College Football Picks - Week 5

Written by Sam Pearce

***Looking for our NFL Week 4 picks?! Get them here!***

Last Saturday will be hard to beat.  So hard that college football is giving us three days to do it this weekend.  It starts with Texas making what may be a tougher than you think road trip on Thursday night, then USC making a trip we know will be a challenge on Friday night.  Then on to the Saturday games.  We're here to break it all down for you:

After hunting the Hogs, can the Aggies tame the Gamecocks? AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

 

Texas (-6.5) @ Iowa State:

Both teams had an early season bye last week and now they open Big 12 conference play with a Thursday game that is no easy task for Texas. Iowa State is quietly 2-1, their only loss coming in overtime a couple weeks ago to Iowa. On paper these teams are remarkably comparable. Both teams average just over 40 points per game (PPG) and Iowa State has consistently gotten their points: They Cyclones have put up 41, 41, and 42 points this year. Texas has put up over 50 twice, and their ability to put points on the board was only limited by USC in a hard fought game that the Longhorns lost in double-overtime, but easily covered the spread. But can Texas cover as a favorite in a legit game? And I do mean "legit" because you shouldn't overlook Iowa State. The intangibles like playing at home in a Thursday night game matter, but Iowa State is more than that. They're averaging well over 450 yards per game (YPG) and that includes well over 300 through the air. Iowa State quarterback Jacob Park has been has been solid this year, thanks in part to his talented group of receivers. Four Cyclone receivers already have 10 catches or more, and five of them have over a hundred receiving yards. Texas is the better team on paper, but they may struggle to contain all of Iowa State's receivers. If Park can make enough plays, like he did against Iowa, he'll keep Iowa State close all night. Iowa State also has a good kicker who's off to a nice start this year. That may come into play here. Cyclones to cover at home and give the Longhorns a scare:

Sam's Play: Cyclones
KAM's Play: Longhorns
Kevin's Play: Longhorns
Matt's Play: Longhorns

 

Miami (-7.5) @ Duke:

Get ready to see this replay about a hundred times this week! It of course has nothing to do with the 2017 game, but have fun enjoying the #TBT. As for Friday night, this is a nice matchup of undefeated teams. Miami (2-0) has only played half as many games as Duke (4-0) thanks to weather-related cancellation and postponements. Having only played a couple games this year, Miami should be well-rested, generally healthy, and ready for this game. They also showed us last week that they have the playmakers to score a lot in a hurry. They trailed Toledo at halftime but blew it up in the second half. But Duke is well-coached and quarterback Daniel Jones may be an NFL talent. Duke has out-gained each of their opponents this year in total yards, and that includes getting more YPG on the ground in each game. This balanced offense allowed Duke to take a 34/26 time of possession advantage in their win over North Carolina last week. They'll look to control the clock again and they should have some success at home. Getting the extra half makes this an easy pick for me. Blue Devils to cover:

Sam's Play: Blue Devils
KAM's Play: Hurricanes
Kevin's Play: Blue Devils
Matt's Play: Hurricanes 

 

Dartmouth (+7.0) @ UPenn:

Last week was a lively victory for UPenn in the Lehigh Valley. The Quakers rolled up over 600 yards of total offense and scored 65 points en route to improving their record to 2-0 for the season. But they also gave up 47 to Lehigh. Dartmouth beat Holy Cross, so they're off to a 2-0 start as well, but they've done it without all the fireworks, and with a little bit of luck. The Big Green had to hold on to beat the Crusaders in overtime on Saturday night. And it took Holy Cross missing an extra point and also a two-point conversion in the OT period. Now Dartmouth travels to Franklin Field to take on UPenn. This rivalry has been relatively even in recent years. The Quakers have won three of the last five, but the Big Green has actually taken two of the last three. Last year UPenn had too much offense for Dartmouth to handle and won by 13 in Hanover. UPenn appears to be clicking on offense again this year. We know that receiver Justin Watson will have an excellent year, but now sophomore running back Karekin Brooks is on a roll. He ran for 268 yards in last week's win (the second best single-game total in school history) and scored three touchdowns, before also throwing for a touchdown. Dartmouth may keep this close for two or three quarters but UPenn will score enough late to cover:

Sam's Play: Quakers
KAM's Play: Quakers
Kevin's Play: Big Green
Matt's Play: Quakers

