Week 5 of the College Football season kicks off with a great Friday game in the Pac 12, followed up by a handful of top-25 matchups, including a couple in the SEC. Get your Week 5 college football best bets and predictions for this week’s action.
Week 5 College Football Best Bets & Predictions
Last week was rough for me in college football, and I’m not shying away from it. I went down 6 units. There were some bad reads to be sure – the Iowa-Rutgers game was a mess, I completely missed the look-ahead spot for Ole Miss, and UNC’s run defense looked downright pathetic. Others were frustrating bad beats like Texas, Arkansas, and Oregon blowing it on numerous occasions.
This is my first year handicapping college football on a full-time basis, and I’ve been learning on the job. I’m confident that my reads will continue to improve, and I am honing in on my discipline and selectiveness with these picks. If you want to fade me this week, I understand, but I feel great about the card I’ve put together. Regardless, we should be in for a very exciting week of college football action.
Washington Huskies at UCLA Bruins
Game Info: Friday, September 30, 10:30 PM EST
The Washington Huskies have been one of the biggest surprises of the early season under new head coach Kalen DeBoer. Michael Penix Jr. has been on fire with an FBS-leading 1,388 passing yards and 12 touchdowns to just one interception. PFF has tracked him with ten big-time throws to just one turnover-worthy play, and he’s even being discussed as a fringe Heisman candidate.
However, let’s take a step back and look at who Penix has faced this season. The following are the passing defenses that he’s played:
- Kent State: 103rd in pass defense EPA, 129th in PFF’s team coverage grades
- Portland State: 0-3 FBS team that gave up 53 points to Montana last week
- Michigan State: 101st in pass defense EPA, 87th in PFF’s team coverage grades
- Stanford: 117th in pass defense EPA, 102nd in PFF’s team coverage grades
There may not have been an easier opening schedule for any quarterback in the country. This week, Penix faces a UCLA defense that ranks 28th in defensive EPA against the pass and 30th in PFF’s team coverage grades. They also rank 24th in PFF’s team pass-rush grades as the Murphy brothers and Laiatu Latu have combined for 42 through four games.
Dorian Thompson-Robinson hasn’t been at his best for UCLA this season, but their offense still ranks 16th in passing EPA. Washington has been reliant on its pass-rush as they rank just 70th in PFF’s team coverage grades, but DTR is as good as any quarterback at evading the rush – he’s been pressured 32 times but has only taken three sacks.
DTR also ranks fifth in the country in completion percentage at 74.8% and is a dynamic runner. Mix in a steady diet of Zach Charbonnet on the ground, and UCLA will be able to put up points.
Ohhhhhh okay okay Dorian Thompson-Robinson 🔥
Is this the year the UCLA QB propels himself into genuine #NFLDraft consideration?
— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) September 3, 2022
This game profiles as an excellent opportunity to buy low on UCLA and sell high on Washington. While the Huskies have been impressive, they shouldn’t be three-point favorites on the road against one of the top teams in the Pac-12. This game should be back-and-forth and a ton of fun to watch, but I believe the Bruins come out on top at home.
Best Bet: UCLA +3.5 (bet to +3)
Oklahoma Sooners at TCU Horned Frogs
Game Info: Saturday, October 1, 12:00 PM EST
The beginning of the Brent Venables era in Norman has had its fair share of ups and downs, and the loss last week to Kansas State profiles as the latter. The Sooners got gouged on the ground by Adrian Martinez (148 yards, four touchdowns) and Deuce Vaughn (116 yards), and their inability to stop the run has been a surprise – Venables’s defense ranks 81st in the FBS in run defense EPA.
Meanwhile, TCU ranks first in the country in rushing offense EPA. Kendre Miller has been excellent with 250 yards through three games on a 6.6 YPC clip, and he ran for 142 yards against SMU last week. Behind a stout offensive line, the Horned Frogs rank fourth in the country in rushing efficiency at 6.33 YPC.
Don’t blink, half of TCU’s offensive plays are over 10 yards per.
— Collin Wilson (@_Collin1) September 24, 2022
The Horned Frogs use that efficient rushing offense to set up deep play-action shots. Max Duggan leads the FBS in deep-ball accuracy per PFF with an adjusted completion percentage of 80% on passes 20+ yards downfield. Duggan threw for 346 yards and four touchdowns against Oklahoma last year, and Quentin Johnston had a career day with 185 yards and three scores.
