The Week 6 edition of college football picks against the spread is highlighted by an intriguing battle in the SEC, as beleaguered LSU visits Florida to face the Gators. Elsewhere, Alabama attempts to keep rolling when it visits Texas A&M; Purdue and Minnesota clash in a battle of Big Ten West upstarts; and SMU looks to make a statement in the AAC when it makes the trip to Houston. Here are 10 predictions for games against the spread:
Florida (-3) over LSU
These are trying times at LSU, where the Tigers are attempting to sort through the wreckage of an inexplicable 24–21 loss at home to Troy. Ed Orgeron announced on Monday that Danny Etling will remain the starting quarterback, but it would be a bit of a surprise if the job isn’t handed to freshman Myles Brennan later in the season. Florida, meanwhile, continues to find ways to win; the Gators are 3–0 after a 38–24 win over Vanderbilt — their third straight over an SEC East foe to start the league slate. The usually stout Florida defense has struggled a bit — the Gators rank ninth in the SEC in total D — but keep in mind they have played only Power 5 opponents (no games to pad their stats like practically every other team in the nation). It’s tough to envision LSU bouncing back and playing well enough to win this week.
Florida 28, LSU 20
Arkansas State (-7) over Georgia Southern (Wednesday)
It’s been a rapid descent for Georgia Southern, which has played its way into the discussion as the worst FBS team in the nation. The Eagles have sandwiched road losses at Power 5 opponents (Auburn and Indiana) around a 22–12 defeat at home to New Hampshire. There is no momentum for a program that went 9–4 as recently as 2015. Arkansas State also has yet to defeat an FBS opponent, but the Red Wolves have been far more competent in their two defeats; they had 497 yards in a seven-point loss at Nebraska and 427 yards last Saturday in a 44–21 loss at SMU. Arkansas State is the better team.
Arkansas State 37, Georgia Southern 24
SMU (+6.5) over Houston
SMU and Houston both hired up-and-coming assistant coaches to take over their respective programs following the 2014 season. Tom Herman at Houston inherited a roster stocked with talent, and the results were predictable — he won immediately. Chad Morris at SMU, on the other hand, inherited a significant rebuild, and the results were predictable — he struggled to win games. Now, four years later, Herman is at Texas and Morris appears to be on the verge of a breakthrough season at SMU. The Mustangs are 4–1 overall; each of their four wins has come by at least 21 points, and their lone loss was at TCU in a game they led deep into the second quarter. Houston is still a solid AAC program, but the Cougars are no longer the team to beat in the West Division.
SMU 30, Houston 28
Texas A&M (+26.5) over Alabama
There are a bunch of amazing stats that detail just how dominant Alabama has been the last two weeks. This might be my favorite: Alabama scored more touchdowns (17) against Vanderbilt and Ole Miss than first downs allowed (14). It’s simply incredible how well the Crimson Tide played the previous two weeks. The obvious questions: Can they keep it up? And can Texas A&M do anything about it? The Aggies have quietly won four straight after their debacle at UCLA, but they played poorly in two wins over vastly inferior teams (Nicholls and Louisiana) and had to rally to beat both Arkansas and South Carolina — each by seven points. This team hasn’t exactly played at a high level on a consistent basis. The Aggies might make Alabama sweat for a few minutes (for the first time since Week 1), but it’s highly unlikely this game will be competitive in the fourth quarter.
Alabama 38, Texas A&M 14
Boise State (-8) over BYU
Are we witnessing BYU’s slide into irrelevance? The Cougars are a shocking 1–4 (the one win was over Portland State), and the offense has scored a total of 43 points in the four losses. The schedule softens up in the second half of the season, but BYU could be headed to its first losing season since 2004. Things aren’t great at Boise State either. The Broncos are 2–2 after a humbling 42–23 loss at home to Virginia two weeks ago. In most cases, there would be no shame in a Mountain West team having lost games to teams from the Pac-12 (Washington State) and ACC (Virginia), but Boise State isn’t most programs. The Broncos are accustomed to winning at a high level. They should get back on track this week.
Boise State 30, BYU 10
Ole Miss (+21) over Auburn
Auburn has opened up SEC play with impressive wins over Missouri and Mississippi State by a combined score of 100–24. The Tigers aren’t dominating quite at the same level as Alabama, but it’s still impressive. The defense has been dominant all season — no team has scored more than 14 on the Tigers — and the offense is starting to hit its stride as transfer QB Jarrett Stidham gets more comfortable. Ole Miss returns to the state of Alabama one week after its 66–3 loss at Alabama. The Rebels, who beat the Tide on their last trip to Tuscaloosa, were outgained 613 to 253 and failed to convert a third down. The score won’t be as lopsided this week — but the result will be the same.
Auburn 31, Ole Miss 17
Syracuse (-4.5) over Pittsburgh
These two teams combined for 137 points last year — a 76–61 Pittsburgh win — in what remains the highest-scoring FBS game ever played. Both defenses remain suspect. Syracuse has the better offense in 2017 and has played relatively well in back-to-back losses at LSU and NC State. Pittsburgh has some momentum for the first time this season after beating Rice 42–10, but Rice is one of the two or three worst FBS teams in the nation and should not be used as an indicator that Pittsburgh is turning things around.
Syracuse 38, Pittsburgh 30
New Mexico State (+10.5) over Appalachian State
Appalachian State returns to action for the first time since a painful one-point loss at home to Wake Forest. That loss followed a way-too-close 20–13 win over Texas State, which has lost 15 straight games against FBS opponents. You can argue that any road win in league play is a good win, but you would also like to think that a team like App State — predicted by many to win the Sun Belt — would dispose of Texas State with ease. This visit from New Mexico State will not be easy. The Aggies have a win at New Mexico on their résumé, and they played well in their Sun Belt opener against Troy (27–24 loss). Also, they threw for 344 yards (on 9.1 per attempt) in last week’s 42–24 loss at Arkansas.
Appalachian State 24, New Mexico State 21
Purdue (-4) over Minnesota
Minnesota lost for the first time in the P.J. Fleck era, dropping a 31–24 decision to Maryland at home. The Gophers struggled on the ground, rushing for only 80 yards after topping 220 yards in previous wins over Oregon State and Middle Tennessee. Purdue has been surprisingly effective against the run; the Boilermakers limited Missouri to 70 yards on 24 carries three weeks ago and Michigan to 139 on 44 in a competitive 28–10 loss two weeks ago. This is a big game for two teams jockeying for position in the Big Ten West.
Purdue 30, Minnesota 24
Western Michigan (-6.5) over Buffalo
It’s clear that Buffalo is making progress in Year 3 of the Lance Leipold era, but it’s also clear that Western Michigan, in the first year under Tim Lester, is further along as a program than Buffalo. The Broncos were competitive in losses at USC and Michigan State to open the season and have since won three straight. This is a team that should battle Toledo, and perhaps Northern Illinois, for the MAC West title.
Western Michigan 31, Buffalo 14
Last Week: 9–1