Spread Options: College football picks against the spread for Week 5

·6 min read

Despite a few bad beats in Week 4, I still ended up with a winning week.

The under in the Notre Dame vs. Wisconsin game was brutal. I had under 46.5 and the score was 10-10 entering the fourth quarter. Notre Dame ended up scoring 31 points in the fourth quarter despite gaining just 50 yards thanks to a special teams touchdown and two defensive scores. 

Nonetheless, I’ve managed to post back-to-back winning weeks and am back at .500 entering Week 5. Let’s keep it rolling.

Last week: 4-3

Overall: 14-14-1

(Note: All times ET, odds from BetMGM)

No. 5 Iowa at Maryland

Time: 8 p.m. (Friday) | TV: FS1 | Line: Iowa -3.5 | Total: 47.5

Iowa is ranked fifth in the country but is only a 3.5-point favorite against unranked Maryland. I usually pay no attention to the AP poll, but the Hawkeyes are ranked too high. They soared up the rankings thanks to wins over Indiana and Iowa State, two teams that have quickly proven to not be as good as their preseason projections.

While the defense is one of the nation’s best, Iowa’s offense is not good. The Hawkeyes are No. 119 in the country in yards per play at just 4.61. Tyler Goodson is averaging 20 rushes per game and is the most dangerous player on that offense. Maryland’s defense is allowing only 3.36 yards per rush. If the Terps can limit Goodson and put pressure on QB Spencer Petras (in his first true road start) to make plays, there’s a good recipe for an upset here.

Maryland has one of the Big Ten’s best QBs in Taulia Tagovailoa and a deep group of receivers. Iowa has not faced an offense of this caliber. If Tagovailoa avoids turnovers — Iowa’s defense has forced nine this year — the Terps will have a chance to pull this one out.

Pick: Maryland +3.5

No. 14 Michigan at Wisconsin

Time: Noon | TV: Fox | Line: Wisconsin -1.5 | Total: 43.5

Wisconsin is 1-2 so far this year and that’s mainly because of self-inflicted mistakes in losses to both Penn State and Notre Dame. The Badgers were in those games well into the fourth quarter and have a chance to turn things around starting on Saturday at home against No. 14 Michigan.

Michigan is 4-0 and has relied almost exclusively on its rushing attack to get to this point. Last week against Rutgers, however, that rushing game struggled. The Wolverines averaged just 2.9 yards per carry as a team, putting pressure on QB Cade McNamara to make some throws. He couldn’t deliver, going just 9-of-16 for 163 yards, and I don't expect much improvement in a tough road environment. 

If Michigan couldn’t run the ball efficiently against Rutgers, it won’t be able to do so against Wisconsin — the team with the No. 1 rush defense in the country (69 yards on 68 carries). The turnover factor with Graham Mertz scares me here, but I’m confident Wisconsin is the right side.

Pick: Wisconsin -1.5

Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz (5) hands off to Chez Mellusi during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Notre Dame Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz (5) hands off to Chez Mellusi during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Notre Dame Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Minnesota at Purdue

Time: Noon | TV: BTN | Line: Purdue -2.5 | Total: 47.5

Minnesota had one of the worst losses of the season last week, getting upset by Bowling Green as a 31-point favorite. It was a brutal performance from a team that clearly thought it could just play at half-speed and get a home win over a mediocre MAC team.

I’m expecting a different level of focus from the Gophers this week, but I don’t trust this offense enough to pick them to cover the spread. Minnesota’s entire approach on offense is baffling. The Gophers run the ball 72.9% of the time and have run the ball on 80.7% of their first-down plays. That’s just crazy in 2021.

Purdue isn’t exactly lighting it up offensively, either, and many of the Boilermakers’ top players have been dealing with injuries. Earlier this week, star receiver David Bell was still in the concussion protocol. The team’s top two running backs have also been out and tight end Payne Durham got hurt last week vs. Illinois as well. I'm not expecting many points. 

Pick: Under 47.5

Pittsburgh at Georgia Tech

Time: Noon | TV: ACCN | Line: Pitt -3.5 | Total: 58.5

Pitt has a really strong passing game and a pretty porous defense. That’s the recipe for an over.

Through four games, Pitt is averaging 386.5 passing yards per game, the fourth-most in the country. On the other side, the Pitt defense allowed 34 points to Tennessee and then 44 points at home to Western Michigan. All four of Pitt’s games have gone over the total so far this year. And since the start of the 2020 season, the over is 12-3 in Pitt games.

Georgia Tech is coming off an impressive win over North Carolina. And while I worry a bit about a hangover for the Yellow Jackets, I still think they will be able to put up a decent amount of points at home. During Geoff Collins’ tenure at GT, the over is 13-8 when the Yellow Jackets are underdogs, including a 7-4 mark as a home underdog.

Pick: Over 58

Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) plays against New Hampshire during an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) plays against New Hampshire during an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Army at Ball State

Time: 5 p.m. | TV: ESPN+ | Line: Army -7.5 | Total: 47.5

This is a pretty simple one for me. Army’s option offense is averaging 344.5 rushing yards per game. Ball State gives up 4.9 yards per rush (No. 110 nationally) and is No. 123 in the country in yards per play on offense (4.46). Because of the Army offense, the Cardinals will have a limited number of possessions

Ball State is 0-4 against the spread so far this season. After this one, it will be 0-5. 

Pick: Army -7.5

Washington State at California

Time: 5:30 p.m. | TV: Pac-12 | Line: Cal -7.5 | Total: 52

Cal is better than its 1-3 record shows. The Golden Bears jumped out to double-digit first-half leads in losses to both Nevada and TCU. Last week at Washington, they put up 457 yards of offense but were doomed by three turnovers and poor red zone execution.

Now Cal gets to return home and play a Washington State team that continues to struggle under Nick Rolovich. The Cougars blew a late lead at Utah last week and now have to go back on the road to play a veteran team that won’t roll over despite a rough start to the season. I think Cal rolls in this spot.

Pick: Cal -7.5