 

USC (-3.5) @ Washington State:

The best game of the weekend may be played Friday night in Pullman. It also may be the most important regular season game for USC this year. Like the Penn State win in Iowa City last Saturday night, these are the kinds of games teams have to win on the road to stay alive in the College Football Playoff picture. Or the kinds of games that teams like Washington State have to win at home to keep their own playoff hopes alive, depending on your perspective. USC has beaten four teams that are bowl bound, while Washington State has beaten up on four teams that are mostly garbage. So I don't blame you if you want to take USC. But remember that USC was outgained last week by Cal. The USC defense forced six big turnovers to help seal that win. Washington State is less likely to be so accommodating: Quarterback Luke Falk has thrown 14 touchdowns this year, to only one pick. Washington State has outgained each of its opponents, usually by wide margins. The USC defense will present serious challenges, so Washington State won't move the ball and put up points to the same extent that we've seen from them so far, but they will have some success. USC, meanwhile, is yet to play two dominant halves in the same game this year. Cougars to cover at home and keep this close:

Sam's Play: Cougars
KAM's Play: Cougars
Kevin's Play: Cougars 
Matt's Play: Cougars 

 

Northwestern (+15.0) @ Wisconsin:

This is a more interesting rivalry than people realize. The road team has actually won this game the last two years. The two years before that were won by the home team. So these teams are 2-2 over their last 4 in this series. But when Northwestern has won it's been close - two wins by exactly six points each. When Wisconsin has won, it's been big - two wins by an average of 21 points. Both teams have had the bye week to prepare, so both should come out and play well in the first half. Wisconsin started slow in both of its home games earlier this year, which kept lesser opponents in those games longer than necessary. If Wisconsin starts slow again, Northwestern should be able to get some stop early and keep this close. Wisconsin will eventually get its ground game going - the Badgers are averaging 275 YPG rushing - and that will allow for some separation in the second half. Badgers to cover the big number at home, but think about the Wildcats if you like to play first half lines:

Sam's Play: Badgers
KAM's Play: Badgers
Kevin's Play: Wildcats
Matt's Play: Badgers  

 

Vanderbilt (+10.0) @ Florida:

The more things change, the more things stay the same...? That's what it looked like for both of these teams last week: Florida beat Kentucky for the 31st consecutive year. Vanderbilt looked like an SEC doormat, losing 59-0 to Alabama. Not so fast. The truth is that Vanderbilt won't be as bad against any other team in the country not named Alabama. And Florida has been pretty fortunate in their two SEC wins. It's always a good thing to have Butch Jones on the schedule, and getting bailed out by a Kentucky holding penalty that put the Wildcats out of field goal range was pretty nice too. But for most of the season, Florida has really struggled on offense. Their offense has looked more like what we saw in their opening loss to Michigan than what we saw for a few minutes in the fourth quarter against Kentucky. That being said, Luke del Rio is back in at quarterback and he'll get his shot, presumably for the rest of the year, to get better production from the Florida offense. But don't expect Florida to go for Alabama-like numbers on Saturday. Vanderbilt, even including the 59 that Alabama scored last week, is still only giving up 18 PPG. This game may look a lot more like Vanderbilt's game with Kansas State, when points were hard to come by for both teams. The Gators should get the win at home, but Commodores to keep it closer than double digits:

Sam's Play: Commodores
KAM's Play: Gators
Kevin's Play: Commodores
Matt's Play: Commodores

 

Syracuse (+13.0) @ NC State:

NC State was a popular sleeper pick going into 2017. There were legitimate expectations for this team to compete with Clemson and Florida State in the ACC Atlantic division. But after a Week One loss to South Carolina, we were less sure about the Wolfpack. Well, after their win in Tallahassee last week, time to jump back on the bandwagon! But Syracuse looked decent in a loss at LSU last week too. If not for a stupid onside kick that was apparently not an onside kick, with almost six minutes to go, I think Syracuse would have won that game. I'm biased, I know, but after they closed to within two, they seemed energized and ready to get a quick stop with just enough time to get the ball back for a game-winning field goal. LSU was physically drained at that point. It was a real missed opportunity. But again, the good news, is they went toe-to-toe with SEC talent on the road and looked like a team that's getting better. But can they do it a second week in a row on the road? These teams have remarkably similar stats: Both score 35 PPG and give up about a dozen less than that. Both move the ball to the tune of just over 460 YPG. Both allow about a hundred yards less than that.

