Pick: Kentucky + 8
No. 6 Oklahoma Sooners (-10.5, 52) at Kansas State Wildcats
Reynolds: Oklahoma remained undefeated last week with a narrow 16-13 victory over West Virginia. It was not just the Sooners bettors that were disappointed: The crowd in Norman booed Heisman candidate Spencer Rattler and chanted for the backup during a relatively pedestrian performance.
Now the Sooners take to the road to face Kansas State. Bill Snyder Family Stadium has been a house of horrors in the past for Oklahoma. In fact, the Wildcats beat the Sooners outright in 2019 as 23.5-point underdogs and also beat them last year in Norman as 27.5-point dogs.
Kansas State’s recent success against Oklahoma has depressed this line. Furthermore, outside of Oklahoma’s 76-0 blowout over FCS Western Carolina, Oklahoma is 0-3 ATS vs. FBS teams and has failed to cover any of those numbers by an average of 18.7 PPG.
Both Kansas State victories over Oklahoma were led by quarterback Skylar Thompson, who has missed the Wildcats’ last two games with a knee injury (Thompson is also not listed on this week’s depth chart, but has not been ruled out for Saturday’s game). Will Howard has started the last two games for Kansas State, but has only completed 48.7 percent of his passes (19-for-39) for 249 yards combined in those two starts. Howard also left last week’s game with injury and rotated periodically with Jaren Lewis.
Kansas State has also allowed 650 yards passing combined over its last two games, so this could be a spot for Rattler and the Sooners to get right from their offensive slump. In addition, Kansas State only rushed for 62 yards (2.5 YPC) last week at Oklahoma State and now faces a Sooners defense that has only surrendered 74 yards (2.4 YPC) and has tallied 14 sacks in four games. We would not have thought that the Oklahoma defense would be the team’s strength.
Bettors have been burned by Oklahoma several teams already this season and K-State head coach Chris Klieman is 5-1 ATS as a home dog (1-0 this season) in his third year in Manhattan. The Wildcats will get their fair share of support in the market, but this looks to be a spot to go to the well one more time on an Oklahoma club that has dropped in the polls two straight weeks with unimpressive home victories.
Pick: Oklahoma -10.5
Southern Miss Golden Eagles at Rice Owls (-2.5, 45)
Burke: Southern Miss steps down in class a little bit here after playing Alabama last week, but the Golden Eagles haven’t exactly looked good against comparable competition either. Southern Miss was soundly beaten 31-7 by South Alabama in Week 1 and then held to 156 yards by Troy in Week 3.
In that Troy game, Southern Miss ran the ball 39 times for -1 yard. The offense ranks 127th in the nation in yards per play with 3.95. Even with Alabama on the schedule, Southern Miss’s strength of schedule ranks 113th for Jeff Sagarin, who ranks 258 FBS and FCS teams.
Rice has been a disappointment this season, but the Owls have also been tasked with playing the 42nd-ranked schedule to this point. As you would expect with that level of competition, the Owls rank 124th among FBS teams with 6.94 yards per play allowed, but this should be a “get right” game for the Rice defense. Defending Arkansas, Houston, Texas and even Texas Southern is much different than facing off with the Golden Eagles.
Rice actually led Arkansas 17-7 early in the third quarter before the Razorbacks woke up. The Owls have been viewed in higher regard over the last few seasons by a lot of respected bettors that seem to like the job that Mike Bloomgren is doing.
My numbers say to be Rice and the strength of schedule disparity also suggests that Rice should have more success in a matchup like this.
Pick: Rice -2.5
Boston College Eagles at No. 25 Clemson Tigers (-15.5, 46)
Seidenberg: I'm not sure which is the worst aspect of this line being over two touchdowns: The disrespect for BC or the belief that Clemson can actually beat a team by two touchdowns. It’s been a disappointing season for the Tigers, to say the least. After dropping the opener to Georgia, Clemson beat up on South Carolina State before an unimpressive win over Georgia Tech, followed by a loss to NC State last week as 10.5-point favorites. Now, the reality has to set in: Clemson has no chance to make the CFB Playoff.
For most of the Clemson players, all they have known their entire football playing careers has been playing for a championship -- either while at Clemson or as elite HS players. Now they sit in the midst of a lost season, so what do they do?
As for Boston College, the Eagles have to feel a bit disrespected. This same team went into Clemson last season and gave the Tigers a fight in DJ Uiagalelei’s first start, only to come up short 34-28. With many returning players from last season, you know BC wants to finish the job this time. In fact, finishing is something coach Jeff Hafley talked about after their overtime win against Mizzou last week.
In that game, BC bullied its way to 275 rushing yards on 49 carries. With injuries up front to Clemson’s defensive line, I expect the Eagles to run the ball early and often. In three games against Power 5 opponents, Clemson is averaging just 12.6 PPG.
Pick: Boston College + 15.5, sprinkle BC ML + 500
No. 12 Ole Miss Rebels at No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide (-14.5, 79.5)
Seidenberg: Could we be in store for another shootout? Last season, these two teams combined for 1,370 yards and 111 points. I don’t think this game is going to be that crazy, but it’s going to be fun. Ole Miss comes into this game averaging 635 yards and 52.7 PPG. Their defense has been improved from a season ago, and that should help them in this matchup. The key, though, will be getting enough snaps. Ole Miss wants to get close to 90 snaps on offense. If they can do that, they will hang in this game and even have a chance to win.
By comparison, Florida rolled off 71 offensive plays in their contest against Alabama. Lane Kiffin won’t be shy against Bama here. He will push the tempo, and test them down the field. We know they can hang points with anyone, and this game could very well come down to who has the ball last. Ole Miss is 6-2 ATS in its last eight games at Alabama. Kiffin is 8-4 ATS in his career as a double-digit dog. Don’t be shocked if Matt Corral has a Heisman moment, and Ole Miss upsets the Tide outright.
Pick: Ole Miss + 14.5, sprinkle Ole Miss ML + 475