Betting Against the Spread: Week 5 Picks

Athlon's Braden Gall offers his top college football picks against the spread each week.

Athlon's Braden Gall offers his top college football picks against the spread each week.

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

Week 4 of the college football season taught me to stop trying to analyze the Sun Belt. I nailed my top three locks last week (LSU, Oregon, SMU) while also getting Georgia and Fresno State correct. However, Florida International and Troy failed miserably. East Carolina and USC also let me down for a mediocre yet still in-the-black 5-4 weekend.

I have made a good living off favorites – road favorites to be exact – this season, but Week 5 could be the week of the underdog. I like a number of dogs to cover this weekend, including Nebraska, Washington, Northwestern and Arkansas. A few others – Kansas State (+3.5), Oregon State (+18.5) and Michigan State (+3) – won’t be on this list but are worth looking into.

The Big Ten is front and center in Week 5…

Season Record ATS: 20-14-1 (5-4 last week)

Week 5's Top Picks:

1. Washington (+10) at Utah
The Athlon Staff is very high on the Huskies winning outright this weekend as quarterback Keith Price has been much better than advertised. He scored 38 points on Nebraska in Lincoln and is leading the nation with 14 passing touchdowns. Utah’s defensive front will be key and the atmosphere will be intense for the Utes' first-ever home Pac-12 game. I like Utah to win, but Washington keeps it very close. Washington +10

2. Notre Dame (-11.5) at Purdue
Don’t let the 59-0 score over Southeast Missouri State fool you, Purdue is not a good team. Notre Dame has been excellent against the run (93 ypg) all season and is coming off back-to-back defensive gems against two excellent power running teams in Michigan State and Pitt (see Thursday night). Purdue will have to throw the ball to keep it close, but Caleb TerBush has been inefficient, ranking as the 65th-best passer in the nation. Notre Dame -11.5

3. Georgia Tech (-10) at NC State
The Wolfpack are ranked 8th in the ACC against the run and were out-gained by Cincinnati on the ground last week 240 to (-26). They have lost their only two games against FBS competition this season (Wake Forest, Cincinnati) and are coming off the embarrassing 44-14 drubbing at the hands of the Bearcats. Tech, on the other hand, is riding high after outlasting North Carolina last week and is poised for a deep ACC title run. The Jackets are also 4-0 against the spread and averaging nearly 400 yards rushing per game, while NC State is 0-4 and wishing for Russell Wilson. Georgia Tech -10

4. Alabama (-4) at Florida
The Tide have not won in Gainesville since 1999, but the only loss came at the hands of the 2006 National Champions. Alabama has passed two huge tests already by controlling Penn State easily 27-11 in Happy Valley and completely dominating a quality Arkansas team 38-14 last weekend. This is a young, talented Florida team but I am not sure they have the firepower to score many points against a defense that is allowing 45.75 rushing yards (3rd nationally), 8.0 points per game (2nd) and 138.25 yards passing (3rd). Trent Richardson and one big Florida turnover will be the difference. Alabama -4

5. Memphis (+23) at Middle Tennessee
Okay, I was just kidding about the Sun Belt. But only because it's Memphis – arguably the worst team in the nation. And Las Vegas hasn’t figured it out yet. SMU covered the 20.5 spread last week twice in the 42-0 win in Memphis. Middle Tennessee, on the other hand, is scoring points in droves as quarterback Logan Kilgore threw for 415 yards and 5 TDs last week in a near upset win over rival Troy. At 0-3, MTSU is hungry for a win. MTSU -23

6. Nebraska (+10) at Wisconsin
The Badgers have played as good as any team in the nation, but have yet to face a quality opponent. Nebraska has beaten both Fresno State and Washington and gets Jared Crick and Alfonzo Dennard on the field together for the first time all season. Wilson is playing incredible football and the atmosphere will be electric, but Wisconsin historically has never stopped dual-threat spread quarterbacks like Taylor Martinez. If T-Magic can get out of the pocket and make plays with his legs, the Huskers will win it outright. Nebraska +10

7. Northwestern (+10) at Illinois
The Wildcats are one of the best coached teams in the nation and are getting their leader and superstar back in quarterback Dan Persa. How effective he'll be running the ball remains to be seen, but his presence will undoubtedly have a huge impact on the offense. Illinois is off to a great 4-0 start but allowed 306 yards to Alex Carder of Western Michigan last week in a 23-20 nail-biting win at home. Persa and the well-rested Cats will give Illinois all it can handle after the bye week. Northwestern +10

8. Penn State (-14.5) at Indiana
The Hoosiers are struggling to stop air right now. North Texas rolled up 226 yards rushing and pulled out a 24-21 win over IU in Bloomington last week. UNT is a 23-point underdog this weekend against 1-3 Tulsa. Indiana is is 11th in the Big Ten in rush defense at 189.75 yards per game, and PSU will look to pound the rock with Silas Redd early and often. Penn State is 14-0 all-time against IU and has won by double-digits in six of the last eight games. Penn State -14.5

9. Minnesota (-20) at Michigan
This is a rivalry game, but the Gophers have been arguably the worst BCS conference team in the nation. Home losses to New Mexico State and North Dakota State say as much. Michigan is coming off a solid 28-7 win over a good San Diego State team where Denard Robinson rushed for 200 yards and three scores. Minnesota is ranked 108th against the pass and 75th in scoring defense. Don’t expect them to slow Shoelace much in Ann Arbor. Michigan -20.5

If you are feeling lucky:

Texas A&M (-2.5) vs. Arkansas (Arlington)
Bowling Green (+18.5) at West Virginia
Michigan State (+3) at Ohio State

2011 Trends:

4-0 Teams Against the Spread:

Arkansas State, Florida, Georgia Tech, Temple

3-0 Teams Against the Spread:

Baylor, Navy, Rutgers, Stanford

0-4 Teams Against the Spread:

Central Michigan, Kent State, NC State, Penn State

0-3 Teams Against the Spread:

Air Force, Oregon State

Other Week 5 Content:

Steven Lassan's Upsets, Storylines and Key Match-ups of Week 5

Mitch Light's Weekend on Tap: Week 5's Top Ten Games

In-depth Predictions: Alabama at Florida

Athlon Sports Picks Every Game of Week 5
In-depth Predictions: Nebraska at Wisconsin

Exclude From Games: 
<p> Athlon's Braden Gall offers his top college football picks against the spread each week.</p>

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