Week 6 of the college football season is here, including the another week of terrific matchups.
Our handicappers Brian Edwards, Tim Murray and Wes Reynolds are here to give you their best bets for eight games on the weekend's card.
Lines are consensus odds from VSiN's college football lines page, as of Thursday afternoon.
Florida State Seminoles at No. 5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (-21, 52)
Murray: In 1993, this game was deemed “The Game of the Century” as No. 2 Notre Dame beat No. 1 Florida State, 31-24. On Saturday, the Irish enter the game ranked fifth in the country but haven’t played in three weeks due to a COVID-19 outbreak. The Seminoles, on the other hand, are 1-2 with their lone win coming against FCS Jacksonville State last week. Florida State will also be starting its third quarterback of the season. Jordan Travis played well against Jacksonville State -- throwing for 210 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 48 yards and another score -- and he seems to be an upgrade over James Blackman and Tate Rodemaker. But how much did we really learn for a game against a FCS foe?
Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator, Clark Lea, is one of the top defensive minds in college football, and with the Irish’s depth on the defensive line and at linebacker, I expect the Irish to get after Travis. Does that mean I’m laying the 21 points with Notre Dame? Not exactly. The Irish offense looked quite sluggish against Duke in a 27-13 season opening win, and Notre Dame’s wide receivers have struggled to create separation. Kevin Austin, the Irish’s most talented receiver, returns from a fractured foot but Brian Kelly said that Austin will play 15-20 plays on Saturday.
With one of the top offensive lines in the country and a three-week layoff due to COVID-19, I expect the Irish to rely on the running attack and quick pass game and look to get out of Saturday evening as clean as possible.
My play: Under 52.5
Duke Blue Devils (-2.5, 51) at Syracuse Orange
Reynolds: The Blue Devils are playing their fifth straight week and still seeking their first win of the season. The good news is that they did find some offense last week in their best performance of the season against Virginia Tech. Duke put up 410 yards and 31 points while only turning the ball over once. In its previous three games, the Blue Devils committed 14 turnovers (12 combined vs. Boston College and Virginia) and lead the nation in turnovers with 15.
Syracuse had last weekend off after earning its first win of the season, a 37-20 victory over Georgia Tech. The final was slightly misleading, though, as the Orange benefitted from five Georgia Tech turnovers, including four interceptions from freshman QB Jeff Sims. Syracuse was outgained 453-357, so the offense is still a work-in-progress, but the good news is that they were able to sustain drives for the first time all season because they protected QB Tommy DeVito well. The Orange offensive line had allowed 14 sacks in its first two games, but only gave up one last time out.
Both teams run faster tempos and are off their best offensive performances of the season, so I like the over in this one.
Pick: Over 51
Arkansas Razorbacks at No. 13 Auburn Tigers (-13.5, 48)
Reynolds: Arkansas was a selection here last week as mainly a fade against an overvalued Mississippi State team. The Razorbacks not only earned the cover but also the outright upset victory, 21-14, as 17-point underdogs; the win stopped Arkansas' 20-game losing streak vs. SEC opponents. New defensive coordinator Barry Odom played a dime defense and his zone elected to give Mississippi State all the underneath routes it wanted. Mississippi State only had one play of 20-plus yards and Arkansas forced four turnovers, including three interceptions of K.J. Costello.
Auburn, on the other hand, was dominated in a 27-6 loss at Georgia. The Tigers were held to only 216 yards of total offense and just 39 yards on the ground (a paltry 1.8 ypc). Tigers QB Bo Nix also had his streak of 251 consecutive passes without throwing an interception snapped.
Both teams have already lost to Georgia. Arkansas was a 28-point home underdog and Auburn was getting 7 at Georgia. Yes, adjustments must be made off last week's results; however, this is another overadjustment. Arkansas was getting 17 at the close on the road at Mississippi State and now is getting just + 13.5 at Auburn. So is Mississippi State 3.5 points better than Auburn on a neutral field? Surely not.
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn was raised in Arkansas and started his high-school coaching career in the state and interviewed for the gig to replace Houston Nutt in 2007, but was not selected, so he always gets up for the Razorbacks (4-0 SU and ATS last four meetings). Furthermore, new Auburn offensive coordinator Chad Morris was fired as the head coach of Arkansas last winter after only two seasons (4-18 record). We'll buy on the dip here.
Pick: Auburn -13.5; Under 48
UTSA Roadrunners at No. 15 BYU Cougars (-35, 63)
Reynolds: BYU is currently the second-highest rated program in the non-Power Five (Cincinnati No. 11) and now has its highest ranking since 2009 after blowing out Navy, Troy and Louisiana Tech by a combined score of 148-24. The Cougars lead the nation in both total offense (585.7 yards per game; 8.1 yards per play) and total defense (214.3 ypg). BYU junior QB Zach Wilson has as many touchdown passes as incomplete passes (11) and is completing passes at an 84.5% rate.
UTSA was down to its third- and fourth-string quarterbacks at UAB last weekend with Frank Harris (508 passing yards, 162 rushing yards) out last weekend and New Mexico State transfer Josh Adkins breaking his collarbone on the first play from scrimmage. However, the Roadrunners hung in there and only lost 21-13 (Harris is a game-time decision for Saturday). Nevertheless, UTSA is off to a 3-1 start in the Jeff Traylor era. They are the most balanced offense (837 rush yards, 831 pass yards) that BYU will face thus far this season, but BYU is only allowing 70.7 rushing ypg.