While Syracuse rightfully heads to Carolina with some optimism, they're about to face the toughest front seven that they've seen yet this year. NC State's defense will get after Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey, just as they did to Florida State last week. For Syracuse to have any chance, they'll have to be successful pushing the tempo they want on offense. But it can't be tempo without results; they have to get first downs early and force the NC State defense to hustle. If they have too many three-and-outs, the tempo will do no good. I think we've seen enough from Syracuse the past few weeks to expect them to keep this closer than expected. Also, Syracuse has fared better than you may think on the road in recent years. Syracuse is 4-1 ATS in their last five games played on grass. They're also 7-3 ATS in their last ten road games at opponents with winning home records. How's that for data? Orangemen to cover:

Sam's Play: Orangemen
KAM's Play: Wolfpack
Kevin's Play: Wolfpack
Matt's Play: Orangemen 

 

Georgia (-7.5) @ Tennessee:

Strange that it was only a year ago that Tennessee fans had something to be happy about. Things have certainly changed a lot in the last year. The way that the 2016 season couldn't end soon enough for the Vols, to the typical Florida meltdown a couple weeks ago, to the embarrassing showing against UMass last week. It's been a rough ride for UT. Conversely, Georgia is flying pretty high after establishing Bulldog supremacy in the conference a week ago. So what happens between these two teams on Saturday? In recent years these games seem to be two things: Close and crazy. The series is tied at two apiece over the lat four years. Three times the game has been decided by a field goal and once by a touchdown. If that trend continues, this line is too big to take the favorite. But Butch Jones seems to be losing control of his program. Tennessee hasn't given us any reasons for optimism. And here's an interesting stat: The Vols have lost 26 straight games to AP top ten teams. Now they get a hot Georgia team with a dominant defense coming to town. The extra half point scares me, but Bulldogs to cover:

Sam's Play: Bulldogs
KAM's Play: Volunteers
Kevin's Play: Volunteers 
Matt's Play: Volunteers

 

Mississippi State (+10.0) @ Auburn:

Auburn still hasn't allowed more than 14 points in a game this year. This is largely because teams can't move the ball on Auburn. They're only giving up 237 YPG. That's total yards. Not only are they strong up front, but the secondary is playing well too. Not just defending the pass, but they're especially good at supporting the run defense as well. The Auburn defense is filled with excellent tacklers; this makes it nearly impossible to get big plays on Auburn. That means Mississippi State will have to run the ball much better than they did at Georgia last week, and try to set up some play-action, like what we saw from them against LSU two weeks ago. Both offenses may struggle early. They both tend to put up points on bad teams but struggle to score against good teams. Because of that, I think Mississippi State will be able to stay in this game. And if they can keep it close it gives Nick Fitzgerald a better chance to get into a rhythm and actually perform like a dual threat quarterback. The Tigers to win this game, but Bulldogs to cover the big number:

Sam's Play: Bulldogs
KAM's Play: Bulldogs 
Kevin's Play: Bulldogs 
Matt's Play: Tigers 

 

South Carolina (+10.0) @ Texas A&M:

It was good to see A&M play well (at least on offense) last week in their win over Arkansas. They made plays like what we saw from them in the first half against UCLA in their opener, before their second half collapse. But other than one or two big plays per game from Armani Watts, an excellent safety, A&M just can't defend. They're especially bad against the run, so expect South Carolina to rack up yards on the ground, something they need to try and do since receiver Deebo Samuel is still out. Both teams are giving up over 400 YPG in total offense, so we should see plenty of explosive plays from A&M too. The Aggies will win at home but Gamecocks to cover this big line:

Sam's Play: Gamecocks
KAM's Play: Aggies  
Kevin's Play: Gamecocks
Matt's Play: Gamecocks

 

Clemson (-7.5) @ Virginia Tech:

It's a rematch of the ACC title game from a year ago. We know how good Clemson is and we're about to find out if Virginia Tech is any good. Including last year's championship game, Clemson has won four straight against Virginia Tech, and gone 3-1 ATS in those games. Clemson is not only 4-0 this year, but they've outgained each of their opponents, including better YPG rushing. Virginia Tech has not been quite as impressive, and they certainly don't have a win on their resume like the one Clemson has from Louisville a couple weeks ago. Clemson has the better roster, including the better defense, the better coaching staff, and the better pedigree in games like these. Virginia Tech has the home field and that's about it. The Hokies have to prove me wrong before I'd go against Clemson at this point. Tigers to cover:

