Get college football best bets for the Saturday 9/29/23 slate. Find predictions for Florida vs. Kentucky, Iowa State vs. Oklahoma, Alabama vs. Mississippi State, Notre Dame vs. Duke, and more.
College Football Week 5 Best Bets – Saturday Slate (9/30/23)
Week 5 of the college football season has arrived, and we have you covered with best bets for the exciting Saturday slate. Check out our YouTube channel, as well, where we break down all of the big primetime games this week. Let’s get to work.
Jacob Wayne’s Record: 12-14 (-1.6 units)
Kody Malstrom’s Record: 4-6 (-2.6 units)
Will Schwartz’s Record: 8-3-1 (+4.7 units)
Florida Gators Vs. Kentucky Wildcats
If you’ve been following my content at all this season, you probably know that I’m higher than most on this Florida team. The Gators were underwhelming in Billy Napier’s first year as the head coach, but they made two huge additions that are already making a big difference – quarterback Graham Mertz and defensive coordinator Austin Armstrong.
Mertz isn’t being asked to do a ton, but he’s been highly efficient. His 6.4-yard average depth of target (aDOT) is the fourth-lowest in the Power Five, but his 8.8 yards per attempt is in the top 25 and his 88.2% adjusted completion rate leads the Power Five. He’s been highly accurate and efficient.
The same can’t be said about Kentucky’s Devin Leary. He’s working through some mechanical issues and he has an ugly five interceptions despite a schedule that includes Ball State, Eastern Kentucky, and Akron. In his first road game against an awful Vanderbilt defense last week, he completed just 51.7% of his passes and had three turnover-worthy plays.
Partially due to Leary’s struggles, Kentucky ranks just 99th in standard down success rate even with that ultra soft schedule. They’re living in passing downs, and that’s where Armstrong comes in. Florida has a havoc oriented defense and will bring heat on Leary, who has the ninth-highest turnover-worthy play rate in the P5 against the blitz.
Florida has done an excellent job of insulating Mertz in their offense, and the Gators will rely on their awesome running back duo of Trevor Etienne and Montrell Johnson. Combine that with their underrated defense, and that’s a winning formula, even on the road.
Best Bet: Florida +1.5 (play to ML)
Virginia Cavaliers Vs. Boston College Eagles
Boston College has had a rough start to the season and is coming off a blowout loss to Louisville, but I love this spot for them hosting a terrible Virginia team. Virginia ranks just 103rd in offensive EPA and 116th in success rate as their offense has been putrid all year.
Tony Muskett will get the start for Virginia this week, and I believe that reduces their offensive upside. Muskett, a Monmouth transfer, completed just 52.9% of his passes in his lone start against Tennessee earlier this season.
Anthony Colandrea, who got the last few starts, wasn’t that much more efficient, but his 12.9-yard aDOT at least showed that he’s willing to test the opposing defense downfield. Muskett will likely be much more conservative in his approach and won’t test a vulnerable Boston College secondary the same way.
The Eagles quietly have an excellent offensive line this season. After being derailed by injuries last year, Boston College got all five starters back including future NFL guard Christian Mahogany.
Virginia has the 98th-ranked pass rush in the secondary per PFF and is 129th in passing success rate allowed. Behind that stout offensive line, Thomas Castellanos can do some damage. Castellanos has over 60 rushing yards in all four games this season and threw for three touchdowns against a much better Louisville defense last week.
Jeff Hafley’s back is against the wall at Boston College, and this stands as a must-win game against a reeling Virginia team. I bet Boston College at -3 earlier in the week, but I’m fine playing -3.5 as well.
Best Bet: Boston College -3 (play to -3.5)
Iowa State Cyclones Vs. Oklahoma Sooners
I’m always looking for situational spots to fade teams with big games on the horizon, and this certainly qualifies. Oklahoma faces Texas next week in the Red River shootout, and the Sooners will be itching to get to that game after an embarrassing 49-0 loss to their biggest rival last season.
First, they have to get past an Iowa State team with a feisty defense that ranks top 20 in EPA and success rate allowed. That should be no surprise – Matt Campbell’s defenses are consistently strong. I’m still not totally sold on Dillon Gabriel, and this will be the best defense he’s faced all season by far.
What has been surprising for Iowa State is that they have a passing offense despite Hunter Dekkers currently suspended due to gambling activity. Rocco Becht has led Iowa State to a top 50 passing offense by EPA and he’s coming off a strong game with 348 passing yards and three touchdowns against Oklahoma State.
We’re getting value in the market on this Iowa State team partially due to their loss to Ohio a couple of weeks ago, but Iowa State had an 83% postgame win expectancy in that one. Wide receiver Jaylin Noel is coming off a huge game with eight catches for 146 yards and a score, and this Oklahoma secondary has some holes that can be exploited.
Oklahoma is 4-0 straight up and ATS, but that doesn’t tell the full story. Cincinnati had six trips past the 40-yard line last week and managed just six points on those trips. Meanwhile, SMU repeatedly shot themselves in the foot in that game and the final score wasn’t reflective of how close that game was.
The last time Oklahoma was a home favorite the week before facing Texas was in 2020 against Iowa State, a game the Sooners only won by 7 points as 31-point favorites. This is a sleepy spot for Oklahoma and I can see a similar outcome here.
Best Bet: Iowa State +20 (play to +19.5)
Washington Huskies vs. Arizona Wildcats
It was another dominant Huskies win as they made quick work of the California Golden Bears. Michael Penix Jr now finds himself as the Heisman favorite in some sportsbooks, leading the Huskies offense with his elite throwing prowess.
So far this season, Washington ranks second in Off Pass Success Rate, third in Off Pass PPA, and 20th in Havoc Allowed. All impressive feats for Penix and company, consistency burning opposing defenses by exposing the gaps in coverage and moving the ball down the field with ease.
As for Arizona, their metrics indicate that this is a stout defense as they rank 30th in Def Rush Success Rate, 28th in Def Points per Opportunity, and 42nd in Havoc. All impressive numbers across the board, yet you need to take it with a grain of salt as this mirrors the same situation that they faced with Michigan State.
While you play who is in front of you, the Wildcats numbers may be skewed as they have greatly benefited from playing a lackluster quality of opponent four games into the season. This may mark them as better than what they really are, now having to defend against one of the best pass attacks in football.
Banking on the idea that Arizona’s defense will be in for a harsh reality, Washington should have no issue with moving the ball down the field and routinely putting themselves in scoring position.
The issue with taking a full game position on Washington is that this game is right before their bye week. This allows them to opt into the idea of resting their starters early before a date with Oregon two weeks from now. Should they pull their starters early then Arizona has a puncher’s chance of covering the number late.
While it’s tough to figure out how head coach Kalen DeBoer will handle this as he is one of the more aggressive second half head coaches in football, I will bypass the uncertainty by taking the Huskies to cover the first half spread. Expect Penix and company to start out hot, flexing their elite passing ability and running up the score before getting called off.
Best Bet: Washington 1H -10.5 +100 (Play to -12.5)
Alabama Crimson Tide at Mississippi State Bulldogs
Best Bet: Alabama Parlay Piece
While struggling throughout the season, the Crimson Tide found success in their biggest game of the season by turning back the clocks. It’s apparent that Jalen Milroe is not capable of being a consistent passer so they opted into the idea of bullying Ole Miss on the ground.
While the offensive line is not as dominant in years past, they had no issue with pushing back the Ole Miss defensive front and opening up lanes for running back Jase McClellan to exploit. He finished the game rushing for 101 yards on 16 attempts and one touchdown.
Their ground game ranks far better in Success Rate than their pass attack, ranking 46th in Off Rush Success in comparison to their pass attacks 94th rank. While not exactly up to snuff to the Alabama standard, it’s still a massive advantage against the Bulldogs rush defense which ranks a lowly 84th in Def Rush Success Rate.
Expecting Alabama to revert back to the run, this gives me pause on backing them as a favorite of more than -14. The ground game will drain time off the clock, stringing together long drives with their ability to cut the distance to gain in half. Factor in the Bulldogs ability to limit the big gain with a respectable Def Rush Explosiveness metric and Alabama will be forced to rely on more short gains than expected.
This limits the amount of opportunities that their offense will have, bringing in a heavier dose of variance. In order to bypass this, I will opt into the idea of tying their moneyline into a moneyline parlay with someone else.
As of writing, the Memphis Tigers are an intriguing option to tie their moneyline with, creating a double moneyline parlay at -115. Their pass attack has a massive advantage against the Broncos defense, having little to no issue with moving the ball down the field through the air.
On the other end, Boise State will struggle against the Tigers Havoc and Def Success Rate, being prone to being stalled out throughout a majority of the contest and giving the Tigers more opportunities to drive up the scoreboard.
Will Schwartz’s Best Bets
Kansas Jayhawks at Texas Longhorns
Even in the college game, we’re going to lean into the Taylor Swift football hysteria and back her unofficial favorite college football team, the Kansas Jayhawks, representing the university where she once spontaneously sat in on classes. Music legends aside, this is a great spot to invest in Kansas as an underdog of 17.5 points, a solid secondary football number. They haven’t received the hype they did a year ago, which was perhaps a product of the shock value from starting the year 5-0 after going 2-10 a year earlier, but this team has just as much juice as last year’s squad, if not more.
Jalon Daniels is back at quarterback, and he’s playing some of his best ball after dealing with injury issues and missing time down the stretch last season, as the season fell apart a bit for the Jayhawks. He finished 45th among qualified quarterbacks in PFF’s overall grade last season, and 29th in the passing grade rankings; he’s 18th and 15th in those two categories this year, respectively.
This team isn’t just Daniels however, as Lance Leipold continues to do great things with the program in year three at the helm. PFF actually has them ranked as the sixth best team overall in the country, with the seventh-best offense and 31st-best defense. That’s just one metric, and EPA isn’t as high on their defense, but also considers the offense to be top-10, and they’re fourth in success rate, despite having played some solid defenses.
They’ll be going up against by far the best offense they’ve seen yet in Steve Sarkisian’s Texas Longhorns. Don’t get me wrong, this squad is the best we’ve seen in Austin in quite some time, and they should pull off the win, but they’re not in a good position to truly pull away with this one to the tune of a three-score win.
The Longhorns haven’t been able to run the ball effectively enough in the wake of losing dynamic star Bijan Robinson, and to build and maintain a big lead, you’re going to have to run the ball out. This is especially true against this Kansas team, who don’t defend the run that well; if you can’t exploit their greatest weakness, it’s going to be hard to truly batter them down to the extent that it takes to cover -17.5 most of the time.
The pass attack has been this team’s offensive strong suit, led by Quinn Ewers who put together an iconic performance against Alabama, and has the ability to hit every throw on the field but does not always do so consistently, as he’s just 1 for 12 in terms of completing balls more than 20 yards downfield outside of that Alabama game. I don’t doubt that he’ll be able to find game-winning plays against a defense that is more or less average against the pass, but with the 120th-best passing success rate in the nation, Ewers and the air attack won’t prop up Texas’s subpar run game enough to get them the blowout win.
Best Bet: Kansas +17.5 (Play to 14.5)
Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Duke Blue Devils
These have been two of my favorite teams to both watch and invest in this season, even after the Notre Dame loss, they’re off to two of the more impressive starts in the country, and it’s all about the defenses. Even when Sam Hartman and the offense faltered against an elite Ohio State defense, the Fighting Irish defense headlined by star cornerback duo Benjamin Morrison and Cam Hart showed up in a huge way.
As for the Blue Devils, they’re seventh in the country in per-snap defensive EPA, compared to 22nd for Notre Dame, with the crown jewel of their resume thus far being a dominating win over the Clemson Tigers to kick off the season, in which they held Dabo Swinney’s squad to just seven points. Even with the brilliance of Morrison and Hart, PFF considers Duke to have the best secondary in this game- in fact, the very best in the country- with a deep cornerback squad, led by Joshua Pickett and Myles Jones who have each earned coverage grades around 90, and have three picks already between the pair.
It’s of course worth noting that 51 is an incredibly significant number in college football, so this total allows you to grab that as part of the under; feel free to play this down to 51.5 for that reason. The pace of play should also be very conducive to the under, as these two offenses move at a glacial rate. Notre Dame is 96th in FBS in offensive snaps per game while Duke is 100th, and the Irish are the 112nd-fastest offense as far as per-snap seconds, with Duke also down in 99th. Longer snaps means fewer snaps, fewer possessions, and of course fewer chances to score, so it’s hard not to love the under here.
If you’re a bit worried about fading Heisman candidate Sam Hartman, we can’t forget the Ohio State game; not everybody has the ability to send pass rushers of that same quality, but getting pressure on Hartman can really limit his output. This was a trend last year, and it hadn’t shown early on as the Irish had protected him well, but with some crafty Mike Elko blitz packages, Duke should be able to make him feel the heat and get uncomfortable. Even if you can’t get the pressure with a four-man rush, Hartman is barely within the top-100 against the blitz in PFF’s QB grades, so that’s a very viable way to limit the Notre Dame attack.
Best Bet: Under 52.5 (Play to 51.5)