College Football Picks - Week 6

Written by Sam Pearce

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It's that time of year:  We're starting to see some real separation in college football.  We knew Alabama and Clemson were good before the season started, but now we know just how good.  Schools like Georgia, Michigan, Oklahoma, Penn State are cruising as well.  But can they keep pace with the top two?  And can they stave off their own challengers?  It's a huge weekend of games and we're here to break it all down for you.  On to the picks:

Can the Resurgent Spartans Win the State of Michigan?  Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

 

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Louisville (-4.0) @ NC State:

If you recall, Kevin and I told you guys to look out for NC State way back in August on our college football futures podcast. Well, a month into the 2017 season, here's NC State, sitting at 4-1, and right in the thick of the ACC Atlantic race, but a home underdog this week. Now they host Louisville in a big Thursday night game between ranked teams. Louisville lost to Clemson a few weeks ago in primetime, but they haven't lost since. They beat up on a couple cupcakes, but Lamar Jackson is putting up his typically eye-popping stats and Louisville will need him to do that to beat NC State on the road. NC State, meanwhile, has rebounded from an opening day loss to South Carolina, and has upset Florida State and beaten Syracuse. This will hopefully be a good Thursday night matchup of 4-1 teams. In Louisville's lone loss to Clemson, they were pushed around at the line of scrimmage, and Jackson was pressured most of the night. Going back to last year, we saw this when Louisville lost to Houston and then LSU in the Citrus Bowl. NC State has the talent on the defensive line to apply that same pressure and at least contain Jackson. Jackson will still make plays, but NC State should be able to slow him down just enough to keep this close. And Louisville is hardly a defensive juggernaut, so if this does become a shootout, NC State should be able to keep pace. Wolfpack to cover, especially when still getting more than a field goal at home:

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

 

Boise State (-8.0) @ BYU:

These teams have played every year since 2012 in this new rivalry. Boise has won three of those five games, and we've seen everything from offensive explosions to a 7-6 Broncos victory back in 2012. Both teams have been competitive over that stretch and it's made this an enjoyable series. This year is a different story. Boise has struggled to a 2-2 record, not their typically fast start that we've come to expect from this program. BYU has been downright awful. The Cougars are 1-4, with their lone win coming over FCS Portland State. That's right - BYU hasn't beaten a Division 1-A opponent yet. The defense has played well at times, but the offense cannot score. Or move the ball: BYU is averaging well under 300 yards per game (YPG) this season. And less than 13 points per game (PPG). Now consider that BYU may be without starting quarterback Tanner Mangum. And they may be without their backup as well. BYU's offensive coaches will spend the week trying to figure out who's playing and possibly even game-planning for some wildcat sets, just to get some of their athletes the ball, something that they can't rely on their quarterbacks to do right now. Boise is hardly having a great season, but they'll be good enough here against such a limited BYU team. Broncos for the win and the cover in Provo:

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

 

Wake Forest (+21.5) @ Clemson:

Clemson is rolling in the ACC. After road wins in Louisville and Blacksburg, no one should doubt that Clemson is the definitive favorite in the conference, and a favorite to get back to the College Football Playoff for a shot at defending their national title. But Wake isn't the pushover they were a few years ago. They're quietly 4-1, the only loss last week in a close game with Florida State. Wake is decent defensively, giving up less than 15 PPG, and only 317 YPG. That being said, they've 'seen no one the likes of Clemson yet. And if Wake's defense is decent, Clemson's is great. It's a noon kickoff so Clemson may start slow, but Wake will have trouble finding the end zone all day. Tigers to cover the big number at home:

Sam's Play: Tigers
KAM's Play: Tigers
Kevin's Play: Tigers 
Matt's Play: Demon Deacons 

 

Penn State (-14.5) @ Northwestern:

Penn State avoided the dreaded letdown game last week by trouncing Indiana and continuing in their quest to win the Big Ten East. Now they head to Chicago for a cross-over game with Northwestern. Northwestern gave Wisconsin all they could handle last week, so they shouldn't be taken lightly, but there's no sign that James Franklin takes anything lightly. And while Saquon Barkley and Trace McSorley have dominated most of the Penn State headlines this year, the defense is playing great so far. They give up less than 10 PPG and less than 300 YPG. Northwestern allows too much of everything, especially since it's still early in the year and they played a relatively weak non-conference schedule. The extra half-point here bothers me, but not enough to trust Northwestern. Nittany Lions to cover and set up a big time showdown with Michigan in a couple weeks:

Sam's Play: Nittany Lions
KAM's Play: Nittany Lions
Kevin's Play: Nittany Lions
Matt's Play: Wildcats

 

Georgia (-17.5) @ Vanderbilt:

The last two weeks have been great for Georgia and not so great for Vandy. Now the Commodores will try to regroup at home and give the Dawgs a fight. Vandy has done that in recent years; they've actually split the last four meetings. But Georgia is a much better team in 2017. They also run the ball well and we've seen that Vandy can't defend the run the last two weeks. At least not against the better ground games in the SEC. Georgia is running for almost as many YPG (237) as their defense gives up total (244). Vandy's only chance is to commit to stopping the Georgia rushing attack and try to force quarterback Jake Fromm into mistakes. If Vandy can get Georgia into 3rd-and-long situations, then they've got a chance. Their secondary has athletes and it's not inconceivable that they could force Fromm into a couple turnovers. But again, that assumes they can stop the Georgia ground game. That'll be much harder said than done. Georgia to gradually pull away and cover the big spread:

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

 

Pittsburgh (+4.5) @ Syracuse:

What you'll hear from most of the media (if they cover this game at all) is that it's huge for both schools because it's a "must-win" for both sides if they want to play in a bowl this year. I don't dispute that. But it's about more than becoming bowl-eligible. This Big East-turned-ACC rivalry is important for both schools as they compete to establish themselves as the more prominent program in the Northeast. Neither is unseating Penn State any time soon. Probably not ever. But within the ACC, both would like to be viewed as the better program as it it'll make a difference in recruiting and long-term viability. Syracuse has really struggled to get any traction here since these teams joined the ACC: Pitt has won the last four in this series, sometimes big, sometimes in close games. But you have to go all the way back to 2012 to find a Cuse win. That should change this year, and that's why Syracuse is favored. They generally move the ball better than Pitt and they generally defend better. Syracuse has also been respectable in every loss. They haven't always been great, but they haven't been blown out this year. Pitt can't say the same - they've had some bad losses, albeit against better competition. The Pitt defense has looked bad against Penn State's balanced offense, bad against Oklahoma State's passing offense, and bad against Georgia Tech's running offense. Syracuse's offense has shown a lot of improvement the past few weeks. They'll look even better against Pitt. Orangemen to cover at home:

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

 

West Virginia (+13.5) @ TCU:

This could be a good game, or it could get out of hand early. West Virginia comes to Fort Worth, led by quarterback Will Grier, who has thrown for over 300 YPG in each of his four starts this year. So on paper, this looks like it could be pretty fun. Grier has led the Mountaineers to a 3-1 record. They've scored 59, 56, and 59 points in those wins. They're averaging 49 PPG for the season. TCU has no problem scoring either, averaging 48 PPG. But West Virginia has only seen one legit defense this year, when they lost their opener to Virginia Tech by a touchdown. Now they face TCU's defense that largely shut down Mason Rudolph and Oklahoma State a couple weeks ago. Hopefully I'm wrong and this turns into an entertaining Big 12 afternoon, but I don't think so. Horned Frogs to cover at home:

Sam's Play: Horned Frogs
KAM's Play: Horned Frogs
Kevin's Play: Mountaineers
Matt's Play: Horned Frogs 

 

Miami (-3) @ Florida State:

This was a bigger game before the season started. Florida State has lost to Alabama (but actually played pretty well), lost their starting quarterback, and lost to NC State a couple weeks ago in a game that set them way back in the ACC. Miami is a program that's finally on the rise. But can they go into Tallahassee and win? Florida State has won the last seven in a row in this rivalry, regardless of where the games were played. Miami has been good in their limited sample size against lesser competition. Florida State won a tougher-than-you realize game on the road at Wake last week. I'm taking the home underdog in this rivalry game:

Sam's Play: Seminoles
KAM's Play: Hurricanes
Kevin's Play: Hurricanes
Matt's Play: Seminoles

 

LSU (+3.5) @ Florida:

A lot's changed in a month for these schools. LSU got off to a good start by drubbing BYU in their opener. We've since learned that BYU's not very good and neither is LSU. Florida got man-handled by Michigan in their opener. We've since learned that Michigan's defense is capable of beating up on a lot of teams, so perhaps Florida isn't as down as we thought. LSU is that bad this year. Now they limp into Gainesville to face a Gators team that's at least finding ways to win games. And last week they found a ground game, something they'll try to do again this week. Florida's offense is by no means good. But LSU has done nothing to show us that they can cover more than a touchdown on the road in the SEC. Gators to cover at home and keep some heat on Georgia for now:

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

 

Maryland (+31.5) @ Ohio State:

Maryland is 3-1 on the season, with nice wins at Texas and at Minnesota last week. The lone loss came to a ranked UCF team that may be the best team in the Group of 5. So why the huge spread here? For one, Ohio State has rebounded from its Oklahoma loss to win three straight by an average score of 49-9. JT Barrett has looked significantly better than the first couple weeks of the season. And Maryland won last week, but had to do it with a third-string quarterback. Add it all up, and you can understand the big line. But Maryland has athletes. You know this if you watched them beat Texas in the opener. That's an even more impressive win now that we know Texas can play some defense. Ohio State will score early and often. But Maryland can do better than this line. Terps to cover:

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

 

Kansas State (+3.5) @ Texas:

This sounds a little crazy but Kansas State has actually won 5 of the last 7 in this rivalry. Sure, it coincides with some pretty down years for Texas, but it's still impressive that K-State has done so well. As for right now, K-State is doing what they always seem to do: Play solid defense and keep games close. They've kept seven of their last eight opponents to 21 points or less. In four games this year, they haven't allowed anyone to score more than 20. Texas is getting better on defense every week. This should be a one possession game in the fourth quarter. Take the Wildcats getting more than a field goal:

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

 

Alabama (-26.5) @ Texas A&M:

I'd love to take A&M getting all these points at home. And I'll tune in and root for A&M. I like the Aggies, and I love what Kevin Sumlin has done there. But I won't overthink this one. Alabama is 2-0 in the SEC after outscoring Vandy and Ole Miss by a combined score of 125-3. And now they get a true freshman starting at quarterback for A&M. I think Kellen Mond will end up being a fine player for A&M. But not this Saturday. Alabama will shut down the dual-threat QB, shut down the rest of A&M's run game, and of course, run the ball very well, themselves. Crimson Tide to keep rolling:

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

 

Michigan State (+11) @ Michigan:

***Editor's Note/Rant: This is the first time in the 110 year history of this rivalry that the Michigan-Michigan State game will be played at night. That really sucks. This game should be played at 3:30 Eastern. The Big Ten Conference and ABC really dropped the ball here. End rant.***

This rivalry was dominated by Michigan for years and then Mark Dantonio showed up in East Lansing and everything changed. Michigan State has won seven of the last nine meetings between the two, and the Spartans are 9-0 ATS over that stretch. The most memorable Spartan win, of course, came two years ago in Ann Arbor. Then by last season it appeared that Michigan had taken its "big brother" role back, while Michigan State stumbled to a disappointing 3-9 season. So Michigan State was a little bit of an unknown coming into 2017. It may be premature to say that the Spartans are back to their 2013-2015 form, but they've certainly rebounded from last year's debacle. They're playing especially well on defense, led by their excellent group of linebackers. All that being said, the Spartans are still the only the second best defense in their own state: The Wolverines are the number one ranked defense in the country when it comes to giving up yards. Michigan gives up a mere 203 YPG, an astonishingly low number. They rank 8th in the country in scoring defense, only giving up 13.5 PPG. As good as both defenses are, both offenses have been limited this year. Michigan has struggled to get consistent quarterback play and that's made it difficult for them to cover big spreads every week. (The Wolverines are also starting their backup this week due to injury...) Michigan State had an awful offensive showing just two weeks ago in a bad home loss to Notre Dame. Michigan State seems to have corrected some of those problems in their win over Iowa last week. And while Michigan hasn't been great on offense, they've gotten just enough this year to compliment their excellent defense and get to a 4-0 start. Michigan is also coming off its bye week so Jim Harbaugh has had an extra week to prepare. That being the case, I don't blame you if you want to take Michigan to cover at home. But Michigan State has covered the spread for nine straight years. Spartans to make it a decade-long run:

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

 

Wisconsin (-11.5) @ Nebraska:

Last week I took a leap of faith on Wisconsin covering a big number. That was at home and they struggled all day. Now they head to Lincoln to face a Nebraska team that may be somewhat rejuvenated after finally winning by a few touchdowns last week. Or maybe it was just that easy since it was only Illinois. Or maybe Mike Riley was able to get his guys to block out that their AD was just fired and who know's where this program is going next. And it was probably good for the Huskers to get away from home and play on a Friday night when the rest of the country was watching other games. Regardless, Nebraska looked solid in their win; Wisconsin looked shaky in theirs. While Wisconsin has mostly owned this rivalry, and that explains the big number here, keep in mind that the Badgers needed overtime to win in Madison last year. Also, this game has only played twice in Lincoln (due to division realignment) and those games have been close both times. Nebraska won by a field goal the first time. Wisconsin kicked a field goal as time expired to win by two a couple years ago. I also expect Nebraska to play with some confidence after finally winning big last week, but also with some desperation due to all of the aforementioned reasons. The Badgers should win, but Cornhuskers to easily cover at home:

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

 

Washington State (+2.5) @ Oregon:

Last Friday night was a fun episode of #Pac12AfterDark for the Washington State Cougars. But now, as discussed on the podcast this week, we'll learn how well Mike Leach and Washington State can stay focused and maintain their momentum. We'll also learn how close Oregon coach Willie Taggart is to getting the Ducks back into regular contention for the Pac-12 North. Oregon is off to a good start this year, but struggling with some injuries now, including at quarterback and running back. Keep an eye on that throughout the week if you like Oregon in this game. Washington State is dealing with some of their own injury issues on defense, but in spite of that I was impressed with the way their defense played in the win over USC last week. Especially in the second half. I expect a similar effort this week. Cougars to win outright, and continue to compete for the North division title:

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

 

Stanford (-7) @ Utah:

We debated running backs on the podcast this week: Stanford's Bryce Love vs Penn State's Saquon Barkley. Barkley is excellent, but before you make up your mind, check out how Bryce Love simply runs away from defenses. Here, he outruns the entire USC defense a few weeks ago. The kid has football speed that you just don't see everyday. Now Stanford goes to Utah for a Pac-12 North/South showdown that should be physical and fun to watch. Stanford certainly wants to get Love going early, but Utah will pose a significant defensive challenge: The Utes are ranked 10th in the nation in run defense, only giving up 87 YPG on the ground. More impressive is their yards per carry (YPC) stat: They rank 8th in the country in this category, giving up a mere 2.7 YPC. On the other side of the ball, Stanford is giving up more YPG than what we're to seeing from a Cardinal defense. On average, Stanford is giving up 444 YPG (including over 6 yards per play), and over 25 PPG. Utah coach Kyle Whittingham has had an extra week to prepare and plan for how to attack the Stanford defense, so I like the Utes to keep it close. Both teams could be going with backup quarterbacks as well, which should be another equalizer. Utes to keep it closer than a touchdown at home, and don't be shocked if they win this straight-up:

Sam's Play: Utes
KAM's Play: Utes 
Kevin's Play: Cardinal 
Matt's Play: Cardinal 

 

San Diego State (-10.5) @ UNLV:

The return of #MountainWestAfterMidnight! The Mountain Division has generally been the better half of this conference throughout its short history. But the West Division has gained ground in recent years, especially San Diego State: The Aztecs are the two-time defending champions of the league. And they may be the best Group of 5 team in the country this year. Vegas certainly knows that; hence, the Aztecs being huge road favorites here. Both teams here have capable offenses, but only San Diego State has a legitimate defense. The Aztecs have already forced 12 turnovers this year. They led the nation in interceptions last year so this is no surprise. But UNLV would rather move the ball on the ground; they're averaging over 300 YPG rushing. They should be able to productive enough to cover this number at home. Aztecs to win, but Rebels to keep it to single digits:

Sam's Play: Rebels
KAM's Play: Rebels
Kevin's Play: Rebels
Matt's Play: Aztecs 

 

Good luck with your picks and have a great October weekend! Life is good: Thank God it's football season!

 

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

 

Season Win Loss Push
Sam 24 25 0
KAM 21 28 0
Kevin 23 26 0
Matt 29 20 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