On the other side, Dillon Gabriel has played well with 1,088 yards and 11 touchdowns with no interceptions, but Oklahoma’s biggest strength is its run game that ranks fifth in the country in EPA. Eric Gray has 400 yards at a 7.5 YPC clip through three games, and the team’s run-blocking ranks 17th in the FBS per PFF’s grades.
There isn’t much to discern between these two teams, both of whom have first-year head coaches, in terms of style of play or level of production. They both have lingering questions on the defensive end but highly efficient rushing offenses and quarterbacks who can let it fly. This should be a high-scoring game in Fort Worth, and I love getting the points with the home dog in this spot.
Best Bet: TCU +7 (bet to +6)
Purdue Boilermakers at Minnesota Golden Gophers
Game Info: Saturday, October 1, 12:00 PM EST
Is Minnesota the best team in the country? Some metrics would lead you to say yes. They rank first in EPA margin, first in PFF’s overall team grades, and fifth in Football Outsiders’ overall FEI ratings. By all advanced metrics, they have played like a team worthy of College Football Playoff consideration. Now, they haven’t played any great teams, but winning four games by an average of just under 40 points is impressive nonetheless.
New offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca has made the most of his opportunity by elevating the play of the Golden Gophers’ offense. Tanner Morgan is PFF’s top-graded passer in the country, and his 88.8 QBR ranks fifth in the FBS. He completed 88% of his passes against Michigan State last week. Mohamed Ibrahim has 89 carries for 573 yards (6.4 YPC) and eight touchdowns so far this season, and he’s perhaps the most underrated running back in the country.
mohamed ibrahim has looked fantastic coming off his achilles tear. good for him pic.twitter.com/i7Opyn5N6Q
— Ray G 🏁 (@RayGQue) September 17, 2022
Meanwhile, Purdue has struggled on defense as they rank just 54th in EPA and 47th in FEI. Before the season began, I spoke about how their defense would struggle to overcome the loss of George Karlaftis, and that has rung true thus far. Last week, they gave up 26 points to Florida Atlantic and allowed them to covert on third down at a 50% clip.
To make matters worse for Purdue, Aidan O’Connell sustained a rib injury that kept him out last week, and while Austin Burton played well in relief, it won’t be nearly as easy against a Minnesota defense that leads the FBS in defensive EPA per play allowed. They could be without O’Connell, their best running back, and their second-best receiver this week against a Golden Gophers defense that is stopping teams on an absurd FBS-leading 86% of their third downs.
Minnesota has an excellent defense, an elite offensive line featuring perhaps the best center in the country, a quarterback playing highly efficient football, and deep skill position groups. Purdue is rife with injuries and has a defense that has faltered. The Golden Gophers have won four straight games against the Boilermakers, and this is the widest gap in talent we’ve seen from these programs in quite some time.
Best Bet: Minnesota -9.5 (bet to -12.5)
Iowa State Cyclones at Kansas Jayhawks
Game Info: Saturday, October 1, 3:30 PM EST
Lance Leipold has this Kansas team roaring at 4-0, and he’s quickly become one of the most coveted head coaches in the country. The Jayhawks have played quality opponents, too – they won outright as road underdogs against West Virginia and Houston in two straight weeks. Now, they return home to face an Iowa State team that’s coming off a loss to Baylor.
After losing Breece Hall to the NFL draft, the Iowa State rushing offense has taken a big hit – they rank 117th in the FBS in rushing EPA. With that lack of rushing productivity, Hunter Dekkers has had to shoulder the offensive burden, and he’s struggled with five turnover-worthy plays to six big-time throws per PFF. Kansas’s defense isn’t elite, but with the 14th-best run defense per PFF, they can force a one-dimensional approach from the Cyclones.
Of course, the biggest reason the Jayhawks are undefeated has been the play of Jalon Daniels. He’s already at a career-high in passing yards through just four games and has eleven touchdowns with just one interception. Kansas is averaging 4.1 points per drive (second in the FBS) and 7.8 yards per play (third). They rank seventh in offensive EPA per play and second in passing EPA.
How we feeling about Jalon Daniels as an NFL prospect? He has that Kansas offense humming! pic.twitter.com/MQR5XS3rUX
— JWack (@JaredWackerly) September 27, 2022
Iowa State will present the toughest test to date for Kansas’s offense. The Cyclones rank sixth in defensive EPA per play and 12th in EPA against the pass. However, star pass-rusher Will McDonald IV hasn’t quite been himself so far this season, and the Iowa State defense showed some holes as they allowed Blake Shapen to throw for three touchdowns last week.
While the Jayhawks’ formula of high-level offense and underwhelming defense will catch up with them sooner or later, I don’t believe it will be this week. Jalon Daniels is playing as well as any quarterback in the country, and Hunter Dekkers will struggle to keep pace with his team’s lack of a certifiable rushing threat. I’ll take the points with the home team and bet on the much better offense in this game. Believe in Kansas.
Best Bet: Kansas +3.5 (bet to +3)
Texas A&M Aggies at Mississippi State Bulldogs
Game Info: Saturday, October 1, 4:00 PM EST
One of the first things I do every week to handicap the upcoming slate of college football games is to work through the SP+ win expectancy model from ESPN’s Bill Connelly. Using his model, we can get a better idea of the unlikely things that happened to help a team win. Despite having a 33% postgame win expectancy, Texas A&M beat Arkansas 23-21.
The Aggies continue to benefit from unlikely outcomes. Against Miami, it was Mario Cristobal’s offense continuously driving down the field and then settling for field goals in the red zone. Against Arkansas, a 82-yard scoop and score and a missed 42-yard field that clanged off the upright with 1:30 left in the game got the job done. Arkansas had more first downs, more yards, and fewer penalties, and they still lost.
Max Johnson has still been incredibly underwhelming at quarterback, and he completed just 52% of his passes last week. While Devon Achane had his first electrifying rushing performance of the year with 159 yards on 19 carries, Ainias Smith’s season-ending leg injury takes a sledgehammer to more than a quarter of the team’s offensive production thus far.
We know the Mississippi State Air Raid offense can move the ball with ease with Will Rogers who ranks fifth in the Power Five with an 83.2% adjusted completion rate per PFF. He’s also tied for the lead in the P5 with 16 passing touchdowns to just three picks. However, it’s been the defense that’s been most impressive as the Bulldogs rank 17th in defensive EPA per play allowed and 14th in defensive FEI.
Will Rogers 😳 pic.twitter.com/ObIyGEI9Wy
— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) September 24, 2022
After opening with Mississippi State as short 1.5-point favorites earlier in the week, the line has moved to -3.5 or -4 on most books. If you follow my Twitter, you grabbed -3 with me earlier in the week, but I’m fine playing this up to -4. Texas A&M’s luck will run out in the near future, and a road game against a Bulldogs team that plays efficient ball on both sides is where it starts.
Best Bet: Mississippi State -3 (bet to -4)
LSU Tigers at Auburn Tigers
Game Info: Saturday, October 1, 7:00 PM EST
Auburn somehow won last week despite having a 9% expected win probability via Bill Connelly’s model, and it truly took a miracle. Missouri missed a chip shot 26-yard field goal that would have won the game in regulation before running back Nathaniel Peat fumbled at the goal-line in overtime. Auburn scored 14 points in the first quarter and then didn’t score again until a field goal in overtime.
A couple of weeks ago, I faded this Auburn team as they hosted Penn State, and they got clobbered by the Nitanny Lions. T.J. Finley and Zach Calzada are both injured, and Robby Ashford suffered an injury after starting against Missouri. None of the team’s quarterbacks have played well this year, and now they are seemingly all injured.
Regardless of who is under center for Auburn, they’re going to struggle in this game. LSU ranks 18th in PFF’s team pass-rush grades as B.J. Ojulari, Harold Perkins, and Jaquelin Roy have terrorized opposing offensive line. Auburn’s offensive line ranks 77th in PFF’s pass-blocking grades, and they have seen two starting centers suffer significant injuries, making this an obvious mismatch.
LSU's BJ Ojulari (80.7) and Harold Perkins Jr. (79.6) are in the top five of SEC edge defenders, per PFF. pic.twitter.com/3YAdu29gBW
— Julie Boudwin (@Julie_Boudwin) September 27, 2022
Jayden Daniels has started to find his footing for LSU, and he now ranks fifth in ESPN’s total QBR. Daniels isn’t putting up gaudy numbers and he won’t wow you with downfield passing, but he’s completing 72.3% of his passes and has run for 312 yards and two touchdowns through four games. LSU now ranks 10th in EPA per play on offense.
This game is a total mismatch, and it very well might be Bryan Harsin’s last as the head coach. Auburn is a completely misleading 3-1 with narrow wins over San Jose State and Missouri, and their players are likely not even bought in at this point as they can sense the season slipping away. I grabbed LSU at -7.5 earlier in the week, but I’d play it up to the key number of 10.
Best Bet: LSU -7.5 (bet to -9.5)
NC State Wolfpack at Clemson Tigers
Game Info: Saturday, October 1, 7:30 PM EST
The Clemson vs. Wake Forest game was a treat last week, and while I expected a higher-scoring back-and-forth game, I certainly didn’t expect that level of offensive output. D.J. Uiagalelei and Sam Hartman combined for over 700 passing yards and 11 touchdowns, and Uiagalelei’s improvement continued. He now ranks sixth among Power Five passers in PFF grade after ranking 62nd last season.
Uiagalelei will face his toughest test yet this season as Clemson meets NC State’s defense that ranks 19th in EPA per play allowed. While not quite the lockdown defense I expected when I made NC State my pick to win the ACC, the Wolfpack ranks 19th in PFF’s team coverage grades and 36th in passing EPA allowed. Clemson’s offensive line ranks just 53rd in PFF’s team pass-blocking grades, and NC State will put pressure on Uiagalelei in this game.
Clemson was without three starters in the secondary last week, and star defensive end Xavier Thomas has remained out. The Tigers surprisingly rank just 92nd in passing EPA allowed, and the injuries have clearly hampered them on that end. The Wolfpack haven’t been great on offense this year – they rank just 59th in the FBS EPA per play – but Clemson suddenly looks like a defense that could allow Devin Leary to get rolling – he had four touchdowns against them last year.
Only missed 12 passes, four touchdowns, showed off some pocket movement and eye deception as well. pic.twitter.com/CwMu4oxDol
— Devin Jackson (@RealD_Jackson) September 26, 2022
Keep an eye out for the weather reports for this week as Hurricane Ian has hit the East Coast, and there’s still a chance this game doesn’t take place. Both of these teams have recent experience playing through a hurricane, and the conditions could lead to a lower-scoring, tighter game. That would make it more difficult for Clemson to cover the spread here, and I like NC State to keep this game close regardless of the weather.
Best Bet: NC State +7 (bet to +6)
West Virginia Mountaineers at Texas Longhorns
Game Info: Saturday, October 1, 7:30 PM EST
We lost on Texas last week, and it was incredibly frustrating. Per Bill Connelly’s model, Texas Tech had a postgame win expectancy of 2% (!!), the lowest of any winning team this season, and somehow found a way to win. The expected margin was Texas by 16.6 points. All of the following had to occur for the Red Raiders to win that game:
- Texas was up 24-14 at halftime and 31-17 with four minutes left in the third quarter
- Texas Tech fumbled three times but only lost one
- Texas got 44 pressures on Donovan Smith but converted just one into a sack
- Texas had a turnover on downs at the Texas Tech 32
- Texas had a success rate in the 80th percentile to the 47th percentile for Texas Tech
- Texas gained 7.52 yards per play (84th percentile) to 4.79 for Texas Tech (18th percentile)
- Bijan Robinson fumbled on the first possession of overtime
To call that a bad beat is a massive understatement. That type of loss might lead you to fading Texas this week, but I’m going the other direction.
West Virginia’s defense ranks 89th in EPA per play allowed and 106th in passing EPA allowed. While Quinn Ewers might not return this week, I expect Hudson Card to be very efficient against this defense that ranks 103rd in PFF’s team coverage grades. Xavier Worthy is reportedly day-to-day, and the star wideout would present tons of matchup issues for the Mountaineers.
What a play by Hudson Card. Stepping up to avoid the pressure and then finding an open Xavier Worthy for a touchdown. Horns back on top. pic.twitter.com/K5ysPg3vtD
— CJ Vogel (@CJVogel_TFB) September 24, 2022
J.T. Daniels played much better last week than I expected, but he’s still a quarterback I’m fine fading. Texas ranks 10th in PFF’s pass-rush grades and Daniels has struggled under pressure throughout his career. I expect more of those pressures the Longhorns generated last week to be converted to sacks.
Bill Connelly makes this spread 12.2 in favor of Texas by his SP+ ratings, and I agree with that take. The uncertainty regarding Ewers and Worthy are likely keeping this line lower, but Bijan Robinson and the Texas defense should take them home regardless. I’m loving this line while it’s hanging around ten points, and I’d take it a bit further if need be.
Best Bet: Texas -9.5 (bet to -11)