College football Week 5 betting primer: What's the best play in Texas A&M vs. Alabama?

Sam Cooper
·5-min read

After three straight winning weeks to start the college football season, I went 2-3 in Week 4 — my first sub-.500 offering of the year. Week 4 may have been a week where I went a little heavy on the trends in making my plays, instead of trusting what I have absorbed about these teams so far in 2020.

Let’s see if I can correct that in Week 5, where the board at MGM looks plentiful yet again even though there aren’t quite as many marquee matchups. I’m still at a respectable 10-8 on the year, and I had to chop a few plays I like to narrow things down to six picks for the week. Let’s go!

(Note: All times ET, odds from BetMGM)

TCU at No. 9 Texas

Time: Noon | TV: FOX | Line: Texas -13 | Total: 63.5

Texas may have scored 63 points in an overtime win over Texas Tech, but I was a little underwhelmed by what I saw from the UT offense. Sam Ehlinger only threw for 262 yards on 40 attempts while the team’s running backs averaged just 4.5 yards per rush against a terrible TTU defense. TCU gave up a few chunk plays on the ground against Iowa State, and I expect Gary Patterson to tighten things up in his team’s second game. I was also encouraged by what I saw from the TCU offense once Max Duggan was in at QB. TCU is traditionally strong as an underdog, too, going 14-6 ATS in its last 20 games as a road dog.

Pick: TCU +13

Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger passes downfield under pressure from defensive lineman Eli Howard during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Texas Tech, Saturday Sept. 26, 2020, in Lubbock, Texas. (AP Photo/Mark Rogers)
Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger threw for 262 yards on 40 attempts in an overtime win over Texas Tech. (AP Photo/Mark Rogers)

NC State at No. 24 Pittsburgh

Time: Noon | TV: ACCN | Line: Pitt -14 | Total: 47.5

As I wrote on Monday, Pitt is off to a 3-0 start and may have one of the best defenses in the country. In a 23-20 win over Louisville last week, the Panthers limited a high-powered UL offense to just 223 yards, including only 107 passing yards. The Pitt defense also registered seven sacks and three interceptions in the win. That should be a really scary prospect for an NC State team that just allowed six sacks and threw two interceptions in a 45-24 loss to a depleted Virginia Tech team.

I expect NC State to make a move at QB from Bailey Hockman to Devin Leary, but that shouldn’t make too much of a difference against this Pitt defense. I’m tempted to take Pitt and the points, but Pitt’s offense has underwhelmed so far. The under feels like a safer play.

Pick: Under 47.5

No. 13 Texas A&M at No. 2 Alabama

Time: 3:30 p.m. | TV: CBS | Line: Alabama -16.5 | Total: 52.5

This pick is more about what I saw from the Texas A&M offense last week more than anything. The Aggies mustered only 17 points against Vanderbilt, and did so while playing at an alarmingly slow pace. A&M ran just 55 plays in the 17-12 win. Again, this was against Vanderbilt. A&M had a significant talent edge, yet seemed content to slowly trudge up the field on offense. A&M popped a few explosive runs, but Kellen Mond had just 189 passing yards. A&M’s leading receiver had 40 yards. Maybe this approach will help keep things somewhat close against Alabama. If anything, it should keep things somewhat low-scoring.

Pick: Under 52.5

No. 12 North Carolina at Boston College

Time: 3:30 p.m. | TV: ABC | Line: UNC -13.5 | Total: 54.5

The fact that Boston College barely needed a miraculous rally to beat Texas State at home last week showed that BC’s season-opening 26-6 win over Duke was a bit misleading. Duke turned the ball over five times, including four times in the red zone, and BC’s 61-yard touchdown was on a complete coverage bust. I expect North Carolina, after three full weeks between games, to handle the Eagles pretty easily. The under is also worth a look in this one because I don’t expect BC to score many points.

Pick: North Carolina -13.5

CHAPEL HILL, NORTH CAROLINA - SEPTEMBER 12: Sam Howell #7 of the North Carolina Tar Heels in action against the Syracuse Orange during their game at Kenan Stadium on September 12, 2020 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. North Carolina won 31-6. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
North Carolina returns to action after its Sept. 19 game against Charlotte got canceled due to COVID-19 issues in Charlotte's program. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

No. 17 Oklahoma State at Kansas

Time: 3:30 p.m. | TV: ESPN | Line: Oklahoma State -20.5 | Total: 54

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy seemed optimistic that QB Spencer Sanders is progressing toward a return. The OSU offense barely got by Tulsa without him a few weeks ago, and then relied on the ground attack in Saturday’s 27-13 win over West Virginia. The Pokes put up 203 rushing yards in the win. With Sanders back in the lineup, OSU should be able to present the balanced, high-powered attack we anticipated throughout the offseason — especially against a really bad Kansas team that barely scored until garbage time vs. Baylor. The OSU defense has been impressive through two games as well.

Pick: Oklahoma State -20.5

Navy at Air Force

Time: 6 p.m. | TV: CBSSN | Line: Navy -6.5 | Total: 47.5

This is mainly a matter of principle. These games for the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy are a big deal. While the Mountain West’s season was postponed, Air Force was able to keep two games on its schedule: Navy and Army. These service academies run the option offense. The clock will constantly be moving, and these schools are very accustomed to facing one another. The under hits at an extremely high rate in these games. Dating back to 2005, the under is 35-9-1 in games involving two service academy teams, per The Action Network. Always play the under.

Pick: Under 47.5

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