Sam's Play: Tigers
KAM's Play: Tigers
Kevin's Play: Hokies
Matt's Play: Hokies 

 

Ole Miss (+27.5) @ Alabama:

This is a huge number, especially since Ole Miss is 3-0 ATS in their last three meetings with Alabama. And Ole Miss won outright in both 2014 and 2015. In 2017, though, it's hard to argue for how the Rebels will keep it close. Ole Miss can't run the ball or defend the run. Offensively, they're way too reliant on quarterback Shea Patterson. This won't be the night for them to try and find more balance on offense. They'll struggle to get anything going on the ground and put Patterson in bad spots. Don't be surprised if Alabama forces a couple turnovers early and builds a lead. Maybe that's how Ole Miss covers this number...? Alabama gets up early and lets up, and then Ole Miss gets the backdoor cover? But I wouldn't bet on it. Alabama has won 18 straight games in the SEC and they're 13-5 ATS over that stretch (despite some hefty lines). Tide to roll and cover. Again:

Sam's Play: Crimson Tide
KAM's Play: Crimson Tide
Kevin's Play: Crimson Tide
Matt's Play: Crimson Tide 

 

Colorado State (-7.5) @ Hawaii:

If #Pac12AfterDark doesn't do it for you anymore, how about #MountainWestAfterMidnight? Because this game won't kick off until Midnight Eastern time. Colorado State has been up and down this year. They've beaten the bad teams, but lost to the good teams on their schedule. The loss in Tuscaloosa is completely understandable (and they actually covered that night). But the loss to Colorado in the Rocky Mountain Showdown a few weeks ago was disappointing. Colorado State really struggled to do anything offensively and only scored three points that night. This is the first Mountain West game for Colorado State so it'll be interesting to see how they fare against a conference foe. Having to cover a touchdown in their first conference game on the long road trip is an unenviable task. Hawaii is already playing game two in the Mountain West, after losing in overtime at Wyoming last week. Hawaii actually outplayed Wyoming much of the night, but had a couple costly turnovers, including the interception that ended the game, and they gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown. If Hawaii can eliminate mistakes like these, they have an excellent chance to not only cover but win this game outright. Expect a good game from quarterback Dru Brown, who's shown the ability to get the ball to several receivers. The Rams may pull out the win, but Rainbow Warriors to cover:

Sam's Play: Rainbow Warriors
KAM's Play: Rainbow Warriors
Kevin's Play: Rams
Matt's Play: Rams 

 

Good luck with your picks and have a great weekend! I'm off to college football hotbed, the state of Maine, for the weekend! Okay, so maybe very few people in Maine will be watching college football, but I will! Life is good: Thank God it's football season!

 

Last Week Win Loss Push
Sam 7 6 0
KAM 6 7 0
Kevin 8 5 0
Matt 7 6 0

 

Season Win Loss Push
Sam 18 18 0
KAM 15 21 0
Kevin 16 20 0
Matt 21 15 0

 

***Want even more picks?! Lucky you! Our NFL picks are posted here!***  

Still can't get enough? Listen to this week's football podcast. Packed with college football and NFL coverage, both!

 

Like our college football picks this week? Or last week? Hate the picks? Want to weigh in?  All feedback welcome! Find us on Twitter and let us know: 

 

Sam
Sam often picks with his heart rather than his head. Or he tries too hard to hedge the other way. Don't be afraid to fade his picks; it won't hurt his feelings.
@samuelwpearce
 
KAM
The voice of thefootballpod.com, KAM's so good that she's been known to pick both NFL and college games. She'll share her picks as long as you don't trash talk her Packers.
@kimberlymaley
 
Kevin
Need power picks and the power sweep, both? Then look no further than Kevin's picks. This Western Pennsylvania football product knows the game as well as anyone.
@kjcon71
 
Matt
Historically the best player in the Tipperary Hill Premier League, Matt's also excellent when it comes to picking college games. Just don't bother him when Iowa's playing!
@sportsapalooza