Every week throughout the season we’ll give you a college football viewing guide by highlighting the five best games of the coming weekend. We will pick those five games against the spread and highlight some other matchups that caught our eye from a betting perspective.
As the calendar turns to October, the stakes start to get a little higher in the college football world. We’re into conference play and we’re starting to get a feel for which teams are legitimate contenders and which teams are nowhere near as good as their preseason rankings may have suggested.
Some of the perennial top teams in the country have had early season slip-ups and there are plenty of opportunities for more in Week 5. Both No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Georgia will be visited by ranked conference foes. Additionally, teams like No. 3 Oregon, No. 4 Iowa, No. 6 Oklahoma and No. 10 Florida all head on the road to face quality opponents.
Do you smell the upsets in the air?
(Note: All times ET, odds from BetMGM)
Time: Noon | TV: ESPN | Line: UGA -18.5 | Total: 48.5
The ascendance of Arkansas has been one of the best stories of the season thus far. This is a program not that far removed from a 20-game SEC losing streak. Now the Razorbacks are ranked in the top 10 and have already beaten Texas and Texas A&M. Can they keep it going on the road against mighty Georgia?
Georgia opened the season with a win over Clemson and has continued rolling from there. En route to this 4-0 start, the Bulldogs have outscored their opponents 168-23. The defense has been suffocating and the offense has been moving the ball with ease against largely overmatched opponents. Facing Arkansas here is a definite step up in competition and will help us determine just how good this team is and can be.
Sam Cooper: Arkansas +18.5, Nick Bromberg: Arkansas +18.5
Time: 2:30 p.m. | TV: NBC | Line: UC -1.5 | Total: 51
Cincinnati went undefeated in the regular season last year but was not even close to cracking the CFP field. This year, the Bearcats opened the year in the top 10 and are hoping a road win over Notre Dame can serve as the resume boost they need. Cincinnati already went on the road and beat Indiana, but was a bit sloppy in the process. UC will need to play a much cleaner game to emerge from South Bend with a victory.
Notre Dame is 4-0, but hasn’t been as impressive as it was for most of the 2020 season. The Irish, who have won 26 straight at home, needed overtime to beat Florida State, a last-minute TD to beat Toledo and were outgained in wins over Purdue and Wisconsin. With Cincy coming into town, it’s unclear who will start at QB for the Irish. Jack Coan injured his leg last week, but Brian Kelly said the team is optimistic he’ll be able to go. If not, it will likely be Drew Pyne under center.
Sam: Notre Dame +1.5, Nick: Cincinnati -1.5
Time: 3:30 p.m. | TV: CBS | Line: Alabama -14.5 | Total: 79
Ole Miss, in its second season under Lane Kiffin, is averaging 52.6 points per game during its 3-0 start with QB Matt Corral leading the way. Corral is currently the betting favorite to win the Heisman Trophy and he can prove his candidacy is for real with a strong performance in Tuscaloosa. The Rebels have been competitive against Alabama in recent years, and this is an opportunity for Kiffin to get one over on Nick Saban, his former boss.
Alabama has also been prolific on offense in the early going, averaging 46.5 points per game behind freshman QB Bryce Young. The Tide has blowout wins over Miami, Mercer and Southern Miss but needed a late two-point conversion stop to seal a 31-29 road win over Florida. The Gators put up 440 yards of offense against Alabama. Will the Tide’s defense have a better performance against Ole Miss?
Sam: Alabama -14.5, Nick: Ole Miss +14.5
Time: 3:30 p.m. | TV: Fox | Line: OU -10.5 | Total: 52.5
Oklahoma keeps winning, but it hasn’t looked like Oklahoma. The Sooners have really struggled on offense the last two weeks in one-possession wins over Nebraska (23-16) and West Virginia (16-13). Oklahoma has struggled to establish any sort of running game and that has made life difficult on QB Spencer Rattler. How will he react in his first true road test of the season?
Kansas State has pulled off big upsets over Oklahoma in the last two seasons, but both of those came with Skylar Thompson at quarterback. Thompson is currently injured and is unlikely to return against OU, leaving the combination of Will Howard and Jared Lewis to go up against a strong Sooners defense. K-State was able to run the ball without Thompson against Nevada a few weeks ago, but went for just 62 yards on 25 carries against Oklahoma State last week.
Sam: Oklahoma -10.5, Nick: Oklahoma -10.5
Time: 7 p.m. | TV: ESPN2 | Line: OSU -3.5 | Total: 48
Baylor really struggled in its first year under Dave Aranda but is now off to a 4-0 start in Year 2. The Bears beat inferior opponents in their first three games before upsetting Iowa State at home last week. Baylor beat ISU despite being outgained 479-282 in yards. Baylor scored on its first three drives and added a key special teams touchdown in order to get the win.
Oklahoma State is also 4-0 and has won its games by an average of just six points. Two weeks ago at Boise State, the Cowboys won behind a 246-yard effort from the rushing attack. Last week against Kansas State, Oklahoma State QB Spencer Sanders had one of the better games of his career, throwing for 344 yards and two touchdowns. Utah State transfer Jaylen Warren has also emerged, combining for 341 rushing yards in the last two weeks.
Sam: Oklahoma State -3.5, Nick: Oklahoma State -3.5
Head-to-head ATS: Sam: 9-11, Nick: 10-10
Week 5 best bets
Nick Bromberg (Last week: 2-1, Overall: 7-5)
No. 6 Oklahoma (-10.5) at Kansas State: The total on this game seems like a nondescript 52.5. But that number is the lowest over/under for an Oklahoma game since 2015 when the Sooners visited Manhattan. OU hit the over itself in a 55-0 win. That game came after OU had lost to Texas. The Sooners are facing similar circumstances from doubting fans after their offensive performances the last two weeks, but I like the over here. Pick: Over 52.5
No. 22 Auburn at LSU (-3.5): I think this will turn out to be a defensive struggle. Auburn’s offense hasn’t looked great against FBS teams not-named Akron and former LSU QB T.J. Finley could start against his old team. LSU, meanwhile, is still not the explosive offense it was in 2019. Pick: Under 56
Northwestern at Nebraska (-11.5): None of Nebraska’s four games against FBS opponents have totaled more than 52 points and Northwestern has only scored more than 23 points once in four games so far. Nebraska should win this game and it may not be that close, but I don’t think it’s going to be high scoring. Pick: Under 52
Sam Cooper (Last week: 2-1, Overall: 6-6)
Minnesota at Purdue (-2.5): Minnesota runs the ball 73% of the time and isn’t particularly good at it. Purdue is dealing with a bunch of injuries and is particularly banged up at the skill positions. Those factors, plus a sleepy noon kickoff in West Lafayette, have me siding with the under. Pick: Under 47.5
Army (-7.5) at Ball State: Army averages 344.5 rushing yards per game. Ball State gives up nearly five yards per rush and has one of the worst offenses in the country, averaging only 4.46 yards per play. Pick: Army -7.5
Washington State at Cal (-7.5): Cal has been moving the ball really well and is better than its 1-3 record shows. The Golden Bears had double-digit leads against Nevada and TCU and then lost in overtime to Washington last week. Washington State is a mess. Pick: Cal -7.5
For other Week 5 picks from Sam Cooper, click here.
For Week 5 picks from Dan Wetzel, Pete Thamel and Pat Forde subscribe to the College Football Enquirer podcast.