Georgia looks to keep things rolling against Tennessee in Knoxville
The Week 5 edition of college football picks against the spread is highlighted by a key battle in the ACC as defending national champion Clemson hits the road for a night game at Virginia Tech. Elsewhere, Georgia tries to take another step toward an SEC East title as it heads to Neyland Stadium to play Tennessee. Also, Kansas State hosts Baylor and improved Texas Tech hosts Oklahoma State in a pair of intriguing Big 12 games. Here are 10 predictions for games against the spread:
Georgia (-7) over Tennessee
Perhaps no team in the nation last week took a bigger step toward a possible College Football Playoff appearance than Georgia. The Bulldogs dominated Mississippi State on both sides of the ball en route to their second win over a top 25 team in the first month of the season. The defense, as expected, has been outstanding. The offense, led by true freshman quarterback Jake Fromm (for now, at least), is improving each week. The Dawgs have emerged as the overwhelming favorite in the SEC East. Tennessee, meanwhile, struggled through a disappointing 17–13 win over winless UMass at Neyland Stadium. The optimistic spin for the Vols: They are 3–1, with the only loss coming to Florida on the road on the final play of the game. The pessimistic spin: They were very fortunate to beat Georgia Tech in Week 1 (in a game in which they gave up 655 yards) and just aren’t a very good team right now.
Georgia 30, Tennessee 17
Pittsburgh (-20) over Rice
It’s been a struggle for both of these programs in 2017. Pitt has lost three straight, each in convincing fashion, and has yet to beat an FBS team. Last week, the Panthers managed only 235 total yards (37 on the ground) in a disheartening 35–17 loss at Georgia Tech. And the defense continues to be a disaster — even though the head coach, Pat Narduzzi, was a highly successful defensive coordinator at Michigan State prior to taking over at Pitt. Rice is 1–3, with a win over lowly UTEP. The Owls are really bad.
Pittsburgh 44, Rice 13
Army (-24) over UTEP
Speaking of UTEP: The Miners are not good at football. They are 0–4 and have not scored more than 16 points in a game. Last week, they lost 41–14 at New Mexico State. Not convinced this team is bad? How about this: UTEP ranks last in C-USA in total offense and total defense and is being outgained by an average of 3.2 yards per play! Army has lost two straight, both on the road — by 31 at Ohio State and by four at Tulane. This is a solid team that should be heading to a bowl game for a second straight season.
Army 41, UTEP 16
Baylor (+17) over Kansas State
Kansas State is back in action two weeks after a painful 14–7 loss at Vanderbilt. The Wildcats were held to 277 yards and one touchdown after averaging 506 yards and 55 points in wins over Central Arkansas and Charlotte (arguably the worst FBS team in the nation). K-State needs to prove it can score points against better competition. Is Baylor better competition? Well, the Bears rank last in the Big 12 in total offense and defense, but they are far superior in every facet to Central Arkansas and Charlotte. And Matt Rhule’s team played its best game, by far, of the season last week, losing 49–41 at home to Oklahoma. The Bears are 0–4 but have the talent to make K-State sweat.
Kansas State 33, Baylor 21
Navy (-5.5) over Tulsa
The names change, but Navy continues to roll up the yards and win games. The Midshipmen are 3–0 and averaging just under 500 yards per game. It’s still early, but the defense appears to be better in 2017; the Mids have allowed an average of 342.3 yards per game and 5.6 yards per play vs. FAU, Tulane and Cincinnati, down from their season-long averages of 434.0 and 6.3 in 2016. Tulsa’s usually high-octane attack was limited to 286 yards in a 16–13 loss to New Mexico on Saturday. The Golden Hurricane had only 58 offensive plays, their fewest since October 2009. Defense, however, is a bigger concern for Tulsa. The Hurricane ranks lasts in the AAC in rush defense this season and have been torched by Navy’s option attack in recent years — 390 rushing yards allowed in 2016 and 469 in ’15.
Navy 37, Tulsa 27
Wyoming (-16) over Texas State
Josh Allen’s struggles continue; Wyoming’s junior quarterback — considered by some to be a future first-round draft pick — completed 9-of-19 passes for 92 yards in a 28–21 win over Hawaii. He has thrown for a total of 330 yards in three games against FBS opponents. Allen, however, will have a chance to get back on track against Texas State, one of the worst FBS teams in the nation. The Bobcats are 1–4 overall, with the lone win by nine points over Houston Baptist. Offense has been the biggest problem; they rank 11th in the Sun Belt with 289.0 yards per game.
Wyoming 24, Texas State 7
Akron (-3) over Bowling Green
These two teams are a combined 1–7, with the one win by Akron over Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Akron is coming off a competitive loss at Troy, one of the top teams in the Sun Belt. The Zips also did some good things — threw for 293 yards, converted 11 of 18 on third down — in a 41–14 loss to Iowa State two weeks ago. Bowling Green is coming off a 24–13 loss at Middle Tennessee, and the Blue Raiders were without their two best players (quarterback Brent Stockstill and wide receiver Richie James). Go with the Zips on the road.
Akron 31, Bowling Green 27
UCF (-3.5) over Memphis
This critical AAC matchup was rescheduled from Week 2 due to Hurricane Irma. Both teams are undefeated and both have an impressive win over a Power 5 opponent on their rÃ©sumÃ© — Memphis outlasted UCLA 48–45 in Week 3 while UCF rolled past Maryland with surprising ease, 38–10, in College Park last weekend. Memphis, however, has underwhelmed in its two other games, a 37–29 win over ULM in Week 1 and a 44–31 win over Southern Illinois last Saturday night. I don’t trust the Tigers’ defense as this team hits the road for the first time in 2017.
UCF 44, Memphis 34
Clemson (-7.5) over Virginia Tech
I have a new theory: Don’t pick Clemson to lose... and usually pick them to win by a lot of points. The Tigers are 4–0 this year and have won their four games (three against Power 5 teams, two of them ranked) by an average score of 38–9. So while Virginia Tech is a really good team — the Hokies are 4–0 and are scoring a ton of points — and Lane Stadium is a difficult place to play (especially at night), it would go against my new theory if I picked Virginia Tech to win (or at least lose by just a few points).
Clemson 34, Virginia Tech 20
Texas Tech (+10) over Oklahoma State
Kliff Kingsbury’s seat — scorching to start his fifth season at his alma mater — is getting cooler by the week. The Red Raiders are 3–0, highlighted by last week’s 27–24 win at Houston. This team has made huge strides defensively, allowing only 5.1 yards per play (down from 7.0 last season). Tech held Houston to 10 points until late in the fourth quarter, when the Cougars tacked on two late touchdowns to make the final score respectable. Oklahoma State was emerging as a popular pick to win the Big 12 title and even crash the CFB Playoff party... until the Cowboys lost at home to TCU last weekend. They were undone by turnovers — three interceptions and one fumble. This is still a very good team when it takes care of the ball.
Oklahoma State 41, Texas Tech 33
Last Week: 5–5