BYU has a meeting at Houston next week which will be a step up in class from the competition they've faced, including UTSA. However, there is a distinct possibility that the Cougars could be caught reading their own press clippings and look past the Roadrunners.
Pick: UTSA + 35
Temple Owls (-3.5, 50.5) at Navy Midshipmen
Reynolds: Temple finally opens its season on Oct. 10, the latest of any American Athletic Conference team. The Owls will do so on the road against Navy, which is playing its fourth game of the season. This matchup was originally scheduled to take place two weeks ago, but the conference moved the game back because Temple was dealing with some issues with COVID-19 and needed more preparation time.
Navy will have QB Dalen Morris back for this one as it did not travel last week to a 40-7 blowout loss at Air Force, which was also playing its first game of the season. Navy gave up 369 yards (7.0 ypc) on the ground to its fellow academy and triple-option brethren. Air Force looked prepared to play Navy and Temple just might have the same advantage. The Owls have known that they were going to open with Navy for over a month now, so they have been practicing for the triple option.
Conventional wisdom would indicate that the teams that have played games and hit against teams in opposite color jerseys would have an advantage. However, that has not proven to be the case as teams playing their first game vs. teams that have already played are 22-6 ATS. Practice, preparation and film study have trumped game experience thus far this season.
Pick: Temple -3.5
No. 4 Florida Gators (-6.5, 57) at No. 21 Texas A&M Aggies
Edwards: Florida has been a road favorite during Dan Mullen’s tenure eight times, producing an 8-0 straight-up record and a 7-1 ATS mark. The only non-cover came by a half-point in last year’s 29-21 win at Kentucky as an 8.5-point favorite.
Florida’s Kyle Trask has completed 71.8 percent of his passes for 684 yards with a 10-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio, while Kyle Pitts is nightmare matchup for any defense with his size and athleticism. The junior tight end out of Philadelphia has 12 receptions for 227 yards and six TDs.
Trask, a native of Texas, was named after Kyle Field in College Station. Instead of facing a hostile crowd of more than 100,000 fans, he should feel right at home attempting to punish the team that didn’t offer him a scholarship coming out of high school.
Texas A&M is 1-1 SU and 0-2 ATS, failing to cover the spread by 36 combined points. The Gators will win by double digits.
Pick: Florida -6.5
South Carolina Gamecocks (-13.5, 41.5) at Vanderbilt Commodores
Edwards: Will Muschamp is 4-0 both SU and ATS in four games against Vanderbilt as head coach of the Gamecocks, which won 37-14 in Nashville two years ago and captured a 24-7 home win over the Commodores last season.
Although South Carolina is winless in two games, it is 1-0-1 ATS after taking the cash in a 38-24 loss at Florida as a 15-point road underdog. The spread cover in Gainesville improved the Gamecocks to 10-4 ATS in 14 road assignments since 2017.
Senior QB Collin Hill is giving South Carolina quality QB play, throwing for 502 yards with a 3-1 TD-INT ratio. Senior WR Shi Smith has 22 catches for 225 yards and two TDs, while RB Kevin Harris ran for 100 yards last week against the Gators.
Vanderbilt is an atrocious 1-9 ATS in its last 10 games as a home underdog dating back to October of 2017. True freshman QB Ken Seals is struggling, throwing two TD passes compared to four interceptions.
After Derek Mason’s team hung tough in a 17-12 loss at Texas A&M, it took a 41-7 drubbing at home from LSU last week. Look for South Carolina to win by 17-21 points in Music City.
Pick: South Carolina -13.5
Kansas State Wildcats at TCU Horned Frogs (-9, 50.5)
Edwards: Kansas State has been an incredibly lucrative team to support over the last decade, especially as a road underdog. The Wildcats have compiled a 27-9 ATS record in their last 36 games as road ‘dogs since 2010, including a 38-35 outright win at Oklahoma two weeks ago.
On the flip side, TCU is just 18-27-2 in its 47 games as a home favorite since its home finale in November of 2010. The Horned Frogs won outright at Texas as double-digit underdog last week, perhaps leaving it in a bit of a letdown spot here.
It’s unclear if Kansas State QB Skylar Thompson is going to be able to play after leaving last week’s 31-21 home win over Texas Tech with a shoulder injury. However, true freshman Will Howard looked good in relief, connecting on 7-of-12 throws for 173 yards and one TD without an interception. Whether it’s Thompson or Howard, I like the Wildcats catching the generous underdog number.
Pick: Kansas State + 9
- Tennessee, a 12.5-point underdog at Georgia, is 6-2 ATS in eight games as a road underdog on Jeremy Pruitt’s watch.
- Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach is 18-8 ATS in 26 games as a road underdog since 2013. Leach leads the Bulldogs into Lexington to face Kentucky as two-point underdogs.
- Boston College is 8-0-1 ATS in its last nine games as a home underdog. The Eagles are hosting Pitt this weekend as six-point home underdogs.
- Virginia Tech is a five-point underdog Saturday at North Carolina. The Hokies are 5-2 ATS in seven games as a road underdog during Justin Fuente’s tenure. They are 10-4 ATS in 14 games as road underdogs since 2013.
- Five teams are 0-3 ATS, including Clemson, Florida State, Western Kentucky, Appalachian State and Kansas.
- BYU and Miami are the only 3-0 ATS teams in college football