Like we’ve done in years past, every Friday throughout the season we’ll highlight the five best games of the coming weekend. This year, we’ll pick those games against the spread, plus some other matchups that caught our eye from a betting perspective.
Week 4 brought the chaos with upsets galore and now we’re ready for more.
In Week 5, there are five games between ranked opponents, including two games that have legitimate College Football Playoff implications. Now we’re really into conference play, too, and three of those five games are league matchups with plenty of other games helping to separate the conference contenders from pretenders.
(Games on Saturday unless otherwise noted, all times ET)
5. South Carolina at No. 17 Kentucky
Time: 7:30 p.m. | TV: SEC Network | Line: Kentucky -1
Kentucky (4-0, 2-0 SEC) is riding high off of last week’s upset over Mississippi State that vaulted the Wildcats into the polls for the first time since 2007. Benny Snell ran all over the Bulldogs for 165 yards and four touchdowns while the UK defense limited the vaunted MSU offense to just 201 yards of offense.
Now, with South Carolina (2-1, 1-1) coming into Lexington, UK gets another chance to prove it’s for real while keeping pace with Georgia in the SEC East. South Carolina bounced back from its loss to Georgia with a commanding 37-14 road win over Vanderbilt. The Gamecocks will need a good game from QB Jake Bentley, who is completing 68 percent of his passes, especially if the UK run game continues to perform at a high level.
Picks: Sam Cooper: SC +1, Nick Bromberg: Kentucky -1
4. No. 19 Oregon at No. 24 California
Time: 10:30 p.m. | TV: FS1 | Line: Oregon -2
Oregon (3-1, 0-1 Pac-12) has no time to dwell in its devastating loss to Stanford. The Ducks were up 24-7 at halftime and inexplicably fumbled while trying to run out the clock with a 31-28 lead, allowing Stanford to force overtime and eventually pull out the win. Now Oregon has to go on the road to face Cal (3-0, 0-0), which is quietly undefeated and ranked in the Top 25 for the first time since 2015. The Ducks need this one, especially with No. 11 Washington (who is a 17-point favorite vs. No. 20 BYU this week) coming into Eugene next week.
While Oregon has a potential No. 1 pick in Justin Herbert at quarterback, the Golden Bears have been using a combination of Chase Garbers and South Carolina transfer Brandon McIlwain at quarterback. Garbers is the starter, but McIlwain has been worked in quite often, especially in the win over BYU when he rushed for 74 yards on 16 carries in a 21-18 road win. The Cal defense is much-improved, allowing just 19.3 points per game.
Picks: Sam: Oregon -2, Nick: Oregon -2
3. No. 12 West Virginia at No. 25 Texas Tech
Time: Noon | TV: ESPN2 | Line: West Virginia -3.5
Will Grier and West Virginia (3-0, 1-0 Big 12) have cruised to a 3-0 start without much resistance, beating Tennessee, Youngstown State and Kansas State by an average of 30 points. Traveling to Lubbock to face Texas Tech (3-1, 1-0) in an early kickoff should prove to be a much tougher test for the Mountaineers.
The Red Raiders shook off a rough Week 1 loss to Ole Miss with three wins in a row, including last week’s 41-17 upset over Oklahoma State in Stillwater. True freshman quarterback Alan Bowman has come out of nowhere to put up huge numbers for Kliff Kingsbury’s offense, including a Big 12 freshman record 605 yards in the team’s win over Houston. Texas Tech’s defense impressed against Oklahoma State, but this one has the looks of a classic Big 12 shootout on paper.
Picks: Sam: WVU -3.5, Nick: WVU -3.5
2. No. 7 Stanford at No. 8 Notre Dame
Time: 7:30 p.m. | TV: NBC | Line: Notre Dame -5.5
Stanford (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) performed a high-wire act to escape Oregon with a win last weekend and now has a tremendous resume-boosting opportunity in yet another road game, this time in South Bend against Notre Dame. With a win, Stanford can do what Washington could not when it faced Auburn in Week 1: secure a key win against a top 10 non-conference opponent. A win would be a boon for the Pac-12 with a tough league schedule still on the horizon for the Cardinal.
On the other side, Notre Dame improved to 4-0 by beating up on Wake Forest. The Irish did so with a new starting quarterback, Ian Book. Though not as athletic, Book proved to be far more accurate than Brandon Wimbush. He’ll face a much tougher challenge against Stanford. With a win, Notre Dame would have two impressive victories, especially if Michigan, who the Irish beat in Week 1, continues to win. As things currently stand, the Irish will likely be the favorite in the rest of its games, paving the way to a potential CFP berth.
Picks: Sam: Stanford +5.5, Nick: Stanford +5.5
1. No. 4 Ohio State at No. 9 Penn State
Time: 7:30 p.m. | TV: ABC | Line: Ohio State -4
The biggest game of the night will establish a pecking order in the Big Ten East with the winner not only becoming the last Big Ten team without a loss, but the Big Ten’s leader in the clubhouse for a CFP spot.
To beat Ohio State (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten), Penn State (4-0, 1-0) will have to tighten up on defense, especially against the run. While Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins has lit up defenses all season, he’s playing in his first significant true road environment. He may have to lean on running backs J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber to help quiet the whiteout crowd at Beaver Stadium. So far this season, the PSU defense has given up an average of 172.5 rushing yards per game.
PSU has a stellar offense of its own, averaging an NCAA-best 55.5 points per game (OSU is No. 2 at 54.5 ppg). Senior quarterback Trace McSorley is the name everybody knows, but junior running back Miles Sanders has proved to be a capable replacement for Saquon Barkley so far. The Ohio State defenses has given up quite a few big plays so far this season.
Picks: Sam: PSU +4, Nick: OSU -4
Record to date: Sam: 8-12, Nick: 7-13
Week 5’s best bets
Nick Bromberg (Last week: 3-0, Overall: 8-4)
Army at Buffalo (-7.5): The Black Knights come off that close loss at Oklahoma to face a Buffalo team that blew out Rutgers to move to 4-0 on the season. Buffalo has an impressive resume for a group of five team with wins over the Big Ten, AAC and an Eastern Michigan team that beat Purdue. But the triple-option of Army should keep this one close and chew up clock. Army may even win outright. Pick: Army +7.5
Texas (-9) at Kansas State: The Longhorns are flying high after beating TCU a week ago while Kansas State seems in disarray with a dispute among the coaching staff as to who should play quarterback. But Bill Snyder’s teams have regularly played well against Texas and the Wildcats always pull a rabbit or two out of the hat every season. This could be one of those games where KSU makes Texas sweat. Pick: Kansas State +9
Utah (-1.5) at Washington State: There’s nothing in this game that makes me want to take Utah giving points at Washington State. The Cougars have shown to be a bit better than we thought they’d be and Utah’s offensive display against Washington two weeks ago was dreadful. The only surprising result from this game would be a convincing Utah win. Pick: Washington State +1.5
Sam Cooper (Last week: 1-2, Overall: 6-6)
Pittsburgh at UCF (-13): Oh the heels of a loss to North Carolina, Pitt is in rough shape right now, especially on defense. The Panthers have shown the ability to run the ball, but when you’re going against an offense like UCF that averages 50 points per game, the Panthers are going to have to throw to keep pace. I don’t think that will happen, especially on the road. Pick: UCF -13
Louisiana Tech at North Texas (-7): North Texas has blown out every opponent it has faced so far this year. On Saturday, UNT will wear throwback jerseys and unveil a Mean Joe Greene statue. It will be a really cool day in Denton, and Louisiana Tech, coming off a physical game against LSU, won’t be able to keep up with Mason Fine and UNT offense. Pick: North Texas -7
Nevada at Air Force (-5): Nevada can really put up points, but is allowing 47 points per game in three games vs. FBS opponents. Last year, an Air Force team that went on to win just five games, gashed the Wolf Pack for 550 rushing yards. Coming off back-to-back losses, I like the Falcons to cover at home. Pick: Air Force -5
For Pat Forde and Pete Thamel’s Week 5 picks, check out Race for the Case: