Heading into Week 6, we’re halfway done. Sad. Football is fleeting.
It’s not a hugely important slate this week. There are no big matchups for the playoff favorites, and figuring out which game is the most consequential is tough. Vanderbilt/Georgia? Miami/Florida State?
Check out some of these spreads, heed my betting advice (or don’t), and then check out the best online sportsbooks.
ATS record (2017): 18-15
Thursday, October 5th
Louisville (-3.5) at NC State, 5pm ET
I’m torn. On one hand, NC State has a strong defensive front, the likes of which has given Lamar Jackson fits his entire college career. Against Houston, Clemson, and LSU last year, the otherworldly Louisville offense was all but entirely muted. This year as well, Clemson positively stifled the Louisville offense, primarily with an extremely strong defensive line.
On the other hand, this is the best line I’ve seen in the Lamar Jackson era. Louisville is by consensus the stronger team, and this squad doesn’t win by 3.5 points. They haven’t won by less than a touchdown since 2015, and it might be time to take advantage of a tight line and widespread scepticism about Jackson’s mercurial talents. Also, as Jackson’s evolved as a passer, it’s getting harder and harder to render his game one-dimensional by daring him to make difficult throws. He can make those now, and he’s thankful for the opportunity to get on tape.
My pick: Louisville to cover.
Saturday, October 7th
LSU at Florida (-3.5), 12:30pm ET
You don’t get off that easy, Florida. The entire notion that the Gators have an offense has been skating along on the thinnest knife edge; Florida beat Tennessee and Kentucky by the skin of its teeth on blown coverages on last-minute plays. As troubled as LSU is, their woes don’t extend to the point of not being able to keep Florida honest, and while this isn’t a truly elite defense, it remains a very strong, very talented one that’s just waiting to ruin someone’s run of good luck. Also, everybody wants to talk about how embarrassing it is to lose to Troy at home, but nobody wants to talk about how good Troy is. Neal Brown has done great things there.
Also, Florida’s questions about whether its star offensive players will return has morphed into a question about whether or not those same players will go to prison. Have fun beating LSU without your blue-chip wide receiver and running back.
My pick: LSU to cover. Coach O isn’t dead yet.
Alabama (-26.5) at Texas A&M, 4:15pm ET
Remember when Johnny Manziel beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa? Yeah, Nick Saban does too. This year he’s abandoned all pretense of respectability and racked up massive scores against former rivals, enemies, and those who slight him, and will head into College Station with every intention of burning down Kyle Field.
In terms of actual football reasons that Alabama can and will cover this spread, look no further than the run game. Damien Harris can score from anywhere on the field. Bo Scarbrough is an unstoppable force and Texas A&M’s run defense is a moveable object. The backup quarterback can throw dimes and run for first downs. There’s no reason to expect this won’t be a blowout, particularly with all the hype leading into the game.
My pick: Alabama to cover.
Washington State (EVEN) at Oregon, 5pm ET
Oregon crunched Cal last week, and is back to running the ball in the school’s uniquely explosive and efficient way. Cal’s run game imploded, Justin Herbert had a fun day throwing the ball, and the defense was stout. Normally, Oregon at home with a good quarterback and an established running game is a no-brainer, but things have changed.
With Herbert out and Washington State playing well — beat-USC well — the calculus has to change a little. With Royce Freeman “day-to-day,” it flips entirely. Also: Luke Falk and the gang were seriously impressive last week, against what is certainly a better defense than Oregon’s.
My pick: Washington State to win!
Stanford ( -2.5) at Utah, 7L15pm ET
This is a truly interesting matchup that I didn’t expect to be at the start of the year. Stanford’s power-running offense is as good as it’s ever been, but Utah’s outperformed expectations, thumping Arizona, BYU, and San Jose State by bigger margins than we expected. As good as Stanford’s power-running offense is, this game could turn to favor Utah if the Utes make good on their move to a more up-tempo offense. Stanford’s had trouble containing the better offenses on its schedule, and Utah might just be one of them.
Also: Utah’s defensive front is something to be scared of, and Stanford’s struggled offensively when their dominance in the trenches has been diminished.
My pick: Utah (+2.5) to cover.
San Diego State (-10) at UNLV, 7:45pm ET
All San Diego State does is beat people to sleep. They’re 5-0 with a win over Stanford, at that point a ranked team, and show no signs of slowing down. UNLV has two losses on their resume, to Ohio State (yeah, alright) and Howard (little bit puzzling) and isn’t a fair match for SDSU. The Aztecs are a ranked team now, and any other ranked team going against UNLV would have a much bigger spread.
I can imagine that SDSU isn’t going to run up the score on UNLV in the wake of the tragic mass shooting in Las Vegas, but a ten-point margin isn’t distasteful. Ohio State does a great job of managing tasteful but respectable blowouts of service academies, and those frequently creep up into two or three-score territory.
My pick: SDSU